Corsair Hydro H80 Reviewccokeman - July 31, 2011
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Once out of the box, the Hydro H80 looks almost identical to the previously released Hydro Series H70, save for the change in the pump assembly from an Asetek-designed piece to one designed in partnership with CoolIt. The 38mm thick radiator is designed to fit into virtually any case with a 120mm or larger exhaust vent on the rear of the chassis. With the Hydro H80 you also get some unique features on the pump/cooling plate combo to tailor the cooling performance of the product.
Corsair has not deviated from its playbook and used the same formula that was successful with the earlier Hydro Series coolers, the H50 and H70. The H80 is an upgrade from the recently released H60, with a larger radiator that is not quite twice as thick as the one used on the H60, but comes in at 38mm thick with total dimensions of 152x120x38mm. Connecting the radiator to the pump assembly are a pair of FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) tubes that are used to minimize evaporation of the coolant mixture. The radiator is made from aluminum while the coldplate is copper, giving you two dissimilar metals in a system. This has always been a concern with the pre-filled systems. Corsair's partner CoolIt uses a proprietary coolant mixture to discourage any algae growth and inhibit galvanic corrosion in its own systems, so this coolant may well be what's used in the Hydro Series H80. With the bump in warranty to five years, the Hydro Series H80 should last well into your next upgrade cycle without fear of failure. The FEP coolant tubes are secured to the fittings on the pump and radiator by what appears to be a shrink tubing. Whatever the case, the mounting is secure as seen on both Corsair's Hydro Series and CoolIt's own products.
The coldplate/pump assembly is a unique piece with many features. The coldplate/pump lower assembly is identical to the one used on the Corsair Hydro Series H60 ,but that's where the similarities end. The new advanced cooling block utilizes a split manifold to drive the coolest liquid to the hottest part of the CPU, then have the liquid flow out through a new micro-channel design block to remove the maximum amount of thermal load from the core with the least amount of restriction. This proves to be part of the success of the H80, but is not all of it. From the top, the pump assembly is visibly different from the one used on the H60, featuring a push-button fan control. Obviously the differences between the spartan pump assembly of the Hydro Series H60 are clearly evident when you take a look at both assemblies. The top of the Hydro Series H80 has a switch that allows the user to select from three different fan/cooling profiles. 1) Quiet: that allows the fans to cycle between 900-1300rpm, 2) Balanced: sets the range from 1300 – 2000rpm, and 3) Performance: that again bumps the fan speed range up to 1600 – 2600rpm. These three profiles also tie in with increased pump speeds that ramp up as the liquid temperature increases inside the loop. The micro-channel cooling block comes with the thermal interface material pre-applied and does a fair job of transferring the load to the H80. Mounting the radiator and fans is accomplished by a series of four holes on each face of the 38mm thick radiator.
Taking a walk around the heart of the H80, you can see how the fans interfact with the pump assembly. The two 120mm fans plug directly into the pump head for a sanitary connection setup. In a tight case, installing the fans could prove a challenge. On the other side of the assembly is a small port that is used to interface with Corsair's Link Digital Commander hardware controller/monitoring ecosystem for precise control of the H80 and supported products. The FEP tubing connects to the pump via 90º swivel fittings that eliminate fitment problems associated with the stiff tubing. Power is supplied by a 4-pin Molex connection to a 12V source from the power supply with a second 3-pin lead used to monitor the pump speed when attached to the motherboard.
If your chassis is equipped with a windowed side panel, you can easily tell what performance mode you are running the Hydro Series H80 in by looking at the lighted push-button interface. The three slices of the power ramp light up as the performance level increases from "Quiet" through "Performance" mode. This is an easy indicator for the end user, as the difference between the two upper settings are not really noticeable from a noise perspective until you really push the thermal load.
There is not much information to be had on the fans included with the Hydro Series H80 other than the fact that they are 120x25mm in size, push 46 to 92 CFM with fan speeds of between 900 and 2600rpm, have a static pressure rating of 1.6 - 7.7mm/H20 and deliver noise levels between 22 – 39 dBA. During testing I found that, when installed in the Corsair-recommended orientation, they were noisier at full song than when installed blowing air out of the chassis. 39dBA may be a bit conservative when running the fans in "Performance" mode.
Installing the Corsair H80 in my Cooler Master HAF 932 presented no challenges. I simply swapped out the mounting brackets from the Noctua heat sink used for this testing combination with those needed for the Corsair H80. Using this cooler in a large chassis is a not a challenge, so the next closest piece I had on hand was one of Corsair's Graphite Series 600T cases to use for a second mounting combination — this time on a Rampage III Formula with a large heat sink package on the board and a tighter fit top to bottom and front to back. The block assembly easily fit and cleared the heat sink package and memory. The radiator fan combo is large and rides over the left edge of the pump, so installing the fans to the block should be done first in a smaller chassis although the 600T is not small in any sense, other than it is classifed as a mid tower chassis. The entire assembly is smooth and easy to accomplish with nothing more than a screwdriver and your thumbs.
The Corsair H80 has a pretty extensive feature set that should allow it to perform at a high level and deliver excellent cooling performance. The question is, will it deliver the goods?