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Thermalright IFX-10 Motherboard Backside Cooler Review

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AkG

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Thermalright IFX-10 Motherboard Backside Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Ultimate CPU Cooling Solutions! USA
Product Number: IFX-10
Availability: Now
Price: Check here to compare prices
Warranty Length: 1 Year



It seems that finally after all these years the CPU cooling manufacturers are finally catching on to an idea which the video card makers have known for a while: hot running processors create heat on both sides of the chip. For numerous years now both ATI and NVIDA (and their various partners) have been making video cards that have major heatsinks on both sides of the card. Yes most heat is going to be sucked out via the top of the chip, but every extra degree that you can suck from the bottom of the chip is one degree cooler that that processor is going to run. In this day and age even one degree can make the difference between a successful overclock and one that just heats up the chip too much.

To say that the name Thermalright is synonymous with high quality and highly reputably products would be an understatement. In the past we have reviewed numerous products from Thermalright including their HR11 GPU backside cooler which we found to be a great idea that really did work. Heck we even use (at the time of this review) their Ultima 90 as our CPU cooler benchmark; so stating their credentials is a little bit counter-indicated to say the least! Let us just say they have a very good reputation and leave it at that.

Today we will be looking at another of their innovative ideas, namely the InfernoFx-10 motherboard backside cooler. The IFX-10 (as it is commonly known) is designed to suck heat away from the bottom of your hot running CPU. Since it fits on the back of the motherboard it should easily fit the majority (if not all) 775 Intel motherboards on the market today and with its custom mounting system should also work with the majority of CPU cooling solutions available.

The IFX-10 backside cooler is readily available from many e-tailers and retailers and goes for about $30. The biggest question one has to ask is if this is a good value or not. Of course only you can decide what is a good value to you, but hopefully by the end of this review we will be able to give you the knowledge and tools to make this decision a little bit easier. Without further ado here is our review of the IFX-10.

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




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If it is one thing which makes a Thermalright box so unique is their sheer aggressive blandness. Every single Thermalright item that we have ever seen has come in the same plain cardboard box with nothing but the model name printed in a bold black lettering on the side to distinguish it from any of the other models they produce. Looking at one of their boxes is like looking at one the wrong end of double barrel 12 gauge: its big, it’s mean and it doesn't need flashy labels or fancy colour schemes to get your attention; it does perfectly fine without them thank you very much. In all honesty if Thermalright ever did decide to change and go with a flashy box it would certainly cheapen them in some intelligible and indefinable way.

Now there is a big downside to this undiluted testosterone drive machismo: unless you know exactly what a given model number is and what its pros and cons are you will never be able to guess without opening that sucker up and checking. This can be very intimidating for first a time buyer which really is a shame as Thermalright does make some really high end quality kit!


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Continuing the tradition of minimal flash but maximum protection, the inside packaging scheme certainly doesn't cut any corners. The IFX-10 is literally ensconced in two pieces of foam that would surely protect its precious cargo from even the most sever of bumps, bangs, knocks and shocks. Heck unless you got really overenthusiastic with a box cutter and sliced too deep there really is not much you can do to damage the contents without destroying said box in the process.


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As anyone who has ever purchased a Thermalright product already knows, the list of accessories that comes with any of their products is a little on the sparse side, yet is always complete and of the highest quality. This model is no different and the contents consist of a rather large case badge, a text and pictographic based instruction pamphlet, a large backplate, a piece of thermal pad, a piece of double sided tape, various screws and two 80mm fan mounting wires. What is not included (and in typical Thermalright fashion) is a fan. If you want to use this cooler as an active cooler you must provide one yourself. This is a hidden cost that should be factored into any buying decision and is one small sore point that we have with Thermalright.

Overall this unit leaves one with a very good first impression. Everything yells high quality and if it performs as well as it has looks this is going to be a down right great idea.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

FIRST IMPRESSIONS



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When you first pick up this cooler you will be amazed at how light it is. It’s not flimsy, it’s just for a piece of kit of this size it is amazingly light. It’s almost as if the heatpipes are not filled with a heat transfer medium but helium or even unobtainium. So for anyone worrying about added stress on their motherboard, the simple answer is don’t worry. The amount of extra pressure is nearly negligible and if it does as it promises, you can always go with a lighter cooler to help counteract its additional weight.

The next thing one notices is that this cooler is big. It does take up a lot of room and when they say you need a minimum of 7cm clearance above your motherboard they are not kidding. This cooler will not fit in a CM 690 and if your case has a removable motherboard tray you may want to make sure that there is enough room for it to slide back in when this is installed. Nothing would be worse than installing it just to realize that your brand new cooling upgrade + computer motherboard with tray will no longer fit inside your case!


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For others who may worry that the back of your motherboard has many pin-outs that can easily short out your system if they come in contact with anything metal (say the metal heatpipes of a certain cooler for instance); once again the quick answer is: its been taken care. Thermalright has already thought of this and has run an anti static strip the full length of the heat pipes, so that any part of the unit which could conceivably come in contact with the motherboard has been protected. This long anti-static strip is the same material they use on their backplates for numerous years, so you can rest assured that it will do its job without any problems.


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While all of this is interesting, what really stood out was the inclusion of the four screws and a brief mention on in the pamphlet about it being compatible with any pushpin cooler. In a move that is nothing short of brilliant Thermalright has come up with a solution to many a buyer’s woe; as there is nothing worse than buying a relatively heavy aftermarket cooler, getting it home and realizing that it relies on the fairly flimsy pushpin mounting system. If this has ever happened to you then those four little screws will be the answers to your prayers. With a simple twist and pull you can remove those pushpins on your CPU cooler and use the included screws to securely mount darn near any cooler to Thermalright’s kick ass backplate. No more worrying about plastic fatigue and having it fail, letting your pound plus cooler to crash into your expensive video card. Heck, even if the IFX-10 turns out to be an answer in search of a question I know I'd buy it just for this mounting kit (please note that this kit is also sold separately by Thermalright so we are exaggerating a bit to make a point).
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

HEATSINK DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION




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Where this is a backside cooler, the design and thus its construction are a little on the quirky side. The heatpipes that terminate at the top of the fairly regular looking heatsink are long and have been flattened so as to easily fit underneath the motherboard. This has been done so it does not require you to have taller standoffs. The downside to these long heatpipes is that they do make the unit a bit on the flexible, springy side. The other downside to this design is that the majority if the weight is hanging out a good distance from its mounting point. This has a tendency to put a lot of additional torque on the backplate but the backplate is very beefy and should be easily up to this task.

On first blush, the business end of the IFX-10 is nothing more than a smallish tower cooler. Its fins are approximately 20mm wide, 87mm long and the tower cooler is about 112mm high with the fin assembly taking up 72.5mm of this hight. In all there is 25 of these fins and they are very tightly space and under normal circumstance would have a fairly high static pressure, but Thermalright did take great pains to reduce this as we will get into in a moment. The upside to all these fins is that they give a very large surface area for cooling.


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When you do take a good look at the end of the InfernoFX-10 you realize that this is not just a dual heatpipe tower cooler that has been miniaturized. Yes it is a smaller version of the Thermalright’s CPU cooler’s in that it has a heatpipe terminating on each end of the tower with fins going horizontally between the two; however, Thermaltake recognized the fact that a big fan wouldn’t be able to fit on it and therefore it needed to have as low a static pressure as possible. To this end the fins themselves are not flat, and in fact have a very unique and distinctive look to them. Thermalright calls this design “wild fire” and when looking down from above you can sort of see the fins edges as flames.

What these multifaceted edges do is allow different parts of the fan’s air to hit the fins at a slightly different time. Since there is no “brick wall” for the air to have to hit the fan doesn’t need to create as high a static pressure or even move as fast at it would have otherwise to push air through these tightly packed fins. This is a very subtle solution to the problem and highlight’s just how good the Thermalright engineer’s are. Most company’s engineers would have been content by saying “put a better fan on it, if you want active cooling” and ignored the problem whereas Thermalright’s engineers didn’t see a problem they saw an opportunity. This attention to detail will hopefully pay dividends when it comes to its performance.

Rather that rely on MTBF numbers, an easier and better way to get a “feel” for what the manufacturer thinks is the real length of time a product should last is too simply look at the length of warranty provided. The length of warranty has been calculated to be long enough so that customers feel secure in purchasing it BUT still short enough that it will be “out of warranty” when most fail. Taken for what its worth, the InfernoFX-10 comes with a 1 year warranty.

Overall this cooler’s design is all about finesse and everything that could be possibly done to make this a better cooler was done. Usually, when a manufacturer focuses so much attention on its efficiency and ability the ascetics of the unit suffer, luckily that is not the case with the InfernoFX-10. This unit is quirky, but it has to be quirky as it is a quirky idea; but quirky or not it definately has a style which is all its own. Whether you like the wild fire look or not you have to admit that it is not boring and will add a bit of spice to even the most exotic looking system. The downside to its good looks is that it is a real crying shame to put in a computer case that doesn’t have a window!
 
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AkG

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Installation

INSTALLATION




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Depending on what cooler you are planning on using, the installation can be considered either very easy or moderately easy. If you have one of the Thermalright models listed in the compatibility chart one simply has to substitute this backplate for the one which comes with it, install the IFX-10 and then install the cooler just like you would if you were not using the IFX-10. If however you are using either the Intel stock cooler or any of the numerous coolers on the market that use the ubiquitous 775 push pin mounting system it is a bit more complicated in that you first have to remove those four plastic pushpins.


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To remove the original push pins that came with Intel’s stock cooler one simply needs either very strong fingers or a pair of pliers. By simply holding the white plastic piece with pliers while giving a sharp twist and pull the black piece easily pops off. Then you simply have to line up the plastic key so as to be able to remove the white plastic part via the keyhole in the metal bracket. This may sound complicated but after the first one you will quickly get the hang of it and should have all four removed in under a minute.


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For either of the above two options the installation of the IFX-10 itself is exactly the same. One first has to remove the motherboard from the case (if your case has a removable motherboard tray we recommend leaving the tray installed and simply removing the motherboard from it). You then have to install the four hollow pillars into the backplate and secure them with the supplied o-rings. These o-ring makes the installation process much easier as when you are finished all four hollow pillars are seemingly frozen to the backplate. You then apply the .3mm double sided tape to the bottom of the IFX-10's base and the 1.5mm thermal pad to the top of it. You then remove the paper covering the double sided tape and stick the IFX-10 to the baseplate. The baseplate has a hollow indent in the center that makes this very easy. You then gently, while threading all four hollow pillars through their perspective holes in the motherboard, mount the base plate to the motherboard. Once this is done you carefully lay the motherboard back down and either install the modified pushpin cooler using the four screws included or continue on with the installation of the compatible CPU cooler.


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If you wish to install an 80mm fan all you have to do is insert the wire clip into their perspective holes on the top and bottom of the cooler. There is no left and right clips per say but you can easily install them upside down if you are not careful. Unfortunately, this cooler can only handle one fan and does not have anymore holes to allow for a push pull setup. However, if your case has a top mounted fan that is near enough to the InfernoFX-10 you may luck into having an almost natural push pull arrangement. How this would effect temperatures is anyone’s guess, but it would almost assuredly have a positive impact on its cooling abilities.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing methodology



Except where noted all comparison testing was done on an open bench with an ambient temperature of 20c. Recorded temps were as reported via CoreTemp's "Temp Log". Average load temps were taken after 15 minutes of running Prime95 v25.4 “small fft” and are taken directly from CoreTemps temperature text file. Excel was used to average the results of all cores. Idle temps were taken 15 minutes after Load testing ceased. Motherboard temperatures were recorded using SpeedFan. All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS but due to the fact that the Ultima 90’s Scythe F fan is voltage adjustable, CPU fan speed control was not disabled and rather was set to voltage only. The fan used on the IFX-10 is not a variable speed fan and thus all fan speed control for it was disabled.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for the Ultima 90, but the foam pad that comes with the IFX-10 was used for it. Application of all thermal paste was according to the manufacturer’s instructions and while not necessary it was allowed to cure for 48 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing. All tests were run 4 times and only best results are represented.

Please note: Because the Ultima 90 does not come with its own it was paired with a single Scythe F 120mm fan for the results listed in this review.

Please note: To keep the motherboard chipsets from overheating two 120mm Scythe E models were used, but they were orientated in such a way as to not interfere with nor help the backside cooler nor the Ultima 90 (i.e. they were basically pointed down and angled away from the IFX-10 and Ultima 90 so that no air was pulled near nor pushed towards them nor interfered with their air paths).

Notes about Overclocking:

For q6600’s I consider 1.45 volts to be the most that I would seriously consider for a moderate-to-long term overclock.Yes you can go much higher but the longevity of the CPU is then called into question. Just as importantly the CPU should average out at LESS than 65c as this is also what I consider the safest, maximum long term overclocking temp. For the purposes of these tests I was willing to overlook temperatures as long as they averaged below 70c and did not peak over 75c. If 75c was displayed for more than 10 seconds in CoreTemp all testing was stopped and that test run was considered a fail.

With these two general guidelines I overclocked both systems until either one (or both) of these "rules" was needed to be broken to continue.

Overclocking was accomplished by increasing FSB speed and then Vcore (only if necessary).

Before testing for idle and max temperatures Orthos was run for 1 hour to make sure that it was stable at a given overclock and voltage. If both finished with no errors SuperPi set to 32m was run twice. After the stability testing was accomplished the given system was allowed to sit idle for 30minutes before starting the official tests. IF both of the above stated guidelines were not broken then testing continued with an increased overclock. These steps were then repeated until 1 or both of the general guidelines were broken.

As they have no bearing on these tests the RAM’s voltage and timings are not recorded, the RAM was set to run at or as close to as possible PC-6400 speeds by running various cpu : memory dividers. Please do not consider this a full “how to” review on overclocking or “safe guidelines” for overclocking nor even an indicator on how well a given CPU will overclock. IF you are interested in OC’ing your system, and use these guidelines we at HWC take no responsibility for the results. Bad Things can happen if you are not careful.

Complete Test System:

Processor: Q6600 & E4600
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives: 1x Western Digital Se16 320GB (single platter)
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
Fan for IFX-10: Panaflo medium speed 80mm fan

Since the InfernoFX-10 does not include a fan we have paired it with a Panasonic Panaflo 80mm Medium Speed Cooling Fan that runs at a nominal 2450RPM, moves 32.1CFM of air and is rated at a moderate 28DBA.
 
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AkG

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Performance

Performance Testing



Idle Temperatures



Those numbers really do speak for themselves and what they say does not bode well for the IFX-10. Hopefully, its load numbers will look better than this.


Load Temperatures



We were very surprised by these results in that it actually seemed to perform better with stock cooler than the Ultima 90. When one takes the time to think about it though, this makes perfect sense as the stock coolers temperatures were much higher and thus more heat was available to “leak” to the back of the motherboard.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

CONCLUSION

It is fairly safe to say that the IFX-10 is based on a quirky idea and it can pay dividends under a variety of conditions, but don’t expect it to perform miracles. It really only shines at the higher end of the acceptable heat spectrum and has almost no effect on idle temperatures. There really is no area that one can point too and say that Thermalright needs to improve on to make this a more efficient cooler. Yes, a thermal pad is not the best nor the most efficient way of conducting heat away from a CPU but it is safe, and most people are more than willing to give up potential cooling for long term, worry free stability. Nothing ruins a good day like having a motherboard/CPU/etc short out because it as improperly grounded and it fried itself.

In the end the biggest strength of the IFX-10 is its ease of use coupled with its ability to upgrade a normal pushpin mounted cooler to a highly secure cooling platform. However, as the mounting system is sold separately that really isn’t a good reason to spend extra the money. So is the IFX-10 an answer in search of a question? No, it is not a gimmick, but it isn’t Dam Good Value due to its lack of a "universal" mounting kit nor does its performance reach the level of Dam Good Hardware.

Unless you positively, absolutely need the ultimate in air cooling performance this may not be the wisest of investments. An extra thirty dollars can allow you to upgrade from a decent cooler to a very good one, which will give much improved cooling without the need for backside coolers. Don’t get us wrong, the InfernoFX-10 will improve your temperatures but if you need an extra couple of degrees cooling that badly maybe its time to step into the world of water cooling.


Pros:

- Light weight
- Solid construction
- Reduces temperatures
- Novel idea


Cons:

- No fan included
- Does not fit all cases (like CM690)
- Only accepts one fan
- Limited cooling potential



Special Thanks to Thermalright for providing this unit for review.​
 
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