Corsair Hydro H80 Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Corsair_Hydro_H80/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

For years, water-cooling has been considered the most efficient method of cooling a CPU, but overly complicated installation and necessary maintenance procedures has limited its appeal among mainstream consumers. Over the last few years however, the Corsair Hydro (H) series has been at the forefront of bringing water-cooling to the masses, and today it is not uncommon to see even first time system builders consider using a Hydro series water cooler to keep CPU temps down for stability and overclocking.

The reason water is considered the most efficient method of cooling components like the CPU is simply because it is the best standard form of cooling that is available. In comparison to a standard metal heatsink, water has a higher heat capacity, the measurement of heat required to change a substance's temperature by a given amount. The heat capacity for water is 4.1813 Jg-1K-1, while even even the most conductive metal such as copper has a rating of just 0.385 Jg-1K-1. In plain English, this means water is far better at taking in the heat produced by processors, and moving it way from the source via tubes. Similarly, water also has a higher thermal conductivity, so the transfer of thermal energy is going to be greater when opting for H2O.

While water has physics on its side, there are challenges in creating a compact, yet efficient H2O cooling solution. This has led to the majority of water-cooling options available being both bulky and expensive. The Hydro series, however, has been able to successfully reduce a full water-cooling loop into an all-in-one closed-loop solution, effectively lowering the cost and frustration typically associated with water-cooled installations.

The latest iteration in the Hydro-series is the Corsair H80, which like its H60 predecessor uses a second generation design. This gives the H80 advanced cooling technologies such as a micro-channel cold plate design with split flow manifold, high static pressure fans, and low-profile cooling block. Where the H80 differs from the H60 though, is that it includes a double thick radiator for improved thermal performance, and a second 120mm high-static pressure fan. In addition, the H80 also supports Corsair Link technology, which gives users control over a range of hardware parameters including the pump speed, coolant temperature and fan speed.

Specifications
Radiator Dimensions 120mm x 152mm x 38mmPEEDSPEED
Fan Dimensions 120mm x 120mm x  25mm
Fan Speed 1300 - 2600RPM
Fan Airflow 46 - 92CFM
Fan dBA 22 - 39dBA
Fan Static Pressure 1.6 - 7.7mm/H20

The H80 comes packaged in a similar square-shaped box like the other Hydro series coolers, but the large model number on the front allows each cooler to be easily distinguishable. Each panel of the packaging lists 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.

On the chart Corsair lists four coolers, the H100, H80, H60 and a generic stock cooler. The results were gathered from an Intel i7 920 that was overclocked to 3.8Ghz, but there was no indication of the voltage level. The results on the graph show that the H100 has the best performance of the four coolers with a load temperature of 66.5°C, while the H80 was in second place with load temps of 68.2°C, followed by the H60 at 78.9°C. The stock cooler results are simply listed as "Fail".

The results from Corsair are intriguing to say the least. According to their own internal testing, the H80 was able to reduce the temperature of the overclocked i7 920 by an impressive 10°C when compared to the H60. This means their testing shows the H80 performs roughly 15% better than the H60, a result we hope to replicate in our testing.

All the internal parts come packaged in a container compartment and wrapped in plastic bags. Corsair has included the heatsink, two 120mm fans, and the mounting brackets for both AMD and Intel CPU sockets. Along with the aforementioned accessories, you also get a three sets of documentation that describe the warranty and installation of the H80, while the third is a Corsair product guide back from 2010.

The Corsair H80 uses the same Self-Contained Closed-loop System as the previous generation Hydro series coolers, but the low-profile block is the sign that the H80 uses the second-generation CoolIt design. This means the internal cold-plate utilizes an advanced micro-channel design and split-flow manifold for improved performance. These technologies were the reason the H60 was able to perform substantially better than the older H50 cooler.

In addition, the H80 includes a double thick high-density radiator measuring 120 x 152 x 38 mm. The radiator is connected to the CPU block via flexible Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) tubes. The increased radiator size will maximize the available surface area for heat dissipation, and improve the overall performance in comparison to models using a single wide radiator.

The CPU block on the H80 uses the same square design first introduced with the H60, but the block height is slightly increased to accommodate some new features and a stronger pump. Some of the new features added to the H80 include a top mounted fan speed controller, dual 4-pin fan connectors and an activity LED. The push button fan controller is able to adjust the RPM level of any fan connected to the integrated 4-pin fan headers, while the actively light indicates the current RPM setting. The H80 is powered by both 4-pin Molex and 3-pin power connectors.

The side of the CPU block includes a digital Corsair Link connector, which will allow the H80 to connect directly to a Corsair Link system when they become available.

Corsair Link is a modular hardware and software system that allows the user to monitor and control a wide array of system parameters. When connected to the H80, the Link system will be able to increase or decrease the pump and fan speeds, as well as monitor the coolant temperature. The Link system also has the ability to set and store customized performance profiles. When a profile is selected, the settings of the H80 will be adjusted in real-time, which should encourage users to set up different profiles for either lower noise or increased cooling performance as the situation warrants.

Since the Corsair H80 is designed for high performance systems, it comes with two 120 mm fans. Both the fans utilize a refined seven blade design and are optimized to produce high static pressure. The high pressure will allow ample airflow to pass through the dense array of the radiator at lower RPMs, which will improve the efficiency and decrease the acoustics.

Both the fans operate at 1300 - 2600 RPM and have a noise rating of 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 H80 uses the same universal mounting system as the H60, which allows it to support all current AMD and Intel CPU sockets as well as one upcoming socket. On the AMD front the H80 supports the AM2, AM2+ and AM3 sockets, and for Intel solutions it is compatible with the LGA-775, LGA-1155, LGA-1156 and LGA-1366 sockets. On the packaging, Corsair also lists support for the upcoming Intel LGA-2011 socket. In order to support the LGA-2011 socket, Corsair has included four double threaded thumbscrews that have different dimensions than the ones used for the other Intel sockets.

Since the H80 utilizes the same mounting system as the H60, it has the same easy installation. First the rear bracket has to aligned to the socket type used by the motherboard, then the threaded holes have to be pushed through the mounting holes. After the bracket is in place, the next step is to secure four double threaded thumbscrews to the front motherboard.

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 stand-alone product though, so it will need to be purchased separately from the H80.

The H80 is secured to the chassis via four large screws that extend through the rear 120mm fan and into four threaded holes on the radiator. In a similar fashion to other coolers in the Hydro series, Corsair recommends that the fans be orientated to pull air inwards from outside the chassis. The dual fans should be used in a push/pull configuration, where the air is being pushed in to the radiator by one fan while the second fan exhausts it out the other side.

The low-profile block also includes an integrated push-button controller that 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, and performance sees them operating at 1600 -2600 RPM.

The low-profile design of the H80 allows the CPU block to easily fit any supported socket, and also prevents spacing issues with the motherboards' on-board components. However, the double thick radiator and dual 120mm fans will limit access to the upper left portion of the motherboard. We really can't see this being an issue though, as the only really inconvenienced here is access the 12V CPU power header.

To gauge the cooling performance of the Corsair H80, 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

  • Processor : Intel Core i7 920
  • Motherboard: MSI X58 Platinum
  • Memory:6GB  Mushkin Redline DDR3 1600
  • Video Card : XFX ATI HD 5870
  • Hard Drive : Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB
  • Power supply: Enermax Galaxy 1000w
  • Operating System : Microsoft Windows 7 Pro

The thermal performance of the Corsair H80 is quite impressive. In both our stock and overclocked testing, the H80 performed better than all of our comparison heatsinks. What really impressed us though was that the H80 was able to maintain a higher degree of thermal performance than the other models even after we increased the CPU voltage to 1.35V.

While our results didn't match up to Corsair's internal testing, which claimed the H80 to be 15% more efficient than the H60, we were still close. With our Intel i7 920 overclocked to 3.6GHz and the voltage increased to 1.30V, our results showed the H80 to be more efficient by roughly 12% when the fans are set to high. When we reduced the fan speed to the minimum setting, this difference dropped to around 8%.

During the testing process we used the Corsair H80 at both low and high RPM settings. While the performance was of course best with the fans speed set to high, the overall acoustics were actually quite loud. A quick reading from our decibel meter showed that at a distance of three feet the fans were producing a noise output 46dBA, which is definitely audible. When the fans were set to low RPM the acoustic levels improved, and our readings at three feet were just 39dBA.

The first collaborative design from the Corsair and CoolIt partnership was the H60, which successfully integrated a micro-channel cooling plate, split flow manifold and high static pressure fan into the original all-in-one water cooled design. These improvements allowed the H60 to perform roughly 10% better than the H50, while still maintaining a relatively small footprint. In our testing of the H60, we proved that it could compete head-to-head with some of the best air cooled heatsinks on the market. This time around we were able to get our hands on the latest Hydro series release, the H80.

The H80 uses the same design, but where the H80 distinguishes itself is through the use of a double-wide radiator and dual high static pressure fans. Both of these features ensure the H80 will easily outperform the H60, and in the end we were blown away by the results.

At both low and high fan RPM settings, the H80 was able to dominate all the other heatsinks we compared it to, regardless if it was air or water cooled. This makes it the best all-in-one water-cooled thermal solution we have tested, and one that is going to be hard to beat. Also, when comparing the two latest Hydro series coolers, the H80 performs around 12% better than the H60 when the fan speed was set to high, and around 8% better when the fan speed was set to low. So as you can see, the double wide radiator and dual fans really go a long way to increase the efficiency of this unit, making it a great option for extreme overclocking.

In addition to the thermal performance, the H80 also includes the same easy to use mounting system as the H60. This was one of the aspects we liked the most about the H60, so we are more than pleased to see it return with this new unit. The low-profile block and 120mm radiator will allow the Corsair H80 to fit into nearly any chassis, with the only exceptions being some of the smaller HTPC cases.

There are a few drawbacks to the H80, and the first would have to be the fan decibel levels. The Hydro series is billed a high performance, low noise solution, but when these fans are set to performance and balanced settings, they are anything but low noise. Our testing of the H80 showed that it can produce sound levels of up to 46dBA from just three feet way, which is definately going to be audible. However, when the fan level is set to quiet mode (low RPM) they are virtually silent, so it will be up to the user to find the right balance between cooling performance and sound level. Another drawback is the price of the unit, but at $109.99 MSRP it is still cheaper than most (if not all) DIY water cooling kits.

Overall, the Corsair H80 is a hassle free, all-in-one solution that offers performance superior to virtually all other cooler on the market. So, if you are looking for the best and don't mind paying a premium, then the H80 is the perfect choice.

»Neoseeker.com

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