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In the hardware enthusiast market, producing both groundbreaking and high-quality products is something almost unheard of. Fortunately, Corsair, one of the most renowned memory, cooling, chassis, and peripheral manufacturers on the market is a company that clearly understands those values. To reiterate that point, not too long ago water cooling was relegated only to dedicated computer enthusiasts, willing to dedicate a large amount of time and money to get the best cooling performance possible. Recently, manufacturers have begun releasing "all-in-one" water cooling solutions. Most of those have either been cost or performance prohibitive. Corsair's first self-contained water cooling product, the Hydro Series H50, completely changed that by being affordable, easily configured, and performing impressively. Now, Corsair shows that it not only understands quality and innovation, but that it also values product evolution. Closely following in the footsteps of the H50, the Hydro Series H70 promises even better performance through a beefier radiator, high performance copper cold plate, a low profile pump, and two fans for push-pull configuration. With the H50 still on the market, and the H70 costing roughly 24% more, is the extra investment worthwhile? Read on to discern if the latest addition to the Hydro series precedes Corsair's impressive reputation.
• Model: CWCH70
• Cold Plate Material: Copper
• Fan Specs: 2x 120 x 25mm, selectable 2000RPM or 1600RPM
• Radiator: Material Aluminum, 120 x 50mm
• Tubing: Low-permeability for near-zero evaporation
• Warranty: 24 Months
• Pre-filled, closed-loop system is easy to install
• Copper CPU cooling plate for maximum cooling performance
• Integrated pump and reservoir is sealed for zero maintenance and improved leakage protection
• Large, double-thick 120mm radiator for outstanding heat dissipation
• High-performance, twin 120mm fans offer outrageous airflow in push-pull configuration
• Included step-down adapters let you customize your fan speed for low noise or high performance
Corsair's Product Page
Price: $104.99 @ Newegg
The front (or rather the top) of the box contains a spectacular macro shot of the Corsair H70 pump conveniently placed next to Corsair's Dominator DRAM. Also on the front of the box is a product shot of the entire kit and information regarding compatibility - which is definitely well placed. The sides contain more specifications and features in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and even Russian, making the H70 ready for most markets (a clever move). The rear of the packaging contains a content manifest, which should definitely give consumers purchasing an "open box" H70 at a retail location fuel when their H70 is missing a bracket (darn sneaky Fry's employees). There's also a graph on the back, but it doesn't specifically say anything as it displays the H70 versus a stock Intel HSF; not really the most "difficult" cooling device to beat.
When you pay for a Corsair product, you're definitely investing in not merely a product, but an entire experience. This is evident in how impressively professional Corsair's packaging consistently is. The H70's packaging is absolutely not an exception to what appears to be an established rule. The box is well-designed; the sturdy packaging material, sleek color scheme (the blue on black is absolutely eye grabbing), and the precisely chosen product imagery, specifications, and benchmarks clearly support this. Corsair's marketing has definitely assembled the complete "package", as I feel that all of the various aesthetics translate into a total standout on a retail shelf. From a marketing standpoint, I would only like to really see the addition of a benchmark showing the H70 versus the H50, as a consumer might want to visualize what the price difference between the two items represents. It would also be nice to see the H70 versus a "generic" high-performance, high-cost air cooler. Extra benchmarks would greatly sway consumers.
Inside the Packaging:
The cardboard box's top flap opens from the side to reveal a series of installation manuals, a warning regarding returning the product (the gist being you should contact Corsair), and a nice foam cutout securely protecting the underlying components. The manual isn't anything particular exciting, but it is well written, has solid diagrams (I recommend following them very carefully), and comes in the aforementioned languages. If you're interested in taking a look at the primary manual in its entirety I scanned it, and you can view it here (it's roughly a megabyte in size). Manual aside, I was incredibly impressed by how well the components of the H70 so securely "fit" into the egg crate mold that sits inside of the sturdy cardboard box. Every individual detail of the unboxing process feels carefully tailored which, in turn generates high expectations for the product itself.
Below the foam sheet, you should find the Corsair H70 unit itself, two fans ready for push-pull, a baggie containing all of the screws and washers necessary to mount the two fans on the radiator, another with the mounting plates, one with fan connectors (two of which lower the fan speed), and finally a bag that contains all of the hardware needed to use the mounting plates. Fortunately, at a quick glance, all of the included items look identical to those included with the H50. The only difference I notice is that the H50 comes with one fan, and unlike the H50's single fan the H70's fans are not sleeved. I, however, prefer the slim black cabling used on the H70's fans, as it is easier to maneuver and looks "stealthy".
The H70 Itself:
At first glance, the H70 looks roughly the same as its predecessor, the H50. Immediately apparent, however, is just how much larger the H70's radiator really is. The H70's radiator is truly a behemoth and is seriously twice as large as the H50's radiator. I also noticed that the H70's water lines are a few inches shorter than those on the H50. Yet, the lines themselves definitely feel more flexible / pliable, which should make installation relatively cleaner and less of a struggle. The H70 uses the same black powder coating that the H50 featured, but the finish looks much more professional and is slightly "thicker". Each of the two fans are rated at 2000 RPM and can push 61.2 CFM at 31.5 dBA. If you use Corsair's included inline resistors, you can reduce the fans to 1600 RPM pushing 50.35 CFM at 26 dBA, making the entire kit appear to be solid for a high performance "semi-silent" workstation. Do note, however, that if you opt to not use Corsair's fan splitter, the length of the fan cables is vastly reduced, and may pose a problem in large cases.
Looking at the new radiator shows that Corsair has increased the total surface area for cooling by not only increasing the total volume of the radiator, but by also making the fins smaller and thus more densely concentrated.
One of the most dramatic departures from the H50, however, is Corsair's vastly improved pump / cold plate. The barb connectors for the water lines swivel 90º, making possible positioning of the Corsair H70 much more adaptable. The base of the unit isn't amazingly smooth, nor is it carefully lapped, but it does come pre-applied with some unknown thermal paste. Lapping this unit might prove difficult, as sanding down too much of the base might make the unit leave a gap between your processor's internal heat spreader, as the pump mounting is relatively fixed. So, I would like to see Corsair improve this aspect of the cold plate. What most amazes me, however, is how they managed to take the H50's already compact pump / cold plate unit and make it half as thick on the H70. It's incredibly compact, and should prevent any sort of strain / stress on the water lines during installation. Unlike the H50's pump, the power cable on the H70 is not sleeved. Fortunately, however, the length of the actual power cable itself is quite a few inches longer; a common complaint about the H50 that Corsair thankfully rectified.
If you're already in the process of rebuilding your computer, or in the mood to tinker, the installation process, if given the requisite amount of patience, isn't too bad considering you will have to remove your motherboard (unless you have a cpu "windows" on the rear of your chassis). It's nearly identical to the installation process for the H50, with one major caveat. The new radiator will definitely not fit comfortably in all computer cases. I have a small MicroATX Cooler Master 341, and while the H50 mounts comfortably to the exhaust, the H70 definitely does not. I advise, before you go and remove your motherboard, to attempt mounting just the radiator to the rear of your case, and seeing if it successfully fits. I'd be pretty upset if I removed my motherboard for absolutely no reason, so heed my words carefully.
Thankfully, Corsair has included everything you need to know for installing the H70 on either LGA 1366, 1156, 775, or even AM2 / AM3 platforms. You do, however, need to make sure that you properly configure the pin setup based on each of the platform specific "mini-manuals". Also, I recommend having a friend help you, because securing the cold plate while the radiator flails around may result in unexpected cosmetic damage. To get things started, remove your motherboard, current heatsink, and clean your processor's IHS with isopropyl alcohol (to remove any residue). Once you've done that, select your flavor of bracket, and do your best to center the adhesive pads in the middle, indented columns of the bracket. Put the correct pins through the rear holes of the bracket while pushing the unit through the motherboard. On the front of your motherboard, have the circular retention ring ready with the plastic clips inserted into to the oval shaped bracket holes, and screw that bracket into the silver pins that you just pushed through the back of your motherboard. Do not, however, completely tighten the screws (you need to leave tension to allow for the installation of the pump). Now, "screw" the cold plate into the retention ring, and then tighten the screws. Finally, you can install the radiator and fans. I advise having hot air push through one fan, into the radiator, and blow out of a final exhaust fan. It seems relatively complicated, but if you are careful, it's fairly straight forward. If you need more help, see Corsair's killer H50 installation video below (nearly identical to the process used for the H70):
For testing, I used an MX2'd i7 920 D0 running in the below configuration:
Intel i7 920 HT @ 3.8 GHz, 1.35v (green) and 2.66 Ghz, 1.25v (gray)
Western Digital 500 GB Black
Asus Rampage Gene II
HT Omega Claro Plus
4 GB DDR3
All coolers were configured per manufacturer specifications. I, however, did have the H50 configured in push-pull with a similarly spec'd fan. And, Corsair suggests that the H70 be tested with both fans pulling air from outside the case, through the radiator, and dumping it into the case. Because, according to Newton's Law of Cooling, this increases performance. I've solved enough differential equations in my day to know exactly what dT/dt = k(T - M) does. "M" is a variable that represents ambient or outside temperature. After using separation of variables, we get T = Ce^(kt) + M. This shows that a lower value of outside temperature results in a proportionally smaller temperature delta (change) within the exponential equation. Math aside, to be consistent, I tested the H70 in the ideal consumer configuration, and let both fans blow air out of the case, through the radiator. Keeping your radiator cooler will result in a cooler processor, but if it means dumping warm air into your case and changing your static air pressure, it isn't worth it - I advise using the consumer configuration. The A70 also ran in a push-pull configuration at maximum RPM, whereas the CM Hyper 212 Plus was benchmarked in a single fan configuration. Per my standard testing protocol, I used OCCT and recorded averages of test temperatures. Not too much interpretation or extrapolation is necessary to understand what the benchmark depicts; the H70 is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
I would also like to note that during testing, with the H70 and H50 running with their push-pull fans at 2000 RPM, the H70 was definitely louder. If you, however, notice a faint "gurgling" sound coming from the H70, that's because you may have air bubbles in your water line. To remove this issue, shake the radiator and pump unit gently (while they are removed) and re-install.
Sequels usually never live up to the expectations and hype that happen to be created for them. Today, however, Corsair both exceeded my expectations and left me in amazement at their H70, proving that not all things in succession can be assumed bad. It would cost twice the price of the H70 to enter the realm of entry level water cooling, with installation and testing adding hours on top of the investment. Corsair has assembled a complete package, ready to go, that performs absolutely spectacularly. Unless you are running your computer in a compact case or need an absolutely silent cooling solution, I can definitely recommend shelling out the extra money required to get the H70 over the H50. Considering what you're getting requires no maintenance, the purchase is absolutely justified for any computer enthusiast.
Low profile pump, allowing plenty of clearance for DRAM
Very impressive performance
Mounting for all major platforms
A definite improvement over the already solid H50
Both fans are already included
At full speed, the setup can be slightly noisy versus the H50
Doesn't fit in all cases - check before installation
Poorly lapped base
Thanks go to Corsair for the opportunity to take a look at the H70!