Corsair Hydro Series H50: Is It High-End Air?

I have seen it talked about on the forums that the Corsair Hydro Series H50 low cost water cooling system is equal or better than high-end air, with some heated discussions taking place at time from people arguing for or against that statement. So, since Corsair was kind enough to send us an H50 system for testing, I decided to see if the H50 can equal some of the best air cooling solutions on the market.

This is the same H50 system that hokiealumnus first reviewed right here on an Intel LGA1156 system. Since I recently completed a Premium Heatsink Review of six high-end heatsinks on the LGA1366 platform, I thought that it would be an ideal time to test the H50 out on the same platform I just tested these heatsinks and see how it compares. I will be testing it with its stock fan and also with various other fan combinations, including the fans I tested the heatsinks with. I hope to prove or disprove with this review whether the Hydro Series H50 can be considered a true replacement for a high-end air cooling solution.

I’m not going to re-hash all the features of the Hydro Series H50, since hokie covered them very well in the linked review above. But I will give my opinion on the unit itself. This unit is built to a pretty high quality standard and I was particularly impressed with the mounting system, which proved to be a very clever and effective mounting system for Intel-based systems. I actually saw very minimal differences between mount-to-mount installations and Corsair is to be applauded for an innovative mounting system that makes it easy to remove and install the waterblock/pump unit.

Unlike hokie, I don’t see a potential problem with Corsair using a plastic back plate, since the threaded steel collets that are installed into the back plate are what will actually take the strain of mounting. A steel back plate would probably give a little more support, but with LGA1366 and LGA1156 sockets there is a back plate already installed which will help spread mounting pressure across a wide area of the motherboard around the socket already. The only platform that might be of concern using the plastic back plate is the LGA775 system, which doesn’t come with a back plate on the motherboard around the socket area with most motherboards.

The testbed system consists of the following components:

  • Case – Chieftech clone of the Antec 1040 case series, with the original 80 mm exhaust fans being removed and the holes enlarged to mount two 92 mm fans externally on the outside of the rear case bulkhead instead of internally. For testing the H50, I had to remove one of the exhaust fans and mount a Swiftech Radbox externally to mount the H50 radiator/fan components on because this old case doesn’t have a 120 mm sized exhaust fan. This actually worked out very well and gives our readers the option of using one of these H50 systems that are using an older case that doesn’t have a 120 mm exhaust fan without having to upgrade to a newer case right away. The waterblock/pump unit fits through the hole left by removing one of the exhaust fans with no problems and the tubing to the radiator is long enough to mount this way and is run through that hole also.
  • Motherboard – Asus P6T
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 Extreme 980X, overclocked to 4000 MHz @ 1.304 v.
  • RAM – Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600
  • Video Card – eVGA 7900GTX
  • Power Supply – HEC Cougar series (German HEC, not US model) 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 MX2 thermal paste was used for all testing as I have found it to give good consistent results with no appreciable break in and it applies and is cleaned up easily.

Fans used for testing were as follows:

  • Thermalright TR-FBD-1600 – 120 X 25 mm, 1600 RPM, 63.7 CFM, 28.0 dBA, weight measured at 171.2 grams
  • Scythe S-Flex SFF21G fans – 120 X 25 mm, 1900 RPM, 75.0 CFM, 35.0 dBA; weight measured at 182.1 grams
  • Yate Loon D12SH-12 fan – 120 X 25 mm, 2200 RPM, 88.0 CFM, 40 dBA; weight measured at 137.5 grams
  • Scythe S-Flex SFF21F fans – 120 X 25 mm, 1600 RPM, 63.7 CFM, 28.0 dBA; weight measured at 178.2 grams
  • Sanyo Denki SanAce 9CR1212P0G03 – 120 X 76 mm fan for extreme cfm testing – 6200/2700 RPM, 300 CFM, 70 dBA, 1.93 inches H2O static pressure; weight measured at 753.3 grams with 1 finger guard installed
  • Sanyo Denki San Ace 109R1212H1011 – 120 X 38 mm, 2600 RPM, 102.4 CFM, 39 dBA, .26 inches H2O static pressure, weight measured at 242.8 grams
  • NMB-Mat (Panaflo) FBA12G12L-1BX – 120 X 38 mm, 1700 RPM, 68.9 CFM, 30 dBA, .130 inches H2O static pressure, weight measured at 255.4 grams
  • Stock Corsair H50 fan – 120 X 25 mm PWM fan, 1700 RPM maximum, weight measured at 121.8 grams

Here is the H50 rigged up on a Swiftech Radbox on this case, since this old case doesn't have a 120 mm exhaust fan.

Here is the H50 rigged up on a Swiftech Radbox on this case, since this old case doesn't have a 120 mm exhaust fan.

This picture shows how I pulled one of the exhaust fans to feed the pump/waterblock assembly through and to route the hoses to the radiator.

This picture shows how I pulled one of the exhaust fans to feed the pump/waterblock assembly through and to route the hoses to the radiator.

This picture shows the installed pump/waterblock assembly and the mounting system clearly. It makes for a very nice and neat installation.

This picture shows the installed pump/waterblock assembly and the mounting system clearly. It makes for a very nice and neat installation.

An outside shot of the radiator rigged up on the Swiftech Radbox. I used some 6-32 all thread rod to make the mounting standoffs for the radbox.

An outside shot of the radiator rigged up on the Swiftech Radbox. I used some 6-32 all thread rod to make the mounting standoffs for the radbox.

The fans used for testing. From the upper left: Yate Loon D12SH-12, S-Flex SFF21G, Thermalright TR-FBD-1600, stock Corsair fan, S-Flex SFF21F, Sanyo Denki San Ace H1011, and in the middle is the Panaflo (NMB-MAT) L1BX.

The fans used for testing. From the upper left: Yate Loon D12SH-12, S-Flex SFF21G, Thermalright TR-FBD-1600, stock Corsair fan, S-Flex SFF21F, Sanyo Denki San Ace H1011, and in the middle is the Panaflo (NMB-MAT) L1BX

The testing methodology used is the same as I used with the previous review of the six high-end heatsinks. All energy saving features of the motherboard and processor were turned off to keep it from down clocking the processor speed and Vcore. For the Corsair fan that came with this unit, the PWM functions were turned off to keep the fan at maximum speed. For processor temperature monitoring purposes, I am using Real Temp 3.40, with logging enabled at 2 second intervals.

Temps in my computer room were maintained between 20.5 to 21.1 °C (69-70 °F), measured at the front of the case. If room temperatures exceeded these parameters I re-ran that individual test run.

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 5-10 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.

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

Before I get to the results, I am going to post some information on the H50 that I actually measured. The size of the radiator is 150 mm X 120 mm and 27 mm thick from the outside surface of the fan contact area to the other side fan contact area. And each side of the radiator has a built-in 5 mm plenum area between the fan mount surface to the radiator fins. The measured weight of the pump/radiator assembly (sans fan) is 556.5 grams, which is lighter than all but one of the six heatsinks I recently tested. Corsair is trying to pack a lot of performance in a very light, efficient package here and they and their OEM of this unit, Asetek, are to be congratulated on designing a lightweight package that is easy to install.

The Results

Here are the results with the various fans.

Here are the results with the various fans.

These are the results I got from my previous review of the three heat sinks that came with fans. As you can see, the H50 lags these three a bit in performance. This also holds true with all the configurations I tested that basically match this round of tests.

These are the results I got from my previous review of the three heatsinks that came with fans. As you can see, the H50 lags these three a bit in performance. This also holds true with all the configurations I tested that basically match this round of tests.


The performance I see out of the Corsair Hydro Series H50 is pretty good, but not quite up there with the six heatsinks I tested in my previous review. Its performance with the stock Corsair supplied fan definitely lagged, as the fan is just not up to pushing enough air through the dense fin radiator. Using just one Thermalright TR-FBD-1600 fan (or Scythe S-Flex SFF21F fan) doesn’t give a big boost in efficiency either.

But when you get to fans that have higher static pressure and when you set up a push-pull fan setup on the radiator, the performance picks up quite a bit. Unfortunately, the higher cfm, higher static pressure fans also are noisier, which might not suit people who are sensitive to noise.  Of the various fan combinations I tested, I found the Panaflo L1BX fans in push-pull to be the best combination for performance without getting too noisy. The Scythe S-Flex SFF21G fans in push-pull were a bit noisier and didn’t perform quite as well as the Panaflo fan setup.

If you want quiet and performance, the H50 is not for you at this heat load. However, backing off on the overclock a bit would let you run just one quieter fan without having heat related problems.

All in all, this is an excellent first effort by Corsair though as this low cost liquid cooling system isn’t lagging in performance by much. Testing the Hydro Series H50 has me eagerly waiting for the delivery of the new H70 to see how much performance has improved with the upgraded radiator and the push-pull fan setup from Corsair. I would like to thank Corsair for sending us this cooling system for testing. The quality is there in the components and mounting system; it just needs a little more help to be superb.

- muddocktor

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EarthDog's Avatar
Nice write up! Im glad this finally got put to rest!
bmwbaxter's Avatar
me too! makes me feel better about my NH-D14
LegitJesusMode's Avatar
Thanks for the good read.
EarthDog's Avatar
HOnestly... Im not sure who was arguing otherwise... its in all the reviews anyway that it doesnt beat out high end air!
Daemonkin's Avatar
I call shens!

*not really, lol*
kayson's Avatar
and makes me feel better about my venomous x. yay!
doz's Avatar
Probably me ED. Still, after all the testing mudd did (thanks mudd!), it looks like the H50 is right on par w/ highest end air.

Ive said all along the stock H50 fan is garbage and the cooler cant compete vs. high-end air w/ it. However, install a good fan or a push/pull setup and its right up there if not better. The Noctua D14 has a push/pull setup stock, with 64cfm/56cfm or something like that fans. If you look at the chart, a couple S-Flex "F" fans on the H50 is right on par with the high end air coolers.

IMO, I still believe the H50 w/ quality aftermarket fans is just as good as high-end air. I have 2 high speed Deltas (38mm) on mine running at 5v and w/ my overclock in my sig, I load at 64c in LINX (57c in P95/Daily gaming) w/ a 24c ambient temp.

I previously had a TRUE w/ the same fans, same setup and it lowered my temps by about 3c going to the H50.

BTW, I still consider my H50 an air cooler Makes me feel better about it. If I say its watercooled, I get a horrible feeling that I have a really bad setup (seeing that I had a real water setup at one time and know what REAL water does ).
QuietIce's Avatar
Great testing as usual, muddocktor!

The one thing I'd like to point out that wasn't mentioned in the article is the Corsair can fit on virtually ANY system whereas high-end (120mm) air coolers can interfere with some cases and often demand a RAM slot or two. For people with thinner cases, where a 92mm tower cooler or a horizontal cooler were the only previous options, the H50 is a godsend. It also takes away all the guess-work for people running four RAM sticks ...
muddocktor's Avatar
Yeah, those are some good points, QI. And you can clearly see in the pics just how nice and neat an installation it makes on the motherboard and leaves plenty of clearance for ram. There is some good engineering that has gone into the H50 and IMO is just let down with the fan choice. I think they should have bit the bullet and gone with either a push pull setup from the get-go or gone with a 38 mm fan such as the L1BX. It responded well with both of those setups.

And when I get in from the rig in a few weeks I have something else to be reviewing that will directly compare to the H50. It just arrived today at the house, according to my wife when I talked with her this evening.
QuietIce's Avatar
It was probably a good choice for the first unit. It let them "test the water" (he he!) without spending a fortune. Since they released the H70, and did it right, at least they're listening to the performance community and addressing what we think are the short-comings.

Another one of those water-cooling-in-a-box units? They're getting pretty popular and next year we may be doing a performance round-up on just those kind of units.

Have you heard any generic kind of name for them yet? If not, someone needs to come with one. I hate it when people say they're WC'ed and it ends up being one of those. At the same time, though, I can see where they're coming from ...
Conumdrum's Avatar
New product name.

"Wanna WC H95, short on cash and believe manufacturers hype."
QuietIce's Avatar
Yeah, but as I indicted above it's not always that. I've actually recommended these a couple of times to people with those narrow cases. Anything less than ~8" wide and the 120mm towers won't fit ...
muddocktor's Avatar
I actually kind of like the LCLC moniker for these units. Low Cost Liquid Cooling. And they definitely have a place as a viable substitute for high end air, especially in a narrow case that would have problems fitting high end air inside. And I do view them more as competition for high end air than a true watercooled loop. The main worry I have about these things is the longevity of the pumps used in them. Since they are sealed and have anti-corrosives in their fluid, I'm not too worried about the aluminum rads rotting out very quickly. And the mounting system that Corsair uses is truly nice and gives very repeatable mounts, at least on LGA1366.
Conumdrum's Avatar
Yes, good point. LCLC. I like that.

It has some good uses in the right place, but we have all seen more than a few already asking more than it can give. Some have even gone full watercooling after finding out it's not watercooling, it's LCLC.

Bought for the right needs and knowing what you you buy is always the key for anything.
QuietIce's Avatar
Exactly - and we've seen people either bragging about water cooling (I dislike those guys). Those are the people that just jump in without doing any research.

The people that actually do just a little reading (like mudd's article here) are aware of what they're getting and, as you've pointed out, this leads a few on into full custom loops. More is always better for us because it keeps prices down and innovation alive ...
m0r7if3r's Avatar
What bugs me the most is companies who build custom computers who use these LCLC's (Alienware does this I believe) and bills it as a water cooled computer...I never got that.
doz's Avatar
Technically it is water cooling though... Its cooled by a water solution (just as people use water + additive) w/ a pump to flow the fluid and a radiator w/ fan to cool the heated fluid....

I dont like to call it water cooling, but a company advertising it as watercooling is completely legitimate.
m0r7if3r's Avatar
yea...but they're fully aware of what they're doing and the few I've seen just list it as "watercooling", they don't say "self contained water cooling" or anything like that beyond just saying it's watercooled, which is where I feel it's misleading. Caveat emptor I suppose.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Don't do it guys. If this devolves into yet another is or is this not water cooling, your posts will be deleted, so don't bother typing them.
m0r7if3r's Avatar
sorry, let me clarify: I feel like listing it only as "watercooling system" is misleading to the consumer. It should be very clearly listed what kind of watercooling system it is, regardless of whether it's an h50 or a fully custom loop. I think that the companies who do this are taking advantage of the consumers who are less educated to make some extra money for themselves, which I personally feel is a bad business practice...I think what you're getting should be clearly laid out on the ordering page. Didn't mean to stir up any commotion, just wanted to make a note on the practices of the companies who (by their pricing) act like these systems are god in a cup.
QuietIce's Avatar
What you're talking about, then, is the fine art of "advertising". That subject could be discussed ad nauseum without anything really being settled and would best be left for it's own thread ...
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Smart man, that QuietIce. A wise person would listen to him.
CgS Drone's Avatar
muddocktor another nice write up thanks.

When you talk about the plastic mount system on the back I wasn't to fond of it but it does like you said but when I had the H50 (on Asus P6X58D Premium, intel i7 920) the one thing that I noticed is that it did not mount firm against the cpu on my system and I believe that they would do better if they where to modify the plastic clip system that they put in the retaining ring for the pump/heat sink, the plastic clips actually held it off just a hair to much and I believe this may have been part of the reason I did not get good temps with the one that I had. I wonder if they where to implement something with springs pushing against the pump/heat sink so it applied pressure against the cpu rather than the plastic stand offs they may have better results.
iskatefast's Avatar
I'd like to see some head to head results w/ the H50/H70 and the Coolit Vantage.....since I have the Vantage sitting in the box under my desk just waiting to be installed....just not sure it's going to be better than what I have now...
muddocktor's Avatar
Are you talking about the plastic nubs that are on the pump unit itself? Because the retention ring on the H50 I tested was made of steel and the plastic nubs fit right through then I twisted the pump/wb assembly to put those nubs behind the retention ring and then tightened it down and I got a very firm mount on it. I wonder if they changed up some of the mounting hardware from your unit to the one I tested? I was mounting on a vanilla P6T instead of a P6X58D Deluxe.

I don't have the Coolit Vantage, but I will be testing the H70 head to head on my same test platform, which was what I was teasing about above. Maybe in the future I will be able to test the Vantage if it becomes available.
iskatefast's Avatar
I have one you can use....send me a PM.

Peeved Kitten's Avatar
I'm in that group that has one of the all in one systems. I have one of the ECO systems and I absolutely love it. Like a few before me though, once I can afford to, I intend to do a much larger WC loop with a triple or quad rad set up.

The smaller systems may not be full on WC but they ARE liquid cooling. I know for a fact you can get single 120mm rads. If I were to build a single 120mm rad WC set up would you still tell me I'm not "really" WCing?

I think that people who see this as a foray into WC should be encouraged. Labeling these as anything other than a beginner WC set up would be a mistake, they can still rupture a hose and destroy your components just like the big boys. I agree it's definitely not high end WC, but it's WC none the less.
Conumdrum's Avatar
Holding tounge........
LegitJesusMode's Avatar
H70=epic noob status water cooling, and thats y i have it lol... I hope to get a nice triple rad loop but currently don't have the funds or the balls to put that much water in my case so i guess the H70 will have to do for now...
CgS Drone's Avatar
Yes the plastic inserts that go into the retaining ring, according to what I was able to find there where two types of mounts made and if you had the plastic back ring then you had the latest style, which is what I had.
QuietIce's Avatar
LOL! But to some extent he's right. These units aren't a whole lot different than running an Apogee drive with an MCR120. Even though we'd call that a really small loop I think we all accept those components as "water cooling" parts ...
j0rd's Avatar
these LCLC systems have a place, were already seeing people using them in mITX rigs (mia springs to mind here). In these kinda rigs where you have limited space, either a full WC loop or high end air just isn't practical (not saying it cant be done, but for many (not all) its just not gona happen). Now mITX boards are coming out with standard cpu sockets (such as 775, etc) and full 16 lane PCIe and chassis are able to support double slot GPU's this type of cooling seems to make sense to me.
muddocktor's Avatar
While I will have a lot on my plate when I get in from the rig, I do have an Apogee Drive unit and an old D-Tek single fan rad (modded Chevette heater core I believe) and it might be interesting to see how the H50 stacks up against it on a 775 setup. The D-Tek rad is at least twice as thick as the H50 rad and has less fins per inch, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against each other. Maybe something I can test in the future. I can use my overclocked Q6600 system as the testbed board, since that Q6600 is also pushing around 200 watts heatload at it's overclock.
jorge-ncp-'s Avatar
I recently was looking into this H50 cooling system from Corsair.
I have to say that after reviewing that excellent article on the test made by mdcomp I now have my doubts.

My Mobo is LGA775 (Gigabyte P35) and I have a Q6600 CPU cooled by OCZ Vanquisher cooler; which for me has done an EXTREMELY good job cooling my CPU.

My CPU is stock, I've never done OC on it, but I'm now thinking of doing some.
So my question is: Is it worth to acquire the H50 having the OCZ V.?

PS: Keep in mind that money is a big deal for me because prices duplicate when I ship things to my country...
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I'd start by seeing how far you can get on that cooler. If it's a G0 stepping, 3.6 GHz isn't a crazy number, though it's easier to keep temps under control with water. 3.2 GHz is a walk in the park for most G0's

If it's a B3 stepping things will be more difficult. 3.0-3.2 GHz maybe? You'd almost definitely need water above that on a B3 IIRC.
jorge-ncp-'s Avatar
I'm pretty sure it's G0.
If you think 3.2 Ghz is possible, then I think I'll stick with the Vanquisher. 3.4 Ghz would be GREAT though.

I'll run some tests tonight to see how it performs.
m0r7if3r's Avatar
you can check before you do it...cpuz will show you, lemmie go markup a screenie for you.

EDIT: attached...and yes, I did pick my highest cpuz stable OC just to show off

there's a field that says stepping and a field that says revision, revision is the one you want to look at.
jorge-ncp-'s Avatar
I've seen that post and it's superb!!
In fact I printed in PDF yesterday =)

m0r7if3r Thanks 4-that info about CPU-Z mate!
I will also look into that as well.
jorge-ncp-'s Avatar
Ok so, CPU-Z tells me it's G0
I'll start doing some stress testing w/Prime95 64bit
Daemonkin's Avatar
I kinda sorta have to disagree with this. Only so much as to say that quite a few people who have the h50/h70 were looking for an easy starter kit for "water cooling." This unit comes very highly recommended by many people as a good starter. Maybe not here, but it does get passed around quite a bit.

So I don't think it's that they aren't reading, it's that they aren't reading what you want them to read.
QuietIce's Avatar
If you mean "what I want them to read" as in an unbiased review and/or comparison then you're right - that's what I want them to read.

If you're talking about the second part of my post, though, then I must have worded it badly because I (think I) agree with you. The H50 is a great unit for what it is and because of it's good points it does lead some people into full, custom loops - which I think is a great! I've looked at several posts (other forums) where people are tinkering with their H50, nothing wrong with that at all. In case you don't know, I'm ALL for DIY and experimentation - in fact, I'm notorious for it - just ask a few of the WC guys ...
m0r7if3r's Avatar
notorious is a bit of a stretch
you and your heatercores, showing up all the rads...
QuietIce's Avatar
... HC's without barbs, thank you! ... and copper T-lines (no barbs either) ... and a room air purifier instead of computer fans (my first loop and eventually to be my next loop). But you're right, to some extent. I am Joe Average using good, solid pumps and off-the-shelf blocks ...
m0r7if3r's Avatar
you do get mentioned any time there's talk of heatercores though
pik4chu's Avatar
Very nice indeed, I have been wondering how the H50 stacked up against the 'usual selection' for air cooling. This definitely has pushed me further into wanting to pick one up for at least my main rig. My case has become too tight a fit for the large cooler I have in there. for muddocktor
muddocktor's Avatar
Hold off a little bit before you buy, pik4chu. When I get in from the rig I will be testing the H70 and if it pans out it might be a better fit for you than an H50 and buying upgraded fans, which will probably drive the price on the H50 up to close to the H70 pricing.
pik4chu's Avatar
hmm good point, not in any rush anyways, still working on the storage server. Though cant figure out what is suddenly wrong with it.
relttem's Avatar
we did a bit of testing on a H50 with the Corsair fluid v's our fluid. We were mostly looking at a fan speed study, but you might be able to get an idea of CPU temps from our data.
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