Corsair H100 Extreme Perf. Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Corsair comes back to liquid processor cooling with a unit more tuned towards enthusiast needs. Low profile water block and pump unit and a dual length 240mm radiator with two 120mm fans. Let's how well it works when compared to other coolers we already know well.

Introduction

It seems water cooling has been getting a lot of attention as of late in the test labs here at [H]ardOCP and with good reason. Water cooling your PC used to be a messy, complicated burden of love. It involved carefully planning the level of performance required and then tracking down the various components. Once you gathered all necessary items the long process of assembly and testing began. It was not uncommon for users to test their setup for twenty-four hours prior to its final installation. It's no wonder why water cooling was a niche market for so many years.

In recent months more and more manufacturers have begun selling all-in-one water cooling kits that require no maintenance and are nearly fool-proof when it comes to installation. We have looked at some of these units in the past and have generally come away pleased. Corsair is here today with its new H100 water cooler which is designed for simplicity and maximum cooling. This will be the first of two articles surrounding new water coolers from Corsair with the second one focusing on Corsair’s update to its flagship mainstream water cooler, the H80. But before we get ahead ourselves, we present to you the very sexy Corsair Hydro Series™ H100 Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler.

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System Setup

Today's testing takes place on our [H]ard platform. The test bed consists of the GIGABYTE X58-Extreme motherboard, six gigabytes of Corsair DDR3 RAM and the Intel Core i7 920.

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Test Methods

CPU

In keeping with the spirit of the [H] we are once again doing hardware testing of all heat sinks. This means milling a very small path into an expensive CPU to place our thermocouple into. This is by far the best way to test coolers and the only way here at the [H]ardOCP.

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Temperatures for the CPU will continue to be measured using our Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer.

GPU

For this article the GPU will be kept at stock speed to keep any excess heat away from the CPU that could impact the results. In 2D mode the 9500 GT generates very little heat and to further isolate it from the rest of the system we will install it in the secondary PCIE slot.

Thermal Paste

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. There is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones. Our channel milled CPU also requires a compound that is more viscous so the mating compound will not seep into the channel and run off.

Temperatures

Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.

Since we are dealing with water cooling we will allow extra time for each test to give the water in the loop enough time to reach equilibrium.

Idle

Idle temperatures will be recorded after a twenty-five minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Load

Load temperatures will be recorded after a twenty-five minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v25.3 set to blend mode. In this way we can heat up the CPU as well as the memory controller which is now integrated into the die. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Sound

Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.