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Corsair H100i Elite Review: Ultra Silent Performance

Set sail for silence.

Corsair H100i Elite
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

Corsair’s H100i Elite is a very quiet AIO with an impressive software suite and in-depth customization options.

Pros

  • +

    Quietest cooler I’ve tested thus far

  • +

    Software Suite with in-depth controls

  • +

    Capable of cooling up to 200W when paired with Alder Lake CPUs

Cons

  • -

    Fan Speeds are tied to coolant temp by default, rather than CPU temp

Corsair started out in 1994 selling L2 cache modules for OEMs. After Intel integrated the L2 cache into the Pentium Pro CPU lineup, it pivoted to DRAM. Today the company sells a wide variety of components and peripherals, like the Corsair 5000X case and CX750M Power Supply. But cooling has also been a staple of the company's lineup for a long time, with the Corsair iCUE H100i Elite 240mm AIO Liquid Cooler being the latest model to land on our test bench. Can it tame Intel’s 12900K and earn a spot on our best AIO coolers list? We’ll have to put it through testing to find out. But first here are the specifications, dired from Corsair.

Specifications for the Corsair H100i Elite 

CoolerCorsair iCUE H100i RGB Elite
MSRP$139 USD
Radiator Dimensions277 x 120 x 27mm
Net Weight0.91 pounds
Socket CompatibilityIntel Socket LGA 115X / 1200 / 1366/ 1700 / 2011 / 2066
AMD AM4 / AM5 / sTRX4 / sTR4
Rated Noise LevelUp to 31.5 dBa
CPU BlockCopper

Packing and Included Contents 

Like most modern mid-sized AIOs, Corsair’s H100i Elite ships in a medium-sized box with molded cardboard and soft plastic coverings of the individual parts for protection.

Included with the package are the following:

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
  • CPU Block with pre-applied thermal paste + Radiator
  • 2x AF ELITE FDB PWM 120mm Fans
  • Mounts for all modern CPU sockets, including LGA1700, TR4, and AM4/AM5 motherboards
  • USB-C Wiring Harness
  • Warranty Leaflet

Cooler Installation

Installing the H100i Elite was simple enough. To begin, you’ll first want to secure the radiator to your case via the provided screws. Next, press the backplate against the motherboard and secure it using stand-offs.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

You won’t need to worry about thermal paste, as it is pre-applied to the CPU block. Press the CPU block against the standoffs, and then use the included thumb screws to secure it.

What's different than other coolers?

  • Software Suite with in-depth customization options

The iCue software suite is a little bulky, with a 1GB download size (3.5GB after installation), but has a variety of in-depth customization options available. Three preset noise profiles are available, and when customizing noise levels you can change what sensor it responds to – it defaults to the coolant temperature, but you can set it to the CPU Package temperature or a variety of other sensors.

In addition to fan and noise profile controls, there are of course a variety of ARGB lighting presets, as well as the ability to independently control each LED. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

A unique aspect of Corsair’s software is the ability to set “Alerts” which can set fans to 100%, trigger all RGB LEDs, shut down the computer, or even run a program when the CPU temperature hits your desired value.

  • Corsair AF Elite FDB PWM 120mm Fans

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

There’s more to a liquid cooler than just the radiator and pump. The fans included have a significant impact on cooling and performance. Included with the H100i Elite are two AF Elite FDB fans, which have a solid black color and run very quietly.

ModelAF Elite FDB
Dimensions120 x 120 x 25 mm
Fan Speed400 - 1850 RPM±10%
Air Flow10.9 - 59.1 CFM
Air Pressure0.09 - 1.93 mm H2O
Noise LevelUp to 32.9 dB(A)
LightingNone

Testing Configuration

CoolerCorsair iCUE H100i Elite 240mm AIO Liquid Cooler
MSRP$139.99 USD (Base Model) $259.99 USD (LCD Model)
Comparison Coolers TestedBeQuiet Pure Loop 2 FX, 360mm AIO
Cooler Master Master Liquid PL360 Flux 360mm AIO
Cougar Poseidon GT 360, 360m AIO
Corsair iCUE H100i Elite 240mm AIO
DeepCool AK500 Air Cooler
DeepCool LS520, 240mm AIO"
CPUIntel i9-12900K
MotherboardMSI Zz690 A-Pro DDR4
CaseBeQuiet! Silent Base 802 Window
PSUDeepCool PQ1000M

'll be testing Corsair’s iCUE H100i Elite with Intel's Core i9-12900K. Due to the increased thermal density of the Intel 7 manufacturing process, as well as changes to core and component layouts, Alder Lake CPUs are more difficult to cool than previous generation CPUs in the most heat-intensive of workloads.

This means that coolers that kept previous generation products like the i9-10900K nice and cool sometimes struggle to keep Intel's i9-12900K under Tj max–the max temperature before the CPU starts to throttle. Many coolers I’ve tested have failed to keep the i9-12900K under TJ max when power limits are removed in workloads like Cinebench and OCCT.

Note there are many factors other than the CPU cooler that can influence your cooling performance. A system's motherboard can especially influence this, as there are motherboards on the market with CPU sockets that aren't up to Intel's spec, which can cause warping or poor contact with the CPU. The case you use will also influence cooling results. 

With Alder Lake's cooling demands in mind, I'll be rating CPU Coolers in 3 different tiers.

Tier 1: These coolers are able to keep the i9-12900K below TJ max in most loads, with no power limits enforced. I expect only the best liquid coolers to meet this standard.

Tier 2: These coolers are able to keep the i9-12900K under the TJ max threshold with CPU power limits of 200W enforced. I expect most liquid coolers and the best air coolers to meet this standard.

Tier 3: These coolers are able to keep the i9-12900K under TJ max with CPU power limits of 140W enforced.

Testing Methodology

Cooler Master’s iCUE software has a variety of presets that you can choose, which can impact noise levels and overall cooling performance. During these tests, I ran the cooler using the “Balanced” profile, which is the default setting in Corsair’s iCUE software.

To test the limits of a cooler's thermal dissipation capabilities, I run two primary stress tests: Cinebench and OCCT each for 10 minutes. While this may be a short amount of time, it is sufficient to push most coolers - air and liquid - to their limits.

While stress testing in Cinebench, I run both with power limits removed and with an enforced 200W CPU power limit. In this test setup using MSI’s Z690 A Pro DDR4 Motherboard and Be Quiet’s Silent Base 802 Computer Case, only the best coolers are able to pass Cinebench testing when power limits are removed.

I don’t test OCCT without power limits because attempting to do so results in CPU package power consumption jumping to over 270W and instantly throttling with even the best AIO coolers. Instead, I test at 200W to give coolers a chance at passing. I also include 140W and 95W results to give data comparable to a lower-end CPU, such as AMD’s Ryzen 5600x or Intel’s i5-12400.

MORE: Best AIO Coolers

MORE: How to Buy the Right CPU Cooler

Albert Thomas
Freelancer, CPU Cooling Reviewer

Albert Thomas is a contributor for Tom’s Hardware, primarily covering CPU cooling reviews.

  • IceQueen0607
    A software driver that takes 2.3+ GB to install just to tell you fan speeds and temps, that runs 64+ processes and runs at 6% + CPU usage all of the time is not "impressive" in any universe. And certainly not when that software is riddled with bugs, some as old as 3+ years - Fundamental stuff that should have been fixed by now.

    As of 2020 Corsair will not honor warranties if you do not own a cell phone. I've had a cooler and PSU refused simply because I do not own a cell phone. I have a landline. To quote Corsair service "Carriers can only deliver to a cell phone, not to a physical address".

    I've never had a carrier here in Australia refuse to deliver something to me because I don't have a cell phone, even the pathetic Australia Post/StarTrack can manage to deliver to a physical address, albeit extremely slowly.

    I have 10 PCs. All of them had Corsair coolers and PSUs. Some had Corsair RAM and commander pro's. Of those 10 PCs I had to make 14 cooler replacements over an 3 year period with the coolers failing, typically the pumps.

    The coolers are good when they work, but with average 8 month life span, they are not a solid purchase choice. These include the H100, H100 V2, H110, H115 and H150 and variants of them.

    Of the few Corsair coolers I have left they are using CorsairLink which takes 45mb, runs 1 process, uses 0.5% CPU on average and does everything I need it to do for a cooler - tell me temps and fan speeds.
    Reply
  • NoFaultius
    I have been using a Corsair H80i with my i9-9900K for the last 3 years and it has been awesome. I originally got a NZXT cooler, but it could not keep the 9900k below 85C under load. I had an H80i on my 4770k setup, so I decided to give that a try. Out of the box, it was not cooling well enough, so I replaced the single fan it came with, with two ML-120 fans in push pull config. Now the cpu does not go over 65 under load. If the 100i is anything like the 80i, this could be a great cooler with a fan upgrade.
    Reply
  • Albert.Thomas
    NoFaultius said:
    I have been using a Corsair H80i with my i9-9900K for the last 3 years and it has been awesome. I originally got a NZXT cooler, but it could not keep the 9900k below 85C under load. I had an H80i on my 4770k setup, so I decided to give that a try. Out of the box, it was not cooling well enough, so I replaced the single fan it came with, with two ML-120 fans in push pull config. Now the cpu does not go over 65 under load. If the 100i is anything like the 80i, this could be a great cooler with a fan upgrade.

    I agree, this cooler would probably do better with stronger fans - but then it wouldn't run as quietly.
    Reply
  • bobby_0081
    Why will it only cool up to 200W with Alder Lake CPU's? I have an H100i Capellix on my 10850k and it has no issue cooling the 10 core 20 thread chip that puts out 250W under peak load. I know there's differences in the chips but are the differences that much.
    Reply
  • Albert.Thomas
    bobby_0081 said:
    I know there's differences in the chips but are the differences that much.

    They are. Coolers which I had previously considered top tier for cooling a 10900k can struggle with a 12900k, even if the overall wattage is lower.
    Reply
  • sizzling
    Why is the fan speed being defaulted to coolant temperature a con/negative? To me that seems the correct setup. I can understand wanting pump speed linked to cpu temperature.
    Reply