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H70

Corsair Hydro H70 cooler review

Accessible water cooling for the masses

Watercooling a processor is not an option commonly accessible to the amateur builder; it requires a careful selection of pumps, radiators, tanks, hoses, coolants and acquired knowledge to ensure compatibility. For example, mixing copper and aluminium waterblocks can create rust particles within the coolant, anti-fungal agents must be carefully mixed in, lines must be bled of air, water seals tested and more. Not a simple process for the faint of heart.

Corsair has set out to make basic watercooling accessible to the masses via their Hydro H50 and H70 lines of CPU coolers, both now available under and around the 100$ mark. These kits are pre-assembled, fully sealed closed loops and should serve your machine reliably for years to come. Let’s see how it fares to the everyday builder in comparison to the stock Intel cooler.

Packaging

When the H70 arrived from Purolator after its thousand kilometer trip, I wasn’t expecting immaculate conditions and was pleasantly surprised at how well it had survived. It was immaculate; likely better than it would have been had I picked it up in stores. More importantly, everything was packed tight. No parts inside the box could audibly rattle and shake loose during transport and everything was carefully padded and wrapped.

In other reviews, it was common to see some of the radiator’s fins bent out of shape or notched in, an issue that was seemingly resolved by Corsair since as mine was completely flawless, or I simply got lucky. Either way, everything was snug and in perfect condition.

Corsair Hydro H70 packaging

Installation

If it may be of any indication of my previous experience, I had never installed any water-cooling kits prior to the H70. Some may debate that I still haven’t, but I digress. I’ve installed several dozen standard heatsinks and fan combos prior so I knew what to expect, but the H70 was something else altogether.

Retention plate

The installation process is multi-step. First, you need to assemble a retention bracket that matches your socket type. In my case, I was using socket 1156. I consulted the paper instructions found within which guided me to insert the pins into the correct holes (the bracket supports multiple sockets) and subsequently ran into my first problem: the instructions were wrong. While it’s hard to explain without having in on-hand, the pins indicated on the paper instructions differed from the ones imprinted onto the the bracket. I had to re-do the lot using a pair of pliers to rip the pins out, damaging one. After comparing the printed instructions from the hardware, it looks like the plate on paper is simply backwards.

Once in place, it was quite clear that the retention plate wasn’t going anywhere. It was as sturdy as could be.

Corsair Hydro H70 retention plate

Pump and cooler

The CPU cooler also contains the pump unit. The installation is fairly simple, slide the cooler in and give it a bit of a turn to lock it into place. The issue with this method is that it’s quite easy to go past the retention clips and keep turning endlessly, smearing thermal paste all over. I’m assuming this was done intentionally to allow non-standard installations where the cooler would be upside-down, but it gets a little tricky when you’re expecting it to lock in place by itself. It took a few tries to get the retention screws loose enough to allow the cooler to “spin” but after a few tries I finally managed to get it in and screwed everything in place. If you’re going to attempt this, make it easy on yourself and have a friend hold the radiator while you place the cooler in place rather than let it sag.

The cooler comes with thermal paste already in place. It’s worth noting that the copper block was not polished to a shine which seems to be a new trend in coolers. It was simply left in its raw, brushed look.

Corsair H70 cooler and pump combo

Radiator

Installing a radiator is simple. If you can figure out how to screw in case fans, then you’re already ahead of the game. The H70 sports a rather thick rad which is cooled by included dual 120mm fans: one outside of the case extruding from the back, and one on the inside, placed after the radiator effectively sandwiching the rad. Both fans are set to draw in cool air from the outside into the case, which means you need to make sure that your case is properly exhaling the hot air it’ll push in.

In short, this means you have a fan extruding on the back of your case which in my case was problematic. The included screws are just short enough to go through the fan and screw into the radiator. Unfortunately, the back of my cases’s fan grill is extruded which meant I was short an eight of an inch or so, which I was thankfully able to crunch a little bit. Still, a longer screw would have been a blessing. It’s also worth noting that I managed to stick my finger into the outside fan twice already and that ordering an extra filter wouldn’t be a bad idea to prevent dust from accumulating on the inside of your machine, and to potentially save your fingers.

Once the fan is in place, you also have to figure out a way to run the fan’s power cable into the case. I had to remove a fan controller to get the wiring in and move quite a few components to get it to reach the power header on the motherboard because the fan’s cables are quite short. Corsair did bundle in some extenders but they were much too short as well which, in my case, I believe is quite an oversight on Corsair’s part.

Corsair H70 radiator

The Results

In this scenario, I’ll be providing average temperatures during idling, load and ambient temperatures for the stock Intel i7 cooler and the Corsair H70. CPU load was established by running CPU Burn In and converting videos simultaneously.

The processor I’m using is an Intel i7 870, 2.93ghz, socket 1156.

Important Notice
I’m in the process of collecting new results which were lost following an error in WordPress. Sorry about that! I’ll populate these tables again as soon as I can.

Intel i7 870 @ 2.93ghz, Idle
  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low 41c  
High 47c  
Average 43c  
Ambient 24c  
Intel i7 870 @ 2.93ghz, Load
  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low 56c  
High 66c  
Average 63c  
Ambient 25c  
Intel i7 870 @ 3.3ghz, Idle
  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low 51c  
High 58c  
Average 54c  
Ambient 25c  
Intel i7 870 @ 3.3ghz, Load

The stock Intel cooler tests were aborted once the CPU hit 84c to prevent damage.

  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low 78c  
High 84c  
Average 81c  
Ambient 26c  
Intel i7 870 @ 3.52ghz, Idle

The Intel stock cooler was unable to reach 3.52ghz.

  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low N/A 34c
High N/A 38c
Average N/A 36c
Ambient N/A 24c
Intel i7 870 @ 3.52ghz, Load

The Intel stock cooler was unable to reach 3.52ghz.

  Intel Stock Corsair Hydro H70
Low N/A 38c
High N/A 54c
Average N/A 46c
Ambient N/A 25c

Additional overclocking

With a little more work, I’m certain I could easily hit the 3.7ghz mark with comfortable marks using the H70. However, I’m running into some RAM timing issues that are preventing me from moving further with the tests for the time being. Should I be able to push it higher, I will update this page with the resulting temperatures.

Noise levels

Unfortunately, I was unable to get reliable decibel readings at the time of the writing and as much as I love my readers, I don’t plan on reinstalling the stock cooler to get readings any time soon. I can safely say that the noise levels on the Hydro H70 were much lower than the stock cooler, most likely caused by utilizing two low-pitched 120mm fans rather than a single high-pitched, whiny 90mm found on the Intel model. The pump is quite barely audible over the fans and overall has greatly reduced the amount of humming emanating from my machine.

Summary

It is my opinion that the H70 is just one of those magical products that greatly increases your geek factor by several folds without breaking the bank. Not only did it provide my CPU a 20% speed increase, it reduced it’s operating temperature by 20 degrees or more and is quite a bit less audible than the stock cooler. For less than a hundred bucks, you’d be hard pressed to find anything geekier and efficient as the H70.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the Corsair Hydro H70, be sure to leave a comment!

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  1. bgn
    April 21, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    wow, did you do all these test. this cooler is really needed for extreme experience. thanks for the review. it really helped

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