Corsair Hydro H50 CPU Water Cooler

Cooling
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MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Corsair Hydro H50 offers a hassle-free introduction to water cooling. No need to worry about radiators, reservoirs, pumps, waterblocks, tubing, coolant; Corsair has put it all together for you at a much lower price than a a DIY system using discrete components. You don't need a big case, either, as all that is required is a 120 mm fan placement. In fact, as the height of the pump is only 55 mm it will fit in many mATX and even mini-ITX cases that don't have enough room for a high performance CPU cooler. It installs fairly easily and securely, and the stock fan sounds smooth and is very quiet when undervolted.

Sadly it doesn't have what it takes to be a very effective quiet CPU cooler by SPCR standards. Compared to most recent large tower heatsinks we've tested, the H50's thermal performance is close to the bottom end of the spectrum whether paired with the stock fan or our low speed reference fan. The H50 may be a victim of our open testbed which we prefer because it eliminates several variables impacting CPU cooling performance, but even if it cooled as well as the Megahalems of the world, the noise of the pump would remain a problem. The pump generates a loud buzzing sound like that of a toy motor, so no matter how well the H50 performs, in a closed case or otherwise, it will always be louder than a traditional high performance air cooler unless you use a loud fan to drown it out. Furthermore, the H50 lacks a soft mounting option for the radiator and fan, so vibration may also have an additional negative impact on its overall acoustics.

While the Hydro H50 is an affordable single-piece water cooling solution, it is still on the expensive side compared to most high performance heatsinks. Ideally a CPU cooler should have a good balance of performance, noise level, and cost. If you judge the H50 on any two of these criteria, it fails to make a splash.

Corsair Hydro H50
PROS

* Stock fan has good acoustics
* Easy to mount
* Pump portion only 55 mm tall
CONS

* Loud, buzzy pump
* Poor performance/noise ratio
* No fan soft mounting option
* Expensive

Our thanks to Corsair for the Hydro H50 sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Prolimatech Armageddon & Coolermaster V8 CPU Coolers
Cogage TRUE Spirit & Zalman CNPS10X Quiet CPU Coolers
SPCR's 2010 CPU Heatsink Test Platform [UPDATED: 10 April 2010]
Zalman CNPS10X Flex CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-D14 flagship dual-fan CPU cooler
ZEROtherm Nirvana CPU Cooler

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.

POSTSCRIPT, 14 July 2010: A Second Sample...

...obtained as a follow-up due to questions in the forum discussion about whether the first sample was somehow defective, turned out to have about the same acoustics as the first. If anything, it might be a tad noisier. So our original assessment stands. It may be a good solution for cases that have very tight spaces, but for the typical silent PC enthusiast, the Hydro H50 is not really a viable cooling option.


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