Corsair H115i Reviewccokeman -
Category: CPU Cooling
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Corsair H115i Introduction:
Keeping your prized CPU cool has gotten a bit harder of late. Packing more and more transistors in, thanks to shrinking build processes, means more heat in a similar sized die. While air cooling has its place and is effective, an All-in-One cooling solution, like those that have been made by Corsair, have been a staple of the market for a while. While not the first to put out an All-in-One liquid cooling solution, Corsair was at the forefront of making them affordable for the masses. As heat loads grew, Corsair has kept pace by delivering improvements in pump design and increases in radiator size to add thermal capacity. Having looked at the H100i, the H100, and many of the single radiator variants, I was interested to see just how well this version would do under pressure.
Corsair's Hydro Series H115i uses a pump to push the proprietary cooling liquid through a large 2x140mm aluminum radiator to dump the thermal load, thanks to the airflow of the pair of SP140L fans. As an added bonus, you get to use Corsair's own Link software package to configure the operating parameters of the H115i. Let's dig a little deeper into what Corsair has to offer with this version of the top selling Hydro Series line up.
Corsair H115i Closer Look:
The packaging for the Corsair Hydro Series H115i features an image of the cooler against a black background on the front panel. The black and yellow box is an eye catcher with the two color theme. Across the top right is the Hydro Series logo, underneath that are mentions on the warranty, quantity of fans, and that this device is Corsair Link ready. More on the feature set of the Hydro Series H115i are listed across the bottom in several languages. The back side of the box lists the technical specifications of the H115i, along with a performance expectation when used with an overclocked Intel Core i7 3970X. Testing will reveal how close we get to that expectation.
Pulling the cooler out of the box, the H115i is pretty large when you get it in your hands. The accessory bundle included with the cooler includes all the mounting hardware you will need to mount the H115i to AMD AM2, AM3, FM1, FM2, and Intel LGA: 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, 2011-v3 sockets. Mounting components aside, you get a manual and warranty information, along with a cable that connects from a motherboard USB header to the pump assembly to allow the integration with Corsair's Link software suite. A pair of Corsair's own SP140L High Static Pressure PWM fans are used to provide 105CFM each through the aluminum 280mm radiator. These fans run at between 1000 and 2000RPM at close to 45 dBa.
Corsair is using an improved version of its pump with the H115i. You get an improved pump and coldplate with version two of this design. The logo on the top of the cooler defaults to white, but you can use Corsair's Link software to change the color to any in the RGB spectrum. You can use a solid color to mirror your build or set the LED to change color based on a user set coolant temperature warning. Interfacing with Corsair's Link software will require connecting the included wire harness to the mini-USB port on the side of the pump assembly and an available USB header on your motherboard.
The Intel mounting bracket is pre-installed on this cooler. To use with an AMD socket, you will need to swap the mounting bracket by unlocking the Intel bracket and pulling it off. Reverse the procedure to install the included AMD mounting bracket. The cooling plate is copper and is attached to the pump by eight screws. In most cases, you will never touch these screws. The copper surface has some machining marks, but proves to be flat and smooth. From the factory, Corsair includes a pre-applied thermal compound, so all you have to do is mount the pump to the board and the radiator to the chassis. There are three hard wired connections on the pump assembly, a SATA power connection to power the pump and PWM fans, a two-into-one PWM fan harness that powers both SP140L fans, and a single wire that monitors pump speed via the motherboard.
Corsair continues with an aluminum radiator on the Hydro Series, including the H115i. Liquid cooling purists will cringe at the thought of mixing metals in a closed loop system, but Corsair has been using this design for years. By using a proprietary coolant, Corsair is confident enough to offer a five-year warranty period on the H115i. The radiator is built to work with a pair of 140mm fans mounted on either or both sides of the fins.
Measuring 312mm x 140mm x 26mm, the H115i is going to need a chassis with the ability to house it first and foremost. Corsair offers a wealth of choices in this regard. Along the side you get a beauty stripe that matches the theme on the pump assembly. Airflow easily flows through the fin array on this radiator with a modest fin density. A low permeability tubing is used to connect the pump to the radiator. This larger cross section tubing is fairly robust, but still flexible. Visually, Corsair is using a braided covering that looks 1000% better than the corrugated tubing from past generations of the Hydro Series.
Installing the Hydro Series H115i is incredibly easy on an Intel socket 2011-v3 motherboard. Chassis mounting is easy as well, as long as you take into account the dimensions of the fans and radiator. For this exercise, I will be mounting the H115i into a Corsair 780T case that has the required 140mm fan spacing in the top of the chassis. I will be installing the fans in a push configuration, forcing the air through the radiator and out the top of the chassis. To start, I mounted the pair of SP140L fans to the bottom of the radiator with the supplied screws. Ensure you use the washers to leave plenty of space between the screw threads and the fins and tubing in the radiator. I then mounted the radiator/fan combo in the top of the chassis using, again, the supplied screws. Do not over tighten the screws. Be careful while doing this so you do not allow the pump head to hit your motherboard and damage anything. Depending on your socket type, you may have to use the included back plate for other socket types. On the socket 2011 motherboard, I used the mounting studs for the application and screwed them in hand tight.
Cleaning the CPU with your chosen method will give you a clean surface for the TIM. Remove the protective cover from the bottom of the pump head and set the pump head onto the CPU, indexing the screws to fit into the mounting bracket, then tighten down the supplied thumb nuts in a cross hatch pattern to equalize pressure on the CPU. Finish up by routing the SATA power plug to an available spot in the chassis where you have a SATA power plug from your power supply, connect the two fans to the harness on the pump head, attach the monitoring lead to the CPU fan plug on the board, and connect the Link interface cable. Clean up your wiring, double check your connections, and power up the system! Enjoy. In my existing chassis, it took roughly 15 minutes to install the Corsair H115i.
Corsair uses its Link software suite to manage the H115i in several ways that include both functional and visual tools. Link software can monitor the operating temperatures of the liquid in the closed loop, the CPU temperatures, GPU temperatures, DRAM temperatures when using modules like Corsair's Dominator line, fan speeds, and even motherboard temperature sensors. It's pretty cool stuff, when you get down to it. One of the things you can do with the H115i is use predefined profiles for the liquid pump and fan speeds. By doing so, you can go from a balanced noise thermal performance profile to a max performance noise profile and down to dead silent mode. The LED on the pump head can be set to any color in the RGB rainbow to match your case theme or set to give you a warning by temperature. On top of that, you get plenty of monitoring via graphs that you can log to files.
Pretty much standard fare for an AIO cooler... or is it?! With this iteration, it seems Corsair has stepped up its game.