The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Corsair has been in the sealed loop AIO game for what seems like forever. We have seen many great coolers along the way, as well as the rash of recent products that use silence as the pinnacle to what makes an AIO great today. Even though we are not fans of, nor do we pull any punches when it comes to the latter type of coolers, we are still going forth with what could be another review where we do not put Corsair or their products in the best light.
However, when we asked if they wanted us to review the cooler based on our stance on this matter, they had no issues having us put the newest AIO through the ringer and seeing what comes out the other side. To us, this means one of two things. They either get significant traffic from our reviews, which leads to purchases anyways, or better yet, they may have changed their minds and made a CPU cooler which is a cooler first, and a silent light show second. We can only hope the latter is true, and we have a sealed loop system worthy of getting excited about again.
Beyond the cooling capabilities of the latest entrant, we see many changes have happened to the Hydro Series coolers. The square head unit is back, but rather than a gray or silver surround, this time a metal ring is applied, with a natural metal coloration and brushed texture. The hardware has changed, and gone are the plastic nuts on the backplate, in favor of metal ones, and the standoffs have been stylistically changed as well as the thumbscrews.
While many Corsair AIOs have RGB lighting, none have come before with twenty-four individually addressable RGB LEDs. There are many smaller things you may pick up on along the way as well, but the other big deal is the inclusion of this cooler into the iCUE software. It is what drives this system to do almost anything you can imagine, whether speaking of the lighting or looking to control the cooling of the AIO with everything from preset modes to fan curves, and even the ability to turn the fans off altogether for those times when the CPU is not under heavy load.
Just in the way Corsair names the newest of their AIOs hitting the market as you read this, our excitement is high, but so are our expectations. The Corsair H115i RGB Platinum, in and of itself, delivers the feel of being a top-tier product all by itself. However, if you are looking at the box or some of their literature, Corsair goes on to describe the H115i RGB Platinum as an "extreme performance 280mm RGB liquid CPU cooler."
The feeling we get from this is that if you are going to go that far in the description, buyers will expect better than usual results from this product. Since we have already gone through all of the testing before writing this up, we can surely say with confidence that the H115i RGB platinum liquid CPU cooler may be the beat AIO to hit the market from Corsair in some time. If like us, and you want an AIO that is good all-around and not just silent, hop into our way back machine, as the H115i RGB platinum cooler has brought back our love for sealed loop AIOs again, as they have in years gone by.
In the chart provided by Corsair in the preview literature, we see very little is given when it comes to information, although this is typical for Corsair AIOs. We are shown that the cold plate at the bottom of the head unit is made of copper, but there is no mention of the pump inside, which can top out at 2950 RPM to move the coolant inside.
Corsair does describe the tubing, where we see there is low-permeation rubber tubing used, which has been covered in black sleeving, but no mention of the new hex shaped plastic covers which retain the sleeving at the connection points. At the other end of the tubing is the radiator, which is made of aluminum, and is 322mm long, 137mm wide, and is 27mm thick. However, the fins inside of the radiator are also thicker than previous models, where now they nearly contact the frame of the radiator, rather than having the few millimeter insets the earlier models had.
Cooling the radiator is a pair of Corsair ML PRO RGB 140mm PWM fans. With a range of 400 to 2000 RPM, these fans are said to deliver 97 CFM. Not only do you get a ton of airflow from these fans, but they are also rated at 3.0 mmH2O of static pressure, and the combination of high flow and enough push to get through the high FPI radiator is exactly what you need to deliver high-end performance. The last mention on the fans is about their noise level, which we see is shown to be 37 dB(A) at maximum speed.
One last thing can make or break a product, and that is the price. We are used to Corsair asking top dollar when their AIOs hit the market, yet at the same time, comparatively, we feel that Corsair is on point this time around. While the $169.99 MSRP may be a bit of a sticker shock to some, when you sit back and consider all of the things they changed, the capabilities of this cooler, both in thermal performance as well as its aesthetics, the price is more reasonable the more you ponder.
With what you are about to see, you may be looking at the best AIO, in all aspects, to hit the market in quite some time. That being said, with many similarly priced coolers on the market with only silence in mind as the driving force, it won't be long until you realize what a unique cooler this new H115i RGB Platinum is.
The box for the H115i RGB Platinum is busy and bright. On the left, we see the Corsair logo, with mentions of iCUE, 140mm fans, and the five-year warranty. In the middle is a look at the H115i RGB platinum in all of its illuminated glory, and we also find mention of the multi-zone RGB head unit.
On this longer side panel, the left half covers the compatibility and the inclusion of iCUE as long as you have an extra USB 2.0 internal header. The right half of the panel has what comes in the box, which lists the cooler, two ML 140 fans, mounting hardware, the iCUE cable, and the guide.
Both of the smaller side panels are identical and start with the Corsair name and logo at the top. Below we are told of its extreme performance, magnetic levitation fans, and its quiet cooling capabilities. Beyond that, we see another image of the cooler followed by its full name at the bottom.
The second of the long side panels offer information we have already seen, but Corsair had some space to fill. All names are present, along with another image of the cooler, but this time the main point is to dive a little deeper into what the iCUE software can provide.
The back of the package points out the pair of ML 140 fans and their customizable lighting, the copper cold-plate, the head unit with individually controlled RGB LEDs, and the fact that there is a Zero RPM mode offered as well. To the right, there are dimensional renderings of the radiator, with a list of technical specifications.
Once the box is opened, and the dense foam layer has been removed, you can see all of the components packed neatly in a partitioned inner package. This ensures all parts do not meet while traveling to your door, and as it has in the past, it allowed our H115i RGB Platinum to arrive in perfect condition for images and testing.
Corsair H115i RGB Platinum CPU Cooler
The head unit has been dressed to fit the Platinum name, with the new brushed metal ring around the black center section with the Corsair name and logo. The logo, as well as the thin ring around the black plastic, is RGB LED backlit with three LEDs on all sides, with an additional four LEDs in the center.
The right side of the head unit is where the tubing connects to it via the ninety-degree swivel fittings. The tubing has black sleeving over the rubber tubes, but we also notice the hexagonal-shaped covers where they all meet.
The left side of the head unit is where the iCUE USB cable attaches to the system and is also where the fill port for the AIO is, although it has been sealed, and is not meant to be refilled or topped off. At the left of the image, or at the top of the head unit, this is where the wires exit.
Due to compatibility, the round application of thermal paste is not enough, so a much broader application is used now. However, the plastic cover that protects this area has allowed debris into the paste, which could cause issues with mating to the CPU.
We do not use the provided paste for testing, so the debris issue is moot, but once removed, we can see the cold plate in its entirety. It is convex, with the center being the highest point, and the machine marks are still visible, but less noticeable than in previous designs.
Back to the wires coming from the head unit, we see some usual suspects and a couple of new ones. The head unit, including the pump and LEDs, are powered with the SATA power connector, and there is a 3-pin fan lead coming from that cable to read RPMs. The connectors in the middle are for RGB control of the ML 140 fans, and of course, the 4-pin fan connectors power the fans.
Leaving the head unit, on the way to the radiator, we see that Corsair has given us fifteen inches of tubing, and the cables range from ten to eleven inches. There are plenty of both to allow the radiator into the front of a chassis, as well as not making too much hassle when it comes to wiring.
This image shows three things. One is the sticker at the left, which verifies the name of the cooler and is where the serial number is located, should an RMA be needed. We also see the radiator is 27mm thick, but you can see how much closer the fins are to the frame now. Lastly are the tube connections again, where we find the hexagon-shaped plastic covers.
This 240mm radiator is built tough, and even though the fin stack is thicker, no issues from screws will arise. They can screw into the fins once they pass the frame. The FPI is quite high, as most AIOs are, and we counted twenty-three fins per inch in the area we chose to count in.
Accessories and Documentation
While the head unit ships with the universal Intel mounting brackets, Corsair not only takes care of the AMD users with the single point of mounting brackets, they also include a set for TR sockets, and all of them push into a groove in the head unit. In the middle is the Intel backplate for 115x and 1366 sockets, while AMD mounting uses the stock backplate.
The four thumbscrews work with all Intel mounting as well as the TR systems, in conjunction with one of the three sets of standoffs. To the right of the nuts are the LGA20xx standoffs, while the ones below are for LGA115x and LGA1366, leaving the last set for AMD TR CPUs. The two screws next in line are for AMD sockets AM2 through AM4 including FM sockets. The last bits we have in this image are the sixteen long fan screws, eight short case screws, and eight washers to get the fans and radiator mounted.
To allow iCUE to "talk" to the H115i RGB Platinum, this cable must be connected. The angled end attaches to the side of the head unit, while the USB 2.0 connection needs connecting to the motherboard.
The pair of ML 140 fans are slightly different than ones we have seen in the past. This time, with the black frame and rubber corner pads, the seven blades are white to allow the RGB LEDs in the hub to make the blades glow. Both fans have a 4-pin power lead, but also have a thinner 4-pin connection, which is to control the RGB LEDs.
The literature includes a well thought out guide to ensure everything is mounted and connected correctly so that the H115i RGB Platinum works as intended. The warranty guide covers what Corsair feels are things to fix for five years. Things are slightly different for the Australian audience, as there is a second warranty guide specific to them.
Installation and Finished Product
The Intel backplate is universal in orientation as all sides are notched to miss the socket screws. You do need to adjust the nuts in or out dependent on the socket size, and there is a sticker on the reverse to secure the plate to the socket.
Locking the backplate to the motherboard is the job of the four standoffs seen at the corners of the socket. Screw them in until you run out of threads, and you will have the correct height on the standoffs for proper head unit pressure.
We applied some thermal paste and mounted the head unit to the motherboard, using the knurled nuts, securing all of the mounting hardware together. The tubing stays clear of the RAM, and we can route the wires coming from the head unit, while the USB cable is more visible.
With everything mounted into the chassis, we can see that not only the head unit has the Corsair name and logo, as the chromed one on the side of the radiator stands out as well. With the radiator much further away from the top of the motherboard than in many case designs, we still have plenty of tube, even if mounted in the front of other cases.
Once powered, the system and the H115i RGB Platinum come to life. The head unit has a rainbow of colors circling in a clockwise motion, while the fans mimic the same. Keep in mind, this is one of many pre-defined patterns, and the lighting is fully customizable on a per LED basis.
Test System Setup, Thermal Tests, and Noise Results
Chad's CPU Cooler Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus VIII HERO (Intel Z170) - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- CPU: Intel Core i7 6700K - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Patriot Viper 4 3000MHz 4X4GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Graphics Card: MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB OC - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage: Corsair Neutron XTi 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: INWIN D-Frame - Read our review
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower DPS 1050W - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Software: RealTemp 3.70, AIDA64 Engineer 5.75.3900, and CPU-z 1.77.0 x64
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 (October 2016) for more information.
Using iCUE to set the fans and the pump to run in Quiet, Balanced, or Extreme modes with the system running at stock, the results in the chart are what we saw. Quiet results are fair at 55.75-degrees, but the Balanced performance is a degree and a half better still, breaking into the top ten. However, if you opt for the Extreme mode, you get into the top three coolers in the chart at 52.5-degrees.
Obtaining these results is much the same as the first chart, using iCUE to set the mode, but this time the Pc has been overclocked. In Quiet mode, the H115i RGB platinum does well, but not great. A two-degree difference is where the Balanced mode comes in at 70.5-degrees, and in Extreme mode, the 68.75-degree result is excellent, although in fourth place overall.
While not gaining a single change in temperature, we did take the time to run the H115i RGB Platinum at full speed. Using iCUE, we set the fans and the pump to run at 100%, via a slider found ion the software. It proves that Corsair has their Extreme profile fan curves set to the best it can offer, and you deal with slightly less noise as well.
Noise Level Results
Quiet mode gave us the least noise at 26dB, and the highest we saw the fans spinning was 600 RPM. The Balanced mode allows the fans to turn faster, seeing them at 880 RPM, while delivering 28dB, both very acceptable results. However, when we let Extreme mode rip, the fans jumped to 1800 RPM with a droning noise at 50 dB. These results are with the PC at stock clocks.
Applying the overclock, things change quite a bit. Quiet mode is still acceptable at 27 dB while the fans are at 730 RPM. Balanced mode takes a hit with a jump to 31 dB with fans turning at 1120 RPM. Using the Extreme setting takes the fans to 56 dB as the fans spun at 1960 RPM.
Running the cooler with the pump maxed out at 2950 RPM, and the fans were turning at 2080 RPM the 60 dB noise of the fans overpower the 30 dB coming from the pump. With the increase in noise and the lack of advancement in temperatures, there is no need to put your ears through this.
Lately, we have had a bone to pick with all of these AIO makers that caved to the idea that all customers want an AIO that looks good, but is not heard, regardless of the performance; but we love that Corsair stepped out of that mold. The H115i RGB Platinum reminds us of days gone by, where AIO makers were in a battle to top the charts, which works well for us in the end. On the most basic levels, the cooler is stunning to look at, has RGB all over it that can be matched to anything else controlled by iCUE, it performs well for those not afraid of noise, and is an all-around value considering everything you get here.
Digging deeper, the choice of fans are perfect for a sweet balance of limited noise or the option for top-tier performance. While at lower speeds, anything under near 1000 RPM, you can hear the full speed pump over the fans. At the same time, with so much CFM and static pressure, Corsair did an excellent job of catering to all markets at once. While with our sample, no matter how we configured the software or selected options for the pump, ours ran at full speed, all of the time, no matter if it said Quiet, Balanced, Extreme, or Fixed Percentage. To us that isn't a bad thing, as with the limited flow of these AIOs, the faster the pump spins, the better.
The iCUE software is where all of the magic happens though, and well beyond the fact that cooling profiles can be addressed. First of all, it is unified software, so that all Corsair devices can be controlled within the same system, and you can make all Corsair products have the same pattern at one time, which is cool. Beyond that, you can see the coolant temperature inside of the loop and is what the fan curves are based upon. Going a step further, there is the lighting system, which does all of what we addressed already but goes much further.
Not only are there some thirty or so pre-set options to choose between. Some are individual, some fall into the customizable, and the rest fall into the "lighting link" section where all connected devices are tied together. Even further, you can open a window with all of the LEDs shown on the head unit as well as the fans, and by clicking on one, or groups of LED indicators, you can layer profiles to make the lights do well more than what the team at Corsair could have limited you too.
Corsair has set themselves apart this time, with the introduction of the h115i RGB Platinum CPU cooler, and we will tell you why. In the old days, all AIOs were loud, and companies tired their hardest to be on the top of the chart. Then came the silent and RGB phase of coolers, where it seems some teething issues were looked over, things were tweaked, and maybe they realized that when a $50 cooler can beat your $120 solution, you may need to rethink the game. In all aspects, for whatever reasons, we feel that the H115i RGB Platinum has raised the stakes to all other AIO makers out there.
They have found a pleasing balance to keep all of their potential customers what they want. If you want silent and pretty to look at, you got it. If you want performance over everything else, and you want to turn out the lights for late night benching sessions, have at it. The H115i RGB Platinum has stood up to the testing, has many new implementations and features we have not seen on any others yet, and with a $169.99 MSRP attached to it, you get much more for the dollar than in previous offerings. If you are in the market for a new AIO for your latest build, head over to Corsair, and check out the new Platinum series of coolers. They have it all, no matter what you desire of it.
The Bottom Line: The H115i RGB Platinum is an AIO anyone can love and appreciate. A perfect mix of silence or performance with stunning looks and the utmost in control of it all. While the price is high, we still feel there is plenty here to make you want to grab it anyways!
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