Corsair Hydro Series H100i AIO CPU Cooler

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Kits
Tags: , , ,

Conclusion

The Corsair H100i is a very good performer at a great price, but it does have a few limitations. At the time of testing, Windows 8 was not yet supported with Corsair Link so I had to use the PWM capability of the fans and control via Speedfan. That has reportedly since been fixed via new software. I no longer have the H100i in my system, but I’ll give it a shot later and upadte:

http://www.corsair.com/us/cpu-cooling-kits/hydro-series-water-cooling-cpu-cooler/hydro-series-h100i-extreme-performance-liquid-cpu-cooler.html

With that said, you certainly can control noise levels using your own PWM fan splitter using the new 4pin PWM fans as well and can easily forgo the USB communications if you prefer. The PWM fans provided are very much what I categorize at “High Speed”. I have tested a LOT of fans over the years and generally high speed fans perform poorly at slow speeds. In order to reach those 2700+ RPM levels you need a large and loud electric motor and despite the slower speed capability, the motor is noisy. Granted I am impressed with the 600-2700RPM wide speed range, but realistically the 1800-2700 range is too noisy for general use at least for my own preference and what most have indicated in fan use polls. In addition during noise testing I found the two fans to have trouble with what I call RPM harmonics where the speed of one is just slightly off from the other and you end up with this undulating and pulsating noise that is much more harsh than a constant noise level. You can hear that fairly clearly in the videos and I noticed it during testing as well. In the end, while I like the range, the one size fit’s all approach to the fan speeds leaves you with fans that perform rather poor at slower speeds. I would generally recommend replacing the fans, save these for bench testing or some other use where noise does not matter.

Corsair-H100i-14

The next thing to seriously consider is the price. At $119, this kit is a good $20 cheaper than the H220, so you could potentially buy some new quieter and better fans. Some Swiftech Helix PWM fans would actually be good replacement fans or you could use whatever you have on hand and perhaps use something like the Sunbeam Rheosmart to dynamically control speeds. The performance for an AIO sealed unit is undeniably very good and competing with DIY performance levels. I am generally impressed with how well the unit performs, it significantly outperformed the $129 Larkooler kit and was performing right up there with the XSPC ($145 and Swiftech ($139) units.

At $119, despite the loud fans is still a good deal for those not wishing to expand their system later. I tend to be one that likes to tinker and expand, but there are also those that like the idea of the sealed setup and the H100i is a great performing 240 setup. Many years ago I had a bad experience with AIO coolers, but times have changed. The H100i also comes backed with a 5 year warranty which is exemplary and the cooler performs better than some DIY kits such as the Larkooler which I need to retest but it was trailing the H220 by 10c where the H100i is thermally reaching the same thermal levels with just more noise. While it is sealed and not meant for expansion it is a great performer at an excellent price and would certainly get my vote for best buy for “$130 or less CPU cooling only”.

Also while I am still reviewing the software since it just came out with a Win8 compatible version, the H100i is the more plug and play friendly for auto speed control. The unit came loaded with a default ramp up and down speed/temp curve that required no software setup on my part. PWM controlled units like the H220 do require more setup work through your motherboard bios or speedfan before they begin throttling fan/pump speeds. Corsair Link 2 from what I have seen is also a little more user friendly than Speedfan and you get some nice extras like adjusting LED color to match you theme that you don’t get in other kits.

While I am a bit picky about fan sound levels and quality, that is also an easy bolt on modification. The pump seems very silent, so with some lower speed fans you can easily improve the sound with minimal effort. Some GT AP-15s would likely be a huge sound improvement, you could probably get that 60dBA max level down to lower 40s and not loose too much of the high speed performance. Or for lower cost some good old yate loons or Artic Cooling F12s or any fan that you have come to admire for low cost would do. It is just a 120 x 2 radiator and I was able to retain my 4.5Ghz OC down to about 900rpm, so there are many good fan options to play with.

Regarding expansion – The loop is not designed for it.  Even the mod happy folks should not attempt it.  I measured 2.2W of power being fed to the pump and a maximum flow rate of only 0.11 GPM with just the block and pump.  My usual recommendation for good bleeding capability on DIY parts is to design for 1GPM, with this unit you won’t even have 1/10th that amount, it is extremely low flow and makes bleeding an extreme challenge.  DIY W/C parts are also generally designed for at least .5GPM so don’t bother.

Last but not least, the 5 year warranty. To date, the XSPC and Larkooler kits only come with a 1 year warranty. The Swiftech H220 with a 3 year. That make the Corsair H100i king of warranty time with 2 years more than more expensive units. Since I upgrade on 2 year cycles, I certainly would like to see at least a 2-3 year warranty and the H100i exceeds my expectations in the warranty area. The internal pump review did reveal a generally less desirable metal shaft as opposed to ceramic shaft though which is a change from the H100 which had ceramic.  Only time will tell if this change will cause problems (early wear and pump noise), but you do have the 5 year warranty to back you up if there is a problem.

PROS

  • Lowest Price – $119 (and some other bargains out there)
  • Exemplary 5 Year Warranty!
  • Near DIY Performance Levels, Excellent thermal performance!
  • Very Simple/Sealed Installation, super easy plug and play installation
  • Generally Good Construction Quality. Nice paint quality and general finishing is good throughout.
  • Pump in near silent so replacing the fans can get you a nice quite setup.
  • PRICE. Worth mentioning twice. Why pay $100 for a heatsink when you can almost buy one of these for not much more.
  • Corsair Link Software – “IF” it works right, can provide easier speed control and LED control.

CONS

  • Fan Noise Levels – At full tilt, hitting 60dBA is loudest kit tested to date by over 10dBA
  • Fan Noise Quality – RPM harmonics throughout, motor noise (typical of high speed fans)
  • Sealed Unit small pump (2.2 watt) – ), 0.11GPM Max Pump/Block Flow Rate is far too low for DIY custom parts.
  • Aluminum Radiator & Copper Block = Mixed Metals – Higher Corrosion Potential than Brass/Copper only loops.  Corrosion Inhibitor is a must.
  • Short Hose Length – Not compatible with much more than top case installations. Will NOT reach Switch 810 bottom mount location.  Replacing tubing will leave you with the difficult task of trying to bleed a 0.1GPM flow which is tricky at best.  Don’t break that seal!
  • Pump shaft is steel? with bronze bushing (higher end pumps typically use ceramic bearings)
  • Corsair Link Software – “Buggy”, I got it to work for a while then it quite communicating and I no longer can read or adjust fan speeds or LED color, etc.  New version just started supporting Windows 8 so perhaps this will be fixed in the future?

MORE TO COME, LIVING REVIEW FORMAT. I have most of the kit vs kit and internal review done now, but still planning to do some hydraulics testing and modification stuff as I get time.  I never consider a review “Done” always room for improvement and more detail and I like to do more detail than most reviewers so expect more to come..:)

WHERE TO BUY

I would recommend purchase from Frozen CPU as they have everything you need, grab a few other PC goodies while you’re at it.

Logo-FrozenCPU

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Comments
  1. Pedro says:

    Thanks Martin,
    I’ll use your tips. I will cut the tubes to the size I need them to be and then re-assemble and bleed the kit out of the case.
    Do you know that voltage is the pump using? if it is using the 5v rail maybe I can mod a cable to connect it to the 12v to speed it up a litle.. humm I can alreasy smell the smoke..

    Using a reservoir is out of the question as there is no space for one on the case. It’s a mini-itx build with a ncases M1 case.

  2. Hi Martin,

    Hope you had a great Christmas ! And hope you have a safe and joyous New Year also!

    Quick question, have you heard of that Kraken g10, the CPU AIO adapter for a GPU? It looks pretty cool and read some impressive reviews. Just wondering your thoughts on it. Also, do you know someone who sells a heatsink kit for a graphics card to use on the VRam and VRMs? Perhaps an assorted package of small heatsinks you could glue to the chips? I talked to a guy that was going to use 2 of these with H90s to cool 2 780s. He said he would get back to me when he has it up and running.

    Take care
    Steven

    • Martinm210 says:

      No personal experience, but this review:
      http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/NZXT-Kraken-G10-Review-527/

      Seems to indicate the VRM need more than the fan and noise is really not better than the stock HSF. I had a GPU only block on an old 8800GTX with passive ramsinks and a 120mm fan which seemed to do ok, but I do think you generally need the little Heatsinks and a fan close by to keep the rest of the card cool. In the end it doesn’t look nearly as nice as a full cover GPU block.

      By the time you buy two AIO units and all the other bits, you could nearly buy lower end DIY watercooling that looks a lot better. might be fun to play and try, but that’s my limited experience take on it so far.

      • Thanks Martin, that is a good write up, liked the thermal images, they really tell a story. I sort of figured the same as you, the NZXT info says the fan will take care of VRAM and the VRMs, but it seems they are not. That is why I asked about a heatsink kit, to let this guy know.

        Your right, after adding up the cost for everything, a full cover would be a lot better, but this guy got most of the stuff free so that is the way he is going. I will drop you a line when he gets back to me about how things went.

        Take care
        Steven

        • Martinm210 says:

          Nothing wrong with putting together a bunch of free or cheap parts and tinkering, it’s all good!

          • vChris says:

            Hey Martin, first off I love your reviews. Always very thorough and well-controlled testing.

            But I was wondering if you collected any data on the h100i built in fan outputs. I have a watercooling project in the works and I’m wanting to see if I can just plug my NZXT grid fan splitter (30 watt max) into one of the h100i’s 4 available fan headers and use that to control a 2nd radiators fans.

            I couldn’t seem to find any specs on the max fan wattage so I was hoping you tested it.

          • Martinm210 says:

            No i didt’t but…you could probably make or buy one of the power supply fed splitters like the swiftech pwm splitter or one of the other brands that use only the pwm signal from the device and draw power direct from the power supply. The h100i newer models do use 4 pin pwm fans so the output should include PWM signal. You could make your own out of a spare fan molex adapter and a normal 4 pin Y splitter too. You just need to bypass the power and ground and draw them direct from molex or sata power to the PSU.

            I would just recommend testing the H100i output voltage. If power out remains a constant 12v while reducing speeds, then you can be sure it is sending a regular PWM signal. Pretty sure it does, but I never checked. I also had no luck with link on windows 8 so I have no way of testing and bypassed the pump fan controller completely.

            Of coarse you could also bypass the h100i fan controller and run PWM off the motherboard cpu header using speedfan as well on to multiple PWM 4 pin fans.

  3. Kaah says:

    I like your scientific approach and trust your judgement
    I’m owner of the h100 coupled with Noctuas (NF-F12) and confident with that
    I’d like to move my hardware to a new home (namely a Lian Li TYR-X2000(F(N)))
    therefore I’m looking for reviews about Coolermasters Nepton 140XL – ideally in Tandem with 7mm shroud/anti-vibration adapter and Arctic F14 PWM fans …
    any plans to do something along this line? 😉

    • Martinm210 says:

      Sorry, no testing in the near future. I’m in the middle of my buggy building project. I also tend to feel you really need at least a 240 rad to gain the benefits of watercooling. I’ve been able to bring even the 240s to their knees and throttle my 3930 at lower fan speeds. A lot of high end air coolers are fairly competitive I think with many of the 120/140 CLCs. A noctua NH-D14 with a pair of Gentle Typhoon AP 45s running with PWM mods would probably outperform most of the CLCs of similar size and with lower noise.

      • Karsten says:

        thanks for your input *goes back to the drawing board^^*
        .
        .
        .
        New idea:
        Swiftech H320 + Nexxos 180mm monsta rad + EK GPU full cover (GTX 680)
        ?
        😀