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: (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


View All Comments

  • Ender17 - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    I'm basing my statements off of SPCR's results.
    You can read their testing methodology here:
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    While we respect the quest for a silent PC, testing fans in a foam block isolated from power sources is not real world. It does allow isolation of the lowest possible noise that can be emitted by a component. However, in a system power supplies do generate noise, cases do vibrate with mounted fans, and the video card does have a fan.

    You can minimize all these variables in a specialized PC that is not overclocked,but many users want a system that is very competent, reasonably quiet, but still uses a power supply with a fan. That makes the PS the noise floor. The configuration (open/closed cases), measurement distance, and measurement method determines the dbA level. Our noise measuremtns aim at measuring a real world computer enviromment and they do not isolate the PS in another room for noise measurement. They should also be considered worst case noise in the cooler being tested.

    Our test room has all other equipment turned off and only incandescent lights.
  • PCTechNow - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    If you do not isolate the components for testing then why measure it all? There are so many variables within the case and your room that any measurements provided are worthless.It would be nice to see how these air coolers compare to water systems. Why is there not a review or at least a comparison in your results? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    We measure and report total system noise with each cooler using a standardized test system that is typical of an enthusiast system. We have not evaluated individual fans. Reply
  • PCTechNow - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    Is the noise level in your room and case always the same between test measurements? If you do not isolate the test parts and ensure the room noise level is equal then how are your results valid? I am not a gamer so I expect to have a quiet system. I do not think you are providing numbers that cater to the majority of people who use computers. It is hard to tell from any of your results if a unit is really quiet or not. The power supply is already at 38db so any cooler that is quieter than this will not be reported. Is there anyway to tell us if a cooler is quieter than 38db? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    The noise level in my test room is always below the noise floor of the single standardized test system with the case side open. I measure the room noise each time before I begin system/cooler noise measurements.

    There is already a web site for users who are obsessed with system noise, and we are not a substitute. We are trying to address users who care about system noise and want to build a quiet PC on a relative basis - not those who make noise their only concern in choosing computer components.

    Manufacturers are definitely doing a better job of addressing noise these days - mainly because users like our reders complain about high noise components and stop buying them. There are not many 62db fans around like the screamers that used to be common on Socket A builds.

    I wish the northbrdge coolers were quieter - that is where the highest noise is these days. The Northbridge fan on the test EVGA 680i is the noisiest component in our system. It is so gbad we have to disconnect it before making any noise measurements on coolers.
  • PCTechNow - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    What is your problem with not using quieter components in the test PC or even changing rooms? Fine with not catering to quiet pc users but at least get your noise floor down to something reasonable like 30db. I am sure I am not in the minority here but most of the boards used now are passively cooled so the two main noise issues in a pc are the cooler and power supply. I am not after total silence but having something that is not louder than the ambient noise in the room is important. Reply
  • gramboh - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    The review is fine for users like me, those that are going to build a PC, want it to be REASONABLY quiet, but also overclock and have a high end video card for gaming. If you browse the AT forums, a lot of the users fall into this bucket. Yes there are also silence enthusaists, HTPC etc. If I were building one of those systems I would be reading up on SPCR.

    The review is gauging an overall end user experience.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    "I am not after total silence but having something that is not louder than the ambient noise in the room is important."

    That doesn't really make sense - anything lower than the ambient noise will be pretty much silent. If you want a silent cpu, then go fanless. Most people have a power supply that makes noise, as well as video cards that make noise, and these reviews make sense.
  • bigpow - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    I was absent for a one year and now I never see it being compared anymore..
    How is it compared to today's top coolers?
    Is Scythe Infinity the new Ninja/p?

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