CORSAIR HYDRO COOLER H150i PRO RGB

 

Be it by coincidence or a deliberate effort on Corsair’s end, the hydro AIO cooling solutions have become the default or go-to performance cooler for DIY gaming builds.

There are plenty of good and even exceptional AIO offerings across all price points yet, the hydro series remains the quintessential AIO for mid to high end gaming PCs. How this was achieved isn’t solely through product performance, in fact quite the contrary as there have been a couple of lemons in the past. However, a strong, if not the strongest brand value among competitors has seen this cooling family grow not only in capability but reputation as well. More recently, Corsair has been doing an exceptional job at improving all aspects of all their products and offerings.

This is especially true in areas that aren’t the natural a focus for the many competitors in the space. The Hydro cooler experience has been improving over the year’s and naturally with last year’s introduction of this H150i PRO RGB, the hydro series has yet again put its best foot forward in a valiant and sure way. Refining the overall package through a series of incremental argumentations and additions over each successive generation.

In the larger scheme of things, AIO coolers as a whole have never been better. The constant jostling for top hounors within increasingly competitive markets, may have inadvertently narrowed performance differences between similarly priced AIO solutions. Right now, thermal performance differences are more of an academic exercise than anything practical. That is to say, if you’re considering such an AIO at this price hoping the additional thermal allowance may yield a higher overclock form your CPU, you may have to reconsider. Between the H110i for example and the H150i PRO RGB, the difference is certainly measurable in temperatures, but that delta isn’t nearly enough to allow one to use a higher clock divider for the CPU.

Test Configuration

  • Intel Core i5 6 Core CPU (95W TDP) | 5GHz OC (1.5v)
  • ROG Maximus X APEX (1602)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • Intel 760P 512GiB M.2
  • Seasonic Prime Platinum 850W PSU
  • Windows 10 x64

Speaking of thermal or cooling performance, one needs some context before looking at the benchmarks and drawing a conclusion. The chosen test CPU is only a six-core offering from Intel’s latest generation Core i5 series. Using this CPU allowed two things, which is of course a typical overclock on the chosen SKU at 5Ghz. More than that though, a much higher than necessary CPU input voltage was used at 1.5V. This same CPU can easily achieve this frequency at around 1.2V, but for the sake of stressing the H150i PRO RGB, the higher voltage was chosen.

From the VRM, the system seemed to boost package power to roughly 167W, using a 2x overkill mode for the AVX enabled 4K encoding benchmark (HWBOT x.265 Benchmark). A heavy load on the CPU but one that allowed things to get as toasty as possible within reason.

If the results don’t seem impressive, consider that because of the size of the die on the chosen CPU, dissipating heat is also limited by just the surface area in contact with the heat spreader. The same output power, on a larger die as used on the HEDT CPUs would potentially be cooler and in fact is much cooler as was the case when testing the H150i on the Intel Core i9 7980XE, with temperatures hovering around the mid to late 70s (as opposed to nearly 100’C) with the CPU at full load using the exact same testing methodology. So, the numbers you see in the overclocked results are a worst-case scenario.

That however is enough about the testing methodology. What the H150i offers as the premier cooler from Corsair, is the ability to sustain sensible temperatures which may in some remote cases aid turbo frequencies on high-end CPUs. Between the H100i and the H150i PRO RGB for instance, the delta may be up to 8’C in favour of the H150i of course. Huge in terms of AIO differences, but virtually negligible when it comes to overclocking headroom.

This is where it gets a little more interesting with the H150i. Performance wise it’s impressive as expected, but that performance is also a little too close to what its predecessors offered to justify the price premium; at least this is true if that’s all one is considering. What you may want to place more emphasis on however is the much quieter operation this AIO cooler offers. The H150i is packaged standard with three Magnetic levitation ML120 fans which are among Corsair’s most premium – if not the most premium – fans at about $60 USD (or 770 ZAR for three which is a twin pack & a single). These fans are better in every conceivable way than previous AIO fan offerings, but also contribute to the higher retail price.

The inclusion of these fans though, isn’t without merit as they provide some respectable static air pressure at a sane 25dB noise level. At least that’s the claim as I’ve no way of testing this currently. However, just via a subjective listening test, these are significantly quieter than what was on the H115i and that’s a dual fan solution.

It’s through these seemingly small measurements and comparisons that a pleasing picture or perception of the H150i starts to form. You’ll get better performance than what previous flagship models could offer, but at the same time, it’ll be quieter by some margin.

So, besides the illusive promise of improved system performance via better overclocking, the H150i makes a real case for itself by virtue of its silent yet sufficiently impressive cooling performance. Of all the Hydro coolers I’ve used and tested over the years, the H150i is the most balanced offering to come from Corsair.

As with the vast majority of premium Corsair products in the last couple of years, it’s the materials quality and finishing that are the easiest to appreciate. Next to the old H100, the H150i is light years ahead. It’s even hard to imagine this came from the same firm. Some things though fortunately remain the same or similar enough to be worthy of praise including the installation assembly which is the bar with which I measure all alternative mechanisms. It’s robust, simple and intuitive despite the vast socket compatibility list.

Assembly is as simple and straight forward as ever, but it gets even more impressive when you connect the unit to your motherboard and fiddle with the unit’s RGB cooling block/pump assembly. You can do all the usual patterns and lighting modes, sync them to your other iCUE compatible components and peripherals (I’ve accepted that this is a thing, a very big thing by the numbers it seems) and generally have the block illuminated in whichever way you desire. What I suspect will be of greater use though is the ability to configure the lighting in accordance to temperature changes.

Outside of that, there’s not much else that iCUE allows you to do with the H150i, other than the obvious fan and pump control rpm selection.Just as a side note, iCUE as it is today has come a really long way. If you’re coming from another software package though, you’ll find the colour configuration of most peripherals and components anything but obvious. The thing is though (unlike before really) once you figure it out, it’ll become second nature, but for the uninitiated, you’ll need some patience.

In terms of build quality, better machining, finishing, thicker tubbing, a shallower block, an improved cold plate and the addition of customisable aesthetic properties are obvious takeaways from the H150i. All the above has been improved upon in addition to what was initially appealing about these hydro units in the first place.It would be senseless to run you through what is already shown in the graphs as they speak precisely to the point highlighted earlier; performance figures at this level are largely academic. What matters is that this unit is wonderfully built, performs quite remarkably and is a fine example of where Corsair is in terms of product quality as a brand.

As with all things though, nothing perfect and neither is the H150i. My biggest and likely only objection is cost.  At $170 USD (nearly 3,000 ZAR) it’s certainly on the expensive side – not the worst offender by any stretch – but expensive nonetheless.

With all that said, out of similarly priced AIO kits, it will be difficult to find a better solution as I’m not sure if there is really. The H150i PRO RGB may not be the best in any one discipline, but the package as a whole is mighty impressive, likely without a direct match and thoroughly deserving of all its accolades.

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