Corsair Hydro Series H90 Review

ccokeman - 2013-01-22 16:42:18 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 28, 2013
Price: $99

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Introduction:

When Corsair decided that it wanted to grow as a company and break from the mold of being just a high performance DRAM supplier, one of the first products out of the new Corsair was the Hydro Series H50. This self contained liquid cooling solution in a box revolutionized the way water cooling was looked at for the masses. Traditionally, liquid cooling was for the select few who were willing to take the risks of putting liquids inside the chassis with custom made parts that really were not always of the best quality. Fast forward to today and there are tons of cooling parts centered just around liquid cooling as it has hit the big time with the cooling needs of today's hot running CPUs. Overclocked of course!

Outside of a custom loop, a self contained liquid cooling solution is the next best option in terms of cooling performance. So much so that both AMD and Intel are offering their top end enthusiast parts with the option of a self contained solution. As the need has grown, Corsair has been there to deliver ever more efficient solutions from the old and new H60 to the H70 and H80 with larger radiators and finally the H100 series. Working with OEM builders Asetek and CoolIt across the series has delivered the best each company has to offer.

Finally we get the new Hydro Series H90. This revision is built using a 140mm radiator and fan to provide increased cooling across the board. Increased surface area is always going to aid cooling. Pricing is currently around the $99 mark, putting the Hydro Series H90 at a premium price point. Based on past history, the H90 should be another step up in performance over prior revisions of Corsair's Hydro Series self contained liquid cooling solutions.

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Closer Look:

The package change seen on the new H60 is used with the H90. A sliver box with blue and black accents is used to stand out on a shelf when sold in a brick and mortar location. The front panel has a rendering of the H90 with the product name in a bold font so you know just what you are getting. Support for both AMD and Intel processors is advertised as well. Just above the product name you can see that this revision uses a 140mm fan instead of the traditionally used 120mm. The back side of the package illustrates the merits of the Hydro Series H90 when compared to a box cooler running an Intel 3770K at 4.6GHz showing that the H90 is indeed a high performance liquid cooling solution. Subject to validation, of course. Along the bottom is the contents list to show what should be included in the package. On each side is information that speaks to the use of a 140mm fan while the obverse lists the technical specifications in multiple languages.








Opening the package shows that the Corsair H90 is held in place with a formed cardboard housing that holds the components in place so that each part of the package is isolated from damage. The manual sits on top of the contents, each strategically placed in the shell to minimize any impact damage. Corsair has used this means of packaging the Hydro series for some time now and it has proven effective.



The accessory bundle that come with Corsair's Hydro Series H90 includes the user guide/installation manual, a single 140mm fan, and the mounting hardware for the Asetek Gen 4 pump head and 140mm radiator. Mounting hardware is included to install the H90 on all of the current socket types from AMD and Intel.



Compatibility with the latest sockets allows the H90 to be used with just about any system on the market currently, whether its a Socket 2011 Intel or FM2-based AMD system. The H90 is suited for use with all of them.

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Closer Look:

Corsair's Hydro Series H90 high performance liquid cooling solution looks much like many of the previous revisions with the main exception being the size of the radiator and change in the pump head. Well when you look at it it is basically all new. An aluminum 140x140x25mm radiator takes the place of the 120x120x25mm unit on the new H60 and older H50. The pump head is an all-new Asetek Gen 4 design and the tubing is a more flexible design than the FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) tubing used on earlier designs. This tubing is a thick wal,l low evaporation design. It's more flexible but is larger in diameter. With a 140x140mm radiator, chassis design is going to be key on your list of to-do's before you select the H90 as your cooling solution of choice. The reason is as simple as it gets, in that not all chassis can handle a 140mm fan in the top or exhaust locations. Thankfully our Corsair 650D can handle a 140mm fan and radiator combination. Compression-style clamps are used to keep the tubing attached to the radiator and leak-free.














The radiator is only part of the equation when managing the thermal load of today's processors. As mentioned before, Corsair has decided to go with Asetek for the pump head and cooling plate assembly for this round of the Hydro Series. Using the Gen 4 design that incorporates an all-new copper cooling plate, the pump head assembly is more efficient at removing heat than prior designs. The flexible rubber tubing is attached to the pump through a pair of 90 degree O-ring sealed inlet/outlet fittings. Using an O-ring sealed fitting allows it to swivel in place for added installation flexibility. Rather than using a 4-pin connection to use PWM control, the pump assembly uses a 3-pin power connection to provide full power at all times to the pump. Missing is the ability to integrate and control the H90 with Corsair's Link control and monitoring system. The cooling fluid is a proprietary blend that uses a propylene glycol/distilled water mixture as the transfer medium to pass the heat from the pump head to the 140mm radiator. Corsair pre-applies the thermal paste to the cooling plate surface that spreads out nicely when the cooling plate is mounted.




A 140mm capable radiator is best used with a 140mm fan. Using a larger fan and radiator is a way to reduce the noise penalty with some 120mm fans. A larger, slower moving fan is going to push more airflow with less noise. Corsair is using one of its nine blade 140mm fans on the H90. Rated to run at up to 1500RPM, it pushes up to 94 C.F.M. of air, has a static pressure rating of 1.64mm-H2O, uses 5.76 watts, and at full speed the noise penalty comes in at 35dBA. In testing this fan proved to be substantially quieter than the 120mm fans used on the H100 I use in my test bed PCs. This fan uses a 4-pin power connection so the fan can be PWM controlled to tailor the noise and cooling performance to meet the end users needs.



Installing the Hydro Series H90 is almost exactly like installing the H50 with a locking ring that locates and holds the pump head in position. A backing plate is used for each CPU socket type that varies by processor manufacturer. In this case I am installing the H90 on a socket 1155 motherboard. The back plate is held in place by a pair of double sided foam cushions that locate it while the pump mounting assembly is mounted and tightened down into the secured nuts in the back plate. Once each of the four mounting screws are started, tighten them in an X pattern until fully seated. Corsair suggests mounting the fan as an intake pushing cool, ambient air through the radiator for the best possible temperature deltas. Doing this requires placing the fan on the radiator and locating the fan/radiator mounting holes with each mounting screw. Once all four screws are in you will tighten them equally in, yes yet again, an X pattern. Do not over tighten the screws. Corsair has taken steps to make sure the distance from the mounting location on the frame to the radiator proper is great enough to prevent penetration of the radiator tubes during the installation.



Once the H90 is installed, it's time to take stock and see just what kind of cooling performance the system can deliver when equipped with Corsair's latest creation.

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Specifications:

Five years
Cold Plate Material  
Fan Specification  
140mm (x1)
Socket Support
AMD AM2, AMD AM3, AMD FM1, AMD FM2, Intel LGA 1155, Intel LGA 1156, Intel LGA 1366, Intel LGA 2011
Radiator Material  

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Features:




All information courtesy of Corsair @

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Testing:

Testing of Corsair's latest Hydro Series high performance liquid cooler, the H90, will be accomplished installing the cooler into the test system mounted into a case, not a test bench. Most systems are built and mounted into a sealed (relatively) chassis, so this method will be used to generate the load and idle results to give a real world view as to what kind of cooling performance one can expect, based on the test system listed below. Of course, your results may vary, due to case design and ambient air temperature by several degrees. The CPU load is generated by Prime 95 version 27.7 for a period of two hours, with a cool down period of one hour, after the computer has returned to an idle state. Real Temp 3.70 is used to log the temperatures over the time frame with the highest and lowest averages across the four cores of the Core i7 2600K test CPU. Ambient temperatures are kept at 24 °C throughout the testing to minimize the impact of a variable temperature. Each cooler is tested with the manufacturer supplied thermal compound as delivered. Many of us have our own TIM favorites, but for the end-user without a half dozen tubes of thermal paste laying around, the supplied TIM will have to do and is how these coolers will be tested.

Testing Setup:


Comparison Coolers:






As a high performance liquid cooling solution, the H90 does a great job of keeping the overclocked Core i7 2600K cooler under load than any of the comparison cooling solutions, including Corsair's own H60 and H80. Idle temperatures are nice to see when they are low but the load measurement is the indicator that tells the true load capacity of the cooling. In this case the H90 is the clear winner.

Corsair Hydro Series H90 Conclusion:

Put to the test, the Hydro series H90 delivers excellent cooling performance when compared to both previous generation products and some of the upper tier air cooling solutions on the market. At a $99 purchase point, the price is going to come with a little bit of sticker shock when you step up to a self-contained liquid cooling solution. If you are running a CPU at stock speeds using the included factory cooling solution, the temperature gain on my test system is close to 30 degrees. That alone makes it attractive to the individual looking to enhance the life span of a pricy processor. Running the CPU overclocked showed an even more impressive improvement of over 40 degrees when the Intel box cooling solution reached over 100 °C.

Comparing to a stock box cooling solution may seem less than ideal, but Corsair's H90 does well against more capable cooling solutions. When overclocked it delivered a three degree improvement over one of the best air cooling solution out right now from Phanteks. Any which way you look at it, the performance speaks for itself. Chassis compatibility runs the gamut, but suffice to say the H90 is going to require a chassis that accommodates a 140mm fan in either the exhaust or intake fan locations. If you are adventurous you can even mod your chassis to fit one in.

Normally, ramping up cooling performance comes with an increased noise penalty; something we saw with the H80 and H100 where the fan speeds created an environment that was not unpleasant but definitely noisy. The fan specification on the H90 shows 35dBA as the noise level generated by the fan. This should be quite noticeable when running the cooler, but during operation it was quite quiet throughout the testing. A pleasant surprise after testing the H80 again for this review. Comparing the tubing used for the Hydro series to the earlier FET tubing is like comparing night and day. Slightly larger yet more flexible, the rubber, low permeability tubing makes installation all that much more comfortable to a point. The tubing's larger size can present some challenges when all of the memory DIMM slots are filled. Careful tweaking of the mounting hardware fixes this problem.

Corsair's Hydro series cooling solutions come with a five-year warranty that should alleviate any concerns with galvanic corrosion over the course of the H90's life span. Using an aluminum and copper cooling plate is not the best solution but is needed to meet the price point to go to market. If it has a five-year warranty and the average upgrade cycle is three years, then it should last until at least the next upgrade cycle. All in all I have to say I am pleased with the cooling and noise level performance delivered by the Hydro Series H90. It's quiet, offers top notch cooling, and is an easy gateway into the world of full-on liquid cooling.