It is sort of funny to think back to when I started reviewing CPU coolers, and when I got my first AIO cooler. Back then we were all just happy to try out the new technology, and used these systems at the time for looks and weight reduction on the CPU sockets, since performance wasn't all that great back then. Today there are enough manufacturers out there that you have a full array of options. Not only can you go from single to dual radiator solutions, you can get them with onboard software controls, fancy lights, and just about every design of a head unit you could think of. These days you don't have to go to Asetek or CoolIT to get these units, but you can find all of the major players in the market have some sort of an AIO kit to compete and demand your money.
In this great confusion of offerings, Corsair is one company that I think took things to the next level. They were willing to try both camps for AIO suppliers, and over the years have taken the original H50 to new heights. Developments on the sidelines like lower wattage head units, improvements in fan technology, and listening to one of the largest customer bases, Corsair has been making changes to accommodate the masses as well. Since they have now gone to the latest generation of head units with the lowest power used since AIO's came around, where do they have to go to expand on these units?
With the last sample I received from Corsair, the H90 took things to new sizes and sound levels. While the H90 is the most silent sealed AIO on the market, the performance was just a bit lacking in my opinion. This is what leads us to where we are today with the latest cooler to hit the desk, the Hydro Series H110. This is the larger brother to the H90, and in this instance, it keeps the same fan that was on the H90, just now there are two. They aren't to run a push/pull setup on a thicker 140mm radiator, this time you get two fans to go on one side of the dual 140mm radiator that comes on the H110.
That being said, performance should definitely get better with the increase of surface area, but at what cost, and just how much is what we are just about to cover. If you are looking for the latest in sealed AIO's and demand performance out of the units, the Hydro Series H110 just may be your answer - continue reading to see for yourself.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Most of the specifications on this pair of charts are going to be identical to the H90, but there is one major change to the H110 that I will address first. It does still use a 29mm thick radiator, but this time the size has been increased to 312mm long, and 140mm wide, leaving users with a dual 140mm radiator this time. Since we are discussing the radiator anyways, I may as well cover the fact that the entire radiator, micro-channels, fins, and barbs are all made of aluminum, and then painted black. The system does come pre-filled and sealed with a special coolant inside of it to reduce the effects of mixed metals in these systems. Lastly, this radiator has a high FPI count of 26, which means you will need some pretty good fans to cool these units.
The fans that come along in the kit are capable of 94 CFM when maxed out, and can produce up to 1.64mmH2O of pressure through those small gaps in the radiator. Since we have moved to 140mm fans, you now get better flow and pressure ratings with lower RPMs allowing these units to be some of the most silent fans offered on AIOs today. The H110 will fit almost any socket out there today, and uses the same locking mount system that we saw in the H90 around the head unit. Speaking of the head unit, this one will draw up to 5.76W if you supply 12 volts to that fan connection. To cool the CPU, these use a copper cold plate with micro-channels cut into the back side to allow the coolant to pull the heat from the copper and deliver it to the radiator.
The one thing about the Hydro Series H110 that may hold it back a bit in sales is the price point. I did a bit of shopping around, and currently, even with free shipping, the best deal I could find was the $129.99 listing at Newegg. Here are the reasons why this may hurt the H110 specifically. The H100i may be smaller, but has more features and at a better price point. Then there are the other solutions out now from NZXT like the Kraken X60, which may cost more, but on paper it should outperform this unit. Lastly and the killer to most units like this is that for $10 more you can have a completely customizable AIO from Swiftech, even if the radiator is smaller, in the end its all down to the thermal results.
That in mind, let's get a good look at the Hydro Series H110 and strap this thing on to our test bed, and see if what I am addressing is true or not.
The H110 is obviously a larger system just by looking at the size of the box, even if you don't see the image of the cooler on it. The packaging is still black, but this time a red accent is used in the H of the H110 denoting the Hydro Series. You can also see the icon denoting the pair of 140mm fans in this kit.
On the right it starts with the Corsair logo and name, and gets right into the performance and a description of the radiator that maximizes the area to maximize the performance. This information is then repeated in six other languages.
At the top is says we can take our CPUs to a new level with this system, covers the numbers versus a stock cooler, shows the compatibility, and also gives you a list of the components inside.
The left side of the packaging offers a specifications chart for the H110, and again this is repeated in various languages.
The top is where you will find some of the features listed about the H110. Here it covers the 140mm nature of the fans and radiator; it also covers the low evaporation tubing, the cold plate design, and ease of the mounting hardware. It also directs you to the web site for a compatibility list.
Inside of the box you find the same recycled cardboard container that all of these systems ship with. Here the radiator and the head unit are at the back and top of this image. Under the manual is where the fans and hardware are stored. Keeping the components separated is a must, and with this, my H110 arrived in perfect condition.
Corsair Hydro Series H110 AIO CPU Cooler
As was the head unit on the H90, the H110 also has a round head unit that holds the pump for this system under the cap, and on the reverse is the cold plate that will remove the heat from the CPU.
These units come with a pair of swivel fittings on the head unit to give users a bunch of flexibility when installing these coolers - and I know it's a bit out of focus, but this head unit is powered with the 3-pin fan header.
The Hydro Series coolers come with thermal paste pre-applied to the cold-plate, so during transit Corsair cover it all over with this plastic cap to keep debris from getting in there or disturbing the TIM in any way.
The cap worked very well to protect the thermal paste application for the general users. Since I use the same paste on every cooler to test with, this will be removed.
After removing the paste, you can see the cold plate that makes contact with the processor is milled in a circular pattern. As I mentioned with the H90, the H110 is been milled with a high spot in the center. This area is around 5mm in diameter, and then the rest of the plate slopes away from the center as it makes its way to the edge.
The black tubing used in this sample was 12.5 inches long; a full inch longer than the H90, but the fan lead is still 10.5 inches long.
At the other end of the tubing is the 280mm radiator, which is actually 312mm from left to right. While offering a 26 FPI count for the fins on this radiator, you will notice the wide spacing in the middle for the fans. Since cases are designed with this room between them, so it the H110.
Looking at the radiator from this angle, you not only get to see the sticker with a bit of information on it, like the power draw, you also get an idea of the 140mm wide and 29mm thick dimensions of this system.
Accessories and Documentation
In a bunch of zip tight plastic bags you can find all of your hardware. In the top row you have the metal inserts that go into the back plate and the foam to attach that back plate. You then have the eight plastic components of the mounting hardware for the top plate. The bottom row offers four screws for many of the sockets, four screws for LGA2011, and eight long screws with washers to mount the fans to the radiator.
This is the other half of the mounting systems. On the left are the AMD back plate and AMD top bracket. In the middle is the locking ring that is used for both setups. Then on the right are the Intel components for the top and back of the motherboard.
This is the same fan shipped with the H90 that we found a pair of with the H110. With slightly better than average static pressure and 94 CFM of air flow, they should do just fine on here as well.
The manual on the left offers good drawings of each step of the assembly. The test is somewhat limited in these guides, but thanks to the work of the artist, the images will get you through the installation without even reading anything. There is also a warranty insert for this unit that covers the terms and conditions and who to talk to in case of any issues.
Installation and Finished Product
The first thing I did to get the installation underway was to add the fans to the radiator. Typically these would be installed through a chassis as well, but since I use an open air system to test with, the fan mounting is irrelevant to the side of the radiator or which way they are facing.
With the fans on, you now get to see the Hydro Series H110 in all its glory ready to be installed to the system so we can test it.
Then I went ahead and got the back plate ready by installing the metal inserts in the proper holes and applying the foam that will help keep the plate off the motherboard, but also acts to hold it to the board to make installation a touch easier, especially if done in a chassis.
There we have the back plate now added to the back of the motherboard. Yes, I know the plate is a bit crooked, but with the holes provided for the multiple sockets, they have to do this to make it all work.
Taking the top bracket, adding in the two piece clips with the LGA1155/1156 pointing out, I then slid in the thumbscrew. Repeat this on all four corners and you are almost ready to install the head unit.
The last step to installing the hardware to the cooler is to put the top metal ring with the screws onto the head unit, and lock the tabs into the slots. Once that is complete, you just have to snap in the plastic lock ring to keep the hardware in place as you mount this.
One thing the H110 lacks from the hardware kit is the Y-splitter to make powering the fans on the H110 much easier. This is a very cheap part to add to a kit, and I cannot understand why Corsair wouldn't include on at this price point.
With the H110 installed on the motherboard, there are zero clearance issues around the socket. With the length of tubing supplied, there will be no issues getting the H110 installed in the top of a chassis that provides dual 140mm mounting there.
The Test System and Thermal Results
Testing for the CPU coolers is done with the use of RealTemp to ascertain temperatures, Intel Burn Test to deliver the load to the CPU and CPU-Z to verify the CPU speed and the voltage being used in Windows. All of the testing is done with an ambient temperature of 24.5-25°C and humidity is maintained to 35% sometimes less.
For the "stock" runs, it's more of a plug and play setup where the PWM of the motherboard is in control of the fans speeds for both the idle and load results. Speed Step is active and the processor idles at 1600 MHz and loads at 3500 MHz for the stock settings. I also set the memory to run at 1600 MHz for stock. As for the overclocked runs, I load the CPU at 4.5 GHz and idle results are obtained with 7.5V to the fans while the load run is set to deliver 12V to the fans. This allows me to gauge the lowest and highest fan ratings for my charts.
You will also see that the charts have been slightly adjusted. From now on I will mention the idle temperatures if there is something worth noting other than an average of twenty-five to twenty-seven degrees as the PWM controls and SpeedStep allow for almost ambient results in most instances. What you are now getting is a stock speed loaded temperature chart and an overclocked loaded temperature chart. To clean up the audio results, I also removed all of the fans that aren't on the thermal charts. If you want to compare those results to new coolers, the old chart is still available in the older reviews.
Stock runs do really well on the H110. With a result of 47 degrees, the H110 comes in right alongside of the H220, and is the best performance of any sealed AIO I have tested.
Losing just a slight bit of ground to the competition at the overclocked runs, the H110 still does really well. 68 degrees is the same as the best air cooler we have tested, but does fall behind the Seidon and H220 at this point.
Noise Level Results
With a pair of fans on the radiator, and the stock run only demanding 1020 RPM from the fans, the 31 dB rating is average at best. Compared against the competing air cooler though at this point is slightly more silent.
When overclocked, the H110 still is pretty average in the noise department. While all of the AIOs on the list besides the Thermaltake offerings are near this 52 dB range, when compared to the SB-E, the H110 becomes the obvious choice.
I don't want to downplay anything that the Hydro Series H110 has to offer, it's just that the market for this specific unit is so narrow. First of all you have to have a chassis that provides the ability in the top to hold a pair of 140mm fans. More cases are doing this now, but I think people buy more coolers than cases over the long haul, and this may make users require an additional purchase. While the performance is good, it isn't great for the size and cost, and I can only paint it in a pretty picture by comparing it to another air cooler, as most other dual radiator solutions, even 120mm solutions keep right on pace with the H110, if not surpass it. Even when it comes down to the noise levels during our testing, the H110 isn't all that impressive.
In the realm of the casual buyers out there, the H110 shines in a different light. It is one of the largest sealed AIO solutions on the market. It does do pretty good, and the results are great compared to a stock cooler. Then there is the fact that a lot of buyers out there also have Corsair cases, PSUs, SSDs, and memory, so why not keep the theme going? In this type of a situation, I can see someone spending the money and using the H110 to complete the themed build with a bit of bragging rights to having the largest Corsair AIO you can buy.
For those looking for the best bang for the buck, or even just top end performance regardless of price, I have to say there are better solutions out there to take your money. Of course I would expect that the triple 120mm radiators on the custom kits would have outperformed the H110, but I did not expect both the Seidon 240M and the H220 to be able to do better than this unit. Once you start to really discuss pricing of the new H110, it gets a little worse. If these had been priced closer to $100, I could really get behind the idea. With a $129.99 price tag, and not handling business fully as it should, I think Corsair may have taken a misstep here with these new 140mm cooling solutions.
Again, as with the H90, I would definitely take more noise while gaming or benching to raise the efficiency of these units a couple of degrees. In my mind, these units should be able to take on the low end of custom water cooling, and the H110 just leaves me wanting more and a bit disappointed.
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