There have been several coolers that have topped our air cooling benchmarks in recent months, and all of the best coolers have several things in common. The best are all based on heatpipe tower designs, they all feature side-blowing 120mm fans (and sometimes two 120mm fans in a push-pull configuration), and they are all relatively heavy and huge. It certainly appears that if you needed to dissipate more than 150W from your overclocked CPU that you clearly need a big and heavy cooler.

It has always been interesting to note that Thermalright competes exceptionally well using a slightly smaller cooler - just as wide but not nearly so deep as others. This reached the height of efficiency in the top-performing Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, which is our current performance leader. The eXtreme is the same size as the very competitive Ultra-120, but it manages better performance with the careful design and placement of six heatpipes in the same Ultra-120 design.

We were reminded of this again in our last review of the smaller ZEROtherm BTF90, which uses a smaller 92mm fan and is selling for a lower price than the best. The BTF90 competes very well with the top coolers with very low noise. It isn't the most effective at cooling in our competition, but it's certainly a good choice without too much compromise in performance at the top.

Apparently Thermalright has been thinking in the same vein. We recently received a shipment from Asia containing a new Thermalright model, which they call the Ultima-90. The design is very similar to other Thermalright heatpipe towers, only as you might expect it comes in a slightly smaller package.


At first glance you may mistake the Ultima-90 for the current Ultra-90, which comes in both 775 and AMD versions. If you look closely, however, you will see that the Ultima-90 has six heatpipes instead of the four seen in the Ultra-90 design. Thermalright calls the design six heatpipes since it is six fully looped heatpipes. Other makers might refer to this as a 12-pipe design, since there are 12 riser pipes.

We shrugged our shoulders when we first saw the Ultima-90, since we assumed the size reduction would drop the Ultima-90 to another performance category. Thermalright then told us that in their testing the Ultima-90 could outperform many full-size 120mm heatpipe towers. That certainly piqued our interest. There is also the fan factor, since the high-end Thermalrights do not ship with a fan. The Ultima-90 provides two sets of fan clips.


One will mount 120mm fans on the small Ultima-90.


A second set of clips mounts a standard 92mm fan.

Since the Ultima-90 carries the same heatpipe setup as the top-performing Ultra-120 eXtreme and mounts 92mm and 120mm fans, our test configuration needs to look at the Ultima-92 with both a 120mm fan and a 92mm fan. How does the smaller and cheaper ($49.95 retail) Ultima-90 compete with the top guns in these two configurations?

Thermalright Ultima-90
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  • andereandre - Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - link


    In these articles the Intel HSF is always classified as having the same noise level as the best coolers (and system-ps & no fans).
    I have a X2 4600 however, and I hear the AM2 stock cooler at idle.
    Does this mean that de Intel stock cooler is that much better than the AMD one, or is it just the measurement?
    That is of real interest to me as I am looking to replace my cooler to make my pc more silent, not to oc it.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - link

    Early Intel 775 stock coolers were very noisy, but for the last year or so the Intel stock cooler is very quiet. That is further enhanced by the 4-pin fan connection that varies fan speed based on CPU temp and BIOS settings. Intel also uses a fan that is a standard 25mm thick.

    While I don't have measurements for you, the AMD fan is noisier to my ears. AMD does use heatpipes, but they also use a very thin fan that has to run higher rpm to move enough air for cooling.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    For years Thermalright has delivered best in class performance with all of the products. No reason to expect any difference with the Small Wonder. Thermalright does good engineering and proves out their product instead of rushing some POS out the door as the trick-of-the week product. And with Thermalright you don't get some stupid shitze whisles and bells to sucker the clueless sheep into buying their products. Reply
  • Axbattler - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    @ Wesley Fink: Can you please confirm that the height of the cooler with a 120mm fan attached is indeed shorter than the Ninja with a 120mm fan attached? I know that the Ninja is 150mm high, whereas the Ultima is 139mm, so I would expect, all things being equal that the Ultima requires less space than the Ninja. But a confirmation would be helpful as I've been looking for a cooler with comparable performance with the Ninja but a few (5-10mm) shorter. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    1600 RPM is correct, and the chart is corrected.

    As for the Scythe Infinity, we can only report what we find, and others report what they find. You might compare test beds and methods for an explanation. The Infinity is deservedly loved by those whose primary goal is silence. That means the fan is relatively low output compared to coolers designed for overclocking as the primary goal.

    We did find the Infinity reached 3.90 GHz at the top tier of our performance results when two fans were used in a push-pull arrangement. That is also included in our Scaling charts. As reported in our Infinity review the cooler can mount up to four fans.
    Reply
  • jackylman - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    In the first sentence of the last paragraph on the last page.

    "We asked in the beginning of this review if the smaller and lighter Thermalright Ultima-120 might be too compromised...
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    We saved the most obvious for last :) Now corrected. Reply
  • xxxCHAOSxxx - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    Gents,

    I have been looking at the cooler market for about 2 or 3 months.. I was torn between the Tuniq 120, thermalright Ultra 120 and the Vigor Monsoon.. however each had a few things that i am a bit leary of. Mainly the weight and size issue. Currently I am running a thermaltake typhoon but am not happy with it. I have to go in every so often and adjust the screws holding it down as they appear to lossen over a short period of time. Based on your review of the thermals, i have just ordered the Ultima 90 and will drop you a line based on my results.

    thanks!!

    E6600
    EVGA 680i
    2Gig Memory
    EVGA 8800GTX KO w/ ACS3
    Thermaltake Armor
    Thermaltake Toughpower 800
    Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    Been looking forward to an Anandtech review of this cooler for about three months now (since the first sneak peak review was seen on another forum). Glad to see this is indeed a pretty badass cooler! =) Reply
  • MercenaryForHire - Monday, August 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Model Panaflo H1A 92mm (BX) with RPM Sensor
    Fan Size 120mm x 120mm x 25mm


    Something's not quite adding up there ...
    Reply

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