Corsair has really put quite the name out for themselves. With really top notch power supplies, Corsair built quite a following as well. Not too long ago they opened their minds and started designing chassis' such as the Obsidian 800D. This chassis , again, was top notch with no stone unturned, keeping the Corsair name intact. On top of what I have seen or bought myself over the years in memory sticks or power supplies, I have now gotten my dirty little grubbies on one of the most popular coolers on many forums.
I'm not exactly sure how I got overlooked when all the samples were being sent, but with one of my latest reviews, the ECO from CoolIT, a lot of the comments were based on "where is the H50?" - Well, here it is! With some crafty trading of other parts I had on hand, I was able to locate in a forum sale, one brand new in box Corsair Hydro Series H50. It was so new that when I received the shipment, the cooler arrived still sealed in the plastic outer wrapping. It just wouldn't be fair of me to test out a used cooler, so in my hunt I was looking for only brand new or unused. With the shipping plastic in place, rest assured this Corsair H50 is exactly that.
Now, I'm sure everyone reading this already knows of the potential of what the H50 can bring to cooling a processor, but now we get to see them head to head on Tweaktown's own T.E.C.C. testbed. With the basic premise of my getting the H50, I'm sure as the review progresses there will be a direct comparison of my opinion as we look at the individual parts of the H50 and we can see where Corsair went right or wrong along the way. Enough of this talk; as I know you all just want to know at this point which is better. So, let's go through what the H50 offers and get a closer look at Corsairs Hydro Series H50 along the way.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
With the H50, information is more limited to obtain. Going through all the basics, the H50 utilizes a copper heat plate to extract heat from the processor and is coated liberally with TIM out of the box. Once in the head unit, the pump cycles the sealed loop through non-permiable tubing, into an all aluminum radiator. Once there, Corsair adds a 120mm fan to remove the heat from both the loop and the chassis. Working on all the latest processor sockets, only users of older sockets will find issue here, such as 939 users or anything pre-LGA775 for intel users.
Corsair offers a full two year warranty on this system. Being completely sealed, there should be no reason to tamper with it. The pump and fans do require either 12V direct or in the case of the fan, can be motherboard controlled. Just like I said with the ECO, I'm sure the fan that Corsair chose is just fine, but most, if not all buyers will be looking for a way to make it better and a dual fan setup is one of the easiest ways I can think of, or even a swap for a stronger single fan. Either way, I plan to give an accurate baseline for you to make a decision off of.
Availability? Who am I trying to kid, they are everywhere! For those of you used to shopping via the direct link, It can be found at Newegg for $79.99 with free shipping. Now, I have seen it in other locations for almost $20 less, but most of those require shipping costs as well. Either way you look at the purchase, it remains almost identical to the CoolIT ECO's pricing, so there are no definite reasons to go either way thus far. Let's dig a little deeper and see if we can sort a true leader of the two.
The all black background really makes the image of the product and the white text pop. Just in case you see this on the shelf, Corsair adds a nice "splash" of water behind the H50 to be sure you know this is a water based system.
This side holds most of the technical specifications and even adds the bit about the space required inside the chassis to fit the H50's radiator.
On the bottom of the box, Corsair listed the three main features of the system, at left. To the right are the results of in house testing at Corsair against a stock and aftermarket air cooler.
The opposing side panel shows another shot of the H50 system and keeps all the same information as did the other side.
When I first opened the package, this bold red piece of paper is the first thing I saw. Corsair wants it to be known that all return and warranty work is done through them directly, so if you buy one off the shelf, keep this in mind.
Removing the clear plastic cover and all the paperwork, we can now see how the H50 is shipped. Inside the lower half, the head unit snaps in place securely. The hardware is kept in a tray in the middle and the fan and radiator are stacked for shipping. No need for more support than this; the sample I received made quite the journey and still arrived in excellent shape.
The Corsair Hydro Series H50 CPU Cooler
Out of the plastic we can see most of the H50 system; the fan is yet to be mounted. The head unit at the left is round and has a plastic cover "locked" in place to protect the surface of the block. Off the head unit is a 3-pin molex adapter for power. There is just about 12" of flexible tubing. Actually it's rubber tubing covered in a plastic sheath, but still allows for most mounting positions. Then of course we have the 120mm radiator.
The head unit has a clean look. The bold Corsair logo is a nice touch. I do like the way the wires and the tubing are grouped together as it exits the block, but it may limit the unit's flexibility.
There really is no shortage of screws in the base of the H50. There are 12 screws that hold on the outer cover of the head unit, then ten screws holding the copper base plate onto the bottom of the pump and transfer area. Also, Corsair has applied a liberal amount of thermal paste, which will more than cover any IHS. After testing I removed the paste and found the plate to be mostly flat except near the edges and the finish to be satisfactory in smoothness; no mirrored finish here.
The 120mm radiator has quite a bit of surface area due to the high density of the fins, very similar in count to the CoolIT solution. Just based on feel, the ECO seemed to be a bit beefier than Corsairs offering.
Connections to both the head unit and the radiator are done in this fashion. The inner rubber hose is stretched over the barb and the sleeving is pushed up to the end of the barb for a clean look. Again, not much different here than the ECO, other than the type of fittings used on this end.
Here is the 1700RPM, 120mm fan Corsair supplies with the H50. This is powered by a 4-pin motherboard CPU header on the motherboard. This will allow for control of the cooling and noise levels from the fan. If you do plan to do a push/pull setup, don't forget an adapter or two for the fans.
Accessories and Documentation
With the H50, there is a different take on how to mount things. Corsair supplies a ring and back plate for both AMD and Intel. Pick the appropriate set and get started.
There is quite a bit of additional hardware to get the H50 in place on a motherboard. The back row is two groups of upper clips that help hold the metal ring in place. Be careful; there are differences in the two sets and are not universal to Intel and AMD mounting. The middle offers some foam pads for isolation of the H50 where needed, screws for the fan mounting with washers and two sets of retention screws specific to branding of processor. Then there are the four locking nuts that set into the backing plates. There's a lot to deal with here versus the mounting simplicity of the ECO.
Underneath the red "stop" paperwork in the beginning, you will find all of Corsair's mounting instructions and basic manual for operation of the H50. Each socket for Intel gets its own paper and AM2 and AM3 share. Follow these closely, as I grabbed one wrong piece and had to disassemble the hardware and basically start over, all because I grabbed one wrong plastic clip.
Test System &Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
TweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
Temperature at idle was a bit more than the CoolIt ECO, well over a degree. I looked for the reasoning behind it and did some testing. What I had found is that the head unit on the pump is very warm, almost hot to the touch when just the pump is cycling. On the flip side, the CoolIT uses a very low wattage pump and their head unit doesn't feel warm when operational.
At load, temperatures really started to even out. With two tenths of a degree difference at load, I have to say they are both pretty good at what they do, cooling the processor at load.
Fan noise is very similar between the two at idle. As I mentioned, noise level is subjective here. Most of us are going to swap fans and toy around with them to achieve either better cooling performance or lower sound levels with similar performance.
With everything maxed out the H50 does pull ahead of the ECO in noise levels and at 8dB difference, it is slight. But for those who have to get the quietest stock solution, I think Corsair takes this one.
Head to head, the H50 and ECO are very similar, but there are many differences that make me still lean one way versus the other. Temperatures are almost a dead heat when the processor is loaded, so I award no favorable points to either cooler on this subject. I feel the same way about the noise levels. While the Corsair does edge out the CoolIT solution out of the box, we all know that will last for like the first week, maybe, until "tinkering" begins. So with those out of the way and still no clear leader, I have to go deeper to make an actual decision as to which I would actually buy with my hard earned dollars.
First off, I will go to the most obvious components that the everyday user will have to deal with just to get either product in your chassis. Starting with the most fundamental, let's go with the mounting. The Corsair offers a ring with keys on tabs that lock the ring into the head unit. Simply slide the ring over the unit using the keyways to pass the ring over the "latches", then turn the ring slightly to align the tabs into the headunit. Easy, right? - Not exactly, the rest of the hardware is where things get tricky.
Adding the correct clips, using the right screws for said clips and any mistake in these steps adds time for tearing all your work back down. Lastly, I found the nuts to the backing plate to be loose and with everything going on up top I dropped those nuts uncountable times in the assembly process. In contrast, here is where the ECO steps leaps and bounds over the Corsair H50. The ECO is simple! Pick the AMD or Intel mounts, four screws to swap out the legs (AMD only, ships with Intel mounted), add a back plate and screw in some thumbscrews. How tough is that?
Beyond that, I really liked the fact that even during load testing of the ECO, the head unit never seemed to get warm. I mean it was warm, but not where I would consider it oddly warm, or near hot. I can't say the same for my H50. During even idle testing I could feel that the pump was adding plenty of heat to the loop, not something I particularly want and something CoolIT found a solution for.
Other than that, the CoolIT just feels beefier, or better built. In the end I am torn. I can't pick a winner based on performance, so I have to go with ease of use and compatibility and that makes me want to spend my money in that direction. To be fair, with all the fundamentals being equal, minus the head unit and mounting, it is a dead draw. You already know what my money is going on, but based on local availability I won't steer you from grabbing a Corsair H50, as it does its intended job admirably.