|Corsair Hydro H70 Liquid CPU Cooler|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 08 February 2011|
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CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Although all-in-one water cooling kits existed years before Corsair introduced the H50 in June, 2009, the result of this Asetek/Corsair collaboration provided much better performance than previous efforts. While the H50 didn't compete with high-end air coolers, it provided a quiet alternative to mid-range coolers for mild overclocking, and you could enhance its performance significantly by adding a second fan.
Two of the best ways to increase a heat sink's performance are to increase the surface area of the "heat exchanger" (where heat is transferred to the air), and to move more air over the heat exchanger. Corsair adopted both tactics with the Hydro Series H70, doubling the thickness of the radiator and adding another fan. Doubling the radiator thickness gives the same surface area as would increasing the radiator size to 120x240mm, but the latter solution would severely restrict the number of cases the cooler could be used in.
The thicker radiator and dual fans increase the performance of the H70 tremendously, giving it a solid 7.8 degree lead over the H50 when compared with the stock fans, and a 3.4 degree lead when both are configured with the high-speed Delta fan. Since the pump assembly is obviously different, it's possible that the internal heat plate design has changed or that the pump has a higher flow rate, but if so, neither Asetek nor Corsair are saying.
In previous reviews I've noted how rapidly the CPU cooler market was advancing, with new designs and new performance benchmarks appearing so frequently that it was hard to keep up. We seem to be approaching an asymptote, though: the size of air coolers is reaching the constraints imposed by standard computer cases, and performance is leveling off. Since any retail CPU is shipped with a perfectly good CPU cooler in the box, you might think that the only reason to purchase an aftermarket cooler is performance. While this is certainly the primary consideration, there are others, such as acoustics (how loud the cooler is) and aesthetics (for windowed cases). Also, bear in mind that not every cooler works in every situation: top-performing air coolers tend to be both large and expensive, and are overkill for all but the hottest, most overclocked systems. There's room in the market for many different types of coolers, and the best solution for you is probably not the best solution for me.
While water coolers have improved since 2009, so have air coolers. For $109.99 at Newegg, the Corsair H70 is significantly more expensive than a Prolimatech Super Mega or Thermalright Venomous X, although equipping the latter two coolers with two high-performance fans would narrow the price gap.
Normally, our high-speed fan tests provide a good indication of relative cooler performance, but I think in this case the H70's thick radiator threw the results off a bit, since it probably requires a higher static pressure for good performance than do the air coolers. If you do replace the fans on this cooler, you should stick with the dual-fan configuration...but the stock fans on "low" provide an excellent balance of performance and noise in most cases.
Corsair Hydro Series H70 Conclusion
Please remember that these test results reflect our experience with each cooler on a specific motherboard, with a specific processor, BIOS revision, BCLK and voltage settings, and test programs. The results of this test cannot be directly compared to other tests since many factors will have changed.
Installing the Corsair H70 is relatively easy if you read the directions first and take your time. The "universal" Intel backplate (on AMD systems, the stock motherboard backplate is used) keeps the parts count (and price) down, but I prefer the more robust mounting system design of Asetek's original systems.
The performance of the Corsair H70 was very good, easily beating all the other water coolers in this test, although it was still outperformed by less expensive air coolers. Doubling the radiator thickness enables the H70 to double the surface area of its heat exchanger, which when aided by its dual fans provided a real increase in performance. I'd prefer to see PWM fans like the Cooler Master V6 GT uses, so the computer could control the fan speed. Having to plug in resistor cables to control fan speed seems a crude solution, especially at this price level.
The construction quality of the H70 was also very good: everything fit and worked correctly and the swivel mountings for the hoses pivoted freely. I have seen some water coolers arrive new in the box with bent or damaged fins, but the H70's radiator was pristine. I would prefer to see a more robust mounting system, though, since I think the clamping pressure might be a bit low with the current system.
The main reason to go with the H70 over a top-end air cooler is noise: while the V6 GT kept the processor 6.5 degrees cooler than did the H70 (with its fans on low), it did so at a substantial cost in noise. Also, if you transport your computer, the weight of a high end air cooler (all of which are two or more times heavier than Intel's recommended weight limit) can actually damage the motherboard if the computer is subjected to shocks; the tiny pump of the H70 is a featherweight in comparison to the kilogram or heavier weights of a dual-fan equipped Megahalems.
Cosmetically, the H70's rather dull, with all-black components and the Corsair label on the pump being the only adornment of any kind. While not everyone uses a windowed case, a little extra bling wouldn't hurt, especially in an era where even Intel puts LED lighting on their retail CPU coolers.
If you're interested in exploring water cooling, the Corsair Hydro Series H70 is a good introduction.
+ Good performance/noise balance with fans on low speed
- Outperformed by less expensive air coolers
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.
Recommended: Benchmark Reviews Seal of Approval.
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