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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
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 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.