Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/5054/corsair-hydro-series-h60-h80-and-h100-reviewed



Introducing Corsair’s Hydro Series: H60, H80 and H100

Closed-loop liquid CPU cooling solutions are gaining popularity as more and more vendors are carrying their own variation. We've even seen both Intel and AMD announce the inclusion of liquid-coolers for their upcoming processor lines. Today we're going to take a look at the Corsair Hydro Series H60 High Performance, H80 High Performance, and H100 Extreme Performance liquid CPU coolers. Corsair has teamed up with CoolIT Systems this time around. They have previously partnered with Asetek for other Hydro Series products (H40/H50/H70/H70 Core), but our focus here is on the H60, H80, and H100.

The Corsair Hydro Series of liquid CPU coolers aim to give you the power of liquid-cooling in a compact, easy to install package, without the complexity of traditional water-cooling kits. They are designed to be a closed-loop solution with no maintenance required at all. But just how well do these Corsair liquid-coolers perform against the current cream of the crop air-coolers? After all, Corsair is targeting the high-end air-cooling market with these cooling solutions, both in price and performance. First, let's take a look at the specs for the units being tested today.

Corsair Hydro Series Specifications
H60 H80 H100
Radiator Dimensions 120mmx152mmx27mm 120mmx152mmx38mm 122mmx275mmx27mm
Fan Dimensions 120mmx120mmx25mm 120mmx120mmx25mm (x2) 120mmx120mmx25mm (x2)
Fan Speed (+/- 10%) up to 1700RPM (+/- 10%) up to:
1300RPM (Low),
2000RPM (Medium),
and 2500RPM (High)
(+/- 10%) up to:
1300RPM (Low),
2000RPM (Medium),
and 2500RPM (High)
Fan Airflow / dBA,
Static Pressure
74.4 CFM / 30.2 dBA,
3.2mm/H20
46-92CFM / 22-39 dBA,
1.6-7.7mm/H20
46-92 CFM / 22-39 dBA,
1.6-7.7mm/H20
Cold Plate / Radiator Material Copper / Aluminum Copper / Aluminum Copper / Aluminum
Tubing Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation
Intel Sockets LGA 775, 1155/1156, 1366, 2011 LGA 775, 1155/1156, 1366, 2011 LGA 775, 1155/1156, 1366, 2011
AMD Sockets AM2, AM3 AM2, AM3 AM2, AM3
Warranty Five years Five years Five years
MSRP $79.99 $109.99 $119.99



H60, H80, and H100 Overview

As always with Corsair products, packaging and box art are top notch. We’ll start with the lowest tier offering, the H60, and then move to the H80 and H100.

H60 High Performance Details

The H60's radiator is the same size of the previous generation H50. However, the H60 has a new, upgraded water block that allows for more efficient flow. It also has the adjustable 90 degree connectors we've seen on the H70 making installation easier. Corsair provides a single 120mm 1700RPM PWM fan. The inclusion of a PWM fan is a nice touch since most motherboards have the needed 4-pin connector and have BIOS settings for easy fan speed control. This means the cooler can be virtually silent when idle, but ramp up the RPMs (and therefore noise) as needed. As mentioned, the H60 only includes one fan, but you can add a second fan for a push/pull configuration. You'll just need to pick up an extra set of 6x32x1-1/4" screws.

H80 High Performance

The H80 takes over for the H70 with its thicker radiator design but shares the same new, upgraded water block as the H60. However, the H80 and the H100 have an all new push-button fan control that lets you select the fan speed and cooling performance setup that best suits your needs. The white LED display lets you know which profile is being used. The H80 can power and control up to two fans. Thankfully, like the H70 before it, the H80 already comes with two fans for a push/pull configuration. The included fans are 3-pin and spin at 2500RPM when the fan controller is set to its highest setting. We’ll provide more information on the fan speed profiles later.

H100 Extreme Performance

The H100 is an all new double-wide design sporting a 240mm [or 2x120mm] radiator that has the same thickness as the H60. The water block and fan controller are the same that we've seen on the H80; however, the H100's fan controller can power and control up to four fans even though the unit only comes with two. This gives you the option of adding two more fans for push/pull on this bad boy. The two included fans are the same high speed 2500RPM fans that come with the H80.

Fan Controller

The three speed push-button fan controller on the H80 and H100 is a great improvement over what Corsair offered previously with the H70. The H70 included two inline resistors for providing a second, lower fan speed. The new built-in fan control system on the H80 and H100 gives you three settings to choose from: low, medium, or high—or as Corsair calls it: low noise, balanced, and high performance. While some may complain you have to open your case to make changes, I think of it as more of a set it and forget it type thing. Corsair doesn't stop there though; each speed setting or profile actually has an RPM range for the fans to spin at. This means the fans will be quieter when idle and only reach their max rated RPM (and max noise) for that particular profile when the coolant inside reaches a certain temperature. Could this lead to the perfect balance of performance and noise? We'll hopefully find out with our tests in just a moment.

Corsair Link

The H80 and H100 both support Corsair's Link Digital, which is their suite of hardware and software for monitoring various system parameters. It also allows you to customize your own performance profiles. We don't have one of the Corsair Link's on hand, so we will not be testing this feature. It's unfortunate that Corsair doesn't include the Link with the H80 or H100, but I'm guessing they opted to make it optional so the price wouldn't go through the roof.



Cooler Installation

Mounting the H60 and H80 radiators is similar except the H80 provides a minor challenge due to its thicker size and having a second fan to install. After all is said and done, it doesn’t pose any real problems. Just make sure to take your time and don't over tighten the screws or you may end up bending the fins on the radiator. Most cases should support either the H60 or the H80 without too much trouble, assuming the case has a mounting point for a 120mm fan. I didn't have any filament problems, and thanks to the low profile of the CPU block, I don't see any issues with the second fan hanging slightly over the CPU block if needed.

The H100's 2x120mm radiator design and 275mm overall length may pose problems depending on your choice of case. You're going to need ~52mm of clearance to install the H100 in its default configuration and a whopping ~77mm if you opt for a push/pull setup. This is of course assuming you have a case that supports 2x120mm fans with the correct 15mm spacing for the radiator/fans.

I even had trouble installing it in Corsair's own Graphite 600T case. Everything fit properly, but I had to install the radiator inside the case and then install the 2x120mm fans inside the lid where the removable panel is. This may not seem like a problem because the 600T was essentially designed this way; however, the top cover is so restrictive it caused temperatures and noise levels to rise. For testing purposes, I had to leave the top cover off in order not to skew the results. Corsair's new Carbide Series 400R/500R looks to be H100-ready, allowing you to install the radiator on top with the fans inside the case. I can't speak from experience with any other cases for the H100, but if your case meets the clearance and spacing requirements, you shouldn't have any issues.

The installation procedure for the water block is the same for each unit we tested. I think it's a welcomed design improvement over the H50 and H70. Since the water block comes preinstalled with the Intel mounting brackets, AMD users will have to remove them and install the included mounting brackets for AMD CPUs. Also, AMD users do not have to worry about installing a backplate because these kits make use of the backplate already installed on your motherboard. The backplate for Intel CPUs has adjustable mounting holes that slide to easily fit any of the supported CPU sockets.

After securing the backplate with the double sided screw mounting posts, securing the water block is as easy as tightening four thumb screws. Previously with the H70, I had issues lining up the water block properly which led to multiple mounting attempts before good contact was made. With the H60, H80, or H100 blocks, I was able to make good contact on the first try. This was later verified with multiple mounts as described in the testing procedures. Just make sure to take your time and tighten the thumb screws in order as recommended in the manual.



Test Setup

Cooling Test System
Case Corsair Graphite Series 600T
Processor Intel Core i7-2600K (4x3.4GHz, 3.8GHz Turbo, 32nm)
Motherboard ASUS P8P67 Pro (BIOS version 1502)
Memory G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1866 Kit
Graphics Card MSI GTX 580 Lightning
Solid State Drive OCZ Agility 2 120GB
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
Power Supply Corsair HX850 Power Supply
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Test Coolers Stock Intel HSF
Corsair H60/H80/H100
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Thermal Compound Arctic Cooling MX-2

Testing Procedures

For temperature testing we load our Core i7-2600K's four cores and eight threads using Prime95 version 26.6. For the sake of consistency, we use the Small FFT stress test. Most likely in daily use, your CPU will rarely reach the temperatures Prime95 and other applications used for stress testing will produce. This should present a worst-case scenario for CPU temperatures and allow us to really see how these CPU coolers handle heavy loads. Due to fluctuations in the ambient temperature during testing, albeit minor, we use delta temperatures to compare results.

Real Temp version 3.67 is used to monitor and log temperatures with samples taken once every second. We run each test for 15 minutes, take the average temperature of all four cores, and use a three minute rolling average to calculate the results. The final temperature is the average of the last three minutes from the test. We then take the final calculated temperature and subtract the room’s average ambient temperature to get our delta temperature. This method has the least temperature fluctuations and is the most consistent.

In addition to the Corsair Hydro Series coolers, we’re testing with Intel’s stock HSF as a baseline, and representing high-end air-cooling is the frankly massive Thermalright Silver Arrow. The Silver Arrow comes with two 140mm fans, with one fan sandwiched between the two large radiator towers. It also weighs in at a hefty 825g without the fans, or around 1.2kg with the fans and clips. Thankfully, it comes with a good mounting solution so as to avoid putting too much strain on your motherboard, but there’s no denying the fact that this is a heavy cooler.

Each cooler is mounted and retested three times to verify good contact was made. We use Arctic Cooling MX-2 instead of the thermal interface material (TIM) that comes preinstalled on the test CPU coolers. There is no curing time allowed between mounts or changing CPU coolers—the MX-2 TIM we use claims not to need curing anyway. These methods help ensure consistency across all tested coolers as well as provide comparable results.

We test each cooler at the Core i7-2600K's stock 3.5GHz frequency, which is the speed it runs at if all four cores are maxed out at 100% and Turbo Boost is enabled. For testing purposes, we disable Turbo Boost and manually set the clock speed to 3.5GHz, with Hyper-Threading enabled; the stock speed runs at 1.16V. We also perform the same set of tests with the CPU overclocked to 4.8GHz using 1.4V, again with Turbo off and Hyper-Threading on.

For noise measurements, we use a Check Mate CM-140 SPL meter. All noise tests are conducted between 1 and 3 AM to ensure the lowest possible ambient noise. In our test environment, we measured ~29 dBA with the test system turned off. Before and after each noise test, the same ambient ~29 dBA measurement was verified. We measured 1 foot away from the test chassis with all doors installed. Our goal is that this method for measuring noise will best mimic a typical usage scenario, though obviously the choice of case, power supply, and graphics card also plays a role.



Temperature Results

Each Corsair Hydro Series cooler is mounted to blow air from outside the case over the radiator. We had to leave the top cover off of our 600T chassis during the H100 tests due to its restrictive design; otherwise the H100 results would have been horrendously skewed. The top cover didn't affect our other tests and was left on for those. Since the H60 has a PWM fan, we disabled any BIOS fan controls to ensure the fan was spinning at 100%. All three of the H80 and H100 speed settings are tested. We’ll start with our stock 3.5GHz test results and then move to the overclocked results.

CPU Delta Temperature - 3.5GHz (Stock)

The stock speed test doesn't provide much of a challenge for any of the Hydro Series coolers, leaving very little gap between them. Not surprisingly, all of the aftermarket coolers simply crush the stock Intel cooler; however, it’s also worth nothing that the Silver Arrow outperforms both the H60 and H80, and nips at the heels of the H100 set to Medium fan speed. Due to the relativity cool temperatures during this test, some of the speed profiles for the H80 and H100 never hit their maximum RPM. This keeps those coolers relatively quiet even when running on high or medium at stock speeds.

CPU Delta Temperature - 4.8GHz (OC)

Now that we're overclocked to 4.8GHz, these coolers are finally showing a temperature difference worthy of their price difference. Also note that the stock Intel cooler didn’t handle the 4.8GHz load reliably, so we don’t have results for it in this chart. The H100 is the runaway leader here, sporting a comfortable 3.3C lead over the H80. The H60 falls 5.1C shy of the H80—not terrible considering its slimmer radiator and single fan design. The cooling advantage of the H100 on the high setting does come at a penalty though; it's substantially louder as you'll see next in the noise test. The potential spoiler in the midst of these results is the Silver Arrow, once again coming very close to the H100 at a lower price. It’s not without compromises, which we’ll cover in the conclusion.



Noise Results

Due to the built-in variable fan controller on the H80 and H100, testing the noise on these two coolers proved to be challenging. Our test system, even when overclocked to 4.8GHz, didn't generate enough heat to max out the RPM on the H100 high speed test. When plugged into a direct power source, the H100 fans were barely, but noticeably, louder than when powered by the controller on the high setting. We opted to power the fans as intended using the built-in fan controller, but it should be noted that these fans could be slightly louder if directly powered or used in a hotter system/environment. The H80 appears to hit max RPM on all tests, while the H60 is forced to 100% with it having the only PWM fan in the bunch.

Noise Levels - 4.8GHz (OC)

The H100 and H80 when set on low speed are neck and neck for the quietest coolers of the bunch, beating even the virtually silent Silver Arrow and Intel reference cooler. The H60 with its slower RPM fan barely edges out the H100 and H80 when they're set to medium. The H100 and H80 when set on high speed top the charts here, as we would expect. While the H80 and H100 sport the same fans, but the H100 comes in quieter. This is most likely due to our test system not being hot enough for the H100's fans to fully kick in.

Here we finally see the penalty for the excellent cooling capability of the H100 when it's running on high speed. As you can see, it's quite loud at this setting. Let's take a look at the noise graph again, but this time we'll overlay the temperature graph to get a better idea on how nose and performance are related.

Performance Comparison - 4.8GHz (OC)

For the most part, the better the performance, the louder the cooler. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what the perfect balance of cooling performance and noise acceptance is for your particular situation.



Conclusion

Finding the right balance between cooling performance and noise is definitely a challenge. While traditional air-coolers continue to grow in size and weight to deal with this problem, Corsair fights it from a different angle with liquid. All of the Hydro Series coolers tested today are perfectly adequate at keeping our overclocked Sandy Bridge system cool. Picking a cooler that's right for you basically boils down to cooling performance, what noise level is acceptable, the price you're willing to pay, and compatibility. Corsair did a great job with these coolers in providing many different options to cover a variety of needs.

The H100 provides excellent cooling on the high setting at the expense of noise. This could potentially give you the extra cooling for when you need to crank up the clock speed to try and beat your friend’s score in the latest benchmark (or whatever it is you’re doing). Thanks to the built-in fan controller, you can choose medium or low speed for reduced noise on your day to day overclock. The only major downsides to the H100 are the limited amount of cases that are compatible, and of course, price.

With the H80, you get great cooling with the same ability to turn the fan speeds up or down depending on your needs. The performance penalty compared to the H100 is easily made up in case compatibility and price. With its push/pull design, even the H80 on low speed is a reasonable contender for most needs. You may be wondering why I mention price here when there's a mere $10 difference between the H80 and H100. Compatibility is probably the number one factor in deciding between the two; however, with sites like Newegg listing the H80 at $93.99, price difference becomes more considerable.

The H60 may not be the coolest kid on the block, but it is a good, cheaper alternative to the H80. The H60 doesn't come with a second fan for push/pull or have the built-in fan controller, but the price is much lower. For those with a limited budget and/or need for a cooler with a low foot print, the H60 might be up your alley. Keep in mind, the H60 is still adequate enough in cooling our overclocked test system.

One final area to discuss is how these liquid-coolers compare to a high-end air-cooler. We included the Thermalright Silver Arrow in our results, and it’s one of the best performing air-coolers on the market—with a price and size to match. In terms of performance and noise levels, the Silver Arrow is probably the best option out of the tested coolers. You can pick one up for around $75 online, which is only slightly more than the Corsair H60 and about $18 less than the Corsair H80; the Corsair H100 is the most expensive, but even then you’re only looking at around $100. What you get for the additional $15-$30 isn’t always better performance, but installation of the Corsair water block is substantially easier than that of the Silver Arrow—and that’s assuming you have a motherboard and case with sufficient clearance to begin with. There’s also the lingering question of whether it’s a good idea to have 1.2kg of weight hanging from your motherboard. Considering all of this, while coolers like the Silver Arrow can certainly be competitive, there’s still plenty of reason to consider Corsair’s Hydro series coolers.

Do any of these Corsair coolers give us the perfect balance of performance and noise? If one cooler stood out against the rest, it would have to be the H100. With its amazing cooling ability, built-in fan controller, and the option of adding two more fans for push/pull, I think Corsair has covered almost every possible situation with this one cooler. You get great cooling performance and low noise, though not at the same time. All of this greatness does come at a pretty steep price, leaving room for the H80 and H60. With high-end air-coolers delivering near-H100 performance at a lower price, it's definitely a hard sell, but the H100 still easily gets our recommendation as a more versatile cooling solution. Just remember to pair it up with an appropriate case.

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