Pros

Retains the excellent performance of the previous gen H100i at lower noise levels; bracket installation is easier than with previous designs

Cons

High static pressure fans have a whiny tone, even if they aren't particularly loud; thick hoses are hard to position during installation

Star Rating

We'll cover our test parameters before jumping into the numbers. The ambient test environment was 66.5 °F at the case's front air intakes. We measured noise levels 6 inches in front of these air intakes, and to minimize excess noise in the test system, front and rear case fans were set to low speed, and the side air intake was disconnected. Furthermore, both our power supply and our video card shut their fans off when not under a heavy load. In other words this is a pretty quiet testbed. Remember also that our CPU is overclocked to 4.4GHz, using 1.2V. This isn't an extreme overclock, but with six cores running well beyond standard speed, it's certainly enough to heat things up a bit. All temperatures were measured using Windows-based software, with maximum rather than average temperatures being reported, and decibel readings were taken with an Android-based smartphone app.

First up, idle numbers. Note that while our processor is overclocked, it still enters an idle state, reducing clock speed and voltage substantially.

Idle Performance

We've said this before and we'll say it again: idle-state temperatures are practically irrelevant. Modern CPUs can run at idle with nothing but a passive heatsink attached, and shooting for ultra-low temperatures at idle is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot, as you only increase noise without achieving anything that will improve the performance or longevity of your PC. And that's one of the things we were most disappointed by with the original H100i. The ever-present pump noise deserved part of the blame, but the high-RPM fans also contributed to the problem. Well, there's good news and bad news on that front with the new H100i v2. While the Performance preset is vastly improved (and now in the realm of tolerable), the Quiet preset actually underperformed the original slightly. We think this has to do with the inefficiency of the dense, thick radiator at low fan speeds. In the end, however, this is just splitting hairs, as the system was virtually as quiet and only idled at a slightly higher temperature. Let's see how things go in the tests that really matter, our load benchmarks.

Our first active-state test is 3DMark Combined, which is a great way to place a heavy load on both the CPU and video card without venturing into unrealistic territory with "power virus"-type loads. We ran this benchmark in a continuous loop for about 10 minutes before taking the measurements. The system noise and temperature had peaked according to our readings at that point.

3DMark Performance

Interesting stuff. These two coolers are definitely approaching CPU cooling from different perspectives. The newer H100i v2 now operates at a "Performance" level similar to the older cooler's "Quiet" level. And yes, the new mode's "Quiet" is a bit hotter, but it is significantly quieter as well. And if all this talk of quiet has you scratching your head, we'll just point out that the older model's Performance mode was quite frankly unacceptable. At 53dB, it was only of value to those who needed to drown out the world around them, because there was certainly no getting around the racket it created.

So yes, the new cooler doesn't have the same top-end performance, but it's so much better balanced, and all the older cooler's high performance was wasted when you were still far, far below the danger zone when it came to CPU temperatures. To put it another way, the first-gen liquid cooler took a "shock and awe" approach to cooling. Yes, it blew away everything that had come before it, but to what end? We say good riddance to 50+ dB coolers!

Finally, we illustrate cooling performance faced with the extreme load generated by Intel Burn Test. We don't think any application will put this much pressure on a CPU, so consider this an absolute worst-case scenario.

IBT Performance

Again we see the new cooler's Performance mode tying the older cooler's Quiet mode, but at lower noise levels. That is a big win, folks! And if you'd prefer, you can always switch into Quiet mode, and get excellent results with around the same noise level as the average air cooler. In case you needed any reminder on this point, the older cooler's noise level at load was simply ridiculous. If you wanted to show off your shiny new build to your friends, its 54.5dB noise level would leave them thinking your PC was on its last legs. There's no other way to say this: the older H100i sounded broken at load.

Now there's just one catch when it comes to the H100i v2's improved sonic performance: the "high-torque" fans, as Corsair markets them, definitely sound like little engines whirring away. The tone of these fans just isn't that pleasant, but it doesn't show up in the decibel readings. That's the drawback of just focusing on performance metrics without considering subjective impressions as well. While you could replace these fans with quieter fans, our hunch is that performance will suffer, as they are designed to push air through a very dense matrix of radiator fins, whereas typical quiet 120mm case fans push air though, well, air. That's a much easier task, so we'd caution you before thinking you can further improve the performance/noise balance of the H100i v2.

But that gets us to a little secret we hinted at on the previous page: the fact that the H100i v2 draws power from the fan header means you can actually control the entire system via motherboard fan controls, meaning fans, pump, and all. The older H100i was not affected by motherboard fan controls, as it drew power from a SATA plug. What all this means is that you can slow this thing down so much at idle that it becomes virtually silent, and at least as quiet as most air coolers. That's pretty impressive for a cooler that can wind up to some very serious performance levels.    

Conclusion

Corsair already had a winner on its hands with the H100i, released in 2012, and the new-for-2016 H100i v2 improves upon that model in a multitude of ways. It's easier to install, looks even better, and performs just as well despite much lower noise levels. If you were looking for even more extreme cooling performance from this redesign, you might be disappointed, but in our opinion, extreme CPU cooling performance is overrated. It will be virtually impossible to push a CPU cooled by the H100i v2 past the thermal throttling threshold, so we find its much quieter top-end performance a saner take on CPU cooling in general.

The Corsair H100i v2 is available for $100, as of our publication date, making it a very good deal among high-end coolers, and one you should most definitely consider if you're shopping in this price range. To get our latest take on the best coolers at every price point, check out our CPU Cooler Buyer's Guide, updated quarterly!

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