Corsair Hydro H100 Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/Corsair_Hydro_H100/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Corsair's Hydro series of CPU coolers has effectively taken self-contained water cooled units from being niche products and placed them directly into the mainstream. The success of the series seemed to have happened almost overnight, as even enthusiasts using high-end heatsinks began clamoring for the original H50 shortly after its release.

This reception led to competing companies designing self-contained water cooling models of their own, and has also been a driving factor in Corsair's own speedy development of updated Hydro coolers. With each new release, the thermal performance of Hydro products have vastly improved, and just two years after the release of the H50, Corsair has changed the cooling block three times, integrated new cooling technologies, altered the radiator size and added new high-static pressure fans. They have also partnered with CoolIt designs, who has been in the game for a while, and were the reason the latest generation of coolers are vastly different the previous generation Asetek coolers.

As of this review Neoseeker has been able to get our hands on and test most of the Hydro-series coolers, including the recently released H80. Today we are going to be looking at the flagship product in the series, the H100 which is the first to include a full 240mm radiator.

Like the H80 and H60, the Corsair H100 uses a CoolIt design that includes a micro-channel cooling plate paired with multiple improvements to the internal water flow and a low-profile block. Additionally, the H100 includes dual 120mm PWM fans that operate between 1300-2500RPM and have a maximum airflow rating of up to 92CFM. Even before testing we can assume the 240mm radiator and two high performance fans is going to be a winning combination, but to make things even better the H100 can accommodate up to four 120mm fans to improve the performance even further.

The H100 is not by any means a cheap cooler and at $129.99, it is nearly double the price of a standard air-cooled heatsink. However, if the previous coolers we have tested in the Hydro-series are any indicator, the H100 just might be an excellent choice to cool any high-end processor.

Specifications
Radiator Dimensions 122mm x 275mm x 27mmEEDSPEED
Fan Dimensions 120mm x 120mm x 25mm
Fan Speed (+/- 10%): up to 1300 RPM (Low Noise), 2000 RPM (Balanced), and 2500 RPM (High Performance)
Fan Airflow 46 - 92CFM
Fan dBA 22 - 39dBA
Fan Static Pressure 1.6 - 7.7mm/H20

The H100 is packaged in a rectangular box that that includes an image of the cooling block attached ato an ASUS ROG motherboard. Next to this is a set of high-end Corsair Dominators GT memory modules. The use of high-end components on the box shows the Corsair H100 is a premium product designed to cool enthusiast grade hardware. The front of the box also includes the heatsink model number and an image of the fully assembled cooler. The other panels on the package list general information about the cooler, with the sides and top of the box reserved for specifications, and the back panel listing the cooler's supported features and model comparison chart.

Like the other coolers in the Hydro series, the box contents are sorted into separate compartments. By keeping each component in a separate area, the risk of damage to the cooler is reduced. With everything out of the box and plastic, we can see that H100 includes two 120mm fans, Intel/AMD mounting brackets, documentation, an installation guide, and a 3-pin power cable extender.

The H100 is Corsair's first 240mm self-contained closed-loop cooler, as up to this point all the previous products in the Hydro-series have used either a side or double-wide 120mm radiator. The included radiator measures 122mm x 275mm x 27mm, which gives the H100 an extremely large surface area and should facilitate better thermal performance. Additionally, the radiator has a dense array design and can support up to four 120mm fans (two of which are included) in a push/pull configuration. The only downside we can see is that not all cases will be able to accommodate the beefy H100, as it requires dual ventilation bays and at least 275mm of available clearance.

Other than the radiator, the H100 uses the same specifications as the H80. Essentially this means the cooling block includes all the latest Hydro-series features such as a micro-channel cooling plate with a split-flow design, and optimized water placement. The H100 also uses the same flexible Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) tubing.

The H100 uses Corsair's redesigned CPU block, which includes multiple on-board connectors and a centralized fan controller. The pump, LEDs and on-board fan connectors integrated into the block are all powered both by a 2-pin Molex power cable and 3-pin power connecter. At the bottom of the base is a copper cooling plate that is attached to the block via eight small screws and comes with a pre-applied thermal paste. The base of the cooling plate is even and extremely smooth, but not quite to the point of a mirror finish.

Plenty of connectivity options are are located throughout the sides of the cooling block. All in all, there are four 4-pin PWM fan connectors and a digital Corsair Link connector. With four fan headers, the H100 is equipped to power up to four fans without having to draw power away from the motherboard or power supply. Any fan connected to the block is controlled via the built-in fan controller that is located at the top of the block.

The H100 comes with dual high static fans, which according to the specifications are the same as those included with the Corsair H80. Each fan is rated to operate between 1300 - 2600 RPM with a noise output level that ranges from 22 - 39 dBA. At the lowest setting, the fans produce 46 CFM, while at maximum they are capable of 92 CFM. Additionally, the fans have a variable static pressure rating that ranges from 1.6mm H20 at the lowest setting and 7.7mm H20 at the highest.

The Hydro-series coolers utilize one of the best installation methods out of all the water cooled heatsinks we have tested, so we are happy to see it implemented in the H100. The H100 can support AMD CPU sockets from AM2 up to AM3, and Intel's LGA-775, LGA-1155, LGA-1156 and LGA-1366 CPU sockets. On the packaging, Corsair also lists support for the upcoming Intel LGA-2011 socket. In order to support LGA-2011, Corsair has included four double threaded thumbscrews that have different dimensions than the ones used for the other Intel sockets.

As with the H80, the first order of business is to adjust the included backplate to fit the appropriate socket and then secure it to the board via four double threaded thumbscrews. Even after the bracket is secure there is virtually no strain on the motherboard, so unlike heavy air-cooled heatsinks the PCB will not be slightly bent after installing the H100.

After the thumbscrews are positioned correctly, you can simply place the cooling block onto the CPU and secure it in place with the thumbscrews. The last step is to attach all the power cables, and when the Corsair Link Commander becomes available you can also utilize the digital Corsair Link connector at the top of the block. The Link system is a standalone product though, so it will need to be purchased separately.

Installing the H100 was extremely easy, but we did run into a clearance issue when adding the fans. As you can see from the first image, our 600T doesn't leave a lot of room between the CPU and top of the case. This prevented us from being able to install both the radiator and fans inside the chassis itself. In our case, it was easy to fix the problem as the 600T has a recessed ventilation area at the top, which allowed us to install the fans on the outside of the chassis and the radiator on the inside. This is a relatively small issue which is standard for the 600T, but it should be noted that some cases will definitely have an issue accommodating the H100 components.

The block includes the same integrated push-button fan controller as the H80, which allows the user to adjust the fan speed in real-time. The preset configurations consist of quiet, balanced and performance. To indicate the setting that is enabled, Corsair has included a semicircular LED display around the push button. When the fan speed is set to quiet, the fans will rotate between 900 - 1300 RPM, while the balanced setting ranges from 1300 - 2000 RPM. The performance setting will see them operating at 1600 -2600 RPM.

To gauge the cooling performance of the Corsair H100, I will be using an Intel i7 920 at both stock and overclocked speeds. For the overclocking portion of the test, the processor will be set at 3.6GHz with the voltage level set to 1.30V. For the idle temperatures all programs will be shut down and the results will be recorded after 20 minutes, and for load temp testing I will be using Prime95. The program will run for 15 minutes before temperatures are gathered with RealTemp. To ensure proper performance between all models, each cooler was tested within on a few hours of each other.

Testing Setup

The new Corsair Hydro Coolers have top-tier performance and according to our results, the H100 is the most efficient product in the series. During our testing the H100 easily outperformed most of our tested air-cooled heatsinks, and to a slight degree it performed better than Corsair's own H80. However, like the H80, the fans that come with the H100 create a lot of turbulence and even while the noise is predominantly just the sound of moving air, they can still get quite loud. As expected, the best performance comes at the cost of higher fan noise levels.

As it stands, the Corsair H100 is the most efficient thermal solution in the Hydro-series, but more importantly it is also the most efficient heatsink we have tested to date. In direct comparison to other Hydro coolers such as the H80, the H100 was on average one to two degrees cooler, but when comparing the H100 to a top-tier air cooling heatsink such as a Thermalright Ultra-120 the temperature difference jumped to around 5°c when overclocked. This means the H100 is nearly 11% more efficient than the dual fan Ultra-120. In addition, when comparing the thermal difference between the H100 and some of the more mainstream heatsinks, we were seeing a temperature decrease of up to 22%.

Even while the Corsair H100 has excellent thermal performance, the price of the unit might be too high for many outside the enthusiast community. In today's market we have become accustomed to paying an average of $75 for top-tier heatsinks, but at $129.99 the H100 is nearly double that cost. What's more, not all cases can accommodate the H100, as the radiator occupies dual 120mm fan bays and requires 175mm of clearance to fit into a chassis. For the most part this should not affect enthusiasts who did their homework when building their rigs, but some mid-sized case may well prevent entry into the H100 owners club.

In addition, the high performance fans that come with the H100 can make a fair deal of noise. This was an issue we ran into with the H80 and seeing how both coolers share the same fan design, this was not totally unexpected of the H100. However, the ability to change the fans' RPM level in real-time via the on-board fan controller does allow the user to adjust the noise output level to certain degree.

Looking beyond the size and price, the H100 is simply amazing. It offers best-in-class performance and just looks epic when installed. On top of this, it has options to increase or decrease the fans' RPM levels in real-time, supports Corsair's upcoming Link platform, and can accommodate up to four 120mm fans. At this point the Hydro series is really starting to reach perfection, and the only thing we see that can improve the thermal performance further would be to increase the size of the tubing to accommodate a higher liquid flow rate. This would really be the only way we could envision the Hydro series really starting to compete with higher-end DIY water cooling loops using 1/2" tubing.

Overall the H100 is a well rounded cooler that has top-tier performance, easy installation and just plain looks great. So, if you can get around the $129.99 premium, you'll find the H100 is going to be one of the best thermal solutions on the market.

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