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Corsair Hydro Series H80 High Performance Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Corsair may have just changed our minds. Come take a look at how the Hydro Series from Corsair has improved with the H80.
@chad_sebring
Published Fri, Aug 5 2011 9:26 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction

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All-in-one water coolers have been worthy of some pretty big debates. Are they actually needed, do they serve a niche need, or are they an option for everyone? - Does their cost at release justify the results? - When I first was seeing samples of this type of unit, I so far have yet to be overly impressed. While these units are easy to install, easier to clean than an air cooler and do look really clean in any build, up to date, performance or noise levels at that performance were just not justified for the cost. As time went on, some of these models dropped into the $50 range at the big box stores and that changes the game a bit. At that price range, they are way more worthy of your consideration.

Basically, all of these units stem from a pair of OEMs, except for Thermaltake's latest concept. Corsair used to be tied in with Asetek through the original Hydro series, but has since made the move over to CoolIT to develop these newer Hydro Series coolers. At first, I found that the move was beneficial for the much better mounting system, and to me, Corsair moved to the better of the two OEMs from my experience. With this move, Corsair has options available to them that I have yet to really see done by Asetek. I am speaking of both fan controls on the head unit and the connectivity to an optional controller box. What was once known to me as the CoolIT Maestro system is offered from Corsair as the Corsair Link.

I will get into more detail about these new features as we progress through this, but the general idea is to imagine a dual fan H60, add fan control to the head unit with a push button switch and incorporate usage with this new Link system. Come to think of it, I remember seeing the same plug on the H60, so they have the potential to work with the link as well. Either way, I think this is well worth the read, as you are about to see as I did that there is real potential in these newer, more advanced water coolers. I for one am impressed with the temperature results, but that isn't everything! Let's get into a bit more detail and look at the shortfalls and the successes of the new Corsair Hydro Series H80, maintenance free, sealed, water cooling unit.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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Let's start with the business end of the H80, the newly designed head unit. Where the H60 had a flat top, the H80 keeps the square shape, but the top this time has a large push button to allow fan speed control. This button allows for three stages of cooling. There is the Low Noise setting where the pair of fans that connect directly to the side of the head unit, get powered up to 1300 RPM and offer 46 CFM of airflow with 1.6 mm/H20 of static pressure. Balanced will offer you fan speed of around 2000 RPM, and likely about 75 CFM of airflow and just less than 4 mm/H2O worth of pressure. Then there is the third level, High Performance, and here you are offered 2500 RPM, 39 dBA of noise, and an amazing 7.7 mm/H2o of static pressure to force that air through the tiny spaces. The head unit also keeps the same mounting system we saw with the H60, where it is metal bars screwed into the head unit and thumbscrew hardware to secure it. This is much better to work with than the Asetek "ring" mounting. Inside the head unit, there are the controls needed for the fan control, the pump and a connection for the Link system all tied up neatly into a tiny little package.

The Copper cooling plate, pump and controls can only cool the processor so much; it needs the coolant, tubing and radiator to have any chance of cooling the unit. The tubing is the same diameter black rubber tubing we are used to seeing with its low-permeability rating and ease to be very flexible. Keeping you from accidentally puncturing the tubing and aiding against kinks in the tube, there is a corrugated plastic shell that covers both of the 10" tubes. This tubing helps keep the fluid from passing through the tubes and allowing Corsair to believe that in five years, the same amount of coolant they pre-fill in this unit will still be there, hence the warranty period. Then of course you have to have some sort of radiator to give the pair of fans a place to cool the fluid. The H80 uses the thinner radiator that we saw on the H60, dimensionally, but this time there are side panels riveted to the sides of this radiator.

It seems there was a bit of a cloud over this and the H100 when they released. I saw a lot of talk of these units and before we could even get a sneak peek of these to bring to you, they seem to have shown up on shelves almost by magic with little to no hype. I only received my sample a week or so ago and already I see Google shopping is listing sixty-six locations I can find one. Pricing is really all over the place and with what I have seen released before, I would have expected a slightly higher release price than what most are currently charging. There are a few listings under the $100 mark, but only a couple like AVADirect or Overstock.com would be somewhat "safer" purchases. I also found that my local haunt has a reasonable pricing. Newegg.com is currently getting $109.99, which seems like it might be $10 more than others, but that scale doesn't stop here. If you are stuck by location or for some odd reason you buy on a whim, be prepared to pay up to an over $150 in some locations.

Packaging

The Package

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The use of the ASUS board and the matching Dominator RAM really makes for an attractive backdrop to the head unit in the large image on the front of the box. Using a large font, the H80 stands out and is easily seen which leads your eyes to the compatibility listing.

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The right side displays six, very basic, specifications charts in various languages. You do get the most important bit of information, though, and that is the size of the radiator, to make sure this unit is going to fit in your chassis.

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On the top Corsair takes a bit of time to explain a bit about the Link system. Just as a heads up, the fan control and monitoring is going to cost you $99.99, and if you want LED control potential, it will be $139 on top of the cost of the cooler you connect to it.

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On the bottom there is talk of the Corsair Advantage and how a simple email or call is all it takes to get some help, and how Corsair has been delivering quality components to us for over 15 years now whereby this is of similar caliber. You also get a list of the contents inside the box.

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On the back of the box, Corsair again mentions the Link, brings up the white LEDs behind the easy to use fan control and the fact that this unit ships with two fans. There is a comparison chart of the H100, H80, H60 and a failing stock cooler for temperature reference, and the large area below repeats this information for non-English speaking users.

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Inside the attractive outer packaging, the Hydro Series cooler comes in a recycled cardboard container that has separate compartments to keep the unit safe in transit. There is a thin layer of dense foam to keep all of the goods from moving inside the compartments and makes for a good place to display the literature as you open the box.

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Inside all of the compartments, the fans, hardware and H80 are also packed in plastic. The head unit and radiator are in one large bag, the fans are in separate bags and the Intel back plate and AMD mounting legs come in the foam envelope seen at the bottom right corner.

The Corsair Hydro Series H80 CPU Cooler

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The top of the H80 head unit has some nice additions. There is the grey button with a fan logo to adjust the fans in three stages. Around the button is a white plastic insert that is backlit and will show the amount of lit bars to correspond with the fan speed selected, and the little man icon also lights up white.

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The tubing is still attached by pressing the tubing over the ninety degree fittings that swivel to allow the tubes to move for easier installation. Also, if you need to swap out the pre-installed Intel hardware, these two screws are half of what needs removal.

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Above the Corsair logo on the front, this side offers room to plug in two 4-pin fans, but the unit ships with 3-pin fans. The wiring to power the pump and fans, and sense RPMs also starts on the top side of the head unit.

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On the opposite side than the tubing, you find the other half of the screws that need removed to swap out the mounting hardware. The pins at the top edge are where you would connect the Corsair Link to this unit.

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For purposes of protecting the copper cold plate, the H80 gets a plastic cap just like all the rest we see.

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Not sure why I seem to get this a lot, but again I find that my cooler not only has a nice even layer of pre-applied TIM, it also comes with pre-applied dirt and what looks like a fuzzy string.

The Corsair Hydro Series H80 Continued

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That's ok; I always remove the TIM for testing anyways. One reason is that now I can use the same TIM on all coolers, but it also gives me the opportunity to offer you a look at the finish of the base. For those wondering, yes, the base is very flat across the entire surface, one of the flatter ones I have seen yet!

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Moving away from the head unit, we now get to look at the 38mm thick radiator. While the radiator is just larger that 120mm wide, you need to make sure you have the 152mm needed for the height of this radiator.

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The tubing is also pressed over the aluminum fittings on this end. The plastic cover starts right at the end of the fitting and offers the most protection possible at this end.

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Something I'm not used to seeing is that the sides are actually riveted to the radiator. It seems it might allow the fan mounting to have better spacing, but the paint used here is shiny, where the radiators are typically flatter in finish.

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In case you wondered, there is a product sticker on the unit to verify you have the right cooler. Although with all the features I have covered already, it should be pretty obvious if this is the cooler you intended to buy just at a glance.

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I guess some people must have said the tubing was too long! With this unit I get 9.5" between the radiator and the head unit to allow for installation. I know it isn't much, but I liked the longer tubes of earlier models as they offered options outside the realm of "normal", where this unit it gets slightly more limited.

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Jumping ahead, I mounted the fans. I really don't like the short fan power leads. Of that 9.5" we had of room, it is now less once the fans are connected. In a normal installation this is fine, but it makes the wires exposed, where I know most of us would like to hide these.

Accessories and Documentation

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The H80 comes with Intel mounting legs on the head unit. Here we have the adjustable back plate that allows for LGA775 through LGA 2011 mounting. If you are using an AMD system, you keep the factory plastic bracket on the board, and with some hardware and this spare set of mounting legs, you are all ready to go.

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In a small sealed bag you will find all of the hardware comes together. The long screws at the top left are for running through the fans to mount them to the radiator. At top right, there are the four mounting risers for LGA 775 through LGA1366, there are the thumbscrews for both mounts, the AMD clips that latch onto the factory bracket and the LGA 2011 risers. On both side you see a pair of washers to protect your case when installing the H80.

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Corsair ships the H80 with a pair of fans capable of some really good specifications. The static pressure and CFM lead me to believe these fans are going to be loud, but if used with the fan controller, that should be able to be worked around for most of this coolers use.

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The paperwork that we saw when I first opened the box is shown here. You get a very easy to use, fold out, instruction sheet. What you will find inside is lacking in text, but the images leave you with little doubt on how to make the H80 install easily, step by step.

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This isn't really hardware, but I thought I needed to cover the wiring. There is a Molex connector that runs out of the head unit and has pins for only the power and ground wires. This means that the pump and the fans are all set to run at 12V, but of course the fans can be controlled separately with the button on the front. The 3-pin fan connection that comes from the head unit only has one wire running to it. This wire is strictly for the motherboard to be able to sense the RPMs.

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.

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I ran the testing in all three fan modes, although I labelled them low, medium and high fan settings - I think it's easy to follow. With the fans at the low noise setting the H80 was impressive as it climbed right up to the top third of the list. The balanced setting (medium) took the H80 into the top six. Once I set it for high performance the H80 rose to the third slot of any cooling I have tested!

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With the system running at full load, the results are just as impressive. At low noise, the H80 does a fairly good job. Once you raise the fan speeds, the H80 not only rises to the ranks of the best cooler of this type to be tested by me, but it only got beat out by a custom water cooling system as it passes the already impressive HAVIK 140!

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For the idle results, I used the Low Noise setting on the unit and got my results. The 45 dB rating is good, but as you could see, the results were not as impressive in this state, so let's get a look at the next chart to see how loud this unit is as most of us will use it.

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In the balanced mode the H80 comes in more on average, and the 64 dB rating is more what I expected. Once I set the cooler into high performance mode, the noise levels really get up there producing all that CFM and static pressure.

Final Thoughts

Corsair and their friendly efforts with CoolIT have finally paid off. I like other coolers of this genre, but to say I was ever "impressed", well ,that used to be a different story all together. What the H80 has for me to see value in is simply three things. Number one is performance; I mean it rocked our TECC and showed us that these coolers can keep up and run with the big dogs. The adjustable at a touch cooling, with the option for the additional Link later on makes the new Hydro series coolers even more adaptable. To round out the trio, there is the mounting. When I got my H60 I was told not to use the pre-released hardware for AMD, the screws were too long and pressure was an issue. This time I tested the AMD hardware and I really liked both sets, as they offered a tight, secure fit that is easy to do.

Even though I am in good spirits with the results and what the H80 brings to the table, there are two pitfalls that I see that need to be addressed. First, while I like having the option to simply push a button to adjust my fans on the fly, I don't like the fact that now my case door is useless. In order to make that button in any ways useful, you need to have access. So while it is cool to have, I see it not getting used a lot. The other half of the issues stem with the Corsair Link. I know new goods are going to release for a premium price, but asking us to spend around $100 for a cooler, then to make it fully functional I need to drop another $100, or near $140 if I want LEDs? With that incorporated into the mix, you might as well go with a full custom water cooling loop, at least then you have the option to add GPUs to the loop, where for this investment you do not. Hopefully over time and as more of these Links are moved, the pricing will drop to a more accessible level.

The H80 and H100 seem to have just hit the market overnight with very little news, reviews, or even a guess as to the date. It seems almost odd that a cooler with such little press and pre-release hype turned out to be the one to watch out for, or the dark horse if you will. Since you can now get a H80 just about everywhere, and the results I got, even with my personal issues with its usage and optional equipment, I have to say Corsair really opened my eyes and makes me want to push these all-in-one water cooling solutions, at least ones with capabilities like the H80 just delivered! Going way back to when I first started, any of these coolers with any sort of options on it would run you over $100 and likely more to $129. So the price of $109.99 at Newegg.com isn't that unreasonable. Actually, it's a deal compared to earlier releases. That in mind, take three years of progression in technology, mix in a couple of cool features and the results are this seriously strong competitor and top dog in aftermarket cooling solutions.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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