With middle-of-the-road performance at a low price, it’s easy to see why so many builders continue to choose proven air coolers to maximize value. On the other hand, most enthusiasts want more cooling capacity, quieter operation, or some balance of those two characteristics.
Thus, a value chart like the one above doesn't really matter to the high-end buyers willing to spend big bucks on hardware, since it’s so heavily skewed by price. A look at the previous page’s cooling and acoustic efficiency charts give us the most useful information. And clearly, power users who simply want the best low-maintenance solution will take the closed-loop liquid route.
That’s also where Corsair’s H100 shines, though its lengthy design requires a specifically-designed case. While many of those cases exist, most builders don’t pick an enclosure based on its ability to accommodate a really big radiator.
Corsair’s H80 was the runner-up in both performance and noise, followed by Antec’s low-cost Kühler H₂O 620. A less than $20 difference between them seems like a pittance by high-end hardware standards. But the percentage is significant.
We’d have no problem running the Kühler H₂O 620 in most of our systems, even though its automatic fan control methods are completely inadequate for our build. That’s because we know that its three-pin fan can also be controlled by the CPU fan headers present on a few of our motherboards. Yet, the cost of switching up to a four-pin fan to make this part more universal nudges us even closer to the price of Corsair’s better-performing Hydro H80.
It appears that Corsair really does have the proverbial “better mousetrap” in its Hydro H80 and H100. The H80 fits more cases and costs less, so it gets our general recommendation for builders who want the performance of extra-big air, without the extra-heavy motherboard-busting heat sink. Now, let's see if enthusiasts pave a broad, hard-beaten road to Corsair's house.