It seems that just about annually, all of the major companies that offer AIO coolers revise their offerings. Usually, this coincides with newer developments in the head unit, where they take the voltage and amperage down to reduce heat dump. They may also come up with a new radiator design, or like in the instance of Zalman, they produce something so out of the box in thought and design, that they hit the market just when it is ready. Even SilverStone did this.
This time around, from Corsair, we have some improvements to the design. Specifically, there is the newest generation of head units, and they also took a redesign aesthetically. It also seems that Corsair listened to all of the complaints of high noise levels from the previous models, and has adjusted to demand, because there are new fans shipped with this AIO. There is also new mounting hardware, with a new back plate, to hopefully simplify the way things work back there. Of course, there is still a bit of the old kept in the design to make installation of the radiator and head unit similar to what we are all used to in AIO cooling.
Today, we are here to look at one of the latest AIOs to release; in this instance it's the Hydro Series H75. This design uses a single, thin radiator, a pair of fans, and the latest generation of head units, to offer builders something that attempts to appeal to the masses in as many aspects as possible. Stick with us as we give the new hardware a go, and put the H75 through the gauntlet of tests, to see just how well the latest sample to hit the lab can hold up against other AIOs and air coolers.
Judging by what I have already seen: at the least, this review will be interesting to those who have followed the developments of these types of coolers. Corsair may in fact be on a slippery slope with the latest releases, and by the time we are done, we will cover all of the reasons why we feel this way.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The chart provided on Corsair's site (where people will go for the most information on the product) shows us the same limited information we have seen for years from Corsair. First off, they discuss the five year warranty, which is great. But then things get simple fast. They mention the copper cold plate, show that the H75 comes with a pair of 120mm fans, cover the aluminum radiator, and say you get "standard" diameter tubing, whatever that means. In the middle of the chart, they also show that this cooler is compatible with all AMD sockets since AM2, and on the Intel side, anything with 1150 pins or greater in the socket. I really can't see why the information on the packaging cannot be replicated on site. Most people that buy, do so from their office chair, and cannot see the packaging via e-tailer imagery.
There is the new generation of head unit that should produce much less heat dump into the coolant, and aesthetically, we are looking at something new here too. There is a mix of the round head unit, with three large, chunky notches on the sides. They also took that three notch design and added a metal ring, with a shape similar to the head unit, to surround the Corsair name and logo. As for the tubing and radiator, well, these are the same old bits of kit that have worked so well for them in the past, so no need to make any changes there. The kit also includes a pair of AF120 fans, delivering roughly 50CFM of air flow, but these are the black and grey ones without the color change rings.
This time, they have introduced a newer back plate too. It offers the ability to have the threaded inserts set inside of sections that now slide back and forth to adjust to all of the Intel sockets. While it does make the back plate much easier to install without needing to flip the inserts around, or have the back plate sit askew on the back of the motherboard: I'm just not so sure it was a good move. The idea and principle are sound, but in real life, the issues are obvious.
The Hydro Series H75 is widely available just about anywhere you look. At Corsair, they list them with the MSRP of $84.99 U.S.; from what Goggle shows, most places are sticking close to that pricing. Newegg.com has them at spot on pricing to Corsairs MSRP, and even offers free shipping. Amazon.com is a bit cheaper for the initial purchase, but once shipping is included, the pricing starts to pass the $90 mark. As of this moment, the value is still a toss up to me. Compared to most other AIOs this is pretty average pricing, but does the H75 have "that thing" that will make you want to swap from another AIO you already have running?
On the top of the box, there is a large image of the H75 with the naming at the top, and bottom. Across the red bar, it states that this is a high performance, dual fan cooler for your CPU.
This side of the packaging offers a list of what is included inside of the box. It shows that there is the H75 cooler, two AF120L PWM fans, tool-free mounting hardware, and a quick start guide. This is then repeated in various languages. At the bottom is the insignia displaying the five-year warranty.
This longer panel starts off discussing the fans and the 27mm thick aluminum radiator, which is again repeated in many languages. To the right are some in-house charts of the H75 versus the stock Intel cooler, while the bottom covers all of the compatible sockets that this kit will mount to.
There are also full dimensions given on the packaging to offer up all the sizing information needed to see if the H75 will fit in your chassis. It also covers the fan speed, airflow, noise, pressure, and power draw, making this more of a specifications chart than a dimensions chart.
The last panel to offer any information is shown here. This is where Corsair listed six features. The fans are mentioned, along with the mounting, cold plate, radiator dimensions, tubing, and the ceramic bearing in the pump.
Popping open the top of the box first shows you the guide, and a layer of foam. Under that is a recycled cardboard insert that is compartmentalized to keep everything separated, and protected for transit. On this aspect, Corsair does a great job, and the H75 arrived in perfect condition.
Corsair Hydro Series H75 Liquid CPU Cooler
The head unit is likely the most stylish design we have seen from Corsair, with the thick metal ring surrounding the name and logo. Inside of this is the pump and impeller that use the ceramic bearing for smoother operation, and longer lifespan.
The pair of angled fittings are screwed into the plastic head unit, and have plastic collars to keep the rubber tubing attached. Also, the 3-pin fan connector comes out of the block very close to them, and its orientation to the logo allows the cable to run cleanly to the fan header.
Corsair sends the micro-channeled cold plate with a round application of thermal paste. Once this is done, the entire bottom of the head unit gets a plastic cover to protect both the base finish, as well as the TIM application, until you are ready to mount it.
With the TIM removed, it is easier to see the circular milling that the base goes through for the final surface. Also, with this plate, it is higher in the middle, and reduces in height as you move to the sides. This means that mounting pressure is the key to this cooler's success, as the dead center isn't the only hot part of the processor.
To keep the Intel mounting ring on the head unit, there is the black plastic ring that clips into it. This will need to be removed to swap out the AMD ring for AMD installations.
At the other end of eleven and a half inches of black rubber tubing, they meet up with the aluminum radiator. Here, the tubing is stretched over aluminum barbs, but again uses plastic collars to make sure the tubing won't creep off under pressure.
As for the rest of the single 120mm radiator, it uses a high FPI arrangement of the aluminum fins. We all know from experience that to get high performance out of these radiators, you need some serious fans with good air flow, and static pressure, to do these any justice.
This shot was to show off the sticker that is applied to the top of the radiator, but it also works out to highlight the thin 27mm of breadth that the H75 is working with.
Accessories and Documentation
Part of the hardware we have here are the top mounting screws at the top of the image. The next row offers the AMD and LGA2011 mounting standoffs. The bottom row then offers eight long fan screws, eight washers for those screws, and the Intel mounting standoffs for all other sockets.
They also send an Intel back plate that uses very tall (keep this in mind) inserts that go through adjustable plastic bits, which allows this to adjust to all socket sizes Intel provides us with (sans LGA2011). As for AMD users, you send the mounting standoffs into the factory back plate.
To finish up on the hardware, they also include the AMD top ring, so that those users can swap out the ring. You are also given a fan extension cable with two male ends, to power both of the provided fans from a single fan header on the motherboard.
Speaking of the fans, here is our grey bladed duo of AF120L fans. Both are 4-pin powered with PWM ability, and will deliver 54CFM of airflow, show a rating of 2.8mmH2O of static pressure, and are rated at 31.4dBA.
We caught a peek of the installation guide when the packaging was first opened, but inside of it is the warranties insert. This covers what the H75 is protected against in the five-year duration that it is covered.
Since I am going to cover the Intel mounting with the next section, I thought it best to show the AMD side of things. The first bit of preparations made is to remove the four factory socket bracket retention mechanism screws, and replace them with the correct set of AMD standoffs.
There is also a section on how to replace the metal Intel ring for the AMD one. Locate the tabs of the black plastic ring and release them. This allows you to turn and remove the Intel ring, and then reverse the steps with the AMD ring, to take care of the head unit mounting.
Installation and Finished Product
With all four corners of the back plate slid into the right positions, the plate will rest against the back of the motherboard. It is made of a composite material, so no worries of it shorting, but I do wish the metal inserts were sealed at the back, or made to stay put in some fashion.
Flipping over the motherboard, we then inserted the correct standoffs until they run out of threads, but look closely. There is still a fairly large gap between the board and the standoffs. In fact, this gap is the exact amount needed, so that when pressure is added, it allows the metal inserts in the back plate to slip past the plastic and spin.
After a bit of frustration with the inserts backing out, we finally got the head unit mounted properly, and hopefully with the correct pressure on the CPU. I understand a difference in motherboard thickness, but to me the back plate and risers should sandwich the board, and not have play in it when installed.
Instead of just an image of the side of the memory, I raised the angle a bit to show the height of the head unit behind them. It will be slightly taller than the lower height kits out there, but is much shorter than the flames on these sticks.
Clearance to the memory is also not an issue, even with them pointing directly at them. Even from this angle, you can just get the top few mm of the block as it hides behind the thermal armor of the motherboard.
For the sake of testing, we went ahead and got the motherboard back in the chassis, and stuck a couple of screws through the bracket to keep the H75 mounted here for our various tests. Now, let's see what this thing can do.
The Test System and Thermal Results
I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Corsair, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with. To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article for that information.
Plopping down right in the middle, the Corsair H75 delivers a 52.5 degree result with the stock settings. During all of the testing, the pump was at full speed, turning at near 1500 RPM. The fans on the other hand, were spinning at 1250RPM. At a complete idle, this cooler was resting with an average of five degrees above ambient.
Moving up slightly in the chart this time, the H75 delivered a 72.08 degree average in our testing. It does just outpace the TD03, which is direct competition, but still gets beat by a couple of air cooling offerings out there. At this time, the fans were turning at 1900RPM, which is all we could get out of them, and again the pump was at 1500RPM. As for the idle conditions, the H75 only raised a half of a degree from the idle results.
Noise Level Results
With limited volts running through the AF120L fans, Corsair is able to offer the most silent AIO on our charts. A 28dB rating is nothing to laugh at, in fact this goes into the realm of some of the best offerings out there.
When the fans are allowed to run at full blast, the noise level jumps quite a bit, and the H75 loses a couple of spots in the chart. Considering that the noise is just slightly less than the other AIOs on the chart, I am pleased with the findings, but I would have thought it to be more of a jump considering the loss of air flow to get this sort of sound level.
Even now, I am still torn. Corsair does in fact deliver an AIO that is slightly cooler than the TD03, and it is slightly less noisy than other AIO solutions, but there isn't any sort of a "wow factor" here. There is the new generation of head unit that has been changed aesthetically, but also engineered with less heat dumping into the coolant. This allows these somewhat quieter fans to have a little less to deal with. I will give it to Corsair on the choice of fans though. At first, when I saw the lower CFM rating, I had little hope for decent results. However, once I saw the static pressure, I could see how they are able to pull ever so slightly ahead of the Tundra cooler. In the end, they do deliver higher-end performance, and are able to do it with less noise than anything else on the charts, so I have to acknowledge and credit them for those accomplishments.
Where things went south for me was all to do with the new mounting hardware. While I do like the concept of the new back plate with the adjustable ends, some things are better on paper than in the real-world. What I found was just a bunch of frustration, and the fact that when things go bad, you are expected to perform magic with two pairs of pliers, and nothing holding on to the motherboard to correct the issue. What I found is that the metal inserts in the Intel back plate are too tall, and while motherboards very in thickness, there needs to be a way to compensate for this. Since the inserts stood a few millimeters above the motherboard, when we inserted the standoffs, the inserts were then pushing out the back and spinning freely, which is not something you want to see.
Once the standoffs were screwed all the way in, the motherboard was not compressed with the hardware; so when mounting the block, you run into the same issues. So, if the access hole in the motherboard is slightly offset to your motherboard, the block must be mounted before the motherboard is installed. Even when it came time to remove the block, we again ran into the point where the inserts would not stay where they need to be, and again I was going at it with two set of pliers to get it off the test system. A washer at the top of the motherboard would alleviate some of this, but it begs the question: Are we getting the correct mounting pressure then? Could this cooler actually be better than what we saw?
So, while the near $90 price point would typically be acceptable for the thermal and audio performances given by the H75, it just seems like such a huge leap back in design.
We had to undergo frustration all the way through the installation, and while we may have put it in the back of our minds during the testing phase, we were so happily reminded of it when we removed the H75. Unless there is some sort of a fix or revision to this newer design in the mounting hardware, I cannot get behind this cooler and promote it as the charts would allude to. That is a real shame too, as the H75 has the potential to be the cooler that a lot of users are looking for, just as it was delivered. They just aren't quite finished yet in my mind.
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