All of our testing is performed under controlled conditions to ensure accurate and repeatable results. The test system is kept in a near steady 20°C ambient environment with readings taken before and after testing with a standard room thermometer. The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) is used for monitoring and recording temperatures throughout the test process.
Stock CPU settings were obtained by reverting to the default settings via the motherboard BIOS, while a moderate stable overclocked frequency of 4.2GHz was reached by simply setting the multiplier to 40, leaving the bus at 100mhz, and increasing the core voltage to 1.22V.
A fresh, fully updated installation of Windows 10 is allowed to sit idle for 10 minutes after startup to ensure all services are loaded before recording idle CPU temperatures. CPU load temperatures are generated by performing a 20 minute run of the XTU CPU Stress Test to generate as much heat as possible.
|Chassis Test System|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 4690K 3.5Ghz, Overclocked to 4.2GHz/1.22V VCore|
|Motherboard||MSI Z79I GAMING AC|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance LP 2 x 8GB DDR3 @ 1866mhz|
|Graphics||MSI 280X 3G GAMING|
|Storage||Corsair Force LX 256GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair CX600M|
|Chassis||Corsair Obsidian 250D|
|CPU Cooling||Corsair H5 SF all-in-one liquid cooler|
|OS||Windows 10 64-Bit|
|Corsair H5 SF CPU Cooler Temps|
|Stock CPU Idle||36ºC|
|Stock CPU Load||60ºC|
|OC CPU Idle||40ºC|
|OC CPU Load||79ºC|
Once the Corsair H5 SF was properly seated, temperatures during overclocked load testing stayed well within the thermal limits specified by Intel, which was a huge relief. We also found that there was no difference between the numbers when the H5 was installed in the 250D or the 380T, which could be attributed in part to the foam gasket that runs around the exhaust opening.
The entire opening was covered by the dual 80mm fan mounts on the 250D, but an area of each corner of the exhaust port in the 380T was blocked by the narrower single 120mm fan mount. The gasket meant that what little warm air could have escaped back into the chassis wasn’t able to, meaning temperatures stayed constant between the two chassis.
While the temperature results are great given the compact size of the chassis and the cooler itself, we weren’t fond of the extra noise generated by the GPU-style fan compared to other Hydro-series coolers that use a more traditional case fan.
The short maximum RPM period that seems to go hand-in-hand with all-in-one liquid coolers when a system is powered on is no longer present, but during normal operation the increase in fan speed is clearly audible as the processor is taxed in short bursts. A faint whining noise can be heard when CPU usage reaches even 10%, which can get very annoying for someone trying to concentrate on, oh I don’t know. Writing a tech review?
Those who wear headphone or have music playing most of the time may not notice this, but my simple mind needs silence while I work, and I wasn’t getting it with the H5 due to the fan spinning up every 45 to 60 seconds or so.
It’s no secret among the TG staff that I like my rigs small. In fact my constant gushing over smaller hardware is one of the reasons why we’ve decided to move forward with building a small form factor rig designed specifically to test mini-ITX and micro-ATX chassis seeing how they are more popular now than ever before, so stay tuned for that. Thankfully we were lucky enough to have a rig with which to test the Corsair H5 SF, because it certainly has all the makings of a winner.
It’s easy to install, compact enough to fit into most chassis assuming the proper amount of home work is done first, and it’s capable of keeping mild to medium overclocked chips cool. Make no mistake, this isn’t an H80 or H100, but it is a solid, all around cooling solution for those who want more brawn than a low profile air cooler is likely to afford. Speaking of the H100, we had intended to see how the H100i compared to the H5, however it decided to give up the ghost just before we began testing. R.I.P. good buddy.
The major problem that we found with the H5 is the extra noise generated by the different type of fan. I’ve tested many Corsair Hydro coolers and they have all managed to stay whisper quiet while navigating around the OS, opening Photoshop, viewing pictures, and performing other basic tasks.
The H5 however, continuously spun up and down, making a faint whining noise each time that simply became too much to overlook. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a loud noise, but it is audible and frequent enough to make it standout among the usual noise made by other case fans, a second system about 4 feet away, and the NAS sitting beside me.
Also it would have been nice if a fan splitter cable was included seeing how most mini-ITX motherboards only have a couple of fan headers. Thankfully I was able to scrounge one out of my box of odds and ends, but the average user may not be so lucky and will need to tack on a few extra bucks to the total cost of their build or upgrade. It’s either that or say goodbye to any additional case fans.
Speaking of cost, the H5 comes in at a reasonable $75 USD at most major online retailers. That might seem like a lot compared to some air coolers, but with mini-ITX systems your options are limited to begin with. We feel that by spending a little extra on the H5, your chip will stay cooler since we’ve proven time and time again that the majority of air coolers, whether compact or not, simply can’t hang with all-in-one liquid coolers, and the ones that can aren’t likely to fit in a mini-ITX chassis anyway. There’s also the fact that all warm air is exhausted from the system, whereas air coolers leave some of it swirling inside the chassis, resulting in higher overall temperatures.
All in all, the Corsair H5 SF is a solid performer, but the noise is just enough to keep us from awarding it an Editor’s Choice Award. This might not make a difference to some, and it’s those people who will fall in love this cooler, but for those who absolutely need the quietest rig going, this simply won’t do the trick.
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