In our continuing quest for the best top-end air cooler it has been interesting to see the heatpipe towers pull to the front of the pack. Coolers like the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme and the Ultra-120, the Tuniq Tower 120, and the Scythe Ninja Plus 2 with push-pull fans have topped our all-time performance charts. They are all very similar in concept, with a vertical heatpipe array supporting horizontal fins with cooling from a side-mounted 120mm fan. More heatpipes have generally meant better cooling performance, at least in coolers from the same manufacturer.

Readers have pointed out that this cooler configuration probably is not the best for cooling motherboard components as well the CPU, and yet we find this type of cooler doing well enough in cooling the systems to consistently rise to the top of the performance charts. Logically a cooler with heatpipes and a fan blowing down should perform better, but our testing of the Cooler Master GeminII showed this was not the case. The GeminII is a decent cooler at stock speeds, but it just does not compete very well or cool well enough at higher Core 2 Duo overclocks.

The answer, according to some readers, is to test more of the down-blowing coolers, as the ones we've tested just can't be representative of a class that has to be better. So here we go again with the down-blowing coolers, and this time we are testing two of the most highly advertised on the market - namely the Scythe Andy Samurai Master and the Thermaltake MaxOrb.

As you can see in the side-by-side comparisons, both these coolers are fairly massive for CPU toppers. The MaxOrb is smaller and is similar in appearance to the older Zalman coolers like the 7000 and 7700. However, the MaxOrb is still large enough to mount an integral 110mm fan. As you will see in the specifications, the MaxOrb is also much lighter than the Andy Samurai, weighing in at a very svelte and moving friendly 465g.

Another significant difference in the two coolers is that any 120mm x 25mm fan should mount on the Scythe, where the Thermaltake 110mm fan is embedded and not changeable. To make up for this Thermaltake has thoughtfully included a rheostat for fan speed adjustment right on the fan, and the adjustment range is specified as 1300-2000rpm with a 2000rpm output of very high 86.5cfm. The on-cooler speed control is handy - at least until you close your case.

Thermaltake MaxOrb
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  • Wesley Fink - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    We could change it to embedded, which we used several other times to refer to the MaxOrb fan. We just thought always calling it embedded might get boring ;-)
  • DrMrLordX - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    The VX recently won a large HSF shootout here:">

    I know you're doing things differently than Hexus, but still . . . why no VX? The Big Typhoon has already been shown to be an outstanding HSF with a high cfm fan (100-110 cfm being the sweet spot). The fact that it's a top-down cooler like the two you've tested here is merely an added bonus for those who own cases with otherwise-poor airflow that can become cooling dynamos with a powerful top-down cooler (thanks to the prevalence of side air ducts/air guides since the P4 days).

    Some folks have said the Scythe Andy is better than the Big Typhoon, but without a head-to-head comparison, will we ever know?
  • wollyka - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    it will be interesting to test also the Big Typhon VX like the OP said..
  • xsilver - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    the VX design looks a bit dodge because of the very high centre of gravity. with practically a 1kg cooler I dont want that lump of metal falling off and smashing onto a 8800gtx or something!

    at least with a tuniq style cooler the centre of gravity is much more evenly distributed.

    Personally Im thinking about a setup where you can have dual fans but only have the second one kick in when a certain temp. is reached or maximum load is triggered. Besides the thermalrights - which are too expensive imo, is the scythe ninja the best bet?
  • cujo - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    if you've used the bt you'll find it doesn't have a high center of gravity at all. it's far ligher than say my old xp90c.

    i was planning on getting a ultra 120 extreme based on this review but after the spanking he regular ultra 120 got in the hexus review i think i'll stick with my bt.

    i've asked at least twice in this comments section for the bt to be included but to no avail. i actually signed up an account just to ask.

    the one difference between anandtech and hexus that i think anand does better is use a consistent thermal paste. that's why i'd love to see how the bt performs in anands test environment.

    oh and for those who said "ha, they're using an old cpu." those old cpus ran so much hotter than the c2d's we're used to today. i figure it's a better test to use hotter cpus as opposed to modern cpus as those results will transfer over. i don't care how they cool my cpu, i care how they cool a hotter cpu than i will ever have.

    how many of us like seeing psu reviews where they test it up to the 500w that each of us would probably max use. no, we want to know how it handles it's full rated spec.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    Since many have requested it, our next cooler review will be the Thermaltake Big Typhoon VX which we just received in the lab. Thanks to Frozen CPU for getting us a review sample so quickly.

    It is no wonder the review referenced did not get great performance from the Thermalright Ultra-120. We don't understand why, but the tested the Thermalright with a Noctua low-ouput Silent fan. Our top results were with a high output, but quiet Scythe S-Flex SFF21F. Not surprisingly the Noctua tower, using the same Noctua fan appeared about the same place in cooler performance as the Thermalright.

    Perhaps this was just an oversight on the reviewers part, but it appears the Thermalright was set up to do less than top performance in that review. Output of the VX is around 90CFM on high speed, our S-Flex is about 64CFM, and the Noctua is either 30CFM or 47CFM depending on which plug was used for the review.
  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - link

    Sweet. And yes, I did notice that Hexus tested the Ultra-120 with a pretty slow fan. The main advantage of the original Ultra-120, in my opinion, was that it could continue to benefit from more airflow up to (and exceeding) 140-150cfm. Most HSFs stop benefiting from increased airflow at much lower rates. It doesn't make much sense to use the Ultra-120 (or Ultra-120 eXtreme) with such a slow fan.

    However, Hexus also tested the Big Typhoon VX at half fan speed, which is around 43 cfm. Big Typhoons (and the VX) see notable improvement in performance all the way up to around 100-110 cfm (and 150 cfm will net you another 1C drop in temps . . . joy). So . . . take that however you will.

    Also, since you're responding to reader feedback (which is great), have you taken a look at this review here?">

    This is really very interesting reading, especially in light of the fact that your testers have not found any noticeable difference in TIMs that you've used. Have you considered a high-end TIM shootout of your own?
  • jkostans - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    That hexus review doesn't make any sense. They used the thermal paste included with each cooler, rather than a single paste. While this will show out of the box performance, you can't directly compare the coolers to each other. I don't understand the reason for this, I buy my high performance coolers based on how the heat sink performs, not the included paste. I'd like to know who here buys a $60 cooler and doesn't use AS5 or similar paste. I usually like Hexus review too.....
  • DrMrLordX - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    Anandtech does about the same thing that Hexus does. They either use the included paste or bulk silver TIM, depending on whether or not any paste is included with the HSF.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    DrMrLordX has correctly stated what we have said in many reviews. Our policy was to use the same quality silver-colored thermal paste if the cooler came with basic white paste of no paste, and the premium stuff if the cooler was supplied with a premium paste. We did this because our testing and experience shows Thermal Paste makes no difference as long as you use a good paste that doesn't dry out, but ig the mfg cared enough to supply the expensive stuff we would use it.

    We still believe Thermal Paste really doesn't matter, and we only changed to the same paste on each cooler review because we got tired of expalining the truth in every cooler review. Using the same paste just eliminated the questions. No, we will not tell you which paste we used because it is irrelevant. You just need to know we use the same quality paste on every cooler test these days.

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