It seems like every month brings a new liquid cooler to review. Sometimes this rapid pace creates unexpected side effects. Exhibit A: The Corsair H110, which is nearly identical to the NZXT Kraken X60 reviewed on page 81 of this issue. They don’t use the same fans, they don’t recommend the same fan orientation, and the H110 skips software-based controls, but the rest of it appears to be the same bits manufactured by Asetek. Corsair also charges a slight price premium that we’re not sure is justified.
The Mirror Universe version of the NZXT Kraken X60?
The H110’s two 14cm fans use 4-pin PWM connectors that allows them to dynamically adjust their performance as temperatures change within the case—but only if they’re plugged into a 4-pin fan header. The pump uses a 3-pin connector. While this cabling is more straightforward, it does occupy three fan headers, whereas the X60 uses one. (The H110 does not come with an adapter to combine its two fan cables or a Molex adapter to plug the pump directly into your power supply.)
If your motherboard or its fan software doesn’t provide separate controls for different headers, you’re in an awkward spot. You don’t want all your case fans spinning up and down in lockstep with the H110’s fans. And you don’t want the pump speed moving around a lot either; that part needs to be maxed out for full effectiveness. Since the H110’s fan cables are just 12 inches long, your choices for fan headers are pretty limited, as well. The X60 uses a single 3-pin header, but it also occupies a USB header and a SATA power cable connection. Ultimately, this trade-off greatly increases compatibility, especially if your system uses multiple radiators and lots of air-cooling.
The H110’s cooling isn’t as problematic, since you have flexibility with radiator location and fan direction. You don’t have to go with Corsair’s recommendation, which is to push exterior air through the radiator and into the system. NZXT recommends that you pull air from the interior and exhaust it. We recorded temps several degrees higher than with the X60, until we flipped the H110’s fan orientation to match it. Then the temps were roughly interchangeable. The scores for the H110 in the chart below are the results according to Corsair’s recommended fan orientation.
Since we’re using a Corsair 900D case to test coolers, we have three 12cm intake fans in the front. Therefore, the slight vacuum created by a pull orientation is easily countered. Adding two additional intake fans, which blow through a 280mm radiator and into the case, can introduce a lot of air. A single 14cm rear exhaust fan seems to struggle to keep up. We also noticed that setting up the H110 fans to exhaust created less noise.
The H110 is also up against Corsair’s own H100i, a 240mm liquid cooler. Despite this other unit having less surface area than the H110’s 280mm, it performs a little better and has software controls, a metal backplate (making it resistant to damage from over-tightening), and the same cable connections as the X60, for the same price or less. It also has a five-year warranty, whereas the H110 (and the X60) get two years. The H100i’s smaller size and X60-like unified cabling also make it compatible with a wider variety of cases. If the H110 was priced lower, we could see it fitting into the overall ecosystem. But at $130 when this issue went to press, it’s a little out of its depth.
All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed with an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.1GHz, on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, in a Corsair 900D with stock fans set to Standard.