Corsair's Hydro Series H100 is getting a little old in the tooth, but it's still one of the best all-in-one liquid-cooling solutions to date, and you could argue that there's been nothing significantly better since its release way back in August 2011.
There's only so much you can do with a CPU cooler, so Corsair has its work cut out in producing a successor that's genuinely worth of the name. But here we are, 15 months later, with a Hydro Series H100i that touts "improved cooling, quieter operation, simpler installation, and Corsair Link digital control."
All worthwhile improvements, it would seem, but these upgrades do come at a cost. The H100i has landed at retail stores with a lofty price tag of £90 - that's £10 more than the older H100. Needless to say, £90 is a lot of money to be handing over for a CPU cooler. Corsair, as it so often does, is targeting extreme users and to even consider the H100i as a viable solution, you probably need to meet three core requirements; you'll need a chassis that has room for a 240mm radiator, you need to be lustily overclocking your CPU to warrant this level of cooling performance, and you'll need to be a liberal spender.
If you do meet those criteria, you're in for a treat. Corsair's 240mm radiator hasn't changed much - the aluminium slab looks practically identical to the H100 - but things get a whole lot more interesting from thereon in.
It all starts with the piping, where Corsair has replaced the H100's Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) tubes with composite rubber tubing that's more flexible and larger in diameter. The step-up in size (14.3mm outer diameter, to be exact) is said to offer increased coolant flow, but there's an aesthetic advantage, too; the rubber tubing has a smoother, more elegant look to it.
The bulk of the action, however, lies at the pipe's end in a new-and-improved pump. The low-profile unit looks even smaller than the H100's already-slim implementation, yet it continues to support all the latest Intel and AMD sockets, and it comes with a glossy shell adorned with a backlit Corsair logo.
In addition to being easy on the eye, the H100i pump packs a couple of internal improvements. The copper block has been redesigned to offer improved flow, installation has been made easier, and as you might have guessed from the 'i' denotation, support for Corsair Link has been baked into the product.
With Corsair Link H100i, owners can monitor and control hardware variables through a bundled software package, and the pump goes an extra step by acting as a hub for a second hardware component. Handy if, say, you have a Corsair AXi power supply in your rig.
The Link connectors (one USB, one Corsair Link Digital) are positioned on the side of the pump and up top you'll find a pair of fan connectors. Corsair provides split cables - so two fans can be attached to each header - and this configuration provides obvious benefits. The H100i can be configured in a push/pull configuration with four fans sandwiching the radiator, or alternatively, the two spare connectors can be used by existing chassis fans - allowing them to be controlled through the Corsair Link interface.
Speaking of fans, a pair capable of hitting 2,700RPM are bundled with the H100i and they too have been upgraded. This time around, Corsair's 120mm blowers are based on the company's SP120 design and are built to offer higher static pressure (4mm/H20), resulting in better performance at a lower noise level. The fans are a step up from those supplied with the old H100, but it's a shame they don't include the complete SP120 feature set - we quite liked the coloured interchangeable rings and the rubberised mounting holes.