Anyone that has listened to this show knows that I am a huge fan of the self contained water cooling systems we can now get. They offer cooling performance at or near the level of the high end air coolers but do it with less noise and a lot less space taken up inside the PC. This last point is in fact one of the major selling points for me as it means that it is easier to work inside your PC with the cooler installed and leaves all of your RAM slots free for maximum memory potential.
The beginning of this style of cooler was pretty simple, a radiator, and fan with the cooling block, if you needed more cooling potential you just added a second fan. The second round saw an increase in the radiator thickness to allow for more cooling surface are and the second fan became standard. This second generation never made any sense to me. I mean I understand the reasoning but it never made any sense because there seemed to be a better option available, well enter the H100 and that better option.
Corsair switch teams recently and moved from Asetek to Coolit for it’s partner self contained liquid cooler design market. Coolit made a move as well it seems, withdrawing from the consumer market to focus on it’s OEM work as well as working with partners like Corsair. This meant that some of Coolit’s designs became available for Corsair to make use of and the 240mm radiator model was one of those designs.
The idea is actually pretty simple, if 120mm of radiator can do a good job at cooling the 240mm should do even better. Now unlike the second level of coolers this is not a thicker radiator, it is a longer radiator. The setup will accommodate 2x 120 mm fans or 4 fans if you want to use a push/pull configuration. The 240mm radiator was already pretty standard fair among the custom liquid cooling crowd and a good number of cases came with support for this size radiator in place. That is why I wonder why it took so long for this design to come out and why more are not doing it.
The move to Coolit was a great one for Corsair in my opinion because while I think Asetek produces great products their mounting system is something I am not a huge “fan” of. However if you go back to my reviews of the CooliT Eco you will see I love the simplicity of the Coolit mounting system and this carries over to the H100. Once you have the back plate in place the mounting is done using 4 thumb screws. No messing around with rings and rotating things and lifting while position and such. Just put it in and screw it down, tool less if you like.
The radiator is attached to the cooling block via two hoses to move the liquid. This is the one area I wish Corsair and Coolit would modify a bit. They use an outer cover over a thick rubber tube. The outer cover is meant to provide additional protection and it does but it also makes the tubes less flexible that other systems. This is not to say the tubes will not flex, they will do the job but you might have to apply a bit more muscle to get them to run the way you want them too.
The two included fans attach to the cooling block rather than the motherboard for their power and speed control. Both are 4 pin PWM fans so we have a nice range of speed options. The cooler itself is attached to the motherboard CPU fan header as well as to a molex from the PSU for additional power. The connections on the cooler allow for up to 4 fans and this is just to much power draw with the pump itself for that single header.
The cooler itself has an LED display on it to show which of the three possible fan modes you have active. Mode 1 is to set the fans to lower speeds and thus quiet operations. Balanced mode with a fair low bottom speed and a good range to the top speed and then Mode 3 which ranks everything up. I did some digging, surprisingly this was hard to find with any kind of official material and found this chart concerning the speed ramping of the H80, this also applies to the H100.
The chart is supposed to have come from a Corsair blog entry and I have not had much luck finding it but then again after a bit I quit digging. Based on my testing the chart seems about right. You can see that all three modes ramp up the speed as the coolant temp within the system gets warmer. Each level up raises the base speed and max speed of the fans and thus increases the noise.
So how does it actually cool? Well we put it to the test using the Thermaltake Level 10 GT case and an i5 2500k processor. I wanted to get some load on the coolers so we overclocked the processor to 4.1 GHz and started testing. For comparison purposes I used a Thermaltake Frio as well as an Antec H60 cooler.
Using Prime 95 I fired up a 30 minute load on the processor and took temperature readings from each of the coolers. I tested the Frio at it’s lowest, roughly middle and highest settings, the H60 at stock settings and the H100 at Quiet, Balanced and Performance. Even on the Quiet setting the H100 started strutting it’s stuff out of the gate delivering a nice 3C difference over the H60 at stock and the Frio on low. Cranking the H100 to Balanced settings moved the H100 a bit further from the pack going to 5C cooler than the Frio at mid fan speeds and 6C cooler than the H60 at stock settings. Finally on high the lead was solidified with the H100 dropping a full 7C below the Frio and 8C below the H60. That’s some serious cooling.
Now I can hear some question rising in the ether already. Why did I not mention idle temps? The reason is simple ANY cooler can do a decent job at idle and these three are great coolers, the idle temps where so close as to not be an issue worth measuring. Why did I not give actual temperature readings and only the differences? The reason is the actual temperature readings are meaningless, I guess I should explain that. The actually temperature readings anyone will achieve are based off a large number of factors. These include the room temperature, air flow restriction of case location, the case and fans used in the case and the list goes on. This means that just because I hit a certain temperature point, you will not automatically hit the same point. As such the differences in temperatures for each cooler is more meaningful since it gives a comparison that should be close to the same for everyone.
At $102 on Newegg the H100 is very much priced at a luxury level component but you might be surprised to find I can see a value option in it. You see a lot of cases today and even some of the more value priced cases have the ability to use a 240mm radiator in them. With this in mind a lot of the people that will be building tweaker systems will be putting in the dual 120mm fans and then adding a good cooler to the mix. The H100 allows the potential to kill two birds as it where with one stone and be greater than the sum of the parts. When you figure the cost of the 2 fans and the nice cooler and compare it to the cost of the H100, it suddenly does not seem that bad.
I do have to give a warning here, not all cases that will fit dual 120mm fans will handle this cooler. There is of course the spacing that needs to be set for the radiator to mount but that can be worked with. Of bigger concern is the space for the radiator and fans to sit. If you case would be a tight fit with just the dual fans in place then this cooler is not going to work for you. You need to check the spacing at the top of the case before pulling the trigger on this cooler.
If however you have a case that will accommodate this and you are in the market for a new cooler the H100 should be at the top of your list. With just the stock fans this brute has cooling power to spare. Add to this the ease of installation of the Coolit design and the ability to profile your fan ramping to meet your cooling needs, this is a great CPU cooler.
Corsair H100 Review as it aired 28 August 2011
Almost a year ago we took a look at two different self contained liquid cooling systems. Corsair was the first to catch my attention with their H50 and then CoolIt caught my eye with their ECO. At the end of the day I chose the ECO because of the ease of install, as far as performance was concerned they where a dead heat. When Antec announced they where entering this market I was not all that excited. Don’t get me wrong I have come over the years to expect a quality product from Antec but I was firmly convinced this would be just like the other two as far as performance.
When I got the box, it was the same colorful style we have come to expect from Antec. I did notice from the box that the actually water block looked smaller than the H50 or ECO and on the side of the box was a chart that said this system was more effective than “1st Generation” liquid coolers.
As stated on the front of the box the Khuler has mounting systems for every current system you can imagine. A look at the mounting system reminded me of the H50 system from Corsair, well it should. Just like Corsair, Antec teamed up with Asetek to create this unit. The water block is substantially smaller than the H50 or ECO, in fact it is less than a 3rd the height of the block on the H50. It is obvious this is a new design from Asetek.
After noticing the more diminutive size, the next thing I noticed was the way the tubing was constructed. Both the ECO and the H50 have a plastic shroud covering the tubing. The H2O has a think rubber tube with no shroud, this make the tubes more flexible and easier to position.
Finally, unlike the other two models, this unit has two wires leaving the water block area, one to hook to the motherboard and one to allow the connection of the exhaust fan. The pump actually has control of the fan based on the temperature of the cooling solution. Coolit introduced a similar system in it’s Vantage cooler that was controlled by software, the H2) does not allow user control using this system.
I am in the process of doing some work on a system in the Antec Six Hundred v2 we saw last week and so decided to do my testing their. The the sake of this testing I used an AMD Phenom II 1100T. I then setup the system with stock cooling, the H50, ECO and H2O as well as a Thermaltake Frio, with the fans that came with them as well as in the orientation suggested by each manufacturer. Since cooling numbers will vary from many factors from user to user I will post variances here instead of hard numbers. The numbers where achieved by running SMP Folding on the system for 8 hours and then measuring the temp.
|Cooler||Difference from base|
|Stock Cooling (baseline)||0|
While I expected the H2O to be near the numbers of the ECO and H50 it surprised me completely by dipping much lower in temperatures. So much lower in fact that it was head to head with a much larger dual fan cooling system that was sounding like 747 on final approach to achieve it’s temperatures. Without a doubt the H2O lives up to it’s boast of out cooling the first generation runs of this type of cooler. I considered toying with setting up a push pull system to see how it works but with these temperatures why?
The system installation was simple to do and as with all of these self contained units, the real joy is the fact that you have room to work in your case. As you can see there is nothing restricting the RAM and the mounting system can be easily gotten to inside the case, no need to remove the motherboard to make a processor change.
I have to admit that I still prefer the ECO mounting system over this one. To mount the unit you first put in the mounting bracket and loosely connect 4 screws. Then you put the water block in and rotate it to match the locking mechanism and then tighten down the screws. This is a bit more cumbersome than the ECO/Vantage thumbscrew system, but if you are not often swapping CPUs this should not be a big deal.
With better cooling power, quite operation and a smaller size than it’s competition the Khuler H20 620 enters the market strong and hard. With a suggested retail price of around $70 this places the H20 at the same price point as it’s direct competition and in the same ball park as higher end air coolers.
Every time I talk about these self contained liquid coolers I have said the same thing, the cost for me is offset by the fact they are easier to work with when in the PC. This is still a big concern for me as even the worst of these coolers is more than enough to easily keep a PC cool. Add to this the fact that they achieve these cooling levels with less fans and less noise and they are a pure win in my book.
With the better cooling and same price point the Khuler H2O 620 has passed the ECO as my choice for use. While the ECO still has the easier mounting system the cooling potential of the Khuler is enough to make up for a little more work. If you are a DIYer then the Khuler H2O 620 is a must buy!
Segment Aired 13 March 2011