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Corsair's H115i Pro and H150i Pro CPU coolers reviewed


The right way to mess with success

Even after a company introduces a great and enduring product, the constantly-blowing winds of market demands eventually require a change in tack. When this demand isn't carefully handled, a company risks ruining the very things that made a product successful to begin with. Sometimes drastic changes work, as Apple's radical re-imagining of the iPhone user experience with the iPhone X proves. Sometimes they don't, as with the mixed reception of Apple's radical re-imagining of the 2016 MacBook Pro.

Corsair has arguably been the company most responsible for ushering in the closed-loop liquid-cooled era of enthusiast PC hardware. The H60, H80, and H100, introduced in 2011, likely marked the crossover point where an all-in-one liquid cooler became an enduring and attainable option for enthusiasts versus a monster tower-style air cooler. The company later expanded its lineup with the H105, H110, and a variety of Corsair Link-compatible i-series versions of those coolers, and it sourced those products from Asetek (in GTX guises) and CoolIT Systems (with the GT tag line) alike. I've long used versions of these coolers on my personal systems and test benches alike thanks to their easy-to-use mounting systems, low stress on motherboards, and high performance.

In light of that storied history, Corsair's H115i Pro and H150i Pro coolers have a lot riding on their shoulders as they launch today. The 280-mm H115i Pro is an evolution of Corsair's existing H110i GTX, while the H150i Pro is the company's first 360-mm closed-loop cooler ever. In a world where 16 or 18 cores can be found under the heat spreaders of enthusiast CPUs, a 360-mm radiator isn't as insane an idea as it might sound, and several other manufacturers have already beat Corsair to the punch in offering such a radiator size.

Performance concerns aside, enthusiast PCs are more and more a statement of style, too. The sedate RGB LED lighting on today's H100i GT, H100i GTX, H110i GT, and H110i GTX boasts the same 16.7 million potential shades as every other RGB LED component, but it could be outshined by the brighter and more numerous RGB LEDs elsewhere in a fully-illuminated build.

To more boldly proclaim a builder's Corsair allegiance to the world, the H115i Pro and H150i Pro both start with a redesigned pump head that's more stylish and more premium-looking to my eye than past Corsair coolers—not an easy task. The basic pump-head design starts with a glossy black plastic Corsair emblem ringed with aluminum. RGB LEDs shine through the Corsair logo and through the translucent plastic that sits between the aluminum band and the plastic emblem. Another layer of frosted plastic sandwiched between the aluminum band and the black plastic lower housing of the pump gives the RGB LEDs inside another place to shine.

Flipping the pump head over gives us a good look at the circular, brushed-copper cold plate common to both of these coolers. A similar cold plate has served as the business end of many Corsair coolers for years, and the company clearly isn't messing with what works here. What is new here is the four-peg twist-and-lock system that holds cooler brackets in place.

If the pump head of the H115i Pro and H150i Pro is bolder than that of past Corsair coolers, the radiator for these heatsinks is more subdued than ever. A simple chrome Corsair logo replaces the graphite-colored accent bar that used to run the full length of the radiator on older Corsair all-in-ones, and the end tanks of these radiators have been entirely wrapped in a blocky matte-black shell. Most people aren't looking to the radiator of an all-in-one cooler as a major point of style for their systems, but I personally preferred the distinctive look of past Corsair all-in-ones to the more restrained style of the Pro-series coolers. To each their own.

Brains and brawn
Both the H115i Pro and H150i Pro have a Micro-USB port onboard to let them talk with Corsair's Link software for RGB LED, fan-speed, and pump-speed controls. They also have onboard fan controllers so that a builder can bypass a system's motherboard fan-control utilities in favor of Corsair Link's built-in capabilities. The included Micro-USB cable connects to an internal USB 2.0 header available on practically every motherboard.

Once the cooler is connected to the motherboard, Corsair Link can set three pump speeds and configure the cooler's onboard lighting using a variety of prebaked animation settings. Link still can't talk to other RGB LED sync utilities, though, so truly RGB LED-obsessed builders will need to content themselves with finding the best possible complement of lighting and animations that matches up with other LED-illuminated components—or stick with RGB LED components from Corsair only.

Even without RGB LED fan control, the Hydro Pro-series pump head sprouts a fair bit of cabling so that the cooler can get power and connect to any accompanying fans. The cooler needs a SATA power connection to run its pump, and it also has a three-pin header for communicating pump speed to the motherboard.

This mass of permanent cabling is one of my few minor gripes about the design of Corsair's Hydro i-series coolers in general, and I'm a tad disappointed that it hasn't been cleaned up in the Hydro Pro series. Fitting sockets for optional cables to the pump head would increase its size and profile, but a socketed approach would also satisfy builders seeking the cleanest-cabled systems possible. At least for fan control, I believe Corsair could even be better served by accepting that most modern motherboards already have perfectly competent fan-control systems or even utilities that are superior to its own offerings. Regardless of my gripes, these twin four-pin fan headers are still there for those who want them, and when paired with Corsair Link, they can actually stop the fans on the H115i Pro and H150i Pro when the system is idle. The cooler will kick on the fans when coolant temperatures exceed 40° C.