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Corsair Hydro Series H100 Review

ccokeman    -   September 15, 2011
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Conclusion:

The Corsair Hydro Series H100 has proved to be the best performing self-contained liquid cooling solution I have tested. In fact, it's the best performing solution I have tested so far, aside from a custom water loop. This of course falls entirely into another cost and cooling spectrum, as putting together this kind of performance does come with a price tag that currently is right around $120. Where the H100 pulls ahead of its predecessors, specifically the H80, is in the increased surface area of the radiator that drives the cooling performance. With the same pump and controller on both the H80 and H100, the liquid flow rates and coldplate are going to deliver identical performance and the fans will move the same amount of airflow at a given thermal load. As such, the radiator capacity is what sets this cooling solution above the H80 and earlier H70. Needless to say, the performance speaks for itself and is easily a competitor for your cooling dollar. The performance can be tailored to the individual's needs with three distinct performance levels. Quiet, Balanced, and Performance mode, where all bets are off. Performance of course is the mode that delivers the lowest temperatures based on the highest fan speed setting. The fan speeds set by the pump and controller dictate the cooling level. The fan speeds are easily controlled by pushing a button on the pump head. The fans used on the H100 are the same as those used on the H80 that I recently looked at. As such, the H100 suffers from the same noise problems as the H80. Running at up to 2500RPM in Performance mode, the fans are rated for between 22 and 39dBA. 39dBA is loud enough to let you know that they are there. Fan noise can be attenuated somewhat with the installation location of the fans and whether they push in or pull out. Installed in the recommended orientation, pushing external air into the chassis, the H100 dumps the thermal load into the chassis raising the operating temperatures of the GPU, memory, and drives mounted inside. A simple fix is to flip the fans and take the small temperature penalty on the CPU to benefit the whole system.

Installation of the Hydro Series H100 is going to require a chassis that has support for a 240mm radiator or at least some modding of the chassis to make it fit. The length of the non-permeable tubing is the limiting factor in where it can be installed. In the Corsair 600T, or my previous CoolerMaster HAF 932, the top panel of the chassis was the only real location that could be used. As long as your chassis is compatible, the H100 is a great option but lacks the installation flexibility of the single 120mm-based H80. Mounting the pump assembly is a breeze. The mounting system used to hold the pump assembly in place is very solid and its design provides a repeatable mount each and every time. The pump and controller have the ability to control up to four fans. Adding two more fans to the radiator should help move more airflow, resulting in a small additional temperature drop or a way to reduce the noise by running the additional fans at a lower speed — something your ears will thank you for. Corsair's Link technology is supported and will allow for added flexibility in how the H100 can be controlled. So how do you wrap all this up in a nutshell? As an upgrade from stock cooling, it is light years ahead in cooling performance. As an upgrade from high-end air cooling, the temperature deltas are a bit less extreme, but still more than enough to make a switch. Corsair has continued to refine the Hydro Series and produce a product that delivers respectable performance in an easy to integrate package that comes with a great warranty. Corsair has continued to make liquid cooling easy for the masses.

 

Pros:

  • Excellent cooling
  • Pump design
  • Multiple-speed pump
  • Corsair Link capable
  • Five year warranty
  • Pump mounting

 

Cons:

  • Loud at 'Performance' setting
  • Large radiator presents installation limitations and issues
  • Thermal dump into chassis with default fan configuration


 

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  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look (Continued)
  3. Specifications & Features
  4. Testing: Setup & Results
  5. Conclusion
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