Corsair has been known for a long time for their great RAM. When they entered the power supply market, they established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Recently they entered the case market with their Obsidian 800D to equal accolades.
Today we’ll be looking at the Hydro Series H50, their attempt at breaking into the CPU cooling market. Thanks to Corsair for supplying this unit for review.
Per Corsair’s site, the H50’s features:
- Pre-filled, closed-loop system is easy to install
- Copper CPU cooling plate for maximum cooling performance
- Integrated pump and reservoir is sealed for zero maintenance and improved leakage protection
- Large 120mm radiator for fast heat dispersion
- High-efficiency, low-noise 120mm fan for drawing cool air across the radiator
- Two-year warranty
- Model CWCH50
- Cold Plate Material Copper
- Fan Specs 120mm, 1700 RPM
- Radiator Material Aluminum
- Tubing Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation
We also asked Corsair some additional information that isn’t available on their web site:
- Fluid: Deionized water with propylene glycol to prevent corrosion.
- Thermal Interface Material Manufacturer: Shin-Etsu
- Original Equipment Manufacturer: Asetek makes the radiator/pump/block assembly to Corsair’s specifications.
- Fan Manufacturer: Akasa
Packaging & First Impressions
The outer box is strikingly similar to Corsair’s power supply boxes. It’s a sound design, so why not? Inside is a well packaged unit, immobile and encased in thin plastic flexible enough to absorb some shocks along its journey to the user. We see in the upper right on the back of the box that the OEM is asetek.
When removing the unit from the box, we were struck by how light it was. It seemed to weigh about as much as the Apogee XT we reviewed. Weight doesn’t determine performance, of course.
When perusing the box contents, we see the cooler includes hardware for installing on LGA 775, 1156, 1366 and AM2+ as well as a 120mm fan to pair with the radiator. Not every cooler can claim such wide compatibility out of the box, so nice job Corsair!
The fan is an unknown make. It felt similar to a Yate Loon, so we compared. If you look where the blades meet the center hub, there is a small bend on the Corsair that differentiates it from the Yate. So the make is a mystery. As far as the fan itself, the sleeving was very well done and will keep your installation looking clean.
[EDITORS NOTE: Corsair got back to us – The fan is manufactured by Akasa. –hokiealumnus]
Now we come to the main event, the pump/block/tubing/radiator assembly. It’s one piece and you cannot disassemble it. It feels solidly assembled and not fragile at all; you probably couldn’t get it apart without a good bit of effort. It’s good to see they paid as much attention to the sleeving for the pump power as they did with the fan sleeving. Overall, it’s a nice looking unit.
The radiator appears to have a rather high 20FPI (fins per inch), which would put it on par with a HWLabs GTX radiator. Such high FPI radiators are generally associated with needing rather strong fans to get the most out of them. That’s not quite as much of a problem with this particular radiator because it’s not very thick.
The included thermal interface material comes pre-installed. The application looks a little thick but performance didn’t seem to suffer and when the cooler was removed, the contact pattern looked just fine.
Enough looking around though, let’s get it in and see how it performs!
The installation procedure for the H50 is painless and very well thought out. For this review, it was installed on an LGA1156 platform. The LGA backplate is one-size-fits-all, with three holes in each corner to accommodate all three of Intel’s recent CPU mounting hole configurations.
There are approximately 1/4″ thick “nuts”, for lack of a better descriptor, which you insert into the back plate. There is double-sided tape to keep it the back plate secured to the board for ease of mounting. You do not need to use the tape, but it may make things easier. Indeed, you may not want to use it if you plan on using this cooler in multiple systems.
The pump assembly hold down plate also has inserts that place the bolts in the proper position for your socket.
The beauty of this installation is that you install the back plate and hold down bracket before you install the cooler, which makes that step rather effortless. You partially tighten down the hold down bracket, push the pump/block assembly in and twist slightly, then tighten down the bracket the rest of the way.
Our only complaint about the mounting hardware is that the back plate is plastic. The modular design pretty much requires that, unfortunately it just feels less than solid when tightening. If you crank down it too hard, you could cause the nuts to strip out the part of the back plate that keeps them secure. It would take some effort though, so it likely won’t happen under normal circumstances. Just make sure you don’t over-tighten. We’d feel better about a metal solution.
Aside from that minor qualm though, we can’t say enough good things about this mounting. From the wide compatibility to the brilliantly modular installation assembly, it’s a very well thought out piece of hardware. Here’s what it looks like after the push, twist and tighten maneuver.
Testing Methodology and Results
The CPU being cooled for this review is an Intel i7 860, a furnace of a CPU. If you really want to test a cooler, an i7 is the way to do it. Tests were run at stock speed, overclocked to a moderate overclock of 3.6GHz and 3.8GHz, the 24/7 overclock of this system.
The H50 was compared for reference at stock speed against the stock Intel cooler. At stock and overclocked the main competition is a custom water loop, consisting of:
- Swiftech MCP-355 pump with XSPC reservoir top.
- Swiftech MCR-320 radiator, mounted externally with three Ultra High Speed Panaflo fans running at 7V (+/-.1V) for all tests.
- Swiftech Apogee XT water block.
- All linked with Primchill Pro LRT 7/16″ inner diameter tubing.
Unfortunately there are no good air coolers here to add into the mix. Bear in mind when viewing the results that the water loop the H50 is up against is way (way) more expensive, coming in at $270, and that’s not including tubing and barbs.
Testing consisted of no less than an hour and a half of Prime95 Small FFTs (except for the stock cooler, which only lasted about five minutes…we didn’t figure the CPU was a glutton for punishment). Most tests were run significantly longer than that (up to about 7 hours). CPU temperatures were measured using Coretemp’s logging function and ambient was measured with a common room thermometer to the nearest 0.5ºC.
The first hour of the temperature results were thrown out (to give the loops plenty of time to warm up) and the remainder were averaged for each core. Presented in the graphs are the average of all four cores at idle, the average loaded temperature of all four cores and the average maximum temperature of all four cores. Rather than present you with a deluge of data and screenshots, we’ve made some graphs to make it easier to digest. All temperature results were normalized to 22ºC ambient (per the esteemed Vapor, “…ambient and core temps scale perfectly fine (1:1) with i7.”)
Not to disappoint anyone that likes to pour through screenshots and excel spreadsheets, the test data can be downloaded in its entirety from Overclockers Tech here (it’s just under 4MB).
First off, we have the idle temperatures.
So, just in case you didn’t know, the stock Intel cooler is horrid. The good news is that the H50 did a good job at coping with this little heating element at stock.
Moving on, let’s see how it copes with a moderately overclocked i7. You’ll notice in this next graph that there are a few H50 results. It was tested in three configurations.
- With the included fan.
- Push-pull with the Corsair fan and a high speed Yate Loon placed in push-pull (and extremely under volted…more on that in a minute).
- Finally, with the high speed Yate Loon by itself cranked to the max and a shroud in place of the Corsair fan.
Here we see the custom loop starting to come into its own, increasing its lead to about 13ºC. The H50 doesn’t do too bad for itself though. One thing is for sure, if you plan on putting this cooler on an overclocked i7, a fan upgrade is in order.
Regarding the push-pull results, we had to run the High Speed Yate Loon at 3.3V (which was amazing in itself that the thing still ran) or the Corsair fan put forth a rather loud, extremely annoying sounding protest. This stands to reason, as the Yate was pulling the Corsair faster than it was designed to go. What you should take away from this is that if you’re going to run this cooler in push-pull, get two stronger fans to do so. The Corsair fan just isn’t strong enough to cope well enough with an overclocked i7.
On the plus side, even changing it out for one improved fan is a nice boon to the H50’s performance, gaining almost three degrees over the stock fan.
So let’s see what happens when you give it a little more voltage and squeeze out an extra 200MHz. For this test, we did not run the Corsair stock fan or the push-pull orientation. When the CPU starts going too far north of 70ºC we start getting squeamish. Since the high speed fan was knocking on that door already, we decided to skip those other two configurations.
The custom loop actually gave back a little bit in this test, with its lead dropping to around 10ºC. The H50 certainly isn’t going to win any best water cooling awards but it does well for itself. These temperatures are about on par with the best air coolers but with the added benefit of being at a reduced noise level.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
$77.89. That’s what you’ll pay for the Corsair H50 at Newegg. Overall, not a bad price for what you get. Right at what you could get a Prolimatech Megahalems with two good fans in push-pull ($60 for the Megahalems and $33.90 for two Panaflo fans at Jab-Tech) will get you the H50, an upgraded fan and some additional silence to help your long term hearing prospects. It will likely net you a few degrees better cooling to boot.
Is this water cooling? Technically, yes. But no, it will obviously not compete with a good custom water loop. It also doesn’t cost near as much. What it will do is replace your air cooler and give you some more peace and quiet. That’s where we see the market sweet spot for this unit.
- Superb installation system.
- Wide range of compatibility.
- Quieter than air cooling with equal or slightly better temperatures.
- Sorely in need of a better fan.
- Unit cannot be refilled.
- Plastic back plate.
With these things in mind, we award the Corsair Hydro Series H50 an 8/10!
– Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)