Corsair Hydro Series H100 Reviewccokeman - September 15, 2011
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Once out of the box, the difference between the earlier Hydro Series coolers and the H100 stand out like a thumb smacked with a hammer. The larger 240mm radiator is the major point of difference between the H60/80. Add in the completely redesigned pump assembly and the differences are huge when compared to the H50/70. The pump/coldplate assembly is now designed by CoolIT instead of Asetek and employs a new micro-channel design to the coldplate. The use of a 240mm radiator means that there will be some installation challenges if your chassis does not have the ability to support a such a large radiator.
The radiator is the same size a standard 240mm form factor and is constructed from aluminum instead of copper. Why aluminum? It sheds heat faster than copper and is lighter to boot. That brings up some concerns about galvanic corrosion between the aluminum radiator and copper coldplate, but Corsair and its partner CoolIT use a proprietary coolant mixture that prohibits algae growth and inhibits corrosion. If it is still a concern, the five year warranty on the H100 should pretty much close that gap. In five years it will be upgrade time with new hardware and new cooling designs anyhow. The tubing connecting the pump to the radiator are corrugated and made of FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene). This tubing is used to minimize any evaporation of the coolant mixture and is secured to both the pump and radiator with what appears to be shrink tubing. I have yet to see this design leak or blow off during use, so the mounting mechanism seems to be secure.
The heart of the Hydro Series H100 is the unique pump/coldplate combo. This combo is the same one that has proven successful on the Hydro Series H60, then the H80, and now on the H100. The low-profile, advanced cooling block incorporates a split-manifold design to pump the liquid through the internal micro-channel copper base that sits over the warmest part of the processor, then out through the sides and into the radiator for the most efficient cooling possible. On top of the pump is a push-button switch to choose between three distinct cooling profiles: Quiet, Balanced, and Performance. Each profile adjusts the fan speed between the low and high limits based on the coolant temperature in the cooling loop. Quiet is the lowest profile and adjusts the fan speed between 900 and 1300RPM. Balanced ramps the speed up a little higher at 1300 to 2000RPM, while Performance toggles between 1600 and 2500RPM. The indicator lamps light up progressively to indicate which profile is in operation. There is no need to supply a thermal paste with the Hydro Series H100, as it is applied from the factory and does a great job of transferring the thermal load through to the micro-channel block. Attaching the pump to the board is accomplished by using the supplied mounting system. A positive stop system is used so you get a good solid mount every time without guess work. Not that the H100 will continually be removed and remounted, but with all the processors on the horizon, the need for an upgrade may dictate a reinstall.
The top of the block is not the only part that has some functionality. Looking at all four sides, three of the four have something worth looking at. The top side has the interface point for the fans. There a total of four 3-pin headers to control four fans when used on the radiator or for that matter you could get creative with the chassis fans and have them controlled by the pump assembly. That being said, getting them all inserted could pose a challenge in a tight case. The FEP tubing connects to a pair of 90 degree swivel fittings that eliminate any orientation problems due to the stiff tubing. Moving to this design was one of the best things Corsair did to improve this line-up back on the Hydro Series H70. Opposite the fan headers is a small port for use with Corsair's Link Commander, a hardware and software controller to allow for more granular control of the H100's operating characteristics. Power is supplied to the H100 through a 4-pin Molex connection in lieu of using a 3-pin connection to the motherboard. An RPM monitor wire is used to prevent a no-CPU fan error at boot up.
Much like past iterations of Corsair's Hydro Series cooling solutions, there really is not much information on the fans. They are 120x25mm in size and operate between 900 and 2500RPM and push between 46 and 92CFM based on the speed of the fan. Static pressure rises from 1.6 - 7.7mm/H20 with the associated fan noise operating between 22 and 39dBA. I found in my testing that it takes a thermal load higher than the overclocked testing to get the maximum CFM out of the fans when controlled by the pump assembly. Using a Kestral 4100 to measure airflow, I found that airflow would max out at about 10CFM less than the 92CFM rating unless the voltage was jacked up to drive the thermal loading higher for a net zero improvement.
Installation of the Hydro Series H100 into a chassis is going to require that you have a chassis that can accommodate a 240mm radiator within reach of the FEP tubing attached between the low-profile pump and the radiator. Most likely that is going to mean using one of the latest generation of cases out on the market or being handy with some power tools to make it happen. A little modding is always fun! My test chassis is one of Corsair's own and can accommodate the 240mm radiator used on the H100. To fit the H100 into place, I had to mount the fans above the chassis in the alcove provided on the case. The screws holding the fans on also mounted the radiator to the chassis. Mounting the pump assembly on an Intel-based system is no harder than attaching the backplate with the provided studs that are application specific, setting the pump assembly down over the studs and tightening the four thumbscrews in a cross-ways pattern until they bottom out. Simple, effective, and no mistakes, ensuring that the pressure on the CPU is the same every time.
With Corsair's latest cooling solution mounted up and ready to go, it's time to see if adding surface area has indeed made for a better cooling solution.