Noise

For many enthusiasts upgrading cooling the goal is maximum stable overclock, and they will live with the inconvenience of a louder system. For other users silence is the most important factor, and these users will forgo maximum overclocking if that increases system noise levels. As demonstrated on page 4, the Ultra 120 can easily cool a Core 2 Duo at stock speeds without a fan. The fanless configuration is also effective at cooling a C2D that has been mildly overclocked at stock voltage. Certainly this "no-fan" or passive-cooling configuration is the lowest noise level that can be achieved with the Ultra 120.

We also Measured noise levels with the Thermalright Ultra 120 with the Scythe S-Flex SFF21F fan. To test idle and load noise levels, a Zalman fan controller was used to dial in the lowest and highest fan speeds. The difference in noise levels between low and high speed settings on the Scythe fan were very small

There are virtually no power supplies that do not have a fan. While Zalman and a few others do make an expensive fanless power supply, we have not seen a fanless unit larger than 500W, or one that would be used for seriously overclocking a system. With that in mind the noise level of the system with all fans turned off except the Power Supply was measured. The power supply used for the cooling test bed was the OCZ PowerStream 520, which is one of the quieter of the high performance power supplies. The noise level of the Power Supply was 38.3dB from 24" (61cm) and 47dB from 6" (152mm). The measured noise level of the test room is 36.4dB, which would be considered a relatively quiet room with a noise floor slightly below the OCZ PowerStream 520 PSU.

Noise Level - 6

Noise Level - 24

Measured noise levels in this chart should be considered worst case. Measurements were taken with an open side of a mid tower case 6" from the open HSF and 24" from the open HSF. Real world would be a completely closed case with a further reduction in noise.

While the Tuniq matches the Ultra 120 for low noise at low speeds - also below the noise floor of the system - the S-Flex is significantly quieter than the stock Tuniq fan at high speeds. At 24" the S-Flex measures 39.8dB compared to 48dB for the Tuniq. At 6" the S-Flex is at the system floor of 47 DB at high speed compared to the Tuniq at 54 dB. Of course one way to lower the noise of the Tuniq fan on high is to replace the Tuniq 120mm fan with the Scythe S-Flex. High speed noise levels of the Tuniq should then be comparable to the Ultra 120 with the S-Flex fan.

The noise results with the Thermalright Ultra 120 with a Scythe S-Flex fan are impressive. At both high and low speeds, measured from 6" or 24" the Ultra 120 was below the system noise floor in almost all measurements. This is even more surprising when you consider the air flow with the SFF21F is a very high 63.7CFM.

Any 120mm fan should be mountable on the Ultra 120 as long as the fan uses open holes for mounting; the fan can be any thickness. We know the Scythe S-Flex and Noctua fans will mount properly on this heatsink, and you can chose from a wide variety of fans in both product lines. These range from ultra-quiet 8dB-A fans all the way to the 28dB-A fan used in these tests. Considering how quiet the S-Flex measured in our tests, users can opt for higher CFM with assurance that the fan will still remain quiet.

While the Ultra 120 and the Tuniq Tower 120 performed virtually the same in cooling and overclocking, the Ultra 120 with the S-Flex fan proved quieter than the Tuniq when the fans were running at highest speed. Considering the Ultra 120 is also effective as a fanless cooler at stock speeds, the Ultra 120 comes out as the low-noise leader among the coolers we have tested at AnandTech. You can likely lower noise levels of the Tuniq to those of the Ultra 120 by replacing the Tuniq fan with a Scythe S-Flex fan like the one used in our cooling tests with the Ultra 120, although that would increase the total price of the Tuniq.

Overclocking Final Words
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  • hox - Thursday, March 08, 2007 - link

    I would like to know what you have enabled or disabled in the bios that controls CPU automatic throttling. Typically that would include Enhanced C1 control (C1E), SpeedStep, and for my Asus MB, something called CPU internal thermal control.

    These settings affect how the cpu "handles" load and will affect the temps reported to the Ntune program. Programs like CpuZ and Coretemp and Ntune do not detect some of these rapid throttling instances, but the temps of the processor are reduced because of this throttling. The Righmtark CPU temp utility is one of the few programs I know that allows you to visualize this throttling even when you have several of the throttling paramters disabled.

    This issue is important because the temps you are seeing, even at idle, are very different for several of your reviewed heatsinks then what end users will experience when they have altered these parameters in the bios.

    I believe this will be helpful for end users to feel like the products your reviews are deeming as superior are performing in their hands in a manner similar to your review. Please provide the bios settings to help the end users decide if the equipment they have purchased is functioning properly.

    I suspect by doing this, many RMAs and emails to the manufacturer would be reduced.

    There is a clear 10C difference between the reported CPU temps at both idle and full load for my QX6700 cpu caused by changing these three settings. Enabling these parameters in the bios I routinely see temps of 33 to 35 C for the cores of my QX6700 at stock speeds, MB temp is 35C. Disabling these parameters, temps on all 4 cores rise to 44C. Thus discrepancy in temps could lead someone to think that the Monsoon II lite cooler I am using is malfunctioning, when in reality it is working properly.

    Also it would be helpful if you also tested these devices with the quad core processors which have a higher heat output. By testing the quad core cpus the high end capacity of these heat sinks to move heat would be tested. Providing the thermal resistance Degrees C/Watt would also be a helpful guideling for these devices.

    It would also be helpful to comment whether the side door will fit with the thermalright heat sinks. As far as I know this heat sink is taller than the Tuniq which caused end users to move side panel fans and vents.

    Thank you
    Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    I think you should consider retesting the Monsoon II Lite. As the only heatsink to make it to 3.96ghz on your OC tests, and with a full 6C increase in temp at 3.90ghz compared to the Ultra 120, I question whether you can replicate your results with the Monsoon at this point. We all know transistors age with OC'ing, and it is possible that your CPU has actually degraded in performance since you tested it with the Monsoon.

    There's no reason to think that the Monsoon enabled your CPU to reach 3.96ghz by some magical effect apart from it's cooling ability, which is 6C worse that the Ultra 120 at 3.90ghz.
    Reply
  • arswihart - Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - link

    Sorry my fault I mis-stated the temp difference at 3.90ghz between the two heatsinks, it is actually a paltry 2C!

    I think it still might be worthwhile to retest the Monsoon, just because the Tuniq Tower and today's Ultra 120 were unable to reach 3.96ghz even with comparable or better cooling at 3.90ghz.
    Reply
  • muddocktor - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    This is a decent review of the Ultra 120 Wesley, good job. But like another person posted, I also had gotten an Ultra 120 with a bad base finish. In my case, there was a machining ridge left on one side of the base that interfered with getting a flush mount plus the base was fairly concave too. And my initial testing of it (with those defects) found the performance to be no better than the stock Intel heatsink. After I filed the ridge down on the edge, then lapped the base of the Ultra 120 to be flat, the performance was much like the performance that you had with yours. I also tested it with both the S-Flex fan you chose plus I tried the Tuniq Tower's fan too(I also have one of those heatsinks) and saw very little difference in cooling ability with either fan mounted on either heatsink. So for the folks that want to swap out the Tuniq Tower's stock fan with the 63 cfm S-Flex you will only lose a minimal amount of performance and the S-Flex is noticeably quieter.

    Also in testing my Ultra 120, I tested on a socket 939 AMD system too and ran into a mounting orientation problem with my motherboard. Since AMD doesn't use a square mounting pattern on socket 939 (or 754 or 940 or AM2 for that matter), you can't just change the mounting direction by simply rotating the heatsink 90 degrees. Thermalright does make an "S" clip for this though, which I also tried out. The "S" clip is a real PITA to mount with but does do the job effectively and gives you a decent mount.

    Finally, with the Ultra 120 you have the ability to mount different thickness fans too, unlike the Tuniq Tower. You can easily use any of the Panaflo 120 X 38 mm fans and if you are brave enough you can even mount the Delta GFB1212VHW 120 X 76 mm fan if you think it would help in cooling (I don't think so as there seems to be a point of diminishing returns on added cooling efficiency with this heatsink past 60-70 cfm with a moderate max static pressure fan).

    The biggest problem I see with Thermalright's products lately is the somewhat variable nature of their quality control on base finish. I've also gotten some XP90's in the last year or so with concave base finishes that required lapping too. But other than that, Thermalright has some of the best designs on the market in my opinion.
    Reply
  • takumsawsherman - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    I have been having good success with the HR-01 from Thermalright, so I am glad to see this review which more accurately measures the performance of *this* heatsink versus competitors, which looks even better than the HR-01 in terms of construction quality (the HR-01, despite its good performance, looks unfinished).

    As far as the stock Intel coolers go, I have been pleasantly surprised by the latest generation of both Intel and AMD stock coolers. Though I recently replaced a customer's late model P4 stock heatsink (LG775 3.04 Prescott) with an HR-01 with Scythe SFF21F because of crazy temps that were causing the system to power down. Tried adjusting the heatsink, and when cleaning and reapplying thermal paste to the stock cooler I noticed that as opposed to the copper core of the C2D coolers, this had a chrome-like metal. After reinstallation, the temperature at idle was still crazy hot, with no apparent reason (Intel board, voltages looked OK, no overclocking, etc.. After installing the HR-01, idle dropped to 32C, full load after 20 minutes was 47C-49C.

    As an aside, I am really not digging the new Intel fasteners. There always seems to be one that doesn't want to go in easily, and/or you can't hear the click. Then I go nuts trying to verify whether or not it is really in. Hopefully, AMD will not follow that system.
    Reply
  • gramboh - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    Awesome review, I love the amount of detail and variables involved in the test, very comprehensive and well described.

    I was set on a Tuniq but after being frustrated by how hard they are to get in Canada, I am going to go with an Ultra 120 instead. My current PC (4 year old P4 2.6 Northwood @ 3.25) has been cooled with a Thermalright SLK-900U (copper) and has been stablewith a 625MHz OC for 4 years. I like the company.

    Anyone know if there are any fit issues using the Ultra 120 with a Asus P5B-E in an Antec P180B/P182 case?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • AbRASiON - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    Nice article but all it has convinced me is that the intel stock cooler is surprisingly pretty good for "free"

    It's not too noisy (for a change) it's not holding back overclocking (that much) and it costs 0$

    If you're a budget guy, right now an E4300 with the stock cooler is pretty ok for cheap.
    Reply
  • Baked - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    Thank you Anandtech for finally reviewing this HSF. Thermalright is king baby. Reply
  • mforce - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    I know you specified in your article that an adaptor for AM2 needs to be purchased separately but I don't find this quite normal. I think Thermalright should make an effort and support AM2 out of the box. After all AM2 isn't a new thing , it's been out for quite some time now and it's also here to stay. An extra adaptor costs more and might also be hard to find.
    Maybe you should ask Thermalright and have an official position as to why it's so hard to support AM2 out of the box. Socket 754 and 939 are cool but they're quite dead.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, March 05, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Thermalright recommends a power supply with a down-facing fan (one that blows air on the CPU)


    Are you sure you're describing that correctly? I don't ever recall seeing such a power supply, unless someone screwed up and installed the fan backwards. I agree though that a power supply with a bottom fan would be better suited to cool a fanless heatsink, but because it draws in air FROM the CPU area not blows ONTO the cpu area.
    Reply

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