Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Corsair Hydro H5 SF

Corsair Hydro H5 SF

Small form factor water-cooling is now a reality

Let’s cut to the point. Piecing together a small form factor build is always going to be a nightmare. If you’ve had any experience working in those tiny, cramped spaces, you’ll know that getting every inch of extra leverage is vital. Couple that with an incredibly limited number of potential cooling options, and you’re well on the way to shredded fingers, busted egos, and general frustration when trying to beef up and perfect your small slice of ITX heaven.

Let’s give you a hypothetical scenario to add a little clarity to the situation. You’re a well-rounded teenager, and you’ve been saving up for a year now to build your very own ITX chassis ready for university. You don’t know exactly how much space you’re going to have, and being a true PC gamer, to hell are you using a laptop. You price up a build: Intel Core i5-6600K, 8GB of DDR4, Nvidia GTX 960, all in your favorite case, an In-Win 901 Mini-ITX chassis. After all, what’s a better conversation starter than that beautiful piece of aluminum craftsmanship? There’s just one problem: It only supports one 92mm fan in the rear, and another 120mm fan in the front. So what’s the solution? Stick with a retail cooler, or head for a low-profile option instead, most of which have a habit of throttling your overall CPU performance?

Well, not anymore. Corsair has just launched its first iteration of the Hydro H5 SF, a small form factor, all-in-one liquid cooler. Based loosely on the design of the Hydro H100i, this CPU chilling marvel features a single 120mm fan, in a setup that quite closely resembles the likes of traditional blower graphics cards. Once installed, the fan faces toward your CPU block, sucking cool air from around your motherboard into an innovatively designed shroud and radiator combo. It then pushes this hot air sideways, straight out of the back of your chassis. What’s impressive is that it manages it all while retaining a snug 84mm of clearance.

Mounting the H5 SF is a simple affair— if you’ve had any experience with AIOs, you’ll be used to the backplate and screws mechanism found on most of the closed loop coolers out there. The only noticeable difference is a step back to the original H100i’s CPU block, with its magnetic securing bracket situated on top of the CPU block. Once you’ve mounted the heatsink to your CPU, it’s just a case of installing the proprietary support bracket, then securing the radiator portion of this AIO to that. It’s advisable to do this second to last, as you’ll have little room to maneuver once it’s in place, but you’ll still have plenty of space to slot in your GPU.

However, the biggest shocker with this bad boy is the performance. We tested the H5 SF against one of our favorites, Noctua’s NH-C14S. As far as low-profile coolers go, the C14S is the baddest of the bunch… or so we thought. We ran a set of four benchmarks, under four separate conditions—100 percent fan speed, 60 percent fan speed, stock frequency, and overclocked to 4.6GHz—and in every scenario but one, the Hydro H5 SF came out on top, with an average of two degrees difference between the titans. Admittedly, two degrees doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you couple that with the fact that the C14S is 31mm taller, and features a fully configured 140mm fan to boot, those figures speak for themselves.

Ultimately, both of these coolers are impressive feats of engineering. Noctua has long been renowned for its cooling and noise optimizing prowess. Yet for once, the king of the hill has been unseated, with Corsair rightfully taking its place as the ITX chilling champion. The Hydro H5 SF is an incredibly innovative feat of watercooling design—packing so much thermal regulating potential into such a small form factor is astounding. Couple that with a lack of beige, a sleek black style, and a price tag $5 less than the NH-C14S, and, well, there’s nothing left to say.

Socket Support AMD: AM2, AM3, FM1, FM2 Intel LGA: 115X, 1366
Motherboard Compatibility ITX only
CPU Clearance 84mm
Radiator Dimensions 6.5x1.6x2.2 inches
Fan Noise level 36–42 dBA
Warranty Five years