Should you be about to spend nearly £80 on a cooler, you'd better live somewhere incredibly hot, or make damn sure that you're going to overclock the pins off your CPU. Let's assume you are, because this Corsair H100 liquid cooling kit is a wet dream for those who really need it.
Small, split-flow manifold liquid cooling kits such as the H100 have been around for a couple of years now. They were pioneered by CoolIT, which is the company behind the latest Corsair liquid chillers.
Fitting your own water cooler is quite a challenge, and in many ways a kit such as the H100 takes away that hard work. Considering that the H100 is backwards-compatible to Intel LGA 775 and AMD AM2 sockets, Corsair has designed a refreshingly easy fitting for each socket type.
We've seen some otherwise excellent liquid coolers ruined by improbably complicated bracket designs – Antec Kühler series, we're looking at you. There are no such dramas with this Corsair number. It's the easiest to fit liquid cooler we've come across. You might find the 240mm radiator a bit trickier to fit. In fact, you might find it impossible if your case doesn't have mountings for it.
Corsair is being a bit devious here, because your best bet for compatibility is to use one of its cases. However, just as Apple imposed limitations on its hardware and software to ensure everything works perfectly together (which of course it does, without fail…) so Corsair does with its interlinking component design.
If the H100's radiator is too big, there's always the H80, fitted to a single 120mm radiator and compatible with every case in existence. If you were to plump for the H100 and fit it in a Corsair Graphite series case with a fan controller at the front of the case, then you'd be able to connect the H100 to the fan controller and add CPU temp to your case fan controller's repertoire.
Then there's Corsair Link. Connect the H100 to Corsair's Link hardware and it'll monitor temperatures around the case and enable you to control each component's fan on-the-fly. If you're serious about cooling, that's a big deal. Nobody has taken temp management to this extreme at a consumer level.
This is all well and good, but it's the H100's cooling chops that actually matter. It ran a Phenom II X6 100T at 20°C idle and 34°C under load – our Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 is a great air cooler, but can't get near those temps, running at 33°C idle and 51°C load.
The H100 recovers quickly too, returning to idle temp just 25 seconds after running at it's highest temp. That took the Freezer 13 a full 58 seconds.
It's not all ice-cool roses, though. The two fans strapped to the radiator are hella noisy, and it's impractical to adjust the fan speed by pressing a button on the cooler itself unless you're running a barebones system.
Idle temperature performance
Idle: Degrees centigrade: Lower is better
Corsair H100: 20
Arctic Cooling Freezer 13: 33
Load temperature performance
Load: Degrees centigrade: Lower is better
Corsair H100: 34
Arctic Cooling Freezer 13: 51
Max to min temperature recovery time
Max to min: Seconds: Quicker is better
Corsair H100: 25
Arctic Cooling Freezer 13: 58
We love the H100's design, Corsair Link compatibility and performance, but the radiator size poses compatibility issues and we also don't like reaching into our case to turn down the deafening fans.
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