Corsair Hydro Series H80 Review

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It has been several months since I have looked at any cooling solutions offered by Corsair and since my last visit with their cooling solutions they have come out with three new Low Cost Liquid Cooling (LCLC) systems. The Hydro Series H60, Hydro Series H80 and Hydro Series H100 LCLC systems. Today we will be looking at the Hydro Series H80, which is their newest offering that fits in place of a single 120 mm case fan on either the top or the back of the case.

I assume this is the successor to the Hydro Series H70, which I reviewed back in October of last year. I found the H70 to be an effective, if somewhat expensive cooling solution back then. We will see if the new H80 brings better performance and pricing to the table.

Corsair was originally founded as Corsair Microsystems in 1994 and originally developed Level 2 cache modules for OEMs. Once Intel started integrating L2 cache into their processors, Corsair migrated to making DRAM modules, primarily for server systems. In 2002, they started marketing DRAM modules aimed at the enthusiast and overclocking crowd. Since then, Corsair has diversified into marketing high quality power supplies, cases, CPU cooling solutions, flash drives, SSD drives and audio equipment. Their products are now available to end users in over 60 countries through their marketing and distribution channel arrangements.

Features and Specifications

(Courtesy of Corsair)

Features:

  • Ready for Corsair Link Digital.

The H80 and H100 work great with Corsair Link, an ecosystem of hardware and software components designed to give you unprecedented control over your PC. Connect your H80 or H100 to the Corsair Link Commander (available separately) and monitor a wide range of parameters, including pump speed, coolant temperature, and fan speed, and customize your own performance profiles.

  • Control at your fingertips.

The low-profile integrated pump and cold plate includes push-button control so you can select the fan speed and cooling performance setup that best suits your needs. The cool white LED display lets you know at a glance which profile is being used.

  • The Hydro Series H80: Compact and quiet.

The H80 includes a double-thick radiator and two 120 mm fans. It can be installed almost anywhere you can install a standard 120 mm PC case fan, and includes mounting brackets for all modern CPU sockets.

  • Easy installation, zero maintenance.

You no longer need to invest into finicky modular water cooling systems to get serious CPU cooling performance. Each Hydro Series Liquid CPU Cooler is a sealed, closed-loop system that comes pre-filled and never needs refilling. Tubing is constructed from low-evaporation FEP for a long lifespan. Even the thermal compound is pre-applied. You’ll be up and running in minutes.

  • The latest cooling technology.

Both the H80 and the H100 include a low-profile, light-weight cooling unit with a micro-channel copper cold plate and a split-flow manifold. The result of all this attention to fluid dynamics is CPU cooling that’s remarkably efficient, with a total noise level that’s lower than most stock CPU fans.

Specifications

SKU# CWCH80
Radiator Dimensions 120mm x 152mm x 38mm
Radiator Material Aluminum
Fan Dimensions 120 x 120 x 25 mm (2)
Fan Speed (+/- 10%): up to 1300 RPM (Low Noise), 2000 RPM (Balanced),and 2500 RPM (High Performance)
Fan Airflow 46 – 92 CFM
Fan dBA 22 – 39
Fan Static Pressure 1.6 – 7.7 mmH20
Warranty Five years
Cold Plate Material Copper
Tubing Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation
Socket Support AMD AM2, AMD AM3, Intel LGA 1155, Intel LGA 1156, Intel LGA 1366, Intel LGA 2011, Intel LGA 775

Besides this information which I was able to get off of their product page, I also asked Corsair about the following on this cooling solution:

1. Who is the OEM of the H80?

  • Answer: CoolIT makes the H60/H80/H100 for us to our specs.

2. Who is the OEM of their pre-applied thermal interface material?

  • Answer: It’s a high performance compound we cannot currently disclose. Apologies here, but we have an NDA in place.

3. Will you start retailing your thermal interface material? As delivered, you get exactly one mount and then the customer is on his own as far as thermal interface material is concerned.

  • Answer: We currently do not have any information on whether we will or will not retail this compound.

4. Who is the OEM of the included fans?

  • Answer: We do source fans from different manufacturers. They are custom designed for the H80/H100 and manufactured to CoolIT and Corsair specs.

5. What is the wattage of the fans that come with the H80?

  • Answer: Rated Voltage 12 V
    Voltage Range 5.0 V ~ 13.2 V
    Starting Voltage 5.0 VDC
    Rated Current 0.35 A
    Rated Power Consumption 4.20 W
    Max Speed 2600 +/- 10% RPM
    Max Airflow 92.0 CFM
    Max Noise Level 39 dB(A)

6. Is the system filled with the same fluid as your earlier H70 and H50 systems?

  • Answer: Yep, propylene glycol.

7. Are the fans also covered under the standard 5 year warranty?

  • Answer: The Warranty covers the complete unit including fans.

One other item to note with the new series of LCLC systems built for Corsair by CoolIt is that Corsair also lengthened their warranty from the 2 years they gave to the H50 and H70 all the way to 5 years for the CoolIt built units like this one. Corsair must have some pretty good faith in the build quality of these units and included fans.

Packaging

Like the previous offerings I have looked at from Corsair, their packaging is both very robust and good looking, with lots of marketing information on the outside. The box the H80 is packaged in measures 10 7/8 X 9 1/16 X 6 1/8 inches (275 X 237 X 155 mm). Upon opening, you find all the components securely packed and protected against shipping damage. The box itself has plenty of pictures and marketing points on all sides, but isn’t done garishly. It looks pretty much like the H70 and H50 boxes as a matter of fact. All the marketing points are printed up in several languages on the box, just like their earlier Hydro Series offerings.

Top of box.

Top of box

Bottom of box.

Bottom of box

Left side.

Left side

Right side.

Right side

Front side.

Front side

Back side.

Back side

First Look and Installation

Upon removing the cooler and mounting hardware from the packaging, we see a fairly thick radiator which is not quite as thick as the H70 and the pump/coldplate assembly is totally unlike the older H70 or H50 assemblies. This stands to reason, since Corsair also switched OEMs for the new lines.

Instructions and foam sheet on top.

Instructions and foam sheet on top

Well protected in packaging.

Well protected in packaging

Coldplate/pump/radiator assembly.

Coldplate/pump/radiator assembly

Mounting hardware and AMD mounting arms.

Mounting hardware, Intel backplate and AMD mounting arms

Corsair's included fans.

Corsair's included fans

The pump/coldplate mounting hardware is totally different and, in my opinion, it is much nicer as far as mounting goes. Instead of mounting a capture ring to the Intel mounting holes around the socket, you have a simple “X” style back plate that installs on the back side of the motherboard with  four double male ended standoffs. On the pump coldplate assembly, there are four arms with slots that the mounting standoffs go through and the mounting nuts simply screw down on them. No springs are used to set the mounting tension, but rather the mounting pressure is set by screwing the four mounting screws in until they stop.

For AMD systems, it is even a bigger change from the H70 or H50. The H80 uses the stock AMD retention module instead of using a back plate. You have to remove the Intel mounting arms from the pump/coldplate assembly (held with 4 screws) and install the AMD mounting arms, which have a single arm on each side that comes out in the middle of the side. Then you install a couple of “O” type hooks that have a threaded stud on one end to the mounting arms that are screwed into the pump/coldplate assembly and they hook onto the center latches of the AMD retention module. Then it is just a matter of tightening the screws down until proper mounting tension is achieved. For AMD, the screws don’t have a shoulder to tighten to, so don’t just keep tightening them down until something breaks.

Intel risers screwed to backplate through motherboard.

Intel risers screwed to backplate through motherboard

Mounted on AM2 motherboard.

Mounted on AM2 motherboard

H80 mounted on test system.

H80 mounted on test system

H70 mounted on test system.

H70 mounted on test system

The radiator itself measures 153 X 119 X 42 mm at the area the fans attach and has a maximum depth of 45 mm at the radiator tank seams. There is only about a 3 mm plenum built into each side of the radiator assembly, which is a bit less than the H70 radiator. The radiator has a fin density of around 15 fins per inch, which also is a bit less than the fin density used on the H70. A welcome change from the H70 is that the hoses connecting the pump/coldplate to the radiator are now around 60 mm longer at 280 mm between the barbs, which should make for a bit easier hookup on cases with longer spacing between the socket area and the exhaust fan hole. The pump/coldplate assembly measures 66 X 66 X 41 mm and the rad/pump assembly has a measured mass of 750.2 grams. There are many premium heatsink designs out there that have a higher mass than this assembly. The fans themselves have a measured mass of around 160 grams, putting the completely assembled mass of the H80 at 1070 grams, which isn’t any heavier than many tier 1 heatsinks.

H80 and H70 together.

H80 and H70 together

Pre-applied thermal interface material.

Pre-applied thermal interface material

Base is nice and flat.

Base is nice and flat

The instruction sheet included with the H80 is pretty simplistic. It gives a pictorial breakdown of the steps needed to mount on either Intel or AMD systems with no written instructions. There wasn’t really a need for written instructions for mounting, since the pictorial breakdowns show the steps needed to mount this cooler pretty clearly.

One thing that I don’t like about the included instruction sheet is the total lack of anything describing the operation of letting their pump/coldplate assembly control the two included radiator fans. It would make it much clearer to the buyer of this product just what the capabilities of their control module built into the pump/coldplate unit can do as far as controlling fan speeds at the three settings.

Test Setup

Since the radiator/fan assembly is already pretty bulky, I stayed away from testing this unit with 38 mm thick fans or my 76 mm thick Sanyo Denki compound fan. I did test the H80 with the fans set up in a push pull arrangement, since that is the way this cooler was designed by Corsair to operate most efficiently with. Since I still have the H70 test unit I received last year, I also decided to test the H80 with the fans included with the H70 and vice versa. I did this to see if any efficiency gain comes from different fans or if the H80 unit as a whole is more efficient than the earlier H70. I ended up testing this H80 cooling system with the following fan choices.

Fans Size (mm) RPM CFM dBA H2O Static  

Pressure (In H2O)

Wattage Mass (g)
2xStock Corsair H80 Fans 120 X 25 2600 90.2 39 0.303 4.20 160
2xStock Corsair H70 Fans 120 X 25 2000 61.2 31.5 0.0866 2.4 116
2xGentle Typhoon 

D1225C12B5AP-15

120 X 25 1850 58 26 0.081 1.0 195.5
2xS-Flex SFF21G 120 X 25 1900 75 35 0.15 2.88 182.0
2xDelta AFB1212SH 120 X 25 3400 113.11 46.5 0.430 6.36 202.3
2xGentle Typhoon 

D1225C12BBAP-31

120 X 25 5400 150.1 50.5 0.60 13.68 running 

32.28 starting

213.6

The testbed system is configured as follows:

  • Case – In Win Dragon Rider. The 220 mm side door fan has been shifted downward to give clearance for tall heatsinks. No other alterations have been made to this case.
  • Motherboard – Asus P6T
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 930, overclocked to 4000 MHz @ 1.304 v.
  • RAM – Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600
  • Video Card – eVGA 7900GTX
  • Power Supply – HEC Cougar series S700
  • Hard Drive – Western Digital Caviar 250 GB SATA hard drive
  • Optical Drive – Lite On DVD-RW drive
  • OS – Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Service Pack 2
  • Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for testing as I have found it to give good consistent results with no appreciable break in and it applies and cleans up easily.
  • All testing was done with the side door fastened in place on the case.
  • All testing was done with the fans plugged into the motherboard headers instead of the pump/coldplate unit. This was done for fan speed monitoring plus it is the way I normally test with (except for extremely high draw fans that pull power from a 4 pin molex). And this also had to be done as I will explain below.

Test Methodology and Results

The testing methodology used is the same as I used with my previous reviews:

All energy saving features of the motherboard and processor were turned off to keep it from down clocking the processor speed and vcore. All fan control functions were turned off in bios to keep the fans at maximum speed. For processor temperature monitoring purposes, I am using Real Temp 3.46, with logging enabled at 2 second intervals. For room temperature monitoring, I am using a Fluke Model 52-2 and using a “K” type thermocouple that is inserted into the case front where the front intake fan is mounted. The Fluke records the maximum, minimum and average temps during the run at 1 second intervals.

Temperatures in my computer room were maintained as close as possible to around an 18 °C average during the run, as measured at the lower front intake fan by the Fluke. At the end of the test run, I logged the maximum, minimum and average temperature. The maximum and minimum temps are given as recorded by Real Temp, but the average temperatures have been adjusted to a constant 18 °C as derived from the Fluke average temps.

For loading the CPU, I used Prime95 version 25.8 using in-place large FFT’s and ran it for 30 minutes to stabilize temps. After 30 minutes, I would exit Prime95 and let the CPU idle for at least 10 minutes. The highest recorded temperature from the hottest core for each run was then recorded off of the Real Temp log, the lowest temperature on any core was recorded and the average temperature on the hottest core was calculated during the load portion of each run and adjusted to a constant 18 °C.

Each fan configuration was tested with three remounts of the heatsink, and the lowest average temperature run recorded, to minimize any problems between mount to mount installations.

As for installing the H80 in my testbed system, I ended up ignoring Corsair’s directions to have the fans installed as intake fans into the radiator from the back side of the case. I did this for a few reasons. First and foremost, it goes against the airflow design the case was originally meant to have and could potentially make other components run hotter than they should. Plus, since the Dragon Rider case has large sized mesh covering the side door and it has a 220 mm fan blowing cool air in, I didn’t think it would make much difference in performance anyways. Second, I did try one mount with the fans blowing inward and found that the fan noise was much magnified and a lot more annoying in that configuration. Also, the average temperature difference was less that 1 °C (in favor of Corsair’s recommendation) between the fans exhausting and being intake fans, so I tested in the quieter configuration.

The following chart gives the results I obtained with the H80 with the fans listed above:

What I am seeing in this chart is some excellent performance from this cooling solution and it also shows decent scaling with increasing CFM and static pressure. It also highlights how high performance the stock fans really are, in that you see a definite drop off in cooling when testing with the H70 fans, the Gentle Typhoon AP-15 fans and even the Scythe SFF21G fans. It’s only when you get to the Delta fans and the server class Gentle Typhoon AP-31 fans that you see a noticeable increase in performance, but this performance does come at a price. At full speed, the stock H80 fans are on the loud side and I found the Delta fans to actually be no more annoying in tone and perceived loudness when set up with the fans exhausting air from the case. There was quite a bit of airflow noise but motor noise was minimal. Again, the AP-31 fans gave best performance, but unless you are partially deaf, I can’t see a person living with them installed on a normal basis. The H80 doesn’t need them anyways as even with the quiet AP-15 fans performance was extremely good and beats the TRUE Rev. C stock performance by 2 °C.

This next chart shows the results I obtained with the H70 and H80 while swapping stock fans between the units:

As you can see from the above chart, Corsair dramatically improved the performance of the H80 as compared to the H70. Even with the H80 using the H70’s fans, it still eclipses its older brother’s performance when the H70 is mounted with the higher performance H80 fans. That is simply an outstanding result, as the H70 was no performance slouch itself.

Finally, we come to the stock performance chart, which compares all heatsinks I’ve recently tested with my present testbed setup:

As you can see here, the H80 simply decimates all other stock configurations. It’s much nosier than the others at full speed, but even at lower speeds its performance is simply outstanding. I am very impressed with this performance to say the least.

Onboard “Intelligent” Fan Controller

Before going on to my conclusion, I have to also talk about Corsair’s onboard “Intelligent” fan controller that is integrated into the pump/coldplate. In the center of the pump/coldplate top, there is a push button that is wrapped around by three different lights and however many lights are lit lets you know which mode the fan control is in. At first I thought it was a dumb controller that simply gave three different voltages; a low speed voltage, medium speed voltage and full speed voltage. However, when I started measuring the voltages I got some really anomalous readings, especially in the performance mode where the voltage wasn’t nearly full rated voltage. After conversing with Corsair, they informed me that the controller built into the pump/coldplate unit also monitors temps in the fluid loop and varies fan speed according to fluid temps. Since they are also marketing the Corsair Link Commander as a separate add-on, it stands to reason that they have some kind of microprocessor control for it to interface with. You don’t need to have a Link Commander added to the cooling system for variable fan speed control because they have a default profile built into the unit for each different fan profile. There are three different profiles programmed into the the unit; a “quiet” profile, a “balanced” profile, and a “high performance” profile. All three profiles give a minimum and maximum voltage (and fan speed) that varies with fluid temps, and Corsair kindly allowed me to use their default fan profile chart in this review.

As you can see from the above chart, Corsair gives a minimum and maximum fan speed for each different performance profile. Since they packaged normal 3 pin fans with this unit, I decided to check and see what the minimum and maximum voltages that were applied for each fan profile. I hooked the H80 up to a spare PSU I have for testing purposes and then heated the radiator up with my wife’s hair dryer to enable maximum voltage in each fan profile and used ice cubes on the coldplate to find minimum voltages for each profile. Input voltage to the pump was measured at 12.04 v. I monitored temps at the radiator fins with my Fluke 52-2 to get an idea of when I would see changes of voltages and while my readings weren’t exact on temps by any means, they pretty much followed the above chart. For the minimum and maximum voltage in each fan profile I recorded the following:

  1. Quiet Profile: Minimum voltage was 6.48 v. Maximum voltage was 7.54 v.
  2. Balanced Profile: Minimum voltage was 7.60 v. Maximum voltage was 9.56 v.
  3. Performance Profile: Minimum voltage was 8.47 v. Maximum voltage was 11.69 v.

One other item I want to cover about the fan controller built into the pump/coldplate is how much load it is rated for. Since this isn’t listed on their website anywhere that I could find, I asked Corsair about it. They replied that the controller is rated for a maximum of .5 amps per header, or 6 watts per header. That gives the H80 a load total of 12 watts, since it has 2 headers but with the H100, it will support a total load of 24 watts since it has 4 headers on it. Also, these fan headers on the pump/coldplate are 4 pin PWM compatible, and the controller will support the use of PWM fans on it.

Conclusion

Looking around with a quick search, the cheapest I found this cooling solution listed for sale is around $88.00 from some company I’ve never heard of before. You can find the H80 for sale for less than $95 shipped from several online vendors that I do trust, such as Newegg, Mwave, Directron and Buy.com. That price is not all that much more than what you will pay for other top tier air coolers such as the Noctua NH-D14 or the Thermalright Silver Arrow. This makes the Hydro Series H80 a solid competitor to them in both price and performance. Based on this and the overall performance of this cooling solution, I have to rate this as an Overclockers Approved cooling solution. If you are looking for a top end cooler, the H80 simply should be on your short list to look at.

In closing, I would again like to thank Corsair for providing us this LCLC system for testing. You guys have really stepped up your design and execution of these LCLC systems with your second generation of units and have something here that not only improved an already good performing first generation design, but has also set a new performance bar for other LCLC systems and tier one air coolers to strive to reach. The only thing I really think you should do to improve the user experience is to add a small tube of your TIM to the packaging, so your customers can have more than one install before having to get some other thermal interface material.

 

I will be back soon with another review. I have a few heatsinks waiting for review, so I should be coming out with several reviews over the next few months, so stay tuned.

– Jim Gautreaux (muddocktor)

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Discussion
  1. I have read of a few people doing it. They had to do some creative mods for mounting it I believe. And Mort, I feel that the H80 would probably do a decent (not great) job if you left the fans on high and were able to get a good, solid mount. But running the fans on the rad at full speed would kind of negate the reason to use water on the gpu, IMO at least.
    Maybe, but it's probably a bad idea IMO...the heatload oyu're looking at for a 570 vs a stock-clocked CPU is pretty large if memory serves me right on the 570's specs.
    Is it possible to install one of Corsair's Hydro Series coolers on a graphics card?

    I'm considering using the H-100 to cool the Intel CPU and possibly the H-80 to cool an ASUS GTX 570. I'm still in the planning phase of the project and any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.
    SupaMonkey, I really don't do any testing for quietness since I have 5 real computers (plus a Mac Mini ;) ) in my computer room and a window AC to boot; it's got a fairly high noise background to start with. But, when checking the fans with the onboard controller and seeing where the intelligent controller started throttling the fans, the sound from the fans at full blast are much noisier than the fans for the H70. And I expected that, since they also turn up 700 rpm higher than the H70 fans, but I also found the fans to be fairly quiet when on the low and balanced settings on the pump controller. I would say that on the balanced pump setting, the fan gets around as the H70 fans when it is running full blast, but ramps down quite a bit if it's not under high load conditions.

    The biggest differences I see with this unit as compared to the H70 is that they improved pump/coldplate efficiency by a fair margin, plus they have integrated a decent and intelligent control module into the pump for controlling fan speeds. The disadvantage to this is that you can't monitor fan speeds at all unless you drop another hundred or so on their Link Commander monitor deal.:( I do hope they send me one of those too for testing. I know that it's supposed to be able to use programmable fan profiles and other things, but it's mighty expensive.
    I have really enjoyed watching these Corsair coolers evolve to a viable option. For sub $100.00 that looks like a great option versus some of the air coolers on the market. Nice review.
    Thanks MUD, good review as always. Looks like I can say they finally did it right.

    Heck, I could drop 1/2 of my rig and be happy. But the OC itch is growing..... Naa, I like my pretty overcooled rig.... Overcooled.com... Hmm IMOG, you listening?
    Wow...this is the first solution from corsair that has really impressed me...I'm interested to see if they can keep getting more efficiency out of their lclc's
    I have a H100 in my gaming rig with push-pull fans and although the rad is much thinner than the H70/80 it is more effective, also the thickness with four fans is less than the H80 with two so it should fit. I have mine installed above the mobo inside a HAF 932 case, running all fans on lowest setting using the integrated pump/block's fan controller, overall I'm very happy with it, will be great to see you review one :)
    Thanks Edmund. That is one reason why I am trying to retest some of my earlier heatsink reviews on my present platform, so the figures are pretty much directly comparable.

    And I hope that Corsair decides to send me an H100 for testing too. I am really curious to see how it compares to the H80 in performance. From what I gather, the radiator on the H100 is quite a bit thinner than the H80 rad. And I am hoping that I will be able to test it with a push pull setup too, since it uses the same fans as the H80 (and can borrow the H80 fans for push pull testing. I just hope the Dragon Rider has enough headroom above the board to do a push pull setup or otherwise I will have to try installing the pull fans externally on top and rigging a gasket between the H100 rad and the case top material to seal it.
    Excellent review and comparison Jim, I really like the way you keep the references the same so you can see how cooling compares using the same CPU platform with different cooling solutions.

    I trust you will be getting a H100 soon and it will be interesting to see how it compares to the single rad Corsair coolers.