Corsair Hydro Series H100i Extreme Performance CPU Cooler Introduction

Corsair’s Hydro Series H100i Extreme Performance CPU cooler has been on the market for some time now.  It actually has quite the positive reputation amongst enthusiasts, but most of these tests are against previous generation Intel CPU’s.  Today we’ll take a look at the H100i and put it to the test on a 4th Generation Intel Core-i7 4770k processor and see how well it can tame the somewhat high temperatures that we have seen with Haswell on the retail boxed HSF.

Corsair H100i

If you’re unfamiliar with the H100i, it is Corsair’s 240mm sealed water cooling system.  This setup will have two 120mm fans attached to a thin radiator, then a CPU water block with a pump built-in.  Everything is nice and compact here, to help you fit everything into your system with ease.  With this system being sealed, users will not have to maintain it like other users of custom setups.  So there’s no worrying about evaporation, algae, bleeding, or any of the other hassles that come with custom setups.  The only downfall with these kinds of kits is you’re limited to the CPU water block and are unable to add more cooling for GPUs or MOSFETs; the things extreme enthusiasts want to cool more than the stock coolers can cool.

Corsair has made this radiator quite competitive in terms of cost.  You can pick up the Corsair Hydro Series H100i kit up online at Amazon or Newegg for $99.99 shipped, and the kit includes a wicked cool 5 year warranty!  Corsair definitely wants to let you know that this kit will not let you down!

There is a 120mm version of this series kit, but with the H100i being a 240mm radiator, you will gain extra cooling performance.  Also, this kit is not limited to Intel CPUs, rather it is compatible with a wide assortment of AMD CPUs, as well.  See the below list for socket compatibility.

Corsair Hydro Series H100i Water Cooler Technical Specifications

Compatibility

Hydro Series H100i requires a case with dual 120mm fan mounts with 15mm spacing for a 240mm radiator.

Corsair H100i Water Block

For added control of the H100i system, Corsair has the Corsair Link Dashboard software.  You will simply hook up the included USB cable to a USB header, and then fire up the software for added control and monitoring capabilities of the H100i and your computer.  With this software, you’ll be able to monitor system temperatures, fan speeds, and even change the LED color of the water block.  You can even tell the system when you want it to ramp up the fans; it’s that intuitive.

Please do note that at the time of writing this article, the Corsair Link software was NOT compatible with Haswell CPUs.

Let’s move on and check out the packaging and the contents inside!

Corsair H100i Packaging & Unboxing

Corsair opted for packaging that isn’t too flashy, but also isn’t plain, for the H100i.  The entire box was wrapped in a shrink wrap plastic to keep everything shut and nice.  Throughout the packaging, you will find everything in English and several other languages.

The front of the box shows a nice shot of the H100i system and also mentions that it’s for Intel and AMD CPUs.

Corsair H100i Box Front

Spin this box around to the left side and you’ll find the technical specifications that I listed on the first page.

Corsair H100i Box Left

Spinning onto the back side, you will find a chart that shows a comparison of a 3770k overclocked to 4.5GHz on the H100i and on the stock Intel Cooler.  Corsair made sure to let you know that the stock HSF failed this test!  There is also a graph showing the noise levels of the fans in this kit versus the old H100.  Finally, on the back is also a list of the contents inside the box.

Corsair H100i Box Rear

The very right hand side of the box didn’t have anything to display other than a small H100i logo, which you can see in the first picture.

The top of the box is just a small blurb about the H100i and some general information about Corsair Link and what it can be used for.

Corsair H100i Box Top

Flipping over to the bottom of the box, you’ll find a bulleted list of some features of the H100i.

Corsair H100i Box Bottom

Ripping the shrink wrapping off and cracking open the box, we’re greeted with everything wrapped up nicely in plastic and placed into slots to help prevent damage.

Corsair H100i Box Packing

Wanting to look at the meat of the box first, I pulled out the radiator and water block.  The radiator is painted a nice black throughout, and everything else is black.  The liquid that is inside all Hydro Series coolers is a mixture of distilled water and propylene glycol to help prevent corrosion and organic build-up.  To mate the radiator to the CPU water block, Corsair uses a large diameter low permeable tubing to prevent kinks and help with durability of the system.  This in turn also helps prevent leaks in your system, which is absolutely a nightmare you don’t want to visit.

Corsair H100i

Looking at the CPU water block, you’ll notice some wires hanging off of it and some points to hook up other connectors.  The wires that hang off are the SATA power connector and a 3-pin connector.

Corsair H100i Power Connectors

Out of the box, you’ll notice that Corsair has the thermal compound applied to the block already, and it has a plastic protector on it.

Corsair H100i Water Block

Taking that plastic covering off, this is what you’ll see.

Corsair H100i Paste

The first set of connector points that you can find, are the ones to hook up the fans to this system. You’ll be able to connect up to 4 fans to the block, and you’ll see how that’s possible on the next page.  This will allow those who have the room, the ability to set up a push-pull configuration, which is ideally what you want, but not everyone can have.  With this kit, we’ll want to install them as a push configuration.

Corsair H100i Fan Connectors

The other connectors are for the Corsair Link.  On this side you can also find the factor fill hole that you’ll never have to touch.

Corsair H100i Link Connector

The water block itself is made out of solid copper.  Looking closer at this block, you can see how it isn’t exactly a polished finish.  The finish is quite “rough” looking, but it should be just fine.  The whole point of the thermal compound is to fill the gaps, right?  Perhaps this is something a modder could take up and polish this thing to a mirror finish.

Corsair H100i Waterblock Close-up

Here’s a quick shot of what the block looks like from the top.  The Corsair logo will light up once you have it plugged in and powered up.

Corsair H100i Water Block

Moving on over to the radiator, I noticed that it arrived in pretty good shape.  I did find a few bent fins due to the fact that it was not wrapped in cardboard; rather it was wrapped in plastic.  With these minor bends, you absolutely will not notice any performance differences, but I wanted to point it out.  If every single fin were bent, then yes, you would totally have a problem.  Still take caution that you don’t bend these when you’re installing it.

Corsair H100i Bent Fins

Alright, let’s move onto the rest of the kit contents.  First off, there is a package that includes all of the screws that you need, plus the fan connectors, Corsair Link USB cable, and the installation manual.  The installation manual does cover both Intel and AMD.

Corsair H100i Box Contents

The next items in the kit were the brackets for mounting to both Intel and AMD platforms.

Corsair H100i Backplates

Corsair includes two 120mm fans with this kit.  Each fan has a 3-pin connector on it, which you’ll connect to the aforementioned fan cables.  The model fan that is included is Corsair’s SP120L fan.  These fans will push up approximately 77 CFMs with a max speed 2700 RPMs, all while having a noise level of 37.68 dBa.  For reference, a typical whisper is roughly 20 decibels, while a normal conversation is around 60.

Corsair H100i Fans

These fans do have a marking on them, should you be unsure, to let you know which direction the fan blows.

Corsair H100i Fan Direction

The backside of the fan tells you what type of fan it is and how much amperage it will use.

Corsair H100i Fan Details

That wraps up this section.  Let’s take a quick look and see how easy it is to install this kit on an Intel Core-i7 4770k (Haswell) CPU.

Installing The H100i CPU Cooler

This H100i system will be installed on an Intel Core-i7 4770k, and I will show you how easy it is to install.  I am also going to be using a Fractal Design Define XL R2 case, which should work perfectly for this kit.

To prep your system, make sure that your CPU is clean of any old thermal paste and other debris.  Make sure you use rubbing alcohol with the highest purity that you can find.

Corsair H100i Clean Slate

I strongly recommend putting the fans on before installing this kit.  It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.  I made sure that the fan wires were facing the rear of my case, just so I could keep them out of the way and keep my case looking neat on the side that counts.  I tend to be afraid of damaging the radiator when installing hardware, but I found the included screws to be just the right length that they won’t poke the radiator.  Here’s a quick shot of the fans installed before I hook this up to my case.

Corsair H100i Fans Installed

A side profile shot will show you that the fans and radiator are just about the same thickness.

Corsair H100i Fan and Radiator Thickness

When you’re ready to move onto your case, you will want to start off by mounting the radiator to the appropriate place on your case.  In my setup, I mounted it to the top.  This is a very ideal location for this kit, anyway.

Corsair H100i Installed

With the radiator mounted, I had a good amount of clearance in my case before I hit the motherboard and its components.

Next up you will want to mount the backing plate.  This plate can be used with Intel sockets 1155, 1156, and 1150,and 1366.  Socket 2011 will just use special standoffs that are included.

Corsair H100i Intel Bracket

This bracket has tool-free adjustable mounting points on it, which makes it convenient for everyone.  After adjusting the bracket to fit my socket 1150 setup, I used the appropriate standoffs and screwed it into place.  From the rear, this is what you’ll see.

Corsair H100i Backplate

Now that we’re ready to mount the water block, simply pull the protective plastic off to start.  Next up slide the top mounting plate over the block and it will “snap” into place.  This plate is magnetically held into place, so you should not need to worry more about it slipping off.  Finally, hold the block in place and use the thumb screws to get you started with holding the block in place.  I opted to use a screw driver to tighten these down further.

Corsair H100i Water Block

Now that we’ve got everything in place, it’s time to connect the cables to it.  Should you have four fans to connect, you can use both cables.  Since only two are included in the kit, we’ll use just one.  In the below picture, I demonstrate having both in place.

Corsair H100i Installed

Also, we can’t forget to hook up that 3-pin cable to a fan header and also the SATA power connector.

I removed one of the cables and then hooked up the two fans to the cable that I attached to the water block.

Corsair H100i Water Block Installed

Finally I hooked up the USB cable to a USB header on my motherboard, which will be the link for Corsair Link.  Here’s a finalized shot of the block in place.  You can also see the radiator hovering above.

Corsair H100i Fully Installed

Finally, firing everything up, we can see the initial white color of the Corsair logo.  This logo will change color based on a series of events, should you choose to set that up.  Otherwise you can opt to set it a static color of your choice.

Corsair H100i Pump LED

Listening to the fans, I had no complains.  Under low speeds, these fans were nice and quiet.  When they ramped up, they were loud, but not obnoxiously loud like some other fans that I’ve heard.

You can do a number of things with the Corsair Link software, but at the time of writing this article, the Corsair Link software was NOT compatible with Haswell CPUs.  Corsair is aware of this and they are working hard on updating the software.  So with that said, until they release their updated software, you will not be able to view information about the H100i system or change the LEDs.

This wraps up the overview of the H100i, so let’s take a quick look at the hardware that we’ll be using in conjunction with this kit.

The Test System

Before we take a look at the performance numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used.  All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Corsair H100i Fully Installed

Intel Z87/LGA1150 Platform

The Intel Z87 platform that we used to test these memory modules was running the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H motherboard with BIOS version F7 that came out on 08/05/2013.  The processor used, the Intel Core i7 4770k, will be using the stock frequency of 3.5GHz with turbo boost enabled, which can boost it up to 3.9GHz.  Low power state is enabled, which clocks the CPU at 900MHz.

Corsair H100i Benchmarking

In the benchmarks that I will be running, I used an Intel 4770k clocked at 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost and the low power state enabled.  Turbo Boost allows the 4770k to hit up to 3.9GHz.  To record temperatures, I used Core Temp, logged the temperatures while each program was active, and averaged all 4 cores.

Benchmark wise, I will be using several synthetic and real-world benchmarks to perform normal, heavy, and extreme load.  The benchmarks that I’m going to use today include:  Prime95, x264, 3DMark 2013 (Firestrike test only), Metro Last Light, and Sleeping Dogs.  Prime 95 will peg all four cores and eight threads to 100%, which will help us to understand exactly how hot this CPU can get with each cooler.

Ambient temperature during all testing was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

I recently reviewed the NZXT Kraken x40 and x60 coolers and I will be putting these in for comparison purposes.  NZXT claimed that their larger surface area radiator (140mm) could give their coolers the edge over 120mm coolers, like the Corsair H100i.  Let’s see if the H100i has what it takes to keep up with the competition!

Idle

Corsair H100i Idle Benchmark

Prime95

Corsair H100i Prime95 Benchmark

X264

Corsair H100i x264Benchmark

3D Mark 2013

Corsair H100i 3DMark 2013 Benchmark

Metro Last Light

Corsair H100i Metro Last Light Benchmark

Sleeping Dogs

Corsair H100i Sleeping Dogs Benchmark

Overall Results:  From the various graphs above, you can see that the NZXT Kraken x60 cooler beat the Corsair H100i in all tests while it was on the extreme setting.  When the Kraken x60 was on its silent setting, the H100i did well in comparison.  With the H100i being strictly motherboard controlled, the fans did ramp up when appropriate.  Overall the H100i did quite well compared to its larger competition, though at the expense of some added noise.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Knowing that Haswell is already a hot processor, did the H100i deliver the performance we were hoping?  In one word:  Absolutely!  Intel’s stock HSF is absolutely horrible with the latest generation Core CPUs and heat has plagued both Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors, so water cooling almost feels essential if you want to actually use your unlocked CPU to its fullest.

Corsair H100i

Corsair’s Hydro Series Extreme Performance H100i CPU Cooler was great to work with.  There isn’t really much to stay about it aesthetically, but the build quality and materials used were great.  Installation was made very easy, and we had no pinching hoses due to the low permeability tubing used and leaks were non-existent.  The added LED system on the water block itself may be gimmicky for some, but I think it was a very nice added feature.  Knowing that I’m able to program it to change colors based on temperature is pretty cool.

Corsair H100i Waterblock Close-up

At the time of testing the H100i, Corsair did not have software available that was compatible with Intel 4th Generation Core CPUs (aka:  Haswell).  With that said, fan speed was motherboard controlled during testing.

Corsair’s H100i water cooler will set you back $99.99 shipped on Amazon and is backed by a 5 year warranty.  Five years is an awfully long time, and it definitely goes to show that Corsair believes in their product.

In this review we compared Corsair’s Hydro Series H100i to the NZXT Kraken x40 and x60 water coolers.  For reference, the Kraken x40 runs $99.99 shipped on Amazon, while the x60 runs $109.99 shipped.  Both NZXT coolers have a 2 year warranty, which is significantly shorter than Corsair’s 5 year warranty.

Corsair H100i Fully Installed

So, which cooler would we recommend?  This is a tough one, because it really depends on how much room you have in your case.  If your case is set up to accept both 120mm and 140mm radiator, like my Fractal Design Define XL R2, the 140mm NZXT Kraken x60 definitely edged out the 120mm Corsair H100i in all tests and only runs ten bucks more.  If you’re concerned about the warranty length, the Corsair H100i is a no brainer.  The Corsair Hydro Series H100i didn't run the coolest, but , but it costs $10 less and has warranty that is 2.5x longer that what is offered by NZXT. With Corsair you know that should something go wrong, Corsair will have your back.

LR Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line:  The Corsair H100i performed quite well, and way better than the stock cooler, but was definitely edged out by the NZXT Kraken x60 cooler in most tests.  It is still a great cooler and includes an impressive 5 year warranty.