Corsair H50 Review
Testing the Corsair H50 was a mixture of the good and the strange.
Let's start with the stupendous.
Whoever did the manual and installation instructions for this needs to be signed up by every other company around. Sure some things, graphics cards, gaming surfaces etc, don't exactly need huge manuals. But nearly every motherboard on the planet has documentation more notable for what it doesn't tell you than what it does. Peripherals by the dozen have features untapped thanks to poor manuals or, even worse, PDF ones. CPU Coolers, by virtue of their function, are the one bit of kit more than any other than has a job far more lofty than their slender price tag would have you believe. The importance of having a good contact is vital, and a secure mount even more so.
Thankfully despite this being a cooler with multiple mounting options the documentation for all of them is crystal clear. Even a half-blind ape could install this without issue. Even reading comprehension isn't a must because of the wonderfully descriptive illustrations.
Build quality is also very high. The packaging is high quality and the mounting hardware fits exceptionally well together. This definitely isn't a product that is a jack of all CPU sockets and master of none. We've been testing this H50 for a while now as the main cooler in one of the OC3D rigs, and in the time we've had it we've not had a single issue at all with the pump or the fan.
Noise levels are good. The pump makes hardly any noise at all which was the primary concern in such a compact unit. Certainly nothing you'd notice over your case fans or indeed the fan that comes with the cooler. Speaking of the fan, it isn't too bad. It's kinda middle of the pack when it comes to volume. When we ran it flat out it was, as is to be expected, madly loud. But when set to more realistic speeds it's neither loud nor quiet. Thankfully like any 120mm fan you can swap it depending upon your needs. So if you want the CFM of a Delta, or the silence of a Noctua, and everything in-between, the world is your Oyster. Of course a fan on top of the already fairly hefty price tag might be a step too far.
The main meat in any cooler is the temperatures. Here it's fair to middling. Corsair take great pains to point out that, because of the H50s pricing, it's not competing with a pukka water-loop, rather it's against the high-end air coolers. It just doesn't quite cut it with those. It's priced just north of £60, which puts it up there with practically any air cooler you can think of, and yet the temperatures aren't really as low as either we'd hoped, or as low as the high-performance pure-air coolers.
It's not really as simple as that though. Sure Corsair don't want us comparing it to a Laing/Black Ice 360 type setup and rightfully so. But it can't just be compared to air coolers because it's not one of those either. There is a huge amount of stuff here for your money. The radiator alone contains as much metal as most tower coolers and we haven't even figured in the complex heatsink/pump arrangement. So although it appears over-priced compared to its air-cooled cousins, actually it's good value. Even when overclocked we didn't bust through the 80°C bracket we stop testing at. Sure it was close, but this is a short water-loop and so there isn't swathes of space for the water to cool before it hits the hot copper again.
Finally the main good/bad point, and about the same topic. One of the key selling points of the H50 is that enormous tower coolers take up enormous space and put a huge strain on the motherboard due to their ever increasing weight. Claims nobody would dispute. The H50 nearly avoids this issue by barely being larger than two 120mm fans in the cooling end, and leaving untold amounts of space around your CPU. This is ripe for good airflow to your exhausts allowing the cold air to flow in forward and low, and the hot air to be expelled high and rearwards. The way it's been time-proven to be best. Hot air rising and all that.
So why do Corsair insist we use it as an intake? In our none-too-small CoolerMaster 840 the differences in temperatures were negligable and certainly not worth the arsing about it took to reroute our airflow. Maybe if you've got a tiny teeny case their wont be enough cold air coming in to keep the H50 working at its optimum, but then all you're doing is pumping hot air across your MOSFETs and RAM. Which isn't wise either. It's certainly solving one problem by creating an entirely different one.
In the end we have mixed feelings. It cools ok. It's quiet enough. It gives reasonable temperatures. It's pricey compared to similar performing competitors but cheap for what it is. It's almost the perfect definition of the H50 itself. It's a water-cooler that is marketed to the air-cooling brigade. In trying to be all things to all men it's not quite anything to anyone. If you want silence, the crown still belongs to the Noctua NH-D14. If you want performance, it's the Noctua again. The Noctua is a couple of quid more expensive but a great improvement. The Megahalem/Cheap Fan combo has similar performance, but is a tenner cheaper, so if you wanted a particular type of fan you've around £15 to play with. Also by virtue of being purely air it's much easier to relax about and allows you to route your airflow as you like, rather than as Corsair demand.
If you want a good looking cooler that doesn't take up masses of space on the inside of your case and gives reasonable temperatures, we can recommend the Corsair H50. It's unquestionably good. It's just not quite at the top of the mountain.