It used to be that when someone mentioned the name Corsair, most people would think of memory as the only product that they were well known for. Over time thy branched out a bit and started delivering a quality built power supply and they're still a leader in that respect. Fast forward to more recent times and we find Corsair is developing products in both cases and CPU cooling. With cases like the Obsidian Series cases and the Hydro series CPU coolers, Corsair has kicked down doors releasing new products to give users an almost complete Corsair solution for everything but the motherboard, CPU and expansion cards; otherwise you can one stop shop for most of the rest of the major components.
As if things weren't doing well enough with all the latest products to hit the shelves, I was given the opportunity to look at the smaller of two of the new air cooling solutions that Corsair is bringing to its loyal customers. I mentioned this is the smaller of the two, and it is just that, and soon you will be reading about the bigger brother as well. The version we are looking at today is based on three 8mm heatpipes making direct contact with the processor. Heat is then carried into the aluminum fins to allow the included 120mm fan to rid this cooler of the heat incurred when overclocking, or just cooling in the summer months.
Today, we are going to take a look at Corsair's Air Series A50 Performance CPU cooler. Now, Corsair plays the cooler down a bit with info on the site stating that this is a good factory replacement cooler for i5 and i7 processors. In reality this is more than just a factory replacement. The A50 will drastically drop temperatures compared to the stock coolers, and offers headroom for overclocking. I say let's let the numbers tell the story of what the A50 brings to the table.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The main assembly of the A50 is comprised of forty-five, 0.4mm thick fins. The top fin is painted black while the rest are exposed aluminum, but all of them are embossed with a Corsair logo. In straight alignment, there are three, 8mm heatpipes that pass from the base up into both sides of the fins. At the base there is an aluminum support that keeps the pipes in line while making direct contact to the processor. Coming in at just under 160mm tall, it is going to require a good sized case to reside in, but it is only 82mm wide with the fan and shroud in place, so it should not cause issues with our memory.
Included with the A50 is a model CF12B25H12A, 120mm fan. It is an all black fan that comes pre-attached to a clip-on shroud for easy attachment and maintenance. The fan is then isolated from the shroud with rubber fan mounts to keep any excess noises at bay during operation. This fan is capable of achieving speeds of 2000 RPM without the resistor and 1600 RPM maximum if you do use the adapter. At 2000 RPM the fan will produce 60 CFM of airflow with 2.3mm of water in static pressure. Keeping things cool under full load, the fan should be what you are used to with a 120mm fan. The 31.5 dBA rating is right in the middle of what we have seen up to now.
Corsair has had a bit of time now to deliver products to e-tailers and even some retail outlets as well. First off, there is the wallet friendly pricing. The cooler can be found at a cash and carry price, before taxes, of $34.99, but local taxes do apply. If you would rather sit in the comfort of your home and make the purchase, there is a comparable pricing at $39.99 at Newegg.com. There is a $3.99 shipping price to include with that. With an almost ten dollar difference it may make you think of driving to the local box store, but for the cost of a gallon or two of gas, you can wait and have one dropped right on your doorstep.
The A50 arrives in a gold and black package. The front starts off with a Corsair logo above a section of the fins at really close range. Near the bottom you find the Image for the cooler and fan next to the A50 naming and basic compatibility list.
On this side you can see Corsair offers a statement about the A50 and that is "Advanced technology for cooling the world's fastest CPUs". Then they list the three 8mm heatpipes, the aluminum fins, and the 120mm fan in six different languages.
On the back things start off with the fact that the A50 drastically outperforms a stock cooler with results in a chart showing the results with a Intel i7 965.The bulk of the panel is taken up by the mission statement about the A50 that can also be found at their web site. In the white stripe at the very bottom is where you will find an included parts list.
The specifications are very basic on both the cooler body as well as the fan, but they can be found on this panel, again in six languages.
Sliding the contents out of the box, this is what you find. High density foam surrounds the cooler while the cardboard box holds the hardware and the fan.
Unpacking things a bit further, you can see how well the A50 is protected during transit. It rests in this five sided enclosure tightly and allowed for a pristine product delivery.
The Corsair Air Series A50 Performance CPU Cooler
You can clearly see the 8mm heat pipes are the lowest part of the cooler so they can make direct contact. They are held in place with the aluminium base plate that also has holes for mounting the hardware a bit later. The three fat heat pipes then go into the body of fins and pass through forty-five fins, then are terminated proudly off the top fin.
Without the fan, the profile of the A50 is thin at only 52mm thick. Since the mounting of the hardware sits proud of the aluminum base plate, you can see that the A50 won't extend over the memory modules.
From the top you can see Corsair has painted the top fin so it will blend into all the new painted interiors, and match most motherboards. In the center is the Corsair name and ship logo stamped into the fin. This acts as advertising the name of the cooler, but the deviation in the fins disturbs the air and will help heat transfer be more efficient; that and the gentle curve on the right side that offers the correct fan spacing.
For AMD users, you will need to slide the latch bar into these two groves on the top of the base plate, and lock the cooler into place with the stock plastic ring around the socket.
The pipes are level with each other, and for the most part, they are level with the aluminum bits between each pipe. There are some good sized gaps that will take a bit more TIM where the pipes run next to the aluminium. On the outer edges of the aluminium there are four countersunk holes for mounting the Intel cross bar setup that Corsair has decided to use.
The CF12B25H12A fan is already mounted to the shroud in the hardware box via the rubber bits you see sticking out of the corners. This will keep vibrations to a minimum. This fan comes with a 3-pin connector, so it can either run at a full 12V or if your motherboard offers finite control in the BIOS or via software, you can use that; but no PWM feature.
Inside the shroud in all four corners there are rubber pads to isolate the shroud from the aluminium fins. Every contact surface has been addressed in this configuration to give the least amount of vibrations.
With the small groove in the side of the fin arrangement, the shroud simply clips over the one side of the cooler. It is held in place with four tabs; two of which can be seen on this side.
Once the fan assembly is in place you can see the A50 keeps that slim profile. As I mentioned, even with the tallest RAM, I don't think there are going to be many complaints about fitting issues with this air cooler.
The fan is actually a bit larger than the forty-five fin body of the cooler. This should get the most fins behind useable CFM, and with the aid of the shroud, Corsair is using every CFM they can get from their choice of accompanying fan.
Accessories and Documentation
All of the hardware along with the fan and shroud are packaged neatly inside the white cardboard box. On the left the fan is isolated by a cardboard section keeping the hardware securely on its side. Along with the hardware, Corsair includes a little literature featuring their other products you may have to still purchase.
In one of the included bags you will find the fan speed adapter, a syringe of TIM, four thumbscrews to finish mounting the cooler, and four black plastic washers to isolate the motherboard.
If you are running on an AMD processor, Corsair decided to use a more common latch bar mounting setup.
If you are using an Intel processor, you get a back plate with adjustable treaded rods. Adjustable means that depending on which socket you are using, the threaded rods can be moved for the appropriate socket. For the top mounting, you need to screw the plate on the right to the aluminum base of the cooler with the provided screws. Using the thumbscrews, you secure the A50 in place.
The thorough instruction fold-out on the left has images and very explanative text to help you along with either AMD or Intel installations. Along with the instructions is a bright red piece of paper with all the return information, just in case something bad does happen to the product before you open it up.
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.
For such a slim cooler and no real "tricks" under the hood to speak of, the A50 placing tenth on this list is very respectable; surpassing the H50 and H70 is outstanding!
With things running ahead full steam, the size of the cooler and the lower 60 CFM of the fan starts to show. Above average performance is nothing to scoff at, and the 55.4°C temperature is better than I expected to see.
The sound levels are nothing to write home about, but they aren't mind numbing either. The 47 dB level I recorded is right where the majority of fans hover.
With all the voltages applied, the fan does get a bit noisier. With a reading of 64 dB, for the 60 CFM of production, I think they could have done a bit better on the noise levels all together.
The A50, for such a thin cooler with a mid range fan pushing the air through it, I found it to be an admirable performer against a lot more expensive coolers in the top half of that list. It saves the buyer a bit of money by Corsair choosing to only paint the top fin, as that is all most of what you'll ever see if the cooler is the top anyways. The clip-on fan shroud assembly really simplifies installation and will make maintenance later on easier as well. Taking the time to isolate the shroud and the fan both from each other and the fins is also a nice touch. While there were no audible rattles, the use of such measures is lost with the 64 DB of fully operating noise levels.
I used both the AMD mounting and the Intel setup and found both to be secure when either latched or bolted into place. If you are unsure how to move the studs on the back plate, the well written instructions will get you right through any issues. Another thing I like is that with the fan in place, the cooler is only 82mm thick and didn't cause me any memory issues on the boards I tried mounting it to. This being Corsair's first attempt at air cooling, I think they came out on top with this one. The A50 is very capable of doing the job at hand.
With the Air Series A50 Performance CPU cooler being a relatively new release to the market, it can't be found everywhere, but with the ten or so places you can find one, the coverage is still pretty good. For right around $35 you can walk into Best Buy and get one tomorrow on your way home from work if you wish. For those of us who have come to depend on the Ups and Fed Ex delivery drivers, the A50 can be found at Newegg.com for $39.99, plus shipping. Performing better than average for a cooler that can be had for $35-40 is something we don't see here every day, and I have to say Corsair has taken a rather well placed foothold in the air cooling segment of CPU cooling. Now I eagerly await the testing results of the big brother, the A70 which we will get a look at very soon.