Corsair H60 Water Cooling Kit Review

airman - 2011-01-30 07:46:46 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: April 27, 2011
Price: $73.99

Introduction:

Water cooling has always been a personal interest and hobby of mine, as it can be very powerful in the sense of customization, product variety, and overall performance. However, many people are skeptical or afraid of the idea of water cooling simply because of the possible failure and the catastrophic damage that could ensue, and the simple financial needs to implement a high-end, custom-designed water cooling loop. Piecing together a system with high quality parts can cost well over $200, though the performance that can be expected can be quite worth it. Luckily for the skeptics and/or wallet conscious, there are many options available that are self-contained water cooling units from well-known manufacturers, and typically for right at or under $100. This raises eyebrows by many, as we all know that you get what you pay for. The amount of heat pouring out of a CPU may not easily or effectively be cooling by a 1x120mm radiator, which is also where my skepticism stands. However, hopefully I can be proven wrong after testing Corsair’s recently released H60 water cooling system. The H60 is compatible with just about any processor core that’s still worth anything, from all the way back to Intel 775 through 1155, 1156, and 1366 — so that includes even the new Core i5 and Sandy Bridge. AMD support covers both AM2 and AM3 as well, with no custom backplate. Furthermore, Corsair uses a new micro-channel cold plate among other new technologies into its design of the H60, as well as providing an all new fan that offers the enhanced static pressure that is required by high-density water cooling radiators.

Skepticism aside, I am interested to see how this cooler performs. This will not be my first water cooling setup, as I may have hinted earlier, but it will be my first “prebuilt” setup that comes in a box. I always remember hearing and seeing the results of earlier prebuilt water cooling units as “performs worse than some air cooling,” simply because of the lack of heat capacity in the small units. We know that the heat capacity value of water hasn’t increased from the past, but hopefully the technology to put it to work more effectively has. We saw recently with the Antec Kuhler H2O 620 that it’s not terribly difficult to make some decent numbers with a nearly silent setup and small footprint. With that being said, let’s get started!

 

Closer Look:

The classic look of Corsair's packaging is certainly present on the box that contains the H60 water cooling unit. The main visual piece on the front of the box is the H60 water block installed onto a motherboard, with Corsair Dominator memory visible in the background. The large H60 text identifies the model of the unit, with a small picture of the unit itself along with a compatibility list at the bottom. The sides and top of the box contain general specifications about the unit in regards to power draw and other operating principles, such as fan RPM, noise, and static pressure — important for the radiators used in water cooling. The rear of the case simply presents benefits and general improvements to the H60 over earlier "hydro cooler" units, such as the micro channel copper plate, and a liquid flow pathway that offers more direct cooling to the CPU. It also states that it handles the same amount of heat while operating more quietly, and is easier to install since the hold-down mechanism is tool-free. There is also a graph that shows the performance difference between the stock CPU cooler, the H50, and the H60 from Corsair. Of course, the stock CPU will fail on a fully loaded i7 930 at 4.0GHz, and the H60 offers a slight improvement over the H50.

 

 

 

Opening the box will reveal a well-packaged assembly of manuals, the fan, and bags of the mounting accessories along with the H60 unit itself. Removing everything from the bags is self-explanatory. Once everything is out of the box we find that there is one user's manual, a Corsair brochure for new products, Intel backplate, AMD retention brackets, mounting hardware, one 120mm fan, and the pump/block/radiator assembly. As with most prebuilt water cooling units, the H60 keeps its pump inside the water block.

 

 

With everything out of the box, it is now time to take a closer look at the H60 and I will offer an evaluation of its construction and features. Following that will be an intense testing session on recent hardware, in both stock and overclocked scenarios, while being compared to the biggest names on the market for cooling hardware.

Closer Look:

The H60 unit by itself is very compact and would take up much less room than the typical Noctua NH-D14 or other large CPU coolers that are in its price range. I can already tell that this will immediately clean up the inside of the case and allow for less surfaces for dust to accumulate (i.e. on the fins of a large heatsink), which I regularly have to clean. The top plate is black plastic with the Corsair logo screened onto it. The base is copper and is held in place with eight hex head screws, contains pre-applied thermal paste, and is protected by a plastic cover. The exposed copper plate is rather thin, (1.5-2mm) though it could be machined around the outside edges. I'm used to seeing water blocks having copper plates over 1/4" (6mm) thick, which allows for the channels on the inside. As I stated earlier, it is typical for prebuilt units such as the H60 to have the pump integrated into the block, which is the case with this unit. The pump is powered by a regular 3-pin connector, which simply plugs into one of the headers on the motherboard. The 90° fittings can swivel through an angle of nearly 180°, until the fitting itself hits one of the black "legs" on the block itself. I did find that the tubes are rather stiff, which could cause some difficulty during installation, but that does prevent any possibilities of the tubes kinking, which can cause failure of the pump and overheating of the processor — we wouldn't want that to happen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The radiator itself is rather small — much smaller than the massive 3x120mm radiators I am accustomed to! This is a much more compact water cooling setup than I am accustomed to, so it's not easy to give this tiny 1x120mm radiator some credit! I will give it the benefit of the doubt, as I've seen some numbers for similar units already and they are quite impressive. The fittings going into the radiator are fixed, meaning that they do not swivel or rotate. Luckily, the fittings on the block itself are really the only ones that need to swivel. Aside from the hoses connecting to one side, the individual faces of the radiator are identical. On each side, there are four threaded holes for a 120mm fan to attach, allowing for a potential push-pull setup, which would probably work well with the dense fins packed into this radiator. Removing the outer plastic cover exposes the small circuit board on the back side of the pump. This circuit board is probably responsible for temperature-controlled variable pump speeds, most likely giving the pump a longer lifetime since it won't be operating at 100% throughput through its life cycle.

 

 

The fan looks like a typical 12V 120mm fan just like any other, labeled to draw 0.20A. It is powered by a 4-pin PWM header, which will allow for its speed to be controlled by the motherboard. This will prevent any unwanted noise at idle, since the fan will not need to operate at a high speed to keep the temperature of the processor at a reasonable temperature.

 

 

Installation is quite self-explanatory and only takes a few minutes. The hardware included that I will be using for Intel is a backplate, four male-to-male standoffs, four plastic washers, and four female thumb screws. Per the instructions, the backplate is set in place and is held there by the four standoffs. I mounted the radiator first with the fan pulling through the radiator, as that is the way it is intended by Corsair due to the hardware that is supplied. The single long screw holds one corner of the fan to the case and threads into the radiator itself. This was tricky to get all lined up and it would have helped to have a third hand, but nevertheless I was able to get it done. Once the radiator is in place (I mocked it up first to see which orientation would be easiest to install the water block), the water block is placed over the exposed ends of the standoffs and the thumbscrews are tightened down. I decided to use the pre-applied thermal paste, as that is how I test my units — as supplied from the factory. I was surprised to not see any spring mechanisms on the screws to apply even pressure, but I'm guessing there was enough "spring" in the arms on the water block. The AMD hardware actually has sprung screws, probably because it uses two screws instead of four.

 

 

I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of extra room there is and how much cleaner the inside of the case looks. With such large heatsinks, it's easy to block the view of over half the motherboard, causing a lack in the visual element of the components themselves that many custom PC builders work so hard for. Satisfied, it's now time for me to prepare for testing this water cooling unit.

Specifications:

Radiator Dimensions
120mm x 152mm 27mm
Fan Dimensions
120mm x 25mm
Fan Speed
Up to 1700 RPM
Fan Airflow
74.4 CFM
Fan dBA
30.2 dBA
Fan Static Pressure
3.2 mm-H2O
Cold Plate Material
Copper
Fan Quantity
120mm (x1)
Socket Support
AMD AM2, AM3, Intel LGA 1155, LGA 1156, LGA 1366, LGA 775
Radiator Material
Aluminum
Tubing
Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation

Features:

 

Information provided courtesy of Corsair @ http://www.corsair.com

Testing and Setup:

Testing of this water cooling unit will involve applying a load simulated by Prime95, using small FFTs in stock and overclocked scenarios, where both idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in RealTemp after running eight threads in Prime95 for one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum recorded value by RealTemp with no computer usage during a period of one hour. The temperature values for each of the four cores will be averaged and displayed in the graphs below. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 22.5 °C throughout testing of the Corsair H60, as well as the comparison heatsinks. All the data shown in the graphs below is in degrees Celsius. The included thermal paste from Corsair will be used during testing and thermal pastes as packaged from the other coolers were used with each heatsink, respectively. The fans on the each cooler will be run at full speed for these tests.

Testing Setup:

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Heatsinks:

 

 

 

 

Well, it seems that this tiny little water cooling unit has surprised me. Corsair is definitely doing something right with this unit, but it does appear that the small capacity causes the temperatures to suffer as the heat load increases. This is a common observation that I will explain in my conclusion.

Conclusion:

I have no problem making the statement that this water cooling unit offers a lot of "bang for the buck" as well as other features that can appeal to many. For all tests except overclocked load, it performed within a few degrees of the Noctua NH-D14, which is more expensive than the Corsair H60. It's very compact, requires little to no maintenance, is quiet, and performs well even for those who plan to overclock. However, it may not be for those looking to perform very extreme overclocks, as the performance and effectiveness of the cooler begins to degrade as the heat output of the processor increases, and one would be better off purchasing a high-end air cooler that can keep up with the extreme heat loads. This is caused by what is known as "heat soak", which is when the radiator and the rest of the components heat up, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of the unit. Perhaps having another fan on this unit in a push/pull setup would help this, but with a radiator on the level of size of this one, as with any radiators, it's only effective up to a maximum wattage input at a given ambient temperature. Once the rate of heat input to the system exceeds the maximum effective dissipation rate of the radiator, this leftover heat input goes into increasing the temperature of the system until it is at equilibrium. This simply means a higher overall coolant (water) temperature, meaning a higher processor temperature. Long story short, don't expect excellent temperatures on an i7 930 at 4.5GHz!

Overall, I like this unit. It is very compact, quiet, self-explanatory, and little or no maintenance is needed (i.e. cleaning dust out of heatsink fins, draining/refilling the unit, etc). I am also one of those folks who love to work on the presentation of the interior of the computer case, and staring at the top of a huge heatsink takes away from the look slightly. I love the cleanliness and sleekness of the Corsair H60 and the way it makes the inside of the HAF932 look. With all that said, for the price, it is well worth it and I hope Corsair keeps up the good work!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: