Computer Hardware Reviews - ThinkComputers.org

Corsair H115i Pro Liquid CPU Cooler Review

We recently took a look at the Editor’s Choice award winning H150i PRO from Corsair. The cooler surprised us with improvements on all sides, from performance to aesthetics, it moved Corsair to the next level in all-in-one watercooling systems. While that cooler is certainly the flagship of the line there were revisions to the previous top dog, the H115i, as well. This 280mm radiator equipped unit features all the same catch phrases as it’s new big brother minus some radiator surface area. Follow along as we find out what this versions updates do to improve the already good H115i!

Special thanks to Corsair for providing the H115i PRO for review!

Technical Specifications
Coldplate material: Copper
Tubing material: Low permeation with black sleeving
Radiator material: Aluminum
Radiator dimensions: 315mm x 143mm x 29mm
Fans included: 2x ML Series 140mm PWM Fans
Fan max speed: 1200 RPM
Fan airflow: 55.4 CFM
Fan static pressure: 1.27 mm-H2O
Fan noise level: 20.4 dB(A)

Packaging
The H115i PRO hits the ground running with some aesthetic changes to the packaging. While sticking with the matte color scheme complete with yellow trim around the edges of the box, the PRO has of course been upgraded to RGB to bring the line up to modern times. This change is echoed in the background of the main photo front and center on the box. It adds a nice flourish to otherwise very Corsair like aesthetics.

Flipping to the back of the box you will find a listing with the four main features on the left side, a technical drawing near the center, and the technical specifications on the right. You’ll find everything is repeated in six different languages. Give the box another rotation and you will come across a full side addressing Corsair Link, the software Corsair uses to customize and monitor components. One last flip in the same direction and you find the compatibility guide as well as a components list.

Finally we have the box ends on which you will find a similar graphic to the one on the front of the box with a large photo of the cooler. On the other the main four features are displayed over another photo of the H115i PRO.

Flipping open the box top we find all the components enclosed in a cardboard carton. There is also a thin sheet of foam that lays on top of the components to offer additional protection. All parts and accessories are enclosed in plastic and everything appears to be in good shape after shipping.

Corsair H115i Pro Liquid CPU Cooler Overview
As mentioned the entirety of the cooler as well as the hardware are all enclosed in plastic. The 140mm fans are enclosed in cardboard sheaths. So you have the cooler, two 140mm fans, a bag of hardware, two pieces of warranty literature, and finally the installation guide.

The included fans are all black, stripped down ML series fans. ML stands for magnetic levitation meaning they levitate in favor of depending on a lubricated bearing design in the drive system. The result should be a low oppertational noise as well as an increased lifespan and efficiency. By the specs you should have a max of 20.4 dBA of noise at the fan’s maximum speed of 1200rpm. This gets you 55.4 CFM of airflow and 1.27 mm-H20 of static pressure. While the low noise rating is fantastic, the top performance specs are rather low, especially the static pressure. These fans are four pin PWM allowing for software control of their speed.

Checking out the bag of hardware we find all the parts needed for all modern sockets for both AMD and Intel. Additionally you will find a micro USB to USB header cable. This cable allows you to connect the cooler to Corsair Link via your motherboard.

On to the main event, the cooler itself. While the squared radiator and sleeved tubing are the same as those found in the previous versions of this cooler the pump and housing are new for this generation. The Asetek designed pump is the smallest we’ve seen to date and still packs an RGB light diffusing ring in both the top and side of the housing.

Two sides of the pump have some unique features. On the left side of the short housing Corsair has located the micro USB port for the data connection. Opposite you will find the inlet/outlet ports as well as three long sets of wires. Thick tubing connects to plastic swivel fittings that connect straight to the pump and are bisected by the group of wiring.

At the business end of the wiring we find a Sata power connector to deliver all the power the pump and fans could need direct from the power supply. Additionally you get two fan connectors supplied and controlled through the pump and finally a 3-pin connector for the motherboard header.

From the factory the pump will ship with TIM installed on the base in a perfectly even layer. The TIM and pump base is then protected by a snug fitting plastic cup. Many times these don’t fit tightly and make handling the unit a bit of a hassle. Corsair made sure that wasn’t an issue with this unit which is nice to see. Once you remove the cup we find the same B grade finish that is found on most all Corsair AiOs.

While most all AiO coolers support both AMD and Intel they almost all ship with the Intel bracket installed. Until now this would mean busting out a screw driver to change to the AMD bracket. With this new series of coolers Corsair has designed the bracket to simply twist and pull away. It works so well it makes you wonder what took so long for a company to come up with a design like this.

Earlier we mentioned the sleeved tubing. You’ve heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” well this is that. The black sleeving over low permeation flexible tubing that Corsair has been using for years is great. Looks nice, has lots of flow, and doesn’t break.

At the other end of the black double rainbow of tubing is our radiator. 240mm and 29mm thick it’s the same aluminum core that we’ve seen for several generations now. The squared look is still quite nice, as is the chrome Corsair logo on both sides. We measured it at 22 fins per inch which combined with the 29mm thickness make it more ideal for a high air flow fan and lower static pressure. The 140mm ML fan specs are somewhere in-between so it should be interesting to see how they do.

Installation
The installation process for AiO coolers in general has improved quite a bit over the years and while Asetek’s process hasn’t changed greatly it hasn’t been left behind either. We’ll start where we always do, attaching the fans to the radiator. Remember to check the orientation to save yourself from having to repeat this process. We set up our radiator with the fans pulling cool air into the case and put the tubing end opposite the socket. This will stretch the tubing to a good length aesthetically while still allowing for an easy installation.

Next we’ll install the backplate. Adjust the sliders on the corners of the backplate for your socket. Ours is 115x so all four are set to the inside. From the back of the motherboard slide the posts through the holes in the motherboard. With that in place secure it with the four stand-off screws from the front of the motherboard.

We’re now ready to install the radiator into the top of the case. With one hand hold the radiator in place while you hand thread a couple of the screws into place. Once you have it stable install all eight of the screws firmly with a Phillips head screwdriver.

The pump is now hanging from the top of the case so let’s go ahead and install it onto the processor. Align the ends of the bracket with the four posts we installed earlier and press the pump firmly onto the top of the processor. Holding it in place with one hand, secure each corner with one of the large thumbscrews. Once you have all four hand tight snug each with that Philips screwdriver.

All that’s left is to make all the electrical connections. Start with the 3-pin connector and attach it to the posts of the CPU_FAN header on the board. Next take the included cable and plug the micro USB end into the pump. Route the other end to the back of the motherboard tray and then back through near an open USB header. Plug that in there.

We’ve already passed our fan connectors through to the back of the motherboard tray do the same with the pump headers and SATA connector. Once done you can plug both fans into the headers from the pump and the SATA connector to an open connector from your PSU.

The hardware installation is now complete. Go ahead and fire up your system to check the cooler. Listen and feel for vibration to makes sure the pump is operating, checking on the fans to be sure they are spinning up as well. Next open HWMonitor to check be sure your thermals are acceptable and then proceed.

Testing
Before you do anything with your H150i PRO you will want to navigate over to Corsair’s website and get yourself the latest version of Corsair Link. This is their system management software and it puts you right in the pilot’s seat with full control over your whole setup. It even has a mode called Zero RPM which much like modern GPUs, completely turns off the fans when they are not required. If you want to learn more about Corsair Link Check out our review of the H150i Pro in the Testing section.

Under the Configure tab you will find all the settings that you need for each of the items listed to the left panel of the screen. Select from your fans, pump, or LEDs, and drill down to set things up the way you like them.

Selecting LED in configure allows you to change all the available settings for the pump LEDs. Dropping the tab for Mode gives you a selection between Static, Blink, Color Pulse, Color Shift, Rainbow, and Temperature. You can see the range of different color options we were able to achieve below.

Before we get to testing we click profile and switch Corsair Link to Performance mode to ensure we get the maximum performance out of the cooler.

The test rig consists of the following parts:

Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UD4H
Video Card: Zotac 560 Ti
Memory: Samsung Green MV-3V4G3D/US – 16GB
Power Supply: Corsair TX950
Storage: Mushkin ECO2 240GB Running Windows 7 64bit
Cooling: Corsair H150i Pro
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Luxe

As always testing was done using Intel Burn Test (IBT) with the AVX instruction set. The reason to use this instead of Prime95 with this setup is that it pushes our i7 3770K a whole lot harder. This gives us a better sense of extreme load temps. Most of the testing was done at the max memory setting for a single pass. While admittedly this in no way would qualify the chip as stable while overclocked, it gives us a realistic idea of what temperatures the CPU will be hitting. Additionally we are going to run 3DMARK Fire Strike Extreme to give you a realistic idea of performance while gaming.

Our baseline was established using a bequiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 with the 3770K on stock settings:

Ambient temps: 22.22C/72F
Idle temps: 38.75C/101.75F core average
IBT temps one pass max memory: 63.5C/146.3F core average

The first thing we did was to test the cooler with stock motherboard/CPU settings:

Ambient temps: 18.33°C/65°F
Idle temps: 24°C/75.2°F core average
IBT temps one pass max memory: 53.5°C/128.3°F core average

*Our ambient temperature is 3.89°C cooler than baseline, we’ll be adding that to all our results to adjust for the change*

Immediately we see that the H115i PRO is in a different league from our baseline cooler. In fact it performs 10°C better underload. Let’s go ahead and overclock the CPU and see what kind of results we get.

Here are our results for our i7 3770K @ 4.5ghz with 1.248V vCore:

Ambient temps: 18.33°C/65°F
IBT temps: 70.5°C/158.9°F with the two hottest cores hitting 73°C

Once again we adjust for ambient and find the cooler averaging 74.39°C when compared with the rest of our test units. While this is really good and puts it just ahead of competitors like the NZXT Kraken X62, it doesn’t really match up with the new King of the AiO round up the H150i PRO. No reason to be discouraged, let’s get on with our testing and run the H115i PRO through 3DMark to see how it does in game and overclocked.

Ambient temps: 18.33°C/65°F
3DMARK: 53°C/127.4°F with the hottest single core hitting 55°C

53°C adjusted to 56.89 kinda says it all. This cooler will keep your CPU frosty as it crushes through the physics of your favorite interactive pixel art.

Acoustically the H115i PRO isn’t there. It certainly explains a bit why the cooler doesn’t match the performance of the bigger 360mm rad equipped H150i PRO. If we gave an award simply for how silent a cooler is, the slow spinning 140mm ML fans win straight up. At full speed they just don’t make any sound that really registers. To top it off, you can enable Zero RPM mode and the fans will shut down completely when temps stay within the set range.

Final Thoughts
Like the H150i PRO, the H115i is a very pleasant refresh of an already decent cooler. Not only is it the smallest pump housing that we’ve ever reviewed here at ThinkComputers, but it really performs quite well too. It can’t be said enough how nice the new housing is. It’s super compact, stylish, intelligently designed, oh and it has RGB’s as well! It was really the last piece of the aesthetic puzzle that Corsair’s AiO line needed. The squared matte black radiator and luxuriously sleeved tubing have been waiting patiently for this svelte pump upgrade. While we aren’t exactly in love with the diffuse and somewhat dim RGB lighting on the pump it’s a happy addition and would look really nice accompanied by some RGB fans. As for performance both thermally and auditorily the H115i PRO doesn’t disappoint. Thermally it’s right where we expected it to be, right on level with similar AiOs like the Kraken X62. Operating on a less noise is better plan, limits the max thermal performance but certainly wows on the dBA scale. Even with the fans running it’s not going to be the loudest component in your rig. Value is a big question, the H115i PRO comes in at $139.99 from the major online retailers. This lands it $30 less than the bigger H150i PRO and about $15 less than the X62. We feel this is about perfect all aspects considered.

Nitpicking the H115i PRO we have just one minor complaint and it’s the same one we had with the H150i PRO. With all the power cables coming out from between the inlet and outlet ports it actually restricts the amount of rotation you can get from those fittings. It would have been nice to rotate those down all the way for a cleaner look.

Overall ThinkComputers would like to award the H115i PRO with a 9 out of 10 score!

Pros:
– Fit and Finish
– Ease of installation
– Aesthetics
– RGB LEDs
– Decent Thermal Performance
– Exceptionally Quiet Operation

Cons:
– Low adjustability on the swivel fittings