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Testing notes
To gauge the H50's performance, we're going to compare it with a similar all-in-one liquid cooler in CoolIT's Domino ALC and a high-end air tower in Noctua's NH-U12P. If you're unfamiliar with either, I suggest checking out our recent air versus water cooling showdown, which details both coolers.

We tested each cooler with a Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition running at its native 3GHz and overclocked to 3.5GHz with an extra 100 millivolts flowing to the CPU. The H50 was configured with its pump running on a constant 12V and its fan plugged into the motherboard's temperature-controlled CPU fan header. With the Domino, users are given the choice between low, medium, and performance options, with medium automatically adjusting fan speeds based on coolant temperature. The medium setting worked for us at stock speeds, but we had to crank the Domino up to performance mode at 3.5GHz to achieve stability. Our NH-U12P air cooler runs nice and quietly even on 12V, which is how we configured the cooler for testing.

Our test system hasn't changed since that showdown, but ambient temperatures have, so we've conducted a new round of testing for this review. We built everything up in a Thermaltake Spedo enclosure because it's easy to work in and represents the kind of larger enclosure you'd expect from enthusiasts interested in high-end or liquid-based cooling. All of the Spedo's case fans were hooked up to a 7V adapter, allowing them to move plenty of air at significantly reduced noise levels that should allow us to better hear the CPU coolers we're testing. I did remove the Spedo's massive 220-mm side fan, though. It's simply too noisy, even on only seven volts, so any differences in sound levels coming from the CPU coolers should be easily heard. The large 220-mm side fan has been removed, as it creates too much noise even at seven volts.

Processor AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition 3GHz
System Bus HT 3.6 GT/s (1.8GHz)
Motherboard Asus M3A32 MVP Deluxe
BIOS Revision 1002
Memory Size 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory Type Corsair CM2X1024 DDR2 SDRAM
Memory Speed 1066MHz
Hard drive Maxtor 200GB SATA
Graphics XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 512 PCIe with GeForce driver version 190.62
Enclosure Thermaltake Spedo
Power Supply Enermax MODU 82+ EMD625AWT 625 Watts
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Edition
OS updates Service Pack 1, DirectX redist update August 2008

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible, but as is always the case with cooling and overclocking, individual results will vary. We've locked down as many variables as we can to focus on the performance differences between these three coolers.