Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
In all but one of our recent Corsair CPU cooler reviews, we have tended to slam Corsair for their lack of performance. However, after a bit of time, when it came to testing the H150i RGB Platinum, we saw them turning the corner.
The reason we bring this up is that to us, as well as many consumers, we want coolers that perform first and foremost, as it seems no company out there is worried about being the best or a chart topper anymore. Many companies seem to be moving to "features" being the most significant selling point, which is nice and all, but it tends to leave the cooling market in a stagnate state.
Before we got our hands-on the H115i with an NDA date we had to meet, we were also sent a smaller version from the previous generation of AIOs from Corsair. It is this series of coolers which we seemed to find the lackluster performance that drove us to continue to knock points off of awards in the past, but it does appear there is a sleeper in that lineup as well. We are speaking of the Corsair H100i PRO RGB, where it seems Corsair finally got things right with the mix of fans, software control, and a set of features that will keep the masses happy.
While the Corsair H100i PRO RGB may not be the latest and greatest to come down the pipe, it is more than capable, which is an improvement on what we have seen recently. That is saying a lot about this cooler. Most of what you will see in this review will be things we have seen many times in the past, but with some aggr4essive tuning of the software, Corsair can grab our attention again, and can get to the top end of the chart this time, rather than being satisfied with average results. It appears we may have been a bit pre-mature to denounce the entire line from Corsair as a feature driven product, as it seems they had an Ace in the hole, but wanted us to wade through the mediocre products first before enticing us with the AIO CPU cooler we have for you now.
In the specifications chart we borrowed from the H110i PRO RGB product page, the first thing we see is that this CLC AIO is covered with a 5-year warranty. The chart then goes on to explain that the cold plate is made of copper, while the radiator is made of aluminum. The PWM notification not only goes for the fans, but the pump can also be controlled by this method, as well as user profiles offered in the iCUE software.
Dimensionally, the H100i PRO RGB has a radiator that is 276mm long, 120mm wide and is 27mm thick. While not published, we did measure the head unit and found it to be 80mm side to side, 64mm from top to bottom, and 33mm thick. The last thing you may desire for dimensional information is the length of the tubing, and we have found it to be around 380mm.
The fans which cool the radiator are Magnetic Levitation fans which are 120mm in size, and we get two of them. These fans are 120mm by 120mm and are 25mm thick, and are PWM controllable. The speed of the fans can range from 400 RPM on the low-end, and go as fast as 2400 RPM when let loose. This is what enables the 75 CFM rating, per fan, with 4.2mm H2O of static pressure, but can also deliver much noise to the room with the 37 dB(A) noise level.
Two things we skipped over that are found in the chart are the compatibility and the RGB nature of this product. Starting with the latter, only the head unit offers RGB lighting on this model. The fans do not have RGB lighting. As to the compatibility, the H100i PRO RGB will fit Intel LGA115X sockets and LGA2011/2066 sockets. On the AMD side of mounting, you can use this cooler with AM2, AM3, AM4, and with the purchase of a bracket, it is showing to work with TR4 sockets as well.
Cost is a big factor when it comes to buying anything POC related, and current pricing of the H100i PRO RGB is enticing. Corsair has the MSRP set to $119.99, which isn't all that bad to start. However, looking at Newegg for this cooler is a bit of a shock, as they are asking an astounding $159.99 right now. Skipping past that price, as nobody in their right mind is going to pay that price when much larger AIO solutions can be had at that cost, we moved on to Amazon. It was there where we found the best price, with a $109.99 ask, and at that cost, we feel there is value to be had.
The front of the packaging will attract the eye with the bright bands of yellow as well as the RGB wave found behind the image of the H100i PRO RGB in the center. We also see notifications for Corsair Link, which is iCUE now, that there is a pair of 120mm fans inside, and that there is a 5-year warranty. At the bottom, we see the mention of the RGB head unit, as well as that this AIO is designed for low noise production.
The right end of the box is bright yellow, with the Corsair name at the top. There is a view of the cooler in the middle where the yellow color breaks, and at the bottom is the full name of this product.
Around back, the left side is used to show the fans, a zero RPM mode, and that there is software control. The middle is used to mention the RGB nature of the head unit again, while also covering the dimensions of the radiator with a pair of renderings. That left the right side of the panel to display a condensed list of specifications in six languages.
The left end of the box is yellow to match the other end, but this time the panel is used to display a list of four features which have all been covered, as well as offering an illuminated view of the H100i PRO RGB at the bottom.
The longer sides of the box are used, in this case, to display compatibility, mention the software, and explain what should be found inside the box.
The last side of the box, while still mentioning Corsair LINK rather than iCUE, it also explains that it can be used for control of the fans for an "ideal" combination of cooling power and noise. The software is also where you address the colors of the LEDs in the head unit, with lighting modes available as well, not just static colors.
As they all do, this Corsair AIO is packed inside of plastic bags and placed in an inner cardboard container. It has once again allowed the cooler to get to us in perfect condition and ready for its close-ups to come.
Corsair H100i PRO RGB CPU Cooler
The head unit of the H100i PRO RGB is square-ish, with cut corners, and a bright silver ring around the outside. In the center, the cover is shiny and black, and while it is evident that the Corsair name and logo will be illuminated, there is also a band that can be seen on the right and across the top, which illuminates as well. The right side of the block is where the tubing is attached and where the wires emanate, to help with a clean looking installation.
At the end of all of the leads coming from the head unit, we find that there is a SATA power lead for the RGB LEDs, pump, and fan power, as the pair of 4-pin fan leads come from the head unit. The last connection is for RPM sensing and gets plugged into the CPU fan header on the motherboard.
Under the head unit, we see the machined copper cold plate with the pre-applied TIM on it. Looking beyond that, we know the metal mounting bracket is twist-locked onto the head unit, making it much easier to swap out the default Intel bracket for AMD usage.
We removed the thermal paste for two reasons. One is because we use the same paste on all coolers, but more importantly, we want to look at the mating surface. We can see that it is machined across the entire surface, but what you cannot tell without a straight edge on it, is that the base is convex to aid with pressure when mounting it.
Moving away from the head unit, we pulled out the tape measure. We find that the cables coming from the head unit are all ten inches in length. We also see that the sleeved tubing is fifteen inches from the head unit to the radiator.
Both sides of the radiator display the Corsair name and logo with an embossed chromed sticker so that no matter how it is installed, it is easy to see who made the product when the head unit is not in view. This image also shows the 27mm thickness of the frame, but the radiator fins, as in any AIO, are thinner.
The end of the radiator opposite the end where the tubing connects is where you will find the product sticker. It not only shows the CW-9060033-WW model number but also shows this unit will draw 15 Watts at maximum.
Looking through the fins and getting a good look at the rest of the radiator, we have mounti9ng holes for 120mm fans on the frame, while the rest of the view is of the high FPI arrangement of fins. Randomly choosing a spot to count, we came up with twenty-three fins in the inch we measured.
Accessories and Documentation
On the left is the universal Intel backplate for mounting. It has adjustable ends which allow the threads to slide between 115X and to 1366, even though one of them is not mentioned in the compatibility. To the right is the AMD mounting bracket for the head unit. It too has the slotted holes which allows it to be twist-locked onto the underside of the head unit.
The rest of the mounting hardware is seen here. At the top-left are the four thumbscrews securing the head unit to any of the Intel hardware. At the top-right, we see the LGA2011/2066 standoffs, while at the bottom-left are the standoffs for all other compatible Intel sockets. That leaves us with the AMD mounting screws that require the additional head unit bracket as well as the stock mounting brackets on the AMD motherboard.
When it comes time to install the fans, you will find that Corsair has provided the needed eight screws to get that done. There are sixteen washers, which are used on the fan screws, as well as on the shorter eight screws, which will mount the radiator to the chassis if the fans are on the opposite side.
One essential part that allows the iCUE software to "talk" to the H100i PRO RGB is this USB cable. The Micro-USB end connects to the left side of the head unit. You then route the wire behind the motherboard and connect the native 10-pin USB connector to the motherboard.
With black frames and rubber pads molded into the corners of them, these fans support the seven gray blades with magnets rather than traditional bearings. We spun one of the fans to get the part number, should you want another pair for push-pull, but all we can find is the number 31-005165.
As far as paperwork is concerned, there is quite a bit given. There is the quick start guide, which shows what you should have, how to make the connections, and where to get the software. Along with the standard warranty guide, there is also an insert for the Australian market, as to what they cover for the five years. We also see, what we can only guess, is a lead warning for specific markets.
Installation and Finished Product
The first thing we need to do is to slide the threaded ends to the center of the backplate for our LGA115X test system, align the holes, and set the backplate onto the back of the motherboard. Clearance is excellent, but keep in mind, there is no tape, so you need to hold the plate in place when flipping the motherboard.
Once flipped, you can install the Intel standoffs. Screw them in until you run out of threads, and yes, the assembly will still be loose once the standoffs are fully installed.
After applying thermal paste to the CPU, we can then install the head unit. With the logo placed in line with the motherboard, we found no issues securing the head unit, not any problems with the tubing rubbing against the memory.
With fifteen inches of tubing between the head unit and the radiator, it allows for many more options when it comes to locations to install the H100i PRO RGB. For any of the other wiring, the length of the cables was more than enough to hide them and keep a clean look at the end.
Once the power is applied, we found the H100i PRO RGB running with the RGB lighting already active on the head unit. It was cycling through many colors, of which we happened to catch it while purple, but the options are pretty much endless to match any build.
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 the defined "modes" in iCUE software, we find three results for the stock round of testing. At 61.5-degrees, we see bottom of the barrel performance for the Quiet Mode. Moving up the list slightly is Balanced Mode where we look at 58.75 degrees as that result. However, if you opt for the Extreme Mode, we see the H100i PRO RGB tied for seventh place at 54.25-degrees.
Applying the overclock while still using the modes that iCUE provides, we find the cooler falls down the list quite a bit. Quiet Mode gets to 79.25-degrees, which is way too warm for us. Slightly better is the Balanced Mode where we saw 75.75-degree results. Again, the Extreme Mode does as it should, and while increasing efficiency some seven degrees from the Quiet Mode, the 72.25-degree result is not all that great, considering it gets bumped out of the top twenty.
However, there is one option left that we have not yet tried, and that is setting the pump and the fans to a fixed 100% and running the overclocked test again. With much noise to go with it, we were able to drop nearly two more degrees, resulting in this 70.5-degree result, which is the best the H100i PRO RGB can perform for us.
Noise Level Results
During the stock CPU testing, we also took sound measurements of the fans. For reference, the pump will always top out at 30 dB. In Quiet Mode, the fans never broke 25 dB at 690 RPM. Balanced Mode puts the fans topping out at 760 RPM with a 26 dB rating, and Extreme Mode has the fans turning at 1310 RPM with 32 dB measured at that time.
Applying the overclock did not change things much at all. In Quiet Mode, fans at 770 RPM now, the noise is only 26 dB. The Balanced Mode has the fans max at 880 RPM with 27 dB of noise. The Extreme Mode does not increase much either, even though the fans are spinning at 1480 RPM, the mouse only increases to 34 dB.
To get the best thermal performance from the H100i PRO RGB, you need to set the fans to the fixed 100% option in iCUE. Doing so allowed our fans to spin up to 2460 RPM, but the noise drastically increases to 59 dB as well.
What we have found with the H100i PRO RGB is an affordable way into reasonably decent performance, especially when considering this against all of the other Corsair AIOs on the charts. The looks are clean and attractive, and while the RGB lighting may be limited to just the head unit, we find it is enough, as most of the RGB in a PC is contained to the motherboard, video cards, and RAM.
The cooler is easy to install, and with the sufficient length of cables and tubing, size of the chassis nor the location you wish to use should be of any concern. Compatibility with iCUE software ups the game a fair bit too. While many makers will not even offer software control of their AIOs, it is easy for Corsair to jump ahead with things like fan and pump presets, color changing capabilities with reactive modes to sound or temperature, as well as many other color modes outside of static RGB LEDs. Combined, all of this comes together to ensure everyone out there can have their cake and eat it too.
Performance is fair, and for the size of this AIO, it does reasonably well. When comparing to other Corsair units, there is the H80, which was a beast, along with the H115i RGB Platinum as well as the H150i PRO that can outperform it thermally, but two out of those three are considerably more expensive options. Noise levels are kept low and are why there are defined gaps in the thermal testing, and unless you are in Extreme or Custom Modes, the noise will be of little concern.
To get the most out of the cooler, you will be dealing with the loud drone of fan noise, but running the fans in either mode is more for benching runs, where they would not be running so fast all of the time anyway. For what it is, and for what the current pricing is, we feel there is a fair mix of aesthetics, performance, and low noise in most scenarios.
If what you have seen here gets you wanting to start shopping for it, cut to the chase and go to Amazon. Currently listed at $109.99, we feel it is a fair price to pay for what we have seen from the H100i PRO RGB. We cannot ignore that there are more affordable solutions in air cooling that perform better with similar noise, but none are as easy to install, they don't take the weight off the socket, and case width is rarely an issue when installing an AIO into a mid-tower or larger chassis. That being said, for the ease of mind, decent performance with the option to go a bit crazy when needed, all piles on to have us still recommending the H100i PRO RGB for AIO consumers, as it is a good all-around option.
The Bottom Line: While not a chart topper, the H100i PRO RGB from Corsair has what it takes to sell to the masses. Fair performance, inclusion of RGB to the head unit, and all at a reasonable cost makes it hard to gloss over this CPU cooler!
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