Corsair Hydro H80 Review

ccokeman - 2011-07-12 17:40:45 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 31, 2011
Price: $109.99


Cooling down that multi-core CPU can be accomplished with the stock heat sink delivered by the CPU manufacturer, be it Intel or AMD. However, it just does not do a very good job of it. Even at stock clock speeds, the delivered temperatures are "high" for an enthusiast's tastes. This stock cooling solution is meant to keep the silicon within the thermal boundaries set by the manufacturer and must do so in all the chips running in cramped, poorly ventilated cases that are the hallmark of the mass builder. When you think of it, how many die prematurely from running to hot? Cooling and chassis technology have come a long way, with products out now that allow us, enthusiasts and gamers, to step away from that poorly ventilated case and CPU running at stock speeds.

Massive heat sinks and fans can be used to effectively cool down the CPU. Case fans have stretched all the way up to 300mm in chassis that blow air well enough to keep the inside air the same as the outside ambient temperature. Liquid cooling systems can be had from mild (small, self-contained, modestly priced) to wild (full-on systems with separate radiators, pumps, and blocks for the CPU and GPU). Any which way you want to cut it, there is a solution for everyone, but the item that holds our interest for this brief moment is the self-contained liquid cooling solution. Asetek and Coolit were the early primary players in this field and offered up innovative solutions for cooling your processor and more. Both were not that well known to the average enthusiast.

Corsair, on the other hand, had the name recognition and struck gold with the Hydro Series H50 and H70. These first two offerings were put together in partnership with Asetek, while with the Hydro H60, the H80, and the upcoming H100, Corsair has moved to CoolIt for its expertise in putting together and building a high performance all-in-one liquid cooling system. While the 38mm thick radiator looks like a holdout from the H70, the H80 gets the upgrades from the H60, which include a cooling plate with a new micro-channel design, a split-flow manifold, and a push-button control for the fan speed of the dual fans. If the Hydro Series H80 is as capable as the older H70, then Corsair should have another winner on its hands. Let's dig a little deeper into what Corsair is offering in this latest liquid cooling solution.

Closer Look:

Much like most retail boxes, the packaging of the Corsair Hydro Series H80 is chock full of information. On the front panel there is a close-up of the pump/cooling plate and a full view of the system in the bottom left, with the socket compatibility just under the main image. All current sockets from AMD and Intel are supported, including Intel's upcoming Socket 2011 Sandybridge-E processors. The back side shows that the H80 supports Corsair Link Digital technology, shows the benefits of a double thick radiator and dual fans, and talks about the push-button control for the radiator fans. The top shows several more images of what the Hydro Series H80 looks like, as well as again pointing out that the H80 supports Corsair Link Digital in six languages.






Inside the package is a formed cardboard shell that holds the Corsair Hydro Series H80 and all the parts associated with it, including the fans, pump assembly, mounting hardware, radiator assembly, and documentation. The formed cardboard shell does a good job of keeping the hardware in one spot to prevent damage.



Included in the package are the bundled accessories that enable the Corsair Hydro Series H80 to be mounted on a variety of platforms. Documentation includes the instructions, product guide, and a warning not to take this product back to the point of purchase if something is not right. The accessory package includes the Intel and AMD adapters, as well as the common parts kit that includes screws, washers, mounting plates, and all the associated hardware needed to mount the Hydro Series H80 on the latest and upcoming platforms from Intel and AMD.



Now that we know what the package holds, it's time to see how it goes together and how well it works.

Closer Look:

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?


Radiator dimensions
120mm x 152mm x 38mm
Fan dimensions:
120mm x 120mm x 25mm
Fan speeds (+/- 10%):
up to 1300 RPM (Low Noise)
 2000 RPM (Balanced)
 2500 RPM (High Performance)
Fan airflow:
46 - 92 CFM
Fan dBA:
22 - 39
Fan static pressure:
1.6 - 7.7mm/H20
Five years
Cold Plate Material
Fan Specification
120mm (x2)
Socket Support
AMD AM2, AMD AM3, Intel LGA 1155, Intel LGA 1156, Intel LGA 1366, Intel LGA 2011, Intel LGA 775
Radiator Material
Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation
Hydro Series H80 requires a case with a rear or top 120mm fan mount



Package contents

All information courtesy of Corsair @


To gauge the performance of the Corsair Hydro Series H80, I will be making a comparison of the temperatures at idle and under load. Both will be made while the CPU is at the stock voltages and clock speeds, as well as when the CPU is overclocked and 'over-volted'. This will help to show what kind of cooling performance that this all-in-one liquid cooling system has to offer when compared to other Socket 1366-compatible high-performance cooling solutions. These heat sinks and liquid cooled solutions will be tested head-to-head as they are delivered from the manufacturer. I could throw in a bunch of testing variables, but it is not what the products are capable of "as delivered". To test the idle temperatures, I will allow the computer to stay idle for 30 minutes and take the idle temperature at this point. For the load testing, I will use Prime95 version 26.5 and choose the blend testing and allow the processor and memory controller to heat up to the maximum temperatures. The time frame is a four-hour run, to allow the temperature to peak — usually in the 14K test. I will use Real Temp 3.6 to take the high and low temperatures and average the temperatures generated over the four cores as my reported temperatures.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Heat sinks:








Under load, the Corsair Hydro Series H80 is the best self-contained liquid cooling system I have worked with to date. Only marginally better than the H70, Corsair has moved to improve the performance and efficiency using a new pump and coldplate design that does pay dividends here. A test I have started to unofficially run is to bump the vcore up to 1.4 and the clock speed of the 920 up to a 210 bclock for a nice 4.2GHz clock speed. This test puts an even greater load on the cooling subsystem and Prime 95 will error out if the temperatures reach higher than the mid 70s degrees Celsius on this CPU. Much like the H70, the H80 delivered temperatures in the middle 70s degrees Celsius with the voltage and clock speed bumped up allowing a 3-hour pass of Prime 95 at 4.2GHz running in "Performance" mode. This load is what it took to get the most out of the fans and pump. I say this because at the lower overclock of 3.3GHz, the maximum airflow I could get measured with my Kestral 4100 was a 64 CFM average out of the assembly. When run at a higher vcore and clock speed, the CPU put out enough thermal load to cause the pump assembly to finally ramp up the fan speeds to the 2600rpm range, delivering an 88 CFM average, close to the 92 CFM rating on the fans.


The question is what do you get for your money when you pony up for the Corsair Hydro Series H80? Well you get top tier configurable performance that will allow you to run from mild to reasonably wild with a self-contained liquid cooling solution. You get a 35%+/- cooling performance boost under load right out of the box when running in the "Balanced" and "Performance" modes, while still gaining a 28% cooling bonus over the stock Intel cooling solution in "Quiet" mode. That is a significant impact to cooling performance over the stock cooling solution. This performance does come with a couple of issues though. When run in the default fan orientation of pushing air into the chassis, the Hydro Series H80 pushed all the thermal load into the chassis, driving up component temperatures significantly — even in my well-ventilated CM HAF 932 and the Corsair 600T. This cooling benefit for the CPU can't be overstated, but by changing the fan orientation to blow air out of the chassis, I saw only a one degree cooling penalty that is worth the reversal of the fans to a push-out orientation, in my opinion — lower VRM circuit and video card temperatures are worth the 1 ºC penalty. The other downside is that the 39dBA may be underrated, as in the two higher modes the fans were indeed loud. Again, I found that by switching the fan orientation to push the air out of the chassis, the noise levels dropped markedly along with the internal case temperatures.

As a step up from the H70, you get improved performance with newer technology and the ability to configure the performance level of the Hydro Series H80 cooling solution instead of having a single level of performance. The H80 supports Corsair's Link Commander controller for real-time control and monitoring of your cooling and lighting systems for more precise control of the H80 and upcoming H100. Installing the H80 is no more difficult than any of the current crop of self-contained liquid cooling solutions in many aspects. The mounting of the radiator is the same, but where the H80 is different and improved over the last generation Hydro Series is the mounting mechanism. The entire assembly can be tightened without using tools, if need be. The mounting mechanisms are included for both current and next generation sockets from both AMD and Intel, so the H80 can move on to the next build, offering extended value and performance. With a five year warranty, the H80 should easily have the lifespan to make this transition with the typical three year hardware upgrade cycle. When it comes down to it, you have to decide whether the price tag is worth the performance gained. The Corsair H80 does, however, have a lot of up side for the price point.