Final Words

The Tuniq Tower 120 has solidly maintained the top position in our heatpipe tower tests until our recent review of the Thermalright Ultra 120 with a Scythe S-Flex fan. The Ultra 120 did not really pass the excellent Tuniq in cooling ability, but it did impress us with its ability to match the results achieved with the Tuniq Tower 120. Cooling with the Scythe S-Flex fan also achieved the same cooling with lower noise levels, but we are confident the Tuniq would perform similarly if the S-Flex was used for cooling the Tuniq.

With the Ultra 120 and the Tuniq we were comfortable that air cooling was about as good as you could get. It was with that skepticism that we began a closer look at Thermalright's upgrade to the Ultra 120, which they dub the Ultra 120 Extreme. Two more heatpipes are fine, we supposed, but could they really make that much difference in performance? More is often not better, and the simplicity of an effective design is often the better choice.

With the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, the extra heatpipes do work, and they work very well. The improvements in cooling efficiency with the Ultra 120 Extreme over the Tuniq and Ultra 120 are nothing short of amazing. One glance at the Stress performance scaling chart on page four will show you all you need to know about the Ultra 120 Extreme. Instead of a "me-too" results curve mirroring the Tuniq and Ultra 120, the Ultra Extreme sets a whole new performance level. A 6C improvement in cooling at 3.90GHz is nothing to sneeze at, and these are typical Extreme performance results.

We don't know the final selling price for the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, but unless it is a lot more than the Ultra 120 you should definitely opt for the Extreme model. The performance improvement is definitely worthwhile. The Ultra Extreme also maintains the same appealing looks we enjoy with the original Ultra 120.

There are no real penalties with the performance of the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, and all the features we look for in a quality cooler are present. However, Thermalright still has a bit of work to do on the Socket 775 adapter that will ship with the Ultra Extreme. Where it barely fits on Ultra 120, the 775 adapter will fit between the heatpipes on the original Ultra 120 and effectively mount a Core 2 Duo. However, with closer heatpipes on the Ultra 120 Extreme, the 775 adapter will not fit between the heatpipes.

You have to bend and weaken the metal 775 adapter to pass it through the pipes, and then straighten it out for mounting. If you are careful this will work, but it is not the kind of mounting we expect to see with a top-end cooler like the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme. We sincerely hope Thermalright will make the necessary corrections to the Socket 775 adapter to fix this problem. Most enthusiasts these days will be using a Core 2 Duo for their overclocking system and requiring end users to bend cast metal is not a good solution.

You will have no problems with the AM2 or AMD 754/939/940 adapters fitting, and thankfully Thermalright is including the AM2 adapter with the Ultra Extreme - it is no longer a separate option as it is with the original Ultra 120. When and if Thermalright corrects the Socket 775 adapter design they will have the most ideal air cooling solution we have tested so far.

The Ultra 120 was the first cooler tested that could effectively cool a stock Core 2 Duo without a fan. The Ultra 120 Extreme should extend the usefulness of the fanless solution even further. The two extra heatpipes dramatically improve cooling in stress conditions, and this should also improve fanless operation. This works best when you use a fanless Ultra 120 Extreme in a case with a down-facing power supply fan and/or a rear system cooling fan that will help draw air over the heatsink. You will also get better performance by paying careful attention to airflow and exhaust in the case design. This is true with any effective fanless design.

When combined with the Scythe S-Flex SFF21F fan the Ultra 120 Extreme extends the records set by the Ultra 120. You need to keep in mind that the cooling fan can make a dramatic difference in the performance of a heatsink. The Scythe S-Flex SFF21F appears a good balance between high air movement (63.7CFM) and low noise (generally below the system noise floor) in our test bed. You may have other requirements, and there are Scythe and Noctua fans available that will fit the Ultra 120 Extreme with noise levels as low as 8 dB-A.

We asked at the beginning of this review if more is better. In the case of the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme the answer is a solid "Yes it is". The Tuniq Tower 120 and original Thermalright Ultra 120 remain very competitive heatpipe towers. In that same ball park are the Cooler Master Hyper 6+ and the Scythe Infinity with push-pull fans. You will not be disappointed in any of these coolers. However, the best air cooler we have tested is the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme. It cools better at all speeds and overclocks, and overclocks the processor further than any air CPU cooler we have tested. We look forward to seeing it on retail shelves, and performance enthusiasts should definitely try to find an Ultra 120 Extreme to cool their processor when it hits the retail channel.



View All Comments

  • Clem - Thursday, March 15, 2007 - link

    Is the 'Intel Stock HSF for X6800' connected to a:
    1. Molex 12v outlet (3 pins utilized) fan running at full speed and would you know approximated what that speed that is ?
    2. 3 pin Motherboard header - fan running at full speed (approximately what RPM) ?
    3. 4 pin Motherboard header - fan running at various speeds ?

    I think the 'Intel Stock HSF for X6800' fan can run from 800 RPM to 2600 RPM but somethimes a motherboard will only let it run at 1600 RPM on the 4 pin header.
  • hox - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    Here are my thoughts of the Anadntech Heatsink reviews, while helpful, there is a growing body of end user discrepancies in temperatures realized. This post is to stimulate discussion to determine why end users are not acheiving the same results (degrees C at idle and load) as reported in so many heat sink reviews.

    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
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, March 11, 2007 - link

    All BIOS settings that affect automatic throttling are turned OFF in our reviews. Reply
  • classy - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    But unless you test all of the top solutions with the same fan, there really is no way to determine if one is truly better than the other. While I understand the logic for testing them as is, to not explore apples to apples is clearly short sighted. Now we know that the Extreme 120 is better than the Ultra because they were both tested with same fan. Great job though none the less. Very good quality on these heatsink reviews. Reply
  • chyew - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    I'm quite surprised that the Scythe Ninja is omitted. Wesley, can you be kind enough to add in Scythe Ninja? Thanks!!!! Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    Wes will have the Ninja B review up after he returns from vacation. It appears in early testing to be a very good solution also. Reply
  • quanta - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    That's just great, the a.s.S-Flex sounds like another potential source where rookit will strike... :) Reply
  • lopri - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    I might have missed this information so if that's the case please someone enlighten me how heavy this HSF is? Considering the heatpipes are made of copper outfit and whatever liquid-ish stuff Thermalright chose to use, the added weight from 2 extra heatpipes wouldn't be trivial, is my guess. The Ultra 120 is already quite heavy and I'd like to know this Extreme version is safe enough for average ATX motherboards.

    Thanks for this excellent review. My next HSF looks to be definitely this Ultra 120 Extreme.
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - link

    Thermalright has contacted us and the name of the cooler will now be the Thermalright Ultra Extreme. We will update the article shortly. Still no word on a ship date but it should be shortly. Reply
  • PICBoy - Thursday, March 8, 2007 - link

    Hi Gary.

    Just wanted to let you know there are still some traces of the name "PLUS" on the article. I hope this helps:

    * Page 1, last paragraph: "To isolate just the impact of the ***Plus*** modification we tested with the same Scythe S-Flex fan used in the Thermalright Ultra 120 review."

    * Page 2, Cooling Performance Test Configuration table: "Thermalright Ultra 120 ***Plus***"

    * Page 2, last paragraph: "Results with the Ultra 120 Extreme should be even better with the extra cooling provided by the additional heatpipes in the ***PLUS*** design."

    * Page 6, fourth paragraph: "We don't know the final selling price for the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme, but unless it is a lot more than the Ultra 120 you should definitely opt for the ***Plus*** model."

    By the way, can we expect a cooling review for next week also? That's all. Keep up the good work!

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