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Part 2: Little Water, Big Air--Corsair H50 Versus Rosewill FORT120

Part 2: Little Water, Big Air--Corsair H50 Versus Rosewill FORT120
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Do sealed liquid coolers provide a compelling performance alternative to air?

Liquid-cooling proponents cite the benefits of a larger radiator placed further from the heat source, saying it provides superior results. Meanwhile, fans of air-cooling criticize liquid coolers for their cost, complexity, maintenance, and potential for leakage. Yet, sealed liquid systems have almost none of the problems associated with larger do-it-yourself options. Their plastic cooling lines are nearly impermeable to evaporation, so there's no need to refill them, and they're impervious to the contaminants that so often clog serviceable component coolers. Corsair relied on maintenance-free cooling expert Asetek to develop its universal-fit H50.

Now, air-cooling aficionados point to the fact that the small radiators required to make a sealed liquid system “universal-fit” are already matched in surface area by several tower-style heatsinks. They also say that short, permanently-affixed coolant lines remove any possible benefit of alternative radiator placement. And while liquid-cooling guys can point to occasional installation woes for oversized air coolers, such as what we saw happen with our $1,300 System Builder Marathon build, air-cooling supporters feel such design disasters are avoidable, requiring just a little forethought when selecting parts for the configuration.

Going up against the H50, Rosewill sent its FORT120 for performance and fit testing. We included the results from our earlier comparison to evaluate any improvements these challengers may present. Will we find a new performance leader?

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  • 2 Hide
    Proximon , July 31, 2009 7:10 AM
    Thank you. It's good to have more confirmation on a part. Redbeard from Corsair has been defending this unit on a thread over at that other site, perhaps he'll make an appearance here as well. As you say, it's a good part in some instances.
    I have to wonder though if performance would be different on Phenom IIs, where the motherboard is configured such that large air coolers don't work well. (AMD boards have a smaller space around the CPU.)
    Also, I didn't see the TIM listed. Always like to know what paste is used.
  • -1 Hide
    pendorchete , July 31, 2009 7:40 AM
    How is the Corsairs H50 compared with the Asetek LCLC found in Falcon NW's Core i7 Mach 5 you've reviewed? What kind of temps produces in that system?
  • 0 Hide
    jongwoonkim , July 31, 2009 8:44 AM
    Fan speed makes a huge difference in the performance of the cooler. I have similar cpu cooler. It wasn't doing what I needed but it had a bracket to add additional fan on the other side. I added a fan that did 2600rpm. The result was dramatic. Existing fan ran quietly at 1300rpm. Air delivered can change by factor of 2 between low rpm and high rpm. In order to give proper comparison H50 should have been test fitted with Rosewill's fan. I would think it will significant improve the performance. Over all exiting review and H50 seems to be an excellent engineering!!
  • -1 Hide
    haplo602 , July 31, 2009 11:03 AM
    hmm I am waiting on a small LC solution like to corsair and domino with 80mm radiators to fit on the backplate of the aerocool M40. paired with 2 80mm fans, it should do wonders I guess.
  • 0 Hide
    amnotanoobie , July 31, 2009 11:15 AM
    jongwoonkimIn order to give proper comparison H50 should have been test fitted with Rosewill's fan. I would think it will significant improve the performance. Over all exiting review and H50 seems to be an excellent engineering!!


    I also wanted to see what would happen with the H50 if it was retrofitted with the fan of the Fort120. If the H50 does outperform the Fort120, then I guess the H50 would really be a better overall solution.
  • 3 Hide
    coconutboy , July 31, 2009 12:37 PM
    I'm curious why there's no dB chart for noise levels. Sure there's text, but we're not given solid numbers on each model. I'm a longtime THG reader from the '90s, but this type of data NEEDS to be in articles for people (myself included) who want a quiet system first, and a cool one second.

    Outside of that gripe, good review and in line with what I've seen elsewhere. Tough call on the Corsair since it's perhaps a wee bit pricey for what it does, but based on what I've read here and at anandtech etc, I'll likely buy it for the noise reduction and simple install.
  • -1 Hide
    coconutboy , July 31, 2009 12:44 PM
    Almost forgot to mention, I've read on a few other sites that users should be sure to check out the mounting hardware for the Corsair H50 before buying. IIRC, the screws that come with it can be problematic for some people's cases even if you have a 120mm fan mount. Example from the guru3d review-

    "So on top of the radiator a fan needs to be mounted. Pretty much you use these four screws (supplied) and push them through the chassis, fan and radiator. This mounting system is unfortunately far from ideal. Chassis' tend to differ, should the chassis be thick or have another mounting system design for the 120mm fan, these screws will not fit as there isn't any clearance.

    Using your own screws should be done carefully as you can easily screw them in too deep and damage the radiator. We like these rubber push-pin retention clips we see a lot lately, perhaps something Corsair should look into for their next revision of the H50."
  • -1 Hide
    mjello , July 31, 2009 12:56 PM
    Will they make a gpu version too ? If not. Do you know about a similar solution but for gfx ?

    I suppose one could modify the system by adding a gpu waterblock to the loop.

    However it might damage the system, and there is the question of reduced performance from the pump because of increased resistance from the extra hose and gpu block. And no warranty then heeh.
  • -1 Hide
    Marcus52 , July 31, 2009 1:14 PM
    H50 looks like something that may work with my Antec Skeleton rig, which needs a shorter CPU cooler. Still, the CPU temp performance is a bit underwhelming. I too wonder what the paste is, and if a better paste would help. More fan power looks like a good option too.

    I wouldn't try the H50 for a CPU and graphics card, it just doesn't have the cooling capacity to do both. Adapting it for a graphics board only might be an option, but you lose the pre-sealed system benefit, so not sure that's the way I'd go, even if it is cheaper.

    Definitely a nice price on the H50!

    ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    nicklasd87 , July 31, 2009 1:23 PM
    jongwoonkimFan speed makes a huge difference in the performance of the cooler. I have similar cpu cooler. It wasn't doing what I needed but it had a bracket to add additional fan on the other side. I added a fan that did 2600rpm. The result was dramatic. Existing fan ran quietly at 1300rpm. Air delivered can change by factor of 2 between low rpm and high rpm. In order to give proper comparison H50 should have been test fitted with Rosewill's fan. I would think it will significant improve the performance. Over all exiting review and H50 seems to be an excellent engineering!!


    I completely agree, I would consider buying that Corsair unit because of its obvious design advantages, and I have a 2600 rpm 120 mm fan I would like to hook up to it. I would really like to know how much of a performance advantage this would provide compared to the stock fan. If it outperforms the Rosewill with a faster fan, I would get the corsair in a heartbeat, I have been looking for a good cpu fan for a while now that would work well in my relitively small midsized lian li case, and water would work so much better than air at removing heat from the case.
  • 3 Hide
    scook9 , July 31, 2009 1:23 PM
    The corsair unit is the exact same as the Asetek LCLC and is also the exact same "water cooling" that the HP Blackbird 002 used. Just a heads up. Asetek has a site which discusses this unit and they do mention that there are systems with GPU included that they make for OEMs.

    I was happy to see this unit reviewed, I was sad to see it reviewed so poorly. This should be redone with both units using the same fan same TIM. That is called removing variables...... Given that this was what, 3 pages? Shouldn't take you too long. I am interested in trying one of these units but am still on the fence, this review did NOTHING to get me off said fence....Please re do
  • -1 Hide
    playerone , July 31, 2009 1:50 PM
    Why no Mention of the fact that the Acetech/Corsair H50 is sesigned to have the fan blowing into the case, it is not to be used as exhaust fan, which does make a big difference in it's performance but then you have to re-think the air flow of the case...

    Also missing from this review a note to you AMD users In taking a tour of FrozenCPU.coms facility this big box from acetech arrives - 25 fresh H50s ever single one of them did not have AMD clips and good luck getting them from Corsair as they have what I would call a broken customer service regarding this part.

    Others have noted about the fan speed, not sure whats up with that kind of comparo, but also to pass on FrznCPU also had these great new 55mm deep 120mm fans from some outfit in Germany, they are sweet, 60+ CFM and wisper quiet, just perfect for that special invironment situation.
  • 1 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , July 31, 2009 1:56 PM
    I think this test needs to be redone. It is good and well executed, but not well planned. A watercooling system will have a greater advantage over an air cooling system when inside an actual case. Like in most real world cases the air cooler will be bottlenecked by the lack airflow throughout the case, an open air solution alleviates this and allows it to perform much better. A watercooling setup is barely effected by this since it needs air to flow in only one distinct direction instead of the omni-directional air cooler.

    With all the equipment inside a case the difference could be huge, but it may amount to only a small difference too. I feel that the chance of the results changing in these new circumstances is too high that I can not recommend these results as evidence for or against any of the watercooling setups.

    Also adding in the Xigmatek HDT-s1283 Dark Knight would be nice because, from my experience, it is the best cooler for i7 and would be a great benchmark against the rest of these results.
  • -1 Hide
    playerone , July 31, 2009 2:00 PM
    I Take that back, the rear fan used as intake is briefly mentioned in the conclusion, I'm not sure burying it there is such a wise idea for the readers but its there (whish we could edit our comments like other sites - hint).
  • -1 Hide
    tntom , July 31, 2009 2:01 PM
    I too would like to see what happens with a fan swap from the Fort to the H50. I've been reading Tom's virtually everyday since 1996, I miss that kind of comprehensive testing from back then.
  • 1 Hide
    playerone , July 31, 2009 2:06 PM
    tntomI too would like to see what happens with a fan swap from the Fort to the H50. I've been reading Tom's virtually everyday since 1996, I miss that kind of comprehensive testing from back then.


    Check out Frostytech, they do just cooling reviews and do them very well.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 31, 2009 2:16 PM
    Why would they change the fans out? If the H50 came with the high-RPM Rosewill fan, they would have tested it as such. As it is, it didn't, so they wouldn't be testing the H50 against the Fort120, they'd be testing a H50+other fan against the Fort120, which isn't accurate at all. It would be nice to see the results, yes, but in a comparison of two out-of-the-box components, it makes no sense.
  • 0 Hide
    playerone , July 31, 2009 2:34 PM
    xxxxxxxxxWhy would they change the fans out? If the H50 came with the high-RPM Rosewill fan, they would have tested it as such. As it is, it didn't, so they wouldn't be testing the H50 against the Fort120, they'd be testing a H50+other fan against the Fort120, which isn't accurate at all. It would be nice to see the results, yes, but in a comparison of two out-of-the-box components, it makes no sense.

    Good point, however consider how inefeciant that Roswell must be to have to use a 2500+RPM fan. Who wants that crap buzzing all day long? So in this case I would opt for leveling the field myself, use the same decent fan for both and include that result.

    Best new active cooler?

    Meet "Prolimatech Megahalems" former engineers from one of the most well known manufactures recently started out on their own so they could get things done right (corprate world sux) and this is their first product and needs just one 1200rpm fan to do better than most any and every other cooler.

    Look it up, lots of new reviews out there.

    Those guys know their craft and can't make them fast enough.
  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 31, 2009 4:00 PM
    Can you please do a REAL water cooling testing on the Part 3? Also if reviewing kits, take a look at the Swiftech Apex.
  • -1 Hide
    buzznut , July 31, 2009 5:59 PM
    I would agree that the best solutions for Intel may not be the best for AMD. It would be nice to see some articles aimed at that market.

    I have found the Domino ALC to be a better cooler (albeit louder) for my PII 940 build than the Thermalright Ultra 120 (non-extreme version)that I originally had. However I also have a Thermaltake chipset cooler which I believe helps my overclock in this area.

    Anyway now I have more room to add 4 more gigs of OCZ reaper, my case looks "cleaner" inside and I no longer have the fear of all that hanging weight for my poor old motherboard. A year to you and me equals about 20 in motherboard years! ;) 
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