DWPG.Com - Review, Corsair Hydrocool 200 Watercooler
By: Sverre Sjøthun

Introduction

- Norwegian version at Overklokking.no.
- Written by: Vidar Fagerjord at Overklokking.no
- Translated by: Sverre Sjøthun with permission from Overklokking.no.

Corsair is well known for their high performance memory, and they're now taking it one step further, into the world of watercooling, thus the expectations are high. Corsair has developed the Hydrocool 200 in cooperation with Harrison Thermal Systems (Delphi Automotive Products). Harrison Thermal Systems at Delphi Automotive Products has been in the cooling business for over 90 years, so they should definitely know what they're talking about.

The Hydrocool 200 watercooler

The Hydrocool 200 watercooler


The Hydrocool 200 is a product in the same category as the Koolance Exos -- an external unit containing a pump, radiator reservoir, and fan. The hoses have Quick-connect fittings that seal themselves, which obviously is a major advantage when mounting and moving your computer.

The Hydrocool 200 is powered by your computer via a controller card. The controller measures the temperature on top of the waterblock, typically 15C lower than the processor core temperature, and is displayed in the front of the cooling unit. Should the temperature rise to or above a variable preset number, the controller will shut down the system.


Using the cooler

The installation was very simple and took about an hour or so. When you start up the system, the fans spin up to full speed, and then slow down to "whisper mode". In whisper mode, the fans are barely audible, but at full speed, or Turbo mode if you like, they are pretty noisy.

The pump, on the other hand, is a bit too noisy to our liking. The pump used in my normal watercooling setup is an Eheim 1250, capable of 1200lph and is extremely quiet running. The noise level on the Hydrocool pump, however, is so loud you can hear it 3-5 feet away -- with the computer in between. Like we mentioned earlier in this review, the pump is suspended in a rubber collar, but it doesn't seem to help much -- if at all.

The pump in rubber suspension

The pump in rubber suspension


Except for the noisy pump, the overall impression is good. The system will monitor the temperatures and let you know if anything is wrong - be it low fluid level, too high temperatures and so on.

The overheat protection system is quite ingenious. Hydrocool 200 will shut down your computer before anything gets fried. You can adjust these parameters, but keep in mind that the temperature is measured on top of the waterblock, not at the processor core. Corsair estimates the deltaT to about 15 degrees Celsius or Farenheit, and we can confirm that this is pretty accurate.


Testbench and benchmarks

The testbench:
- Lian Li PC75 USB
- Asus P4G8X
- 2x256MB Corsair TWINX 3200
- Intel Pentium 4 3.06
- Sapphire Radeon 9500 128

The testbench

The testbench


Testing methology
We ran a set of SiSoft Sandra Burn-in wizards, ten loops after having used the setup for three days (to make sure the thermal paste had "settled"). The looping was performed three times and the highest temperature was registered as result. The idle temperature was measured in the morning after, before any work was done. Ambient temperature fluctuation was +/- 0.2 degrees. The same procedure was performed after overclocking to 3450MHz.

Results

P4 3.06GHz at default speed

P4 3.06GHz at default speed


As we expected, the Hydrocool ended up below our other watercooling systems because the AC and Magnum waterblocks were tested using a much bigger and more efficient radiator, pump and so on. Despite this, the Hydrocool performed very well - the DeltaT between idle and full load is only 3.5 degrees. But what happens when we increase the load on the cooler?

Overclocked, P4 3.06 running at 3450 MHz

Overclocked, P4 3.06 running at 3450 MHz


Overclocked to 3450MHz, the idle temperature increased by 7 degrees and the load temperature by 5.5 degrees, ie. a DeltaT of 2 degrees between idle and load.

Turbo mode
The performance in turbo mode didn't improve the performance much -- 0.5 to 1 degree cooler, so there's really no reason why one would want to run the fan at full throttle as the noise level tends to be a bit annoying.

After the testing, I disassembled the kit. What we found was quite disturbing -- the processor made very poor contact with the waterblock, and the reason? The waterblock is concave, making the contact-area between the two surfaces shrink to only a fraction of what it should be.

Poor contact with the processor, the waterblock base is concave

Poor contact with the processor, the waterblock base is concave



No wonder the Hydrocool 200 doesn't cool as well as expected with that poor contact between the processor and waterblock. As usual, we used a very thin layer of thermal paste, and we always clean off the processor before mounting any new cooling equipment. The image above speaks for itself -- only the edges of the processor had made contact with the waterblock, and we have verified that it is the waterblock, not the processor that is concave.


Conclusion

The Hydrocool is a nice kit with many great features -- it is compact, easy to move and easy to mount. The cooling-performance is on par, especially considering the concave waterblock. If it weren't for this problem, the temperatures would've been much lower. The noise level isn't bad at all either, except for the pump that is too noisy. However, we have indications that it may be caused by a slight defect in our pump, and that the pump is usually much more silent than ours.

The fact that the Hydrocool has sensors monitoring almost every aspect of the system is great. Should anything fail, the system will power down, but before that happens, the alarm will go off telling you that something's wrong.

Retail pricing is expected around $215, and for that price, you can put together a pretty nice kit yourself, or buy a complete kit from for example Innovatek or Swiftech. What you don't get with either of the latter solutions are the system monitoring, but personally, it is not a great loss.

The Hydrocool 200 would be a great alternative for those of you that are new to watercooling or don't want/have the time to build your own. It's almost foolproof, and it's virtually impossible to make any big mistakes mounting it. The fact that you do not need to modify your case is obviously a big bonus for many users. Add the monitoring feature, and you have probably one of the most secure watercooling systems available today. However, if you are an experienced user or in need of some serious heavy duty cooling, you might want to take a look at other alternatives.

Pros
- Comes with everything you need to get started
- System monitoring
- Easy to mount
- Easy to move
- Small

Cons
- Concave waterblock
- Noisy pump
- Performance(obviously related to the waterblock)

Finally we would like to thank Corsair Memory, Inc. for providing us with this kit.

Ed. note 1: We have read a few reviews on other sites, and they do not report any problems with the waterblock, nor any mention of noisy pumps. Two of them are ipKonfig.com and Overclockers.com. The unit used in this review will be sent back to Corsair for examination. We will post an update as soon as we know more.

Ed. note 2: Thanks to Vidar Fagerjord at Overklokking.no for letting us translate this review.

Sverre Sjøthun

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Specifications

Before we go on with the review, let's take a look what's included with this kit:

- External cooling unit
- Waterblock with 540mm 1/4" hoses connected
- 2.5ml Shin Etsu thermal compound
- Interface cable between the PC and cooling unit
- 300ml Additive for the coolant
- Controller card
- Internal power-on splitter
- Hose clamps
- Quick-connect fittings
- Clamping mechanism for both Intel P4 and AMD
- User manual and quick installation guide in English and German

Kit accessories

Kit accessories


Dimensions:
- External cooling unit (WxDxH) 160x358x168 mm
- Waterblock (WxDxH) 51x51x7 mm (20mm including fittings)

Other details:
- C/W value: 0.14 in whisper mode, 0.13 in turbo mode
- 600 LPH pump (Manufacturer unavailable at this time)
- Custom made Multichannel radiator
- Capable of removing up to 200W heat
- Monitors for processor temperature and coolant level
- Power consumption: 12V: 1.5A, 5V: 0.25A, System draw is about 14W


The construction in detail

The waterblock has apparently a great finish -- a few marks from the lapping, but hardly noticable. A flat and smooth surface is crucial to minimize thermal resistance between the processor and the cooler, and thus decreasing temperature and increasing cooling performance.

The waterblock. Notice the cord for the thermal sensor

The waterblock. Notice the cord for the thermal sensor

The finish of the base of the waterblock

The finish of the base of the waterblock


At first glance, this waterblock looked disturbingly small, especially compared to the Swiftech tank-like built monsters. The question that remains to be answered is, how will it perform, and will the waterblock bottleneck the rest of the system?

Schematics showing us the microchannels inside the waterblock

Schematics showing us the microchannels inside the waterblock

Showing us the heat distribution on an AMD at full load, the extract is 1/4 of the waterblock

Showing us the heat distribution on an AMD at full load, the extract is 1/4 of the waterblock


The external cooling unit
The finish of the unit is very appealing -- black, high gloss painted, the Corsair logo on the side and chromed details. The size is about the same as the Shuttle XPCs.

The pump in rubber suspension

The pump in rubber suspension


The pump is suspended in a rubber collar, which will eliminate vibrations and resonance. As you can see from the pictures above, the intake to the pump has a large diameter to ensure proper waterflow.

Overview picture of the interior

Overview picture of the interior


The overview picture above shows you the radiator, the fan, some of the electronics, and the hoses. Also shown is the flow-indicator -- when the system is on, this impeller will spin around indicating the waterflow. The flow-indicator is illuminated by a lightbulb, and we're surprised Corsair didn't use an LED instead, as LEDs have much longer life-spans.

The reservoir

The reservoir


The reservoir has "Made in USA" written all over it -- look at the massive lid and welding seam. Surely aluminum has low weight, but Corsair could've used half the material and still had a solid constructed reservoir. In the yellow cap, you'll find the coolant-level indicator.


Mounting the kit

The mounting procedure is very well described in the manual, so let's just spend a brief moment on it -- the two white hoseclamps, which seem to be the same kind as you'll find on DangerDens solutions, are used to fasten the hoses to the external cooling unit and to prevent leakage.

Hoseclamps and wire for the controller card

Hoseclamps and wire for the controller card


The wire in the picture is mounted between the power-on on the motherboard and the controller for the cooling unit.

Mounting clips for Intel and AMD platform

Mounting clips for Intel and AMD platform


In the picture above, you'll see the two different processor clips. The frame on top and the middle clips are for P4 systems and the lower clips are for AMD based systems.

The back of the controller card

The back of the controller card


The controller card is mounted in a PCI slot in your case, but does not need a PCI slot on your motherboard. The rubber sleeves are for the waterhoses, and the "monitor-looking" contact is for the interface cable between the computer and external cooling unit.


Pre-testing

On the back of the cooling unit, you'll find the lid for the reservoir. Obviously, this needs to be filled. As the manual says -- fill half a bottle of the additive(150ml) in the reservoir and fill the rest with destilled water. Using destilled water and not plain tap water is very important to avoid corrosion as well as algea and bacterial growth. The use of tap water or any other additives may cause an adverse chemical reaction and void your warranty.

After filling the reservoir, start the system to remove airbubbles in your system. Shake it, bend it and twist it to make sure there are no airpockets or bubbles left in the waterblock and hoses. But before you mount the waterblock inside your computer, we recommend you test it for a few hours outside you computer to check for leaks et cetera.

When testing the system, you can spend some time familiarizing yourself with the controls of the Hydrocool. The controller inside your computer is fed with data from the cooling unit and, as we mentioned earlier, monitors the system temperature and fluid level among other things. Should the pump fail to operate properly, the alarm will go off when the temperature has reached a preset value, and eventually shut down the system. Both the alarm and shut-down temperatures can of course be manually set by the user by using the buttons on the frontpanel.

The front of the Hydrocool 200 with lit display

The front of the Hydrocool 200 with lit display


You can manually alter the preset values for the cooling unit, alarm, shut-down temperature and so on via the four buttons on the front bezel of the unit. The different buttons are:

- Set
- C: Sets the temperature to Celsius
- F: Sets the temperature to Farenheit
- Turbo: full speed on the fans.

The manual has an excellent explanation on how to manually configure your unit, so we will not detail the procedure in this review.

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