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Corsair is a company that has forged a solid reputation through their incredibly high quality components. And, while known specifically for their extremely efficient power supplies and enthusiast oriented memory products, their foray into component cooling and computer cases has not gone unnoticed. For good reason, Corsair's H50 self contained water cooler and Obsidian Series chassis are highly coveted items among hardware enthusiasts. Today, however, we are going to be taking a closer look at Corsair's high-end air cooling product - the A70. It has appeared in a market full of i7 oriented tower heatsinks; what sets it apart, however, is Corsair's reputation for quality engineering. Read on to find out if Corsair's A70 will be cast adrift, into the endless sea of tower cooling products, or if it can sail past the competition and meet Corsair's reputation.
• Model: CAFCA70
• Heatsink dimensions: 159.5mm x 124.6mm x 129mm
• Fan Dimensions: 120mm x 25mm
• Fan speed: Selectable 1,600 or 2,000 RPM
• Air flow: 50 - 61 CFM
• Static pressure: 1.8 - 2.3 mm H20
• Noise level: 26 - 31.5 dBA
• Compatible with Intel and AMD systems
• Four 8mm copper direct-contact heatpipes
• Aluminum fins
• Low-noise, low-vibration 120mm fans mounted on rubber studs
• Selectable 1,600 or 2,000RPM allows you to select the cooling performance you want
• Two-year warranty
Corsair's Product Page
Price: $49.99 @ Newegg
Corsair's component quality has obviously leaked into their cardboard packaging. This is a product that is stocked at major resellers, even retail Best Buy locations, and the packaging is fittingly incredible. The box is constructed out of thick cardboard, and has a black base color with accented gold, making for retail packaging that stylistically reflects Corsair's notorious quality. The front of the box contains a quick description of the product, its compatibility, and one heck of an awesomely bokeh filled picture of the A70's fins. Also on the front is a badge proclaiming Corsair's two year guarantee, something normally not found on the packaging of a heatsink and fan assembly. As an aside, Corsair definitely stands by their guarantee. I own a Corsair H50, and I have read of a few individuals that have had their H50 units leak. Corsair, even though it required some hassle in specific circumstances, stepped up and replaced not only the cooling units, but said user's damaged computer components (source). The back of the box displays a small performance graph that compares the A70 against Intel's stock HSF, a blurb about the company, and a list of the packaging's contents - done in six different languages. I would have personally liked to see more pictures of the product, but multilingual retail packaging is always good.
One side of the box contains detailed product specifications. The other mentions a few minor features and showcases the heatsink's base. Corsair definitely could have fit in more product pictures on that side. Overall, however, it's nice to see a consistent design that manages to stand out on retail shelves.
Inside the Packaging:
Inside of the box, it is immediately apparent that Corsair took every step of the A70's production very seriously. There is a large foam container that securely holds the heatsink, one box that contains all of the installation components, and another, much longer, that holds the fans. All of these securely fit into Corsair's packaging like pieces in a puzzle. The heatsink itself comes with a protective piece of foam fitted over it, but I removed this for the above picture. Underneath, is a pamphlet requesting that users should contact Corsair for technical support (with email and phone numbers listed) instead of returning the product. Also found inside of the heatsink's foam enclosure is one of Corsair's incredible multilingual instruction manuals (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian). I even had an easy time installing the Hydro H50; without Corsair's manual I would have been absolutely lost.
The installation related box contains everything necessary for mounting the A70 on 1156, 1366, 775, AM2, and AM3 motherboards. Also included is a tube of thermal compound, extra rubber fan mounts, two 3-pin adapters that switch the fan speed from 2000 RPM to 1600 RPM, and a 3-pin splitter that allows the end user to connect the two fans to one 3-pin motherboard header. The included thermal compound is Corsair branded Dow Corning TC-5022; during low pressure mounting, it performs better than AS5 and MX2, but when tightly mounted, the performance is slightly worse than AS5. Corsair was nice enough, however, to not pre-apply thermal compound to the base of the heatsink, giving you a hassle free say in the matter. The fans are pre-attached to their respective shrouds via Corsair's silent rubber fan mounting screws. And, they are stock configured in a push-pull setup, a choice made by Corsair that definitely impresses me. Push-pull is the best way to get extra performance out of a radiator or tower heatsink. One fan pulls fresh air into the tower, and the other exhaust warm air into your computer's rear fan, making for a highly efficient cooling configuration. I am definitely impressed by this product so far. Included variable fan speed adapters, push-pull configured fans, proper packaging, and silently mounted, vibration free fans - nicely done!
The A70 Itself:
For being such a massive heatsink, the Corsair A70 is relatively light. This doesn't mean that Corsair used lesser quality components, it means that they, keeping with their reputation, more efficiently engineered this heatsink. Instead of having the heat pipes connect inside of the base plate, Corsair chose to have the four heat pipes make direct contact with the processor's IHS (integrated heat-spreader). On paper, this should allow the processor's heat output to immediately be absorbed into the aluminum cooling fins. The base of the heatsink, while not lapped to a mirror finish, is satisfactory and shouldn't have any problems making proper contact with a processor.
A popular recent trend among cooling manufacturers has been to have fans mount via wire-based brackets. Fans can be an absolute pain to remove and reinstall when wire mounting is used. Corsair definitely made fan installation incredibly painless. As previously mentioned, the fans are pre-mounted in a push-pull configuration, you, however, must attach the fan shroud unit yourself. I advise doing this after the heatsink has been mounted onto your motherboard. The shroud quickly attaches to the sides of the heatsink through well planned plastic and metal indentations. Thankfully, the fan / shroud assemblies are also easy to remove.
While more complex, in terms of steps required on a heatsink using Intel's push pins, installation is still relatively straightforward. And, in all honesty, Intel's push pins are so finicky, removing the motherboard to install the A70 probably takes the same amount of time as a push pin installation (we've all had heatsinks pop up due to a loose push pin).
This is where things get slightly confusing; the process for installing this heatsink is much easier on an AM2 or AM3 board (for those confused, the AMD installation is on the backside of the manual). On an AMD board, you don't need to remove your motherboard. You also don't need to install the "H" plate. What you do need to do, however, is apply thermal compound very thinly to each of the four base heat pipes. You could also put a rice sized drop of thermal compound on your CPU, and then twist the A70 around on top of the CPU, but with direct contact heatsinks, the former method is preferred. Next, you put the thin AM3 mounting clip (it's the one with the handle) through the gap between the base and fin body. After doing that, you mount the heatsink on your board, making sure that the largest sides of the cooler are aligned with your exhaust fan. Then, you need to push the hole on the mounting clip over the protrusion on your AMD bracket, and pull the metal lever down. Finally, you can install the fan shrouds (making sure that they are pushing air in, and pulling air out), and connect the 3-pin fans to your motherboard. If you'd like you can also attach the 1600 RPM limiters, but that isn't explicitly necessary.
On an Intel board (1156, 1366, 775), you will have to remove your motherboard (keep the CPU and RAM installed). Find the backplate, and slide the mounting screws into the correct sizing configuration for your motherboard. Then, install the backplate through the bottom of your motherboard. After doing that, apply the thermal compound as previously specified. You can now attach the large "H" shaped plate onto the inside of the heatsink assembly using the four included screws. And, Corsair definitely made screwing said bracket in easy. On most heatsinks, you are forced to fight with a metal bracket. Corsair, however, notched the top inside of the heatsink to hold the bracket while you screw it into the heatsink (through the back of the base). After attaching the "H" mount, install the heatsink onto the motherboard bracket screws. Then, simply place the top screws on the mounting poles, and tighten them, following the manuals specified pattern. The rest of the installation process (fan mounting) is exactly the same. All in all, installation isn't too bad, just be sure to go about it rather patiently.
For testing I used an MX2'd i7 920 D0 running on an X58 Asus Rampage Gene II. All testing was done using manufacturer specified configurations. The A70 and H50 ran in a dual fan push-pull setup at maximum RPM. The CM Hyper 212 Plus ran with one fan. In terms of settings, I tested at stock i7 settings (gray) and overclocked to 3.8 GHz on 1.35 Volts (green). Per my standard testing protocol, I used OCCT and recorded averages of test temperatures. Testing shows that the A70 definitely holds its own against both the H50 and Hyper 212 Plus. I was, however, expecting the A70 to perform slightly better than the Hyper 212 Plus (considering the vast price difference).
Corsair brought their renowned quality over to the A70 in every aspect and stage of its usage, from the packaging to the unit itself. I was, however, expecting slightly better performance from the A70. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus, while not as high quality as the Corsair A70, cools similarly for $20 less. If Corsair dropped the price slightly I would, without a single reservation, recommend the A70 over other similarly priced coolers. If you are, however, concerned about longevity, quality, and the Corsair guarantee (and are not on a tight budget), I'd advise eating the $20 difference and enjoying your Corsair A70.
No strain / flexing on motherboards
Great overall package (accessories, et cetera)
Easy support for all major socket platforms
Two high quality silently mounted fans included
Innovative fan mounting shroud
Even at 2000 RPM, the A70 runs very quietly
The base could be lapped better
I was expecting a bigger gap between the Hyper and the A70
A slight decrease in price, and the Corsair A70 could be a show-stopper
Thanks go to Corsair for the opportunity to take a look at the A70!