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Corsair Hydro H70 CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Closed system water cooling units have been around for some time now but they have only begun gaining widespread popularity in the last few years. These units are meant for first time users with little or no experience with water cooling but want to take a “baby step” away from the sometimes lower-performing air based CPU cooling solutions. We have seen several products in this particular market and while some were excellent performers, others left much to be desired.

Corsair originally introduced customers to water cooling with their HydroCool units but made the jump into closed system units with their Hydro H50 last year. It was a reasonably priced unit that offered good performance but Corsair wanted to push things to the next level with a brand new product. This all new unit from Corsair may be called a H70. This name may give the wrong impression that it is nothing but a newer revision of the H50 but it is actually a totally different design.

The new H70 sports not only two fans, a new beefy 120mm single bay double thick radiator, a new lower profile pump/heat block heat exchanger but also a much-improved installation setup. So throw out any and all preconceived notions you have about this product and start with a fresh slate. What we have here is a performance-oriented water cooler that is supposedly more than a few steps ahead of its predecessor on a number of levels.

While the Corsair H70 is new on the market, it is quickly becoming widely available at North American retailers. Amazingly, it is not even selling for above, or even at par with its MSRP since we have already seen it for a little as $97 Canadian. On paper this combination of higher performance, lower hassle and a (technically) sub $100 price tag sounds like a winner to us. Is that what this unit is, a “winner”?

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/mfg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/H70_Angle.jpg " border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/corsair-hydro-h70.jpg " border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/corsair-hydro-h70-2.jpg " border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Corsair H70

A Closer Look at the Corsair H70



Let’s start with what is blatantly obvious: this is a big and colorful box which H70 is plastered with all of the info a first-time user could possibly need. It will also likely stand out quite well on a retailer’s shelves.


Opening up the box and peaking inside it is obvious the internal protection scheme also got a full makeover from the H50’s. Gone is the plastic clamshell container and in its stead is a sturdy cardboard protection scheme with foam topper layer.

When it comes to accessories, the H70 continues to impress. With the H50 you basically got Intel mounting equipment stock but had to purchase the AMD “accessories” separately and when companies do this it never sits right with us. Luckily, Corsair has seen the error of their ways here and included Intel 775, 1156 and 1366 mounting equipment alongside the equipment necessary to mount onto AMD boards. Taking things one-step further is the material the H70’s top retention ring for both Intel and AMD. Instead of the less than optimal plastic the H50 relied upon and in its place is a high strength piece of metal.


H70 is still a single bay 120mm unit which should come as no surprise since this design facilitates compatibility with a wider range of enclosures. Much like the H50, the H70 consists of four main parts: the radiator, the water block/pump combination block, the tubing which connects the two together and the fans.

Even just with a quick glance you can see how thick the radiator of the H70 is. To be precise it is a full 50mm thick, which makes it exactly twice the size as the one on the H50. You literally can have the H50 and its fan attached and it will only be as deep as the H70s radiator sans fans. This design is a double edged sword as while it is (in theory) much more efficient but it is also going to take up a heck of a lot of room within your case.


Taking a close look at the radiator we can see that unlike the thinner H50’s radiator which was a 12 tube design, the H70 uses only 8 thicker tubes to carry the coolant through the fins. Less tubes can be used here since the radiator is essentially double the thickness of past designs which increases the surface area and thus also raises efficiency. We assume this reduction was done so as to help keep flow restrictions to a minimum.

While the tube count has changed the number of folds per inch in the fins is about the same as the previous model’s approximate 20 FPI.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Corsair H70 pg.2

A Closer Look at the Corsair H70 pg.2



The tubing is the same ¼” ID PVC or coated neoprene affair as used on previous Corsair water cooling units that has been heat-sealed onto the rad and water block barbs. This is par for the course as very few companies bother with pinch clamps as this is a cheaper, more secure and easier method of doing things. One thing worth noting is the length of tubing which connects the water block and the radiator together is noticeably shorter than on the H50. The H50 had about 11 inches worth of tubing, whereas the H70 is a couple inches shorter at about 9 inches.


The water block / pump combination unit is quite interesting since we are used to seeing the usual high-walled affair on other ASETEK-OEMed units. Corsair classified this block as “low profile” and we think that is being too conservative as it is downright small in comparison to the one on the H50. When you place them both together the difference really is night and day.

In addition, the H70 uses a copper-based block with pre-applied thermal compound.


One nice feature of the H70s block -besides its short stature- is the tubing connectors on the water block. Much like the CoolIT ECO we recently reviewed it uses 90° connectors which can swivel. This is a great feature which will reduce the pressure on the connectors and should (if past history is any indication) make installation a heck of a lot easier.

Sadly the base of the water block also shares the H50’s lack luster polishing and finishing job. The best we can say about this matte copper base is that it is about average but certainly nothing special. It is however almost perfectly flat.


The fans which accompany this unit are also noteworthy. Of course, the number of fans has doubled from the H50’s one to the H70’s stock dual fan configuration; but the speed of these fans has also increased to 2000rpm (our samples ran at about 2023 rpm). This further reinforces our earlier surmise that the H70’s thick radiator needs high end fans to get the job done.

Corsair also includes a two to one adapter so that both 3 pin fans can be connected to your motherboard’s “CPU” fan header. They also included a pair of voltage based adapters which reduce fan speed to a maximum of approximately 1600rpm (or 1623 in our case, which is basically the same speed our H50’s “1700” rpm fan ran at).
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


For anyone who owns an H50, the H70’s installation procedure may seem a bit familiar as Corsair took the best parts of it and threw out everything that didn’t work. The end result is a multi-step process which isn’t as easy as the CoolIT Eco but also nowhere near as hassle prone as its precursor!


The first step of installing the backplate in preparation for the topmost retention bracket is easily done. This is as simple as taking the four small metal tubes and threading them up and into the backplate. For the Intel side of things you have three holes per corner and each is properly labeled for its associated compatibility (1156, 1366, etc). With that accomplished, the next thing is to install the double sided tape, and gently place the backplate into position so the four hollow, threaded tubes push up through the CPU mounting holes in the motherboard. The double sided tape keeps it in position so with a gentle shove it will be safe and secure, allowing you to move on to the next step.


The included retaining rings (one for Intel 775/1156/1366 and another for AMD) are made of a high strength metal which is a huge step in the right direction considering the H50’s and those of several other integrated water coolers are somewhat flimsy plastic. When you have chosen the proper retaining bracket/ring you then have to prep it by installing the proper spacers.

With this done, you then grab the four long black bolts and screw them into their holes in the four corners. This is tedious as you have to gently thread them into and then through the plastic - cutting a thread pattern into the plastic as you go.


You then lay the top retention ring in place, and screw each of the four bolts in just enough so that they stay put (about ½ of a turn). This last bit is crucial as if you tighten it all the way down the H70 will not be able to fit in underneath. As with the H50, the next thing you need to do is slowly slide the water block in through the notches in the top retention ring and then give it a slight twist so that the notches around the water block and the “teeth” in the retention ring are overlapping. Hold the block in place and then screw the four bolts all the way down.

This last part can be a bit frustrating but remember that patience usually trumps the satisfaction of throwing your motherboard against a wall.


With the water block installed you then can reinstall your motherboard, remove your case’s rear exhaust fan, install the outside-facing fan to the H70 and then install the radiator and inner fan into your case. This sounds complicated but it is actually quite easy.


The swivel heads on the water block for the tubing really do make installation even easier than the previous model and you still need not worry about any mounting compatibility issues as the tubes may be shorter than those on the H50 but they are still more than long enough. All in all, this installation is light years better then the H50.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all water cooling review. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why things had to be changed or altered.

Thermal Paste and Application Methods:


Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all water based CPU cooling solutions during these tests unless otherwise noted. Application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.


Fans Used:


120mm:

For all water based CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come standard with a fan, a pair of Noctua NF-P12-1300s and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual Fans:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:


- If a water cooling solution cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL water coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.

We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor thermal performance.


Case Temperature Testing:


To help give us a clear picture of what effects the water cooling unit in its default configuration will have on in-case temperatures we will be using a K-type A W Sperry STK-3016T single line Digital Thermometer with reading sensitivity of 0.1°C. It is positioned 1" from the top of the motherboard in the location indicated below:

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/vent_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

Unless specifically noted, the internal ambient case temperature testing will BEGIN with a “cold” system with the internal case temperature reading 20°C. While we base the CPU temperatures on 15 minutes of testing, the internal ambient air temperature test will consist of 45 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and at the end of the test the internal case temperature is recorded as the official result for that run. Each test run configuration was run at least 3 times and only best results are represented. If at any time during the 45 minute test the internal ambient case temperatures reached 45°C the test is considered a FAIL and recorded as such.


Environment:


Except where noted all comparison testing was done inside a closed case with a room ambient temperature of 24c. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:


The case chosen for this test bed is a Cooler Master 690. We chose the 690 as it a highly adaptable case with not only multiple door fan ports, but also multiple top fan ports as well as the typical single front and back fan ports. To populate these fan ports we chose Scythe E 120mm units with Sony Fluid Dynamic Bearings. Unless otherwise noted, only one of the top two exhaust fan ports, the rear exhaust port and front fan intake port will be populated. The rear exhaust port will be populated by the review item's fan and radiator where possible, for the air based cooling alternative used in the review as a counter example another Scythe E will be used.



Temperature Recording:


Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 95°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled. All power connectors for the review item are connected directly to Molex connectors to ensure they were running at full speed.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.


Charts & Graphs:


Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.

All water cooling reviews will also include a air based CPU cooling which best approximates the price range of the water cooling solution being reviewed. This way you will not only know how it compares to other water cooling units but also an Air based CPU cooling solution which is in the same approximate price range.


Sound Pressure Testing:


To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.


Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:

Case: Cooler Master 690

Processor: Intel i7 920

Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R

Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600

Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP

Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB single platter

Power Supply:
Topower Powerbird 900W


Special thanks to Direct Canada for their support and supplying the i7 920 CPU.

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
 
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AkG

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Stock Fan Performance Results

Stock Fan Performance Results


Note: The included low fan speed adapter was used for all "medium" speed results.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/26_stock.png " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/34_stock.png " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/38_stock.png " border="0" alt="" />

This thing is a beast in stock configuration. It easily destroys good air based CPU coolers and does so with ease. Numbers like this are simply WHY people take the plunge and go water. It also easily devastates the H50, the sweet little ECO and even the Domino with uses an even faster fan. Of course, the H70 comes with two high performance buzz saw impersonating fans so anything less then double digit improvement would have been disappointing. It is interesting to note that even with the fans notched down to a much less annoying sound signature at 1600RPMs that the H70 still destroys the Domino and the H50.
 
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AkG

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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/26_scythe.png " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/34_scythe.png " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/38_scythe.png " border="0" alt="" />

It is obvious that the H70 loves high speed, high performance fans. It is also blatantly obvious that it prefers to have TWO of them attached for optimal results. This really is par for the course as any 25mm thick fan, even a good one like our Scythe S-Flex “G”, is going to have a tough time pushing enough air through that deep radiator. Just remember that these results will only likely interest you if you are intent on swapping out the stock fans for something else.
 
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AkG

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Dual Fan Results / Apples to Apples Performance

Dual Fan Performance Results


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/dual.png " border="0" alt="" />

Obviously the H70 does not like slow fans. This is to be expected once again due to the thickness of the radiator used on this cooler.


Apples to Apples Performance


You asked for it so we are going to give it you: all water based CPU cooling solutions set up to run as exhaust only! To our way of thinking this is the only sensible way to install water based cooler so lets level the playing field, turn the heat up and see what shakes loose!

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/exhaust.png " border="0" alt="" />

As you can see the H70 does suffer a tad of “performance anxiety” when set up to exhaust all that hot air out of the case. This is due to the fact that it is sucking in warmer than ambient air from within your case instead of the cooler air from outside. Of course, with that being said nearly 2°C is not that steep a price to pay for kick performance that doesn’t char broil your kit.
 
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AkG

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In-Case Temperatures / Sound Level Testing

Effects on In-Case Temperature


So now we know how big a performance hit exhausting the heat outside the case results; but that is only half the equation. The other half is knowing how much of an effect exhausting all that heat INSIDE you case has on ambient temperature. Only then can YOU decide what is best for your personal situation. Note that the exact methodology for this test is listed in the main Testing Methodologies page

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/temp.png" border="0" alt="" />

This here is why darn near every sealed other water cooling unit manufacturer recommends dumping all that heat outside your case. The difference is significant and unless your case as extremely good internal air flow (such as a Cooler Master HAF series) then Corsair's solution is less than optimal for in-case temperatures. In our opinion, you should take the small hit to CPU temps and enjoy one of the fringe benefits of the H70: the ability to change its direction so it exhausts all of its heat outside the case.

What is noteworthy is while the internal ambient temperature did rise significantly in the motherboard zone, there was almost no difference in the GPU area. We ran a second temperature probe inside the case and the internal air flow of the 690 was such that our GPU really didn’t care one way or the other. Fresh air came in via the front, and hot air was sucked in from the top.

It was also interesting to see how well a relatively good case performs when a water cooling system is installed as we saw only a tiny rise over ambient temperatures when heat was being exhausted by the H70.


Sound Level Testing


While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us colouring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/H70/noise.png " border="0" alt="" />

Honestly, without the included resistor installed the H70 is quite loud. It certainly sports high performance fans, but we dislike the slower version which the H50 sports and making it faster did NOT make it better. These numbers really only tell half the story as these fans display high pitched tonal properties which do get annoying. At 1600 most of the whine does go away, but it still is far from quiet.
 
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