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 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    We now use a standard quality silver-colored paste in all our reviews. But in our experience and testing the thermal paste makes absolutely no difference in performance. The paste fills gaps and needs to remain fluid and not dry out.

    A famous review from several years ago showed toothpaste and Kraft Vegimite equal or superior to AS3 - at least until they dried out. The point was use a decent paste but don't obsess on it - as it really makes no difference. This is particularly true now that all the current CPUs use heatspreader covers and you no longer are mounting on a tiny die as you were on AMD Socket A.
  • rjm55 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    The review Wesley is talking about was at the Australian site Dan's Data at">
  • Chunga29 - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Whoa! Two articles today? Heh. I was just finishing the 2900 fiasco article and suddenly this shows up. [Big grin!]

    Only problem with the Hexus article is that overclocking isn't even a factor. I'm a bit confused as to their results, as they have the Zalman 9700 performing in the top of the tested HSFs, trailing the Tuniq by 1C. The AT results show Tuniq leading by 2C at load, but even more interesting is that the AT results are about 10C cooler on every HSF (at least where they overlap).

    Oh... WAIT! The Hexus reviews are using a Pentium D Extrene 840!? What in the hell is up with that? Why don't we do some testing with the original Athlon FX-51 while we're at it? While most people won't purchase a $1000 CPU like the X6800, at least Core 2 Duo is very popular and many are OC'ing E6600 chips to similar levels (and beyond). Perhaps the VX is the best HSF when it comes to cooling Pentium D setups... but that's about as far as I'd take the Hexus roundup.

    Honestly, I'd like only a few things from AnandTech cooling reviews:

    1) Testing on AM2 as well as 775.
    2) Temps of various components.
    3) More HSFs! Heh. A roundup would be great.

    Two HSFs in one ariticle is a start, but how about four or five similar HSFs at a time? Half the material is just filler (copy paste from previous articles), so other than the spec sheets, intro, conclusion, and charts there's not much going on here. Am I the only one that skims (at best) the middle pages?
  • DrMrLordX - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    Hexus used a Pentium 840D because it's a stupidly hot processor that's cheap. Pentium Ds can easily put out as much heat as Kentsfields.
  • Chunga29 - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    I understand that. The problem is that performance with a Pentium Extreme 840 doesn't really tell you anything about how the cooler will perform with other processors. For what it's worth, a heavily overclocked Core 2 Duo X6800 (or better yet a QX6700) is also a stupidly hot processor. I'd wager that the output of QX6700 easily exceeds the 840EE.

    Testing with outdated equipment is meaningless, regardless of how hot the old parts get. That's why it would be ideal to see current AM2 performance as well. I remember a LOT of reviews hailing the Zalman 9500 as the greatest cooler ever, and while it appears to do great on AM2 it's pretty average on an overclocked C2D. I hope you can see that the same could easily be true of comparing performance with 840EE to current C2D and AM2 chips.
  • DrMrLordX - Wednesday, June 6, 2007 - link

    Actually, uh, your point isn't really valid. A heavily OCed Smithfield can easily pump out heat like a heavily OCed Kentsfield. Heat is heat as long as its distributed properly by the IHS and properly-applied TIM.

    The age of the equipment in question is irrelevant unless a particular HSF has a mounting mechanism that is somehow better-suited to one socket or another, not that that's an issue when dealing with Smithfields and Kentsfields (both s775 processors).

    Using a Smithfield to test the limit of modern HSFs is entirely appropriate, given its massive heat output that can still rival that of Kentsfields and its socket which is identical to the socket-type used with Conroe and Kentsfield processors.
  • Stele - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link


    Honestly, I'd like only a few things from AnandTech cooling reviews:
    1) Testing on AM2 as well as 775.
    2) Temps of various components.
    3) More HSFs! Heh. A roundup would be great.

    I second that, though especially no.(2). That would help decide between a traditional downdraught HSF blowing air onto the motherboard vs. the tower ones.


    We do not use auxiliary fans in the test cooling case

    It might be useful to have a proper cross flow of air through the case too, e.g. one 120mm fan each for intake and exhaust. This would not only be more reflective of regular casing setups but would also ensure a level playing field - otherwise the tower ones may potentially have a greater advantage over the downdraught ones (since they can exhaust hot air out of the case through the case rear) than real-life setups may show.

    How about including the Enzotech Ultra-X in a future review? Seems to be quite a good performer by all accounts! :P
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    The MaxOrb is reputed to be at least the equal of the Big Typhoon VX in performance and it is a more recent design.

    We have an Enzotech Ultra-X in for testing. You will see it in a future review.

    We had planned a big spread on board component temperatures, but when the down-facing fans didn't even come close to the heatpipe towers in cooling efficiency or overclcoking it became a moot point. IF the down fans really cooled better they would cool more efficiently and/or allow a higher overclock. Neither is the case in our tests. We run our top OC speed with a pretty hefty chipset voltage increase, and if the dowh-facers cooled components better we would get a better overclock, or at least an equal OC. Instead OC is average at best with all 3 expensive down-face designs.
  • DrMrLordX - Tuesday, June 5, 2007 - link

    Reputed by who? Would it really kill you guys to review the Big Typhoon VX, or an older Big Typhoon with an FM-121?

    The Big Typhoon has had at least one other good showing here:">

    It beat the Tuniq Tower 120 pretty solidly there as well once it had a decent fan in it. Note that at least one of the fans that allowed the Big Typhoon to defeat the Tuniq Tower 120 has approxmiately the same cfm rating as the fan included with the Big Typhoon VX.
  • Chunga29 - Monday, June 4, 2007 - link

    Addendum: it might be interesting (although it's too late now) to test with an E6600 instead of the X6800... maybe switch to a Q6600 in the future? When AM2 gets quad core (if it gets quad core?), I'd like to see head-to-head comparisons of HSfs on both platforms. Maybe retest the current leaders for reference (Ultra-120/eXtreme, Tuniq, Hyper6+, and a couple others?)

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