CPU Cooling Test Configuration

The test setup was exactly the same as used in the recent Thermalright Ultra 120 review. All the components of the test bench remained the same.

Cooling Performance Test Configuration
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo X6800
(x2, 2.93GHz, 4MB Unified Cache)
RAM 2x1GB Corsair Dominator PC2-8888 (DDR2-1111)
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi 250GB SATA2 enabled (16MB Buffer)
Video Card: 1 x EVGA 7900GTX - All Standard Tests
Platform Drivers: NVIDIA 9.53
NVIDIA nTune: 5.05.22.00 (1/16/2007)
Video Drivers: NVIDIA 93.71
CPU Cooling: Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme
Thermalright Ultra 120
Scythe Infinity
Zalman CNS9700
Zalman CNS9500
CoolerMaster Hyper 6+
Vigor Monsoon II Lite
Thermalright MST-9775
Scythe Katana
Tuniq Tower 120
Intel Stock HSF for X6800
Power Supply: OCZ PowerStream 520W
Motherboards: EVGA nForce 680i SLI (NVIDIA 680i)
Operating System(s): Windows XP Professional SP2
BIOS Award P24 (1/12/2007)

Since Thermalright provided a syringe of their own thermal compound, the Thermalright compound was used in mounting the Ultra 120 Extreme, just as it was used in the Ultra 120 review. For more details on the specifications, weights, and installation please refer to the Thermalright Ultra 120 review. As already stated, the Ultra 120 Extreme is the same exact cooler with two extra heatpipes.


As you can clearly see from the installed photos, the Ultra 120 Extreme is the same dimensions as the Ultra 120. Nothing is really any different with 120 Extreme install except for the issues with fitting a Socket 775 adapter through the pipes with extra heatpipes in the way. Hopefully Thermalright will have solved this issue by the time you can find retail Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme heatsinks for purchase.

To be blunt, not too much was expected with the Ultra 120 Extreme. Six heatpipes instead of four is nice, but how much could two added pipes really do for a cooler that was at the top of our performance charts? As you will see in our performance results, assumptions should always be tested. There was certainly a surprise for us in the Ultra 120 Extreme cooling and overclocking performance.

Fanless Cooling and Noise Levels

Since all testing used the same S-Flex SFF21F 120mm fan used in the Ultra 120 review, we did not retest noise levels. Noise levels will be exactly the same as the excellent results posted in the Thermalright Ultra 120 review. Please refer to that review for information on the Ultra 120 Extreme noise levels.

The Ultra 120 also was useful as a fanless cooler, as demonstrated in that review. However, our current cooler setup is not ideally suited for testing fanless CPU coolers, since we do not have a downward facing fan or additional rear exhaust fans to assist the fanless cooler. Refer to performance charts for fanless cooling in the Ultra 120 review. Results with the Ultra 120 Extreme should be even better with the extra cooling provided by the additional heatpipes in the EXTREME design. Improvements in fanless cooling should be similar to the cooling improvements seen in this comparison of Ultra 120 and Ultra 120 Extreme cooling with the same S-Flex fan.

Index Cooling at Stock Speed
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  • PICBoy - Thursday, March 08, 2007 - link

    Oops! actually on every table and image the name "PLUS" is used instead of Extreme. My bad, that's all! Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    For the quieter power supplies, I'd look at the Seasonic S12+ series, and the Corsair HX series for a higher powered system.

    Why? That particular Seasonic is by many a reviewsite considered to be one of the quietest around, and starts ramping up the fan around 250w (depending on how much case cooling you have). The corsair is ~2dB louder in the low wattage scale, but only starts ramping up around 300w given the same conditions.

    The ramping-up spot is pretty important, for example, before I had a Venice+x850xt and CM RealPower psu, this proved to be a pretty quiet combination. However, once I upgraded to an oc'd denmark+x1950xt, idle power jumped up and the PSU was already ramping up during idle. It only got worse under load, and I couldn't stand the noise at all. I replaced the PSU with a Corsair HX and have yet to actually hear it ramp up, the other TC fans in the system drown out any noise it makes.

    A passively cooled mobo is standard these days, and a minimum of case airflow should be considered as well.
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Noise and performance tend to be conflicting goals. Sure, you can get a passively cooled motherboard, and with a down-facing PSU fan you can probably go fanless on the CPU (with something like an Ultra 120/120+). You should probably still mount a low RPM case fan, however, as a "good" PSU that doesn't ramp up fan speed is also not going to move a lot of air.

    The problem is, if you want to overclock all of that silent/fanless stuff becomes much more difficult (if not impossible). 680i motherboards are known to use quite a bit of power, and the chipsets definitely require active cooling if you want to do some real overclocking. Then you get higher CPU temperatures, and without active cooling on the CPU you tend to rapidly increase temperatures until the system crashes/shuts down.

    The cooling test bed appears to be configured as a reasonable compromise between extremes. Some people want silence, some people want performance and quiet be damned, but most are just looking to build a reasonably fast and reasonably quiet PC - hopefully without breaking the bank. Besides, as Wes mentions above, SPCR already covers the "silence above all" market quite well. Why go up against them when there's a vast user base that has more moderate needs?
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    The thing is, with the right aftermarket parts, you can have a totally silent pc AND a high performance/overclocked one. There isn't a need for compromise, as long as you don't want to break any world records. I mean, even in this review, they have a core2 duo overclocked to 3.9ghz without any case air flow. I call that pretty high performance.

    http://www.jaha.be/ashop/?mod=product&cat_id=5...">http://www.jaha.be/ashop/?mod=product&cat_id=5... Thermalright HR05 for the chipset, this is a passive heatsink that dropped my chipset temperature 10°C over the standard HSF combo. Granted, I only have the DFI nForce4, but there are plenty of high performance alternatives for the 680i. Thermalright also has a good passive cooler for scorching hot ram: http://www.jaha.be/ashop/?mod=product&cat_id=5...">http://www.jaha.be/ashop/?mod=product&cat_id=5...

    Choose a good case like the Antec P-series, put the silent psu's mentioned earlier in there, change the exhaust fan for a nice 1000rpm nexus/papst, get the reviewed heatsink (or a tuniq/scythe, it's not like i'm a thermalright fan) with another 1000rpm nexus/papst and you're set. All modern gpu standard cooling solutions can be made extremely quiet at idle with some software tweaking, so you'll only hear them when you're gaming. I guarantee the above combination will support heavy overclocking and be extremely quiet at the same time.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Hmmm just want to add that you do have a point about the moderate user not going to put all that aftermarket stuff in their pc, so the thing about the differing user bases is right. On the other hand, a moderate user isn't going to provide extra active cooling to overclock (or even have) a 680i. Reply
  • Baked - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Nice review. Have the Ultra-120 on my C2D system. When I get the chance to get a C2Q, the Ultra-120+ is going in there. Reply
  • nrb - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    ...is you need to actually benchmark the Tuniq Tower using the same S-Flex fan. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    One more time. If a cooler comes with a fan we test with that fan. We chose the S-Flex because the Ultra 120 and 120+ do NOT come with a fan, and the other fans we had available would not fit the Ultra 120/120+ clips. We may well test 120mm fans in the future, but we do not plan to do cooler reviews using several different aftermarket fans as a routine test procedure. We do our best to test the cooler as shipped.

    Having said that, it is likely a good idea to compare a few of the top-performing coolers using the same top-performing fan in a separate review. We agree that would be interesting.
    Reply
  • PCTechNow - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Why not go back and test the other coolers with the same fan used in this review? It would at least show if the fan or the cooler is making the difference. Better yet, take the fan off the Tuniq and test with it on the Thermalrights and see what the difference is. Reply
  • dm0r - Wednesday, March 07, 2007 - link

    Air cooling is gettin better and quieter this days...good to see a cooler that improves them both.I was choosing tuniq tower for my next desktop system but i liked the Thermalright ultra 120 in Noiseless cooling.Thanks AT for this review.BTW Any results difference between 120 and 120+ in noiseless cooling? Reply

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