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Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT CPU Cooler Review

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3oh6

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<center>



Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT CPU Cooler Review</center>



Price: $79+ CND Click here to compare prices
Manufacturer Product Page: Thermalright Inc.
Manufacturer's Part Number: ULTRA-120-1366RT
TechWiki Info:
ULTRA-120-1366RT
Warranty: 1 year limited warranty



For the avid readers here at Hardware Canucks, you might already recognize this heat sink. For any enthusiast that is familiar with the high-end air coolers on the market, you will definitely recognize this heat sink. Over the past few months, the buildup of the new Intel i7 processor release has gotten the computer enthusiast market in a frenzy. New motherboards, new chipsets, new socket, new processor, and of course; new processor cooling. For a long time now, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme - and its variants - has been the big bully on the block in regards to processor cooling capabilities.

The Ultra-120 eXtreme Black and Ultra-120 eXtreme Copper are the latest derivatives of this already excellent heatsink but with the release of the Intel i7 processor and its new LGA 1366 socket, Thermalright had to adjust the Ultra-120 eXtreme. Well, the heat sink didn't get any refinements but the accessory package has. Under an all new title of Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT, the same powerful CPU cooling heatsink gets upgraded with a new mounting bracket to accommodate the LGA 1366 socket, and a new fan retention system.

In fact, unlike previous generations of the Ultra-120, the new Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT is fully equipped with a fan and ready for action right out of the box. We will be testing the performance of this "new-old" heat sink on a well equipped Intel i7 965 Extreme processor. The goal of this review will be to see what gains can be had by the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT over the stock Intel i7 cooler and which fan configuration is the ideal for our test setup. This newest generation of quad core processors are the hottest yet and adequate cooling is an absolute must for a stable overclock. We will soon find out how this legendary heat sink handles the highest heat load we can throw at it.
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3oh6

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Specifications

Specifications

<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/specs-1.png" alt="">

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/specs-4.png" alt=""></center>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories

<p style="text-align: justify;">Our last Thermalright review here at HWC was back in October, not that long ago, but even at that time Thermalright was still using their tried and tested brown box packaging. Much to our surprise, we didn't receive a plain brown box when we opened the shipping package...Thermalright has gone mainstream retail.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">At first we were a little put off by the fact that we were not greeted with a plain brown box that we knew would have had the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366 safely tucked away inside. Truthfully, looking at this package with the flimsy outer plastic shell, we didn't know what to think. The front is clear so we can see inside where the cooler is located and the overall feel of the package is very subtle but nicely done. There isn't too much flash but just enough details to make the package very professional looking. The sides and rear of the package have ample amount of information about the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366 including technical specifications, features, and a full listing of package contents. The real test to this new package was going to be what we found inside, and whether it protected the heatsink like previous generations of Thermalright packages.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Our concerns were quickly dashed the moment we opened the plastic package and pulled out the cardboard frame enveloping the heatsink and fan. In typical Thermalright fashion, the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366 was ready for war and looked like it would have come out of one unscathed. The cardboard interior literally folds in around the heat sink and fan, protecting them from all sides with multiple layers and hard corners. This package is built like a tank and despite the lack of styrofoam anywhere, really rivals that of their standard brown box.

The heat sink itself is cable tied down to a sturdy shelf that also acts as the lid to a compartment of sorts, housing the accessories. The whole bottom takes a bit of effort to open without tearing the interior but can be done. Thermalright package designers must have just finished their origami class down at the local community college because this package is one nifty little unit how it is folded together.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The accessory pack is what we have come to expect from Thermalright and a CPU cooler. The mounting hardware and thermal paste are locked up tight in a bag accompanied by installation instructions and a Thermalright sticker. The hold down bracket is the same scissor design that the LGA775 Ultra-120 eXtreme had, but has slightly longer arms to accommodate the larger footprint of the LGA1366 socket. A back plate is also included along with the mounting screws that are designed to provide a specific amount of mounting pressure. For current Ultra-120 eXtreme owners, you should be able to simply purchase this mounting hardware from your favorite Thermalright supplier by the time this review is published. This also means that if you have AM2 or LGA775 hold downs, you can certainly use this heat sink with those sockets as well.

Some complaints have been made about Thermalright not providing multiple hold downs making their heat sinks universal but at the same time, they are very universal. You simply buy the Ultra-120 eXtreme with whichever hold down you wish, then purchase additional hold downs if your Ultra-120 eXtreme needs to be a jack of all trades. This helps keeps initial costs of the heat sink down but still provides an avenue for the smaller portion of buyers that need multiple mounting possibilities. It is a bit of a give and take but those that only need a single hold down are certainly happier with a slightly cheaper package than one that comes with a bunch of extras they will never use.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Heat Sink Construction and Design

Heat Sink Construction and Design

<p style="text-align: justify;">At this point in the game, there isn't going to be anything about the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme (TRUE) that is going to be new to a lot of readers. This heat sink is known in every enthusiast forum discussion regarding heat sinks and is the staple for any high-end system build. With that said, let's have a peak at the beast up close and personal, for those that have never laid eyes on it.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">With no fan, the TRUE stands tall and proud knowing that every conversation about air coolers usually involves the question, "how does it compare to the TRUE"? Six nickel plated copper heat pipes make their way down through the 52 aluminum cooling fins that are arranged in meticulous fashion. What is new, however, is the fancy fan shroud and accompanying fan that comes with the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366. Previous versions of the Ultra-120 and Ultra-120 eXtreme heat sinks did not come with a fan but Thermalright is now including a 1600RPM/63.7CFM 120mm fan with the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The fan holder attaches to the heat sink via these nine "fingers" that clip on behind the seam down each side of the heat sink. If we look closely at the first photo above, we can see that the fingers are spaced to have two or three fins in-between each one. The fingers are relatively flexible and as we will see in the installation section, they have to be. From the back side of the cooler - which can be either side as the TRUE is symmetrical - the fan holder is barely visible grasping on to the face of the heat sink. The fit of the fan holder is superb and like the rest of the heat sink construction, meticulously perfect. Speaking of the Ultra-120 eXtreme's construction, let's have a closer look at the main players, the cooling fins and the heat pipes.
</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As mentioned earlier, the six heat pipes work their way through the cooling fins and as we can see by this close-up, the construction of the heat sink is near perfect. Each gap between the cooling fins is identical to the next and the interlocking tabs that tie down each side of the heat sink are perfectly folded. The six heat pipes are fed through the base, where they are soldered for optimal heat transfer, and up through each side of the heat sink in a fashion to evenly distribute the heat into the cooling fins that is being pulled from the base. At the top of the Ultra-120 eXtreme the heat pipes peak out of the top cooling fin just enough for us to know they are there. The heat pipes are copper and plated in a nickel finish to provide the shiny finish to them and if the Ultra-120 eXtreme wasn't such a good performer, you would think it was just a pretty model to look at.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Unlike some models, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme is hardly just a pretty face and is all business when planted on a CPU. The business of the heat sink is the base and what we are looking at above. Thermalright has nicely protected the base during transport with an adhesive sticker that is actually quite thick and should do a really good job of protecting the finish on the base. In the past the Thermalright base has been given mixed reviews due to the rough nature they seem to come from the factory with, in the second photo above, we have illuminated that finish with some careful color adjustments in Photoshop.

To enhance what we are talking about we have lowered the brightness and adjusted levels to pronounce the grooves shown in the base. If you use your fingernail and run it over the base you can feel the ridges but they are rather difficult to see sometimes. There are two schools of thought on this, one says that a perfectly flat base is best. The other idea is that since no CPU is actually going to be flat, the very small ridges may actually help thermal transfer. Our in house thermal physics staff member is away on vacation so we will simply rely on the results from the testing to tell us the story. The last photo is trying to capture the reflection of the included Thermalright sticker but is heavily distorted. This is another hot topic in forums all over the world and everyone has a different opinion. Like thermal paste application discussions, we will keep our heat sink base opinion to ourselves and let the testing results do the explaining.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Fan Design

Fan Design

<p style="text-align: justify;">It is now time to focus our attention and lens on the new accessory accompanying some Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme models, like the 1366 RT version we are looking at today. For the first time in the Ultra-120/Ultra-120 eXtreme history, a fan is included and with that fan comes a fancy new fan holder unlike anything we have seen on a TRUE before.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The new fan holder plays in perfect tune with the Thermalright design philosophy. Form is important, but function is just as important with everything Thermalright designs and this fan holder is no different. It is very well designed and appears that it will do its job extremely well. The good design includes simple implementation of features and precise design features that work well with the heat sink but also don't hinder its esthetics. In the second photo above, we can see the retention mechanism that locks the fan in place. Simple, easy to use, tool-free, and very effective. To pop the fan out we simply apply a bit of pressure and to insert a fan, just slide it in place and it will lock in tight.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">At the bottom of the fan holder are two notches on either side that allow for the fan cable to exit the holder in an orderly fashion. The notches are at the universal location for 120mm fans and should accommodate any standard fan available. The fan that is included with the Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366 is a Thermalright branded TR-FDB-12-1600. This is a fluid dynamic bearing fan which should equate to smooth, quiet operation. The fan rotates at 1600RPM and is rated for 60,000 hours of operation. The rated air flow is 63.7CFM making 28dBA of noise. The dimensions are 120mmx25mm and being so, the fan holder should house comfortably any 120mmx25mm fan that you may want to use.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The key to any fan attachment is the attaching mechanism. The Ultra-120 series of past used wire clips to attach fans. These clips were the bain of many users existence, but like myself, many love the wire clips so this new apparatus isn't a welcome site. As we can see, there are two sets of fingers extending out from the fan holder. These are the means to which the holder attaches to the heat sink. They are designed to reach around the side of the heat sink and clamp in place just past the cooling fin seam running up the side. We have already seen photos of the fan attached and above is another angle. We won't get into much discussion about this fan attachment right now, that will be saved for the next section where we discuss the installation of the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366.</p>
 
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Installation

Installation

<p style="text-align: justify;">Installing the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme has always been sort of the benchmark for motherboards because it is of the largest heat sinks that spend time on a processor. It isn't the largest in total size but the wing span is amongst the widest. Couple this with the well planned mounting design to allow for multiple orientation mounts, and you have the perfect tool for testing a motherboard for CPU cooling compatibility. In fact, we recently featured the TRUE in the installation section of our EVGA X58 SLI review because there was so much discussion about that motherboard and the Ultra-120 eXtreme. We were hoping to have another motherboard or two on hand to test fit for this review but currently that is all we have access to, so we will simply be revisiting the photos from the X58 SLI review as they are quite exhaustive.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">It is a tale of two cities, on the left above we have the north/south orientation, and on the right is the east/west orientation. Both have their advantages, and both have certain limitations. Every setup is going to vary so both orientations have their merit and we will take a closer look at each of them.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">When setup north/south on this motherboard, the PWM heat sink tries to get in on the snuggling action while the north bridge heat sink stays well clear. We can see in the photos above that the fan can be easily positioned on either side of the heat sink but in both setups, the fan assembly does make contact with the PWM heat sink. This really is just a case of EVGA taking their PWM cooling setup to the complete edge of compatibility. I mean, how dare they not test this setup with the Ultra-120 eXtreme when designing that cooling solution. The fact of the matter is that they likely did, but were not expecting this fancy new fan holder which does leave a slightly larger foot print than the wire clips. Needless to say, it is tight but 100% do-able for this configuration...as long as you don't have six sticks of Corsair Dominator memory.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">In this north/south orientation, the first DIMM slot is of no use with memory of a substantial stature, which is too say, above normal memory DIMM height. The Corsair Dominator heat sink is one of those modules that just won't work with the Ultra-120 eXtreme in the first slot of the EVGA X58 SLI in this orientation. Standard size memory, however, has no problem nestling into the first DIMM slot; even with the heat sink already installed. Again, this isn't so much a design flaw with Thermalright because after all, they were here first. It simply comes down to the nature of motherboards, especially the X58 platform. With a huge LGA1366 CPU socket, hot as funk PWM needing a large heat sink, fancy memory module heat sinks for marketing purposes, and six DIMM slots, something has to give. The good news is that this orientation isn't the only way to mount the TRUE.</p><center>
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">It is again a bit of a tight fit with the PWM heat sink but there is plenty of room with a little effort and as the last photo above shows, everything fits nicely together with the TRUE and the DIMM slots are open and free to roam as they please. The one catch, which can actually be seen better in the second photo of this section at the top, is that the heat sink over hangs the top edge of the motherboard. For those users with cases that don't allow this, you will be forced into the other orientation with the EVGA X58 SLI. So really, the large footprint that gives the TRUE all of its cooling power isn't a huge problem but in certain setups, with certain hardware configurations, there will be limitations to its versatility.

We apologize for not being able to provide a number of motherboard test fits but the EVGA X58 SLI is all we have access to right now. You can find a brief test fit of the TRUE with our ASUS Rampage Extreme II review from a month ago. You can bet that in future motherboard reviews we will be featuring the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme in the installation sections so keep your eyes peeled for them.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Test Setup & Methodology

Test Setup


<center><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="735px"><tr><td align="left" colspan="2">
</td><td align="right" colspan="2">
</td></tr></table><br /><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td colspan="4"><b><font color="#ffffff">Test Platform:</font></b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Motherboard:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">EVGA X58 SLI</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Processor:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Processor Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme-1366<br>Included Thermalright 120mm 1600RPM/63.7CFM<br>120mm ADDA AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM<br>120mm VANTEC SF12025L 1500RPM/50CFM<br>Intel Stock 965 EE heat sink</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Thermal Paste:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Arctic Cooling MX-2</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>North Bridge Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>South Bridge Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>PWM Cooling:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Stock</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Memory:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Corsair Dominator 3x2GB PC3-12800 8-8-8 (TR3X6G1600C8D)</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Power Supply:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Ultra X-Pro 750W</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Video Card:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">BFG GTX 280 OCX / BFG GTX 280 OC</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Additional Fans:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Hard Drives:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>OS:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">Windows Vista SP1 (with all updates)</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="25%"><b>Ambient Temperature:</b></td><td align="left" bgcolor="#ececec" width="75%">23C ~ 25C</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">There are a couple items we want to discuss in our setup to start out with. As we can see from the photos, we have gone with the east/west orientation for testing to simulate exhausting the hot air out of the rear of a case. We figured this would be the most likely situation for the majority of users despite the amount of cases with top exhaust fans these days. Another item of note is the fan selection as we will be going with quite a few combinations to make up for the lack of CPU coolers being tested.

We are also obviously using an open bench setup for all of the testing. We will measure ambient temperature according to the thermal probe directly above the CPU heat sink by about eight inches. The digital thermometer used is an Extech TM200. The ambient temperature range moved in-between 23C and 25C. That should cover any details relevant to testing about the setup, let's now have a look at the testing methodology we used.</p>


Testing Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Our test setup is fairly straight forward with just the two heat sinks but there are a few things that we want to explain to help add context to the results. As mentioned, all testing is done on an open bench in ambient temperatures between 23C and 25C as measured from right above the system with a digital thermometer. We did not re-mount the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, we simply mounted it once and ran it under load/idle cycles for a couple of days to ensure any curing of the thermal paste had occurred. This should provide comparable results as the numbers won't rely on a different mount for each fan configuration.

To provide the system load we will run Prime95 x64 v257 on "blend" for 20 minutes. The system is then left to idle for 10 minutes after stopping Prime95. The temperatures will be recorded with Everest Ultimate at 5 second intervals. Fan speed control for all fans will be a constant 100% so they maintain an even RPM, including the provided Thermalright fan.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/methodology-1.jpg" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Speaking of fans, we have essentially twelve different configurations to run the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. This should provide a solid idea of how it performs in various situations. We will be running the heat sink in a pull, push, and push/pull orientation at both stock clocks and our overclocked settings. For the push/pull configuration we will use the included fan for pushing and the Vantec Stealth outlined in the setup section for pulling. We didn't have two Thermalright fans so we used the closest rated fan we had on hand. These three orientations will then be run through both sets of clocks with higher RPM ADDA fans. Here is a screenshot of the overclocked settings as pulled from the EVGA X58 SLI review:</p><center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/ocing-3.png"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/evga/x58sli/small/ocing-3.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">For the overclocked testing, the system will be running at 3.9GHz with a vCORE of 1.35v under load. This definitely isn't the highest overclock we have seen an i7 pull on air, but it is still a substantial increase in heat load from stock and very respectable. This type of over clock will also increase temperatures for the PWM as well so we not only will be measuring the core temperatures of the CPU, but also the PWM temperatures as this motherboard requires acceptable PWM cooling in order to run stable at higher clocks. The CPU heat sink and fan setup can directly influence the PWM temps so we wanted to see how the fan configurations would affect these temperatures. The graphs we are about to look at are going to show the six different fan configurations and the stock cooler result. The Ultra-120 eXtreme results are an average of the 4 core temperatures at each 5 second interval. There should be no more questions about the results, so let's see how each configuration on the Ultra-120 eXtreme does.</p>
 
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3oh6

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CPU Thermal Testing

CPU Thermal Testing @ Stock Settings

<p style="text-align: justify;">We are all ready to look at the results so let's just jump into it. First we will take a look at a standard "average temperature" chart of the results at stock settings, then we can further dissect the results with a line graph showing the temperature throughout the testing period.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/cputest-2.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">At the stock settings of our i7 965 Extreme Edition processor, it is evident that the different fan configurations don't really influence the results to terribly much. The entire delta amongst fan setups of the averaged core temperatures is less than 3°C. Even with this small delta, a pattern of cooling hierarchy is starting to reveal itself. Push/pull seems to be the best performer with push coming a close second and pull being last by a larger percentage. Of course, all six fan configurations on the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme clearly outpace the stock Intel cooler with the best TRUE configuration running 12% cooler.

Keep in mind, we also had the Intel CPU cooler running at the "performance" setting which means it ran even louder than the push/pull configuration of the high RPM ADDA fans. In reality it may not be any louder, but it certainly created a different pitch that we found more annoying than the low hum of the ADDA fans. As we have recently found out in the discussion thread of the EVGA X58 SLI review though, fan noise really is dependent on environment and the individuals judging.
</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/cputest-1.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center>
As mentioned, we have decided to add a line graph plotting the complete temperature logging results throughout the testing. We can see the 60 second idle period after booting up, followed by the 20 minute load testing, and the final 5 minute idle period following load testing. This graph gives us a better idea how each setup initially handles the heat load from idle. It also outlines how quickly each heat sink recovers from the heat load at the end of the stress testing. There is nothing really out of line or interesting to discuss on the stock settings with the line graph here so let's move on to the testing at our overclocked settings.</p>

CPU Thermal Testing @ OC Settings

<p style="text-align: justify;">The overclocked settings are going to generate a whole lot more heat for the heat sinks to dissipate. These i7 processors run rather warm, even at the stock settings, as we just saw. Increasing CPU voltage by almost 0.20v over stock by itself is going to create a lot more heat, but the PWM area will also be running a lot hotter which just means more heat in the CPU socket area for the heat sink and its fans to try and deal with.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/cputest-4.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">What appears to be the most amazing thing about these results has nothing to do with the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, it is the fact that the stock 965 cooler stood up to the beating and actually ran the entire testing period. Of course our load testing only consists of 20 minutes, but we didn't think it would last 2 minutes let alone 20 without throttling. Turning our attention to the TRUE results, we can see the same pattern is present with the push/pull setups outperforming the push setups which in turn out perform the pull setups. Only this time, the higher RPM ADDA fans show a marked improvement over the stock Thermalright fan.

In fact, the ADDA push setup all but equals the average temperatures of the Thermalright push/pull setup with the Vantec stealth. Deciding which setup was quieter was debatable but both were about the same. This type of testing shows that we really do have a wide selection of fan choices with the Ultra-120 eXtreme, and the included Thermalright fan is a pretty solid performer at what we think is all but silent. The default push setup of the Thermalright fan lowers temperature by over 14°C or 15% from the stock Intel 965 cooler. In our testing environment, the included Thermalright fan is inaudible while the whine of the stock Intel cooler is rather annoying...not to mention we are not sure running an i7 at 90°C+ is a good idea for a 24/7 setup. Here is the same graph as above outlining the temperatures throughout the testing period.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/cputest-3.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The patterns shown here are about what we expected with a little more gap between the different results. The stock settings just didn't create enough heat to show a big difference between the setups, the overclocked settings do. We mentioned earlier that the CPU cooling was the only thing we were going to look at today. With the importance of PWM cooling on this motherboard, we also logged PWM temperatures during our testing, and we are going to look at those results next.</p>
 
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PWM Thermal Testing

PWM Thermal Testing @ Stock Settings

<p style="text-align: justify;">The PWM testing results were gathered at the same time as the CPU temperature results we just looked at. We simply had Everest log the PWM temperatures alongside the CPU temperatures already discussed. The results are interesting though and add a little twist to CPU heat sink performance.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/pwmtest-2.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The immediate loser in this group of results is the Thermalright fan in a pull orientation. There just wasn't enough air down low around the CPU socket to remove enough heat from the PWM area to keep up with the others. Moving the fan to a push orientation drastically drops PWM temps with either fan, but the difference is more noticeable with the low RPM Thermalright fan. What really isn't that surprising but still rather impressive, is the fact that the Intel 965 heat sink beat out both push/pull setups. The Intel heat sink is actually a good design, it just doesn't have a high heat load capability, and it generates an awful whine in order to perform at all.

The ADDA push/pull setup curiously fell behind the Thermalright/Vantec Stealth low RPM setup in this test. We really don't know why this is, but are going to be interested to see if this trend continues in the overclocked settings test.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/pwmtest-1.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">All fan configurations show a relatively similar and consistent pattern through the thermal testing with the only real temperature volatility showing up with the pull setups. This PWM testing has clearly demonstrated that the Thermalright Ultra-120, in this EVGA X58 SLI setup with no additional fans, clearly isn't best friends with the pull setup. Pushing air through the well designed heat sink appears to create much more airflow down around the PWM and CPU socket area than pulling air through. This makes perfect sense given the baffles of the heat sink fins and the configuration we used in testing.</p>

PWM Thermal Testing @ OC Settings

<p style="text-align: justify;">We will now see how these setups handled a much hotter PWM area. At the voltages and CPU frequencies we performed this testing at, the PWM cooling of all the setups will definitely be challenged.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/pwmtest-4.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first thing we looked at was whether the Thermalright/Vantec stealth setup was going to outperform the higher RPM ADDA setup and not only in the push/pull setup, but also the push setup, the Thermalright included fan shows lower PWM temperatures. We are starting to believe that there is some sort of physics property at play here, or our test setup/methodology isn't quite 100% equal. We tried our best to have the fans located in exactly the same location on the heat sink for each setup but inevitably that might not have been the case. Because of this we won't really dwell on which is the best setup, rather, what is the best configuration. Clearly the push/pull configuration wins out, hands down, but the push configurations with both the low and high RPM fans really did perform admirably.

Another admirable effort is turned in again by the Intel 965 heat sink with the fan on the Performance setting turning at a solid 4K RPM. Here are the line graphs of the testing period for each setup.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/pwmtest-3.png" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We can see that the Intel stock cooler really recovers from heat load the best so a little trick for EVGA X58 SLI owners using the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme might be to run a dual low RPM push/pull setup with the fan pulling air through the heat sink sitting as low as the mounting screws will allow. This should provide not only the best cooling for the CPU, but more than adequate cooling for the PWM as well.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Conclusion

Conclusion


<p style="text-align: justify;">Today we didn't perform a typical processor cooler review wherein the performance of the heat sink in question is compared to a number of different heat sinks in various setups. We wanted a very straight forward test on the new i7 processor and to maintain focus on the Ultra-120 eXtreme heat sink. We managed to accomplish this and at the same time, investigate what might be the ideal configuration of the TRUE for our setup. The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT is technically a very specific cooler intended for use on a single socket, the LGA 1366 socket. Of course, this isn't entirely true as the heatsink itself is no different from any other Ultra-120 eXtreme variant. All that is required for multiple socket compatibility is the additional mounting brackets which can be purchased from retailers for a very reasonable price. This flexibility is a parallel to what we found in the testing with various fan configurations.

Each fan configuration seemed to provide a little piece of information to a larger puzzle. A larger puzzle that showed us where some additional cooling performance can be had, such as how pushing air through the heat sink seemed to perform better than pulling air through. Not only did the CPU run cooler but the area around the socket was cooler resulting in cooler PWM temperatures of our test motherboard. We also felt that our subjective hearing found the included 120mm fan to be very noise friendly while providing ample cooling performance when compared to a higher RPM solution. The mounting ability of the heat sink being able to run in either north/south or east/west orientations provides another level of flexibility. The combinations of fan setup and mounting orientation are rather vast and give a universal appeal to the Ultra-120 eXtreme for current and upcoming i7 motherboards sporting the LGA 1366 mount.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/thermalright/120ex1366/conclusion-1.jpg" alt="Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We of course also ran into some issues with the Ultra-120 eXtreme. A cooler of this size is not going to be able to mount in every configuration, in every setup. Even with our relatively well spaced EVGA X58 SLI motherboard, we did have a couple configurations pose some limits with certain conditions. We also wanted to touch on the fact that the base is not a smooth surface, and the one item we haven't mentioned up until now but a topic that is discussed at length in enthusiast forums. The mounting pressure of the included mounting hardware isn't what we would consider to be substantial. The heat sink does twist a little easier than we would like with the mounting bolts fully secured. Both of these items might be the focal point of another article, here at Hardware Canucks.com, looking at extended performance testing of the Ultra-120 eXtreme including increased mounting pressure and lapping.

Overall though, the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme is a traditionally strong performer in the CPU cooling market. It always has been and looks to continue to be for some time handling the Intel i7 quad core processors rather well. This 1366 RT version seems to only improve on the already excellent package by providing a very capable, yet extremely quiet fan. The knock on the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme variants has been the price when factoring the purchase of a fan, this new version with fan included should help alleviate that drawback. The build quality, performance, visual appeal, and flexibility for anyone's needs really does make the Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme 1366 RT a 'must consider' choice when upgrading your cooling on the new Intel i7 platform. Stock is good, but Thermalright is much better.</p>

<b>Pros:</b>
  • Thermalright quality, visual appeal, performance
  • Rather flexible cooling options with additional or higher RPM fans
  • Despite size, rather nimble on the CPU socket dance floor
  • The included fan is certainly not a dud, quiet operation and well groomed performance

<b>Cons:</b>
  • Flexible in its mounting, but still maintains a large wingspan
  • At the upper end of the price range, the included fan helps but $$$ is still up there
  • Will make you want to run out and grab matching Thermalright chipset/PWM/GPU heat sinks


<center><b><i>Hardware Canucks would like to thank the folks over at Thermalright for making this review possible and allowing us to investigate it's performance for our readers benefit.</i></b></center>
 
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