The H50 is a good example of the evolution of all-in-one PC water cooling kits. Corsair's cooling division has created an easy-to-install unit that offers great performance and commendably low noise levels. With a street price around $80 online, though, it's not the cheapest way to get this sort of heat-dissipating power. Still, the H50 did fare quite well against the similar Domino ALC, achieving comparable CPU temperatures with consistently lower noise levels. The Domino is a little cheaper at $65, but it's not as easy to install or adapt to different cases and custom builds.
Now, just because I'd recommend the H50 over the Domino doesn't mean that the Corsair model is the best way to cool your processor. Air-cooled CPU heatsinks have had a lot longer to mature than their factory-sealed, liquid-fueled counterparts, and the Noctua maintained comparable temperatures to its liquid-cooled peers while making less noise than even the H50. I suspect the Corsair unit would have fared better with a higher flow rate, larger-diameter tubing, and more coolant. That said, I can still think of a couple of reasons why one might want to spring for the H50 over a high-end air cooler.
The first and most obvious reason is case clearance. Standing only 2.5" tall, the H50's water block and pump assembly is significantly shorter than aptly named tower heatsinks. Even with the associated tubing, the H50 requires only 3.5-4" of clearance above the CPU; the Noctua, by comparison, needs roughly six inches of vertical clearance. Of course, the H50 still requires a case with a 120-mm fan mount, and those enclosures can typically accommodate taller air towers. Enterprising modders should be able to add a 120-mm fan mount to smaller cases and squeeze in the H50's relatively slim radiator, though.
Another reason to opt for an H50 over an air tower relates to how often you move your system. Hanging a heavy, 6" metal heatsink and a 120-mm fan off of a motherboard back plate works for plenty of folks, but if you often take your PC to LAN parties or otherwise move it around a lot, you might appreciate the fact that most of the H50's weight sits lower to the motherboard or is anchored directly to the case. I've never had a problem with larger tower heatsinks damaging motherboards, but I've heard enough horror stories to prefer lower-profile coolers for more mobile builds.
The H50's simple design should also appeal to folks who are specifically looking to dabble in water cooling but don't want to go through an involved installation. As we've seen, though, the right big-honkin' heatsink can give you lower temperatures and noise levels.
44 comments — Last by Freon at 10:23 AM on 09/24/09
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