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Thermalright Venomous X CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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For a long, long time, Thermalright’s Ultra 120 Extreme was considered the best of the best when it came to air based CPU coolers. However as time marched on, new contenders with new ideas and cutting edge designs entered the fray and literally changed the way we look at the ubiquitous air cooler. New cooler designs come and go, but very few have the staying power of the original TRUE. While the TRUE is still considered one of the greatest coolers made, it hasn’t quite been able to retain its title as the best of the best. Thermalright has been itching to reclaim their title and has released a brand new cooler aptly named the Venomous X.

The Venomous X is the heir apparent to the venerable TRUE and makes use of a number of age-old features while adding new elements and s you will see, it is not just another prettied-up version of the TRUE (like our True Black for all intents and purposes is). Rather, Thermalright took what worked from previous generations, tweaked the living daylights out of it and than add in a few new twists just to spice things up some more.

One of the most interesting of these tweaks we are referring to is the fact that the amount of pressure between the base of the Venomous X and the CPU is not a static amount. Thermalright gives users the ability to tweak and adjust the amount of pressure from 40lbs all the way up to 70lbs. This is still within the safe pressure limits Intel specifies but if our hunch is correct, it should certainly help boost the efficiency of this cooler. This of course is just the theory behind it and as we have seen many times in the past, paper theories don’t always work out the way they are supposed to in the real world.

Since the Venomous X has been out for a little while now it is widely available at various e-tailers and retailers throughout North America. As of this review, the lowest price point we have seen this cooler offered at is about $60 CAD. This certainly puts it in the “enthusiast” end of the spectrum so it will be interesting to see if this new design is worth your hard earned dollars.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/specs1.jpg " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/3.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The packaging container the Venomous X comes in, is in many ways a continuation of the same theme as the TRUE Black, rather than that of the “normal” TRUE. Just like the TRUE Black CPU we reviewed a nice while ago, the Venomous X comes in a thick cardboard container which is for all intents and purposes is a jet black box with the only highlights being “Thermalright” and “Venomous X” printed on it. Thermalright also includes a white outline of the saw tooth looking fin array (as seen in a top down view of the fins) around the three sides of the box.

The only issue we have with this container is the fact that except for one subtle hint at the contents there is absolutely no information, technical specifications, or even diagrams to be found. However, it is quite obvious that people will know what they are buying LONG before actually seeing the box.

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Within the box itself, Thermalright has added in an extra layer of defence to help make up for the fact that the top of the Ven-X is exposed. In a nut shell all the accessories which accompany this cooler reside within a secondary box which is placed on top of the heatsink. This means that any sharp or blunt force trauma which makes it past the top cardboard layer of the shipping container will be absorbed by these more easily replaced accessories.

It seems like Thermalright went for an almost exact duplicate of the internal protection scheme which graces the TRUE Black. The Venomous X is not only wrapped in a plastic bag to reduce the already slim chances of it getting scratched in transit, but is also nestled within a form fitting high density foam sheathe. This protects the heatsink from damage on all sides. All in all, this really is overkill and we love overkill when it comes to protecting components.


The accessories which accompany the Venomous X are of course all of the highest quality. This was expected as besides Noctua, Thermalright simply have the most well thought out and executed accessories going. The only issue we have with this particular bag of goodies is the fact that once again we see Thermalright has skipped out on the AMD mounting equipment.

In total you get enough anti-vibration strips and wire retention brackets to properly mount two fans to the Venomous X, a small syringe of TIM, installation instructions, a multipurpose 775,1156 and 1366 backplate and the all new top bracket with adjustable tension knob. You also get an odd looking wrench will allow you to adjust the pressure while the cooler is mounted onto your CPU.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the Venomous X

A Closer Look at the Venomous X



When you first lay eyes on the Venomous X you can certainly see the genes it inherited were almost all from the TRUE. However, even if you exclude the updated fin array there are still some minor differences that may actually have a major impact on performance. The biggest difference is in the weight department, as this cooler (sans fan and retention clips of course) weighs in at 755 grams which is noticeably lower than the TRUE’s weight of 790 grams. Some of this difference in weight is obviously the result of cutting out sections of the fin array to make that aggressive saw tooth pattern along with the fact that the fin array has less surface area.

When you take measurements into the equation, the Venomous X’s fin array is not quite as wide (but close enough that you wouldn’t notice unless you measured both) as the TRUE but is noticeably shallower and shorter than the older Thermalright unit. We doubt this change will this have any noticeable effect on cooling except at higher heat loads, where more thermal mass and more surface area equates to better performance. Of course, the new saw tooth pattern added to the bent winglet design combined with the new pressure mount may make up for this “loss” of mass.


When it comes to the heatpipes and their layout, Thermalright has once again gone with their tried and true nickel platted 6mm heatpipes which are found on the Ultra 120 Extreme. However the heatpipe layout is different on the Venomous X when compared to the TRUE and reminds us a lot of the Cogage TRUE Spirit. Unlike the original TRUE which had a diamond layout to its heatpipes, the Venomous X has a double row layout. There is of course still six of these 6mm heatpipes and in the TRUE’s tradition the top of the heatpipes have not been capped. Needless to say, the Venomous X either needs more fins added to its array or needs the heatpipes capped as the existing layout takes away from both the efficiency and the looks of the unit.

Continuing this trend of keeping what worked previously and improving what could be improved, the Venomous X cooler uses a dual face design that is capable of accepting two fans. The same can and yet can not be said for the bent winglet design the Venomous X sports since it is similar to that of an IFX-14 cooler since the winglets are not only bent up and down (to use the air movement more efficiently) but also have a wave-like pattern to them. In theory this design should help pierce the air and reduce the static pressure of its fin array greatly.


If there was one thing that was true of the Thermalright Ultimate 120 eXtreme, it was that it needed high speed, high static pressure fans to really shine; hopefully the improvement to the Venomous X’s face will change things and allow it to retain most of its efficiency when lower powered fans are used. It goes without saying that we are going to be paying extra careful attention to the results of our mid speed (Noctua NF-P12 @ 1300rpms) and low speed (Noctua NF-P12 @ 900 rpm) testing.


As with the TRUE line, the Venomous X sports a solid base design made of copper which has been nickel platted. In fact we would go as far in saying that this is the exact same base design as that which all previous TRUE’s had, just one that has been refined to darn near perfection. Thermalright does play up the fact that this cooler is supposed to have an improved finish to its base (in point of fact they not only call it a “mirror shine” but have a very good shot of the reflection of a coin on the Venomous X’s webpage) and boy they were not kidding. This is easily the best finished base we have seen from Thermalright and really is good enough to use as a mirror.

It also goes without saying that the base was not perfectly flat, but this was to be expected as Thermalright purposely does this to supposedly increase the contact between the IHS and the base of the Venomous X.
 
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AkG

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Installation & Potential Issues

Venomous X Installation & Potential Issues


The installation of the Venomous X is a fairly straightforward and easy task to accomplish. We can honestly say that this setup is one of the best we have seen and ranks right up there with Noctua and Prolimatech in not only robustness but ease of installation.


As with all of the truly high performance CPU cooling solutions on the market today, you begin by installing the back plate. Our back plate came already set up for 1366 socket systems so we didn’t have to mess with it. As with many back-plates we have seen recently, Thermalright chose a triple purpose one which is capable of being mounted to Intel 1366, 1156 and 775 systems. Changing between the different setups is accomplished by raising the plastic tabs which secure each of the four bolts in place, sliding the bolt forward or backwards and then slipping the tab back into place to secure the bolt. This is easily the most straightforward and sensible way of doing things we have seen as the bolts are not only easy to reposition but they also won’t move when you don’t want them to.


When the multipurpose back plate is set up for your particular socket style you then simply lift the motherboard up unto its side, slip the back plate into position and then secure it in place with the proper bolts. With all four bolts in a proper position and tightened down you can then gently lay your motherboard back down.


With the back plate secured the next step is to take the metal top plate and lay it over the four threaded standoff bolts which you just installed. With the metal bracket in place the next thing you need do is secure it in position by using the smaller knurled and capped nuts.

One nice thing worth mentioning about this setup is the fact that like other “best of the best” installation setups the Venomous X can be installed and removed without worrying about the back plate falling out of position or resorting to double sided tape. This means that if at some point in the future you need to remount the Venomous X you done need to remove the motherboard from your case to do so.


As with most coolers that use a single retention bracket which goes over the top of the heatsink base, we like to get that in position and then help use it to lay the cooler in its proper position. However with the Venomous X we recommend having the adjustable top “pressure” bolt just barely threaded in since it will make life a lot easier.


Since there are four of the mounting points available on the metal bracket (the large square one you installed earlier), yet the retention bracket only needs two means that you can mount the Venomous X in a North/South or East/West orientation without ever needing to touch the large square bracket. Once your direction is chosen, it’s just a matter of tightening things down and you’re off to the races with a brand new cooler installed.
 
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AkG

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Installation & Potential Issues p.2

Venomous X Installation & Potential Issues pg.2



However, there is one more step…

When the retention bracket is fully secured, you then need to take out the nifty little bent wrench and tighten down the centrally located pressure bolt. This is large bolt responsible for varying the amount of pressure which is placed on your CPU. When it is fully tightened down it applies 70lbs of pressure. The theory is the more pressure between the IHS and the base of your heatsink the more efficiently heat will be conducted. On first glance this felt awfully gimmicky to us, and we wondered why they didn’t simply make it 70lbs and call it a day. Then we tried to install the Venomous X with this bolt fully extended and we can say it was next to impossible to get the spring loaded captured screws to line up. Assuming this equates to improved performance the added step will be worth it.


While the Venomous X does not ship with stock fan it does come with enough anti-vibration strips and wire fan brackets to secure two fans. You simply peel off the protective backing on a strip and stick it in position. This is a simple, yet efficient way of doing things and it is one that has worked well in the past for Thermalright. Speaking of simple yet efficient setups, it seems that Thermalright has given up on the plastic mounting setup which accompanied the TRUE 1366 RT. Unfortunately, the ends of the wire brackets are a little on the shallow side and they did pop off and out of position while removing a fan occasionally. This never happened during operation so while one may come loose while changing out a fan this can not happen while they are being used.


At this point in the installation section we like to go over the various installation issues and motherboard incompatibilities we encountered, but to be honest there simply were none. Even with two fans installed this cooler didn’t pose any mounting challenges. The fin array starts quite high so there was more than enough room between our motherboard’s heatsinks and the Venomous X. The fin array is not overly deep so while it is still a large, bulky cooler with two fans attached, it is nowhere near the same size as the Noctua D14 and there was plenty of room between the fan and the ram slots. With all that being said if your motherboard has overly tall heatsinks or the ram slots are closer to the CPU than they are on our Gigabyte X58 motherboard then you may run into more issues than we did.

To be honest, we truly doubt many will have any insurmountable issues as while this cooler is still a big cooler, a lot of thought and engineering went into its design. In other words the wizards over at Thermalright worked hard so you won’t have to. Bloody Impressive is all we have to say on the matter!

 
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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


To ensure that the results from one review to another are not only reproducible but actually pertinent to this review, the Testing Methodology will be the same throughout all reviews used. If something does change we will be sure to make a special note of it and explain why this change was done and more importantly why things had to be changed or altered.


Thermal Paste and Application Methods:

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted.

For all non HDT coolers, application of thermal paste was in accordance with the TIM manufacturer’s instructions; and while not necessary, the TIM was allowed to cure for 24 hours under moderate to high loads (with periods of low loads) prior to testing.

For all 3 pipe HDT coolers two lines of TIM is applied to the two centre metal posts and for all 4 pipe HDTS three (smaller) lines of TIM are applied to the metal posts. This method has been found to provide significantly better coverage than the more typical methods.


Fans Used

120mm:
For all CPU Cooling Solutions which do not come with their own fan, a Noctua NF-P12-1300 and a Scythe S-Flex “G” 1900RPM fan will be used if it accepts 120mm fans. With these two fans we are able to simulate different fan speed conditions as indicated below.


Low Speed:

900RPM with a Noctua NF-P12-1300 with ULNA adapter. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 930RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the low speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Moderate Speed:

1300RPM Noctua NF-P12-1300 with NO adapters used. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1326RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the moderate speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


High Speed:

1900RPM Scythe S-Flex “G”. To be more precise our specific fan runs at 1860RPMs. Any stock fan which comes with the ability of being controlled by means other than the motherboard (e.g. remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc) will be set to this speed during the High speed test and BOTH sets of performance results will be included.


Dual Fans*:

Dual NF-P12-1300s

*Dual fans only used if the cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware.


92mm Fan:

If the cooler being tested only accepts 92mm fans, a Noctua NF-B9-1600 will be used.

If the given CPU cooling solution comes with a stock fan we will also include its numbers in the closest of the main tests BUT we will also include our standard fan results in that particular tests.


Fan Notes:

- If a heatsink cannot mount an aftermarket fan, we will be only including the stock fan results. However, if the stock fan speed can be precisely controlled by means other than the motherboard BIOS (an included remote fan speed controller, potentiometer, rheostat, etc), the cooler will be tested at different fan speeds.

- For dual fan results ALL coolers capable of mounting two fans (and come with the necessary hardware) will be tested with two NF-P12s and the Dual Fan graph will contain data for other such dual capable fan coolers.


We feel that the combination of multiple speeds and multiple fans will allow us to give you our readers clear and precise idea of the capabilities of a given unit, in an accurate comparison. It will also help eliminate the occasional “zinger” such as when a manufacturer includes an extremely high-speed fan in order to possibly offset poor heat sink thermal performance.


Environment:

All comparison testing was done on an open bench with a constant ambient temperature of 24°C. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.


Testbed:



Unlike our previous methodology which used an open bench setup with a horizontally orientated motherboard, our new open bench is a modified Tech Station with a twist.

It has been modified so that the motherboard is in a more typical vertical orientation as it would be when installed in a case.

This has been done by the simple expedient of drilling out the bumper pads and threading long bolts (typically used for mounting fans to water cooling radiators) up through the top base of the tech station. Then by simply threading the bolts up through the motherboard we can then secure said motherboard to the tech station. Rubber mounts followed by a nut ensures that nothing moves. When the motherboard has been secured we simply tip the tech station on its side and using weights on the lower “legs” to keep it from tipping over we end up with a vertical orientated motherboard which is safe and secure yet still an open, controlled benching environment.


Mounting Orientation:

Only the typical East / West (aka forward / back) orientation will be used.


Temperature Recording:

Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Max and Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities.

The maximum temperatures will be the highest recorded temp displayed for any of the cores during the 15 minute test. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 90°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.


Charts & Graphs:

Due to clutter and confusion we now will only be including the best of the best. We understand that “best” does mean different things to different people, to this end we will only be including what we feel are the best representatives of the main price ranges. These main prices ranges approximately are Intel OEM (free), $30, $40, $50, $60, and unlimited. Please keep in mind that prices are variable and while we have done our best to pick what we feel best represents a given price range there can and will be some overlap as these price ranges are not set in stone (with the exception being the Intel OEM cooler). To further help clarify a given cooler’s performance we will also be including a seventh CPU cooling solution, a cooling solution which irregardless of price best exemplifies what a good “all round” dual fan capable cooler should be. For the time being this last will be the TRUE Black. After each published cooler review we will re-evaluate the coolers being included in the charts and based on the value or performance may swap out a cooler for a cooler that was just reviewed.

This way you will not only know how it compares to the Intel stock unit and the best Damn Good Value coolers but also the best of the best Damn Good coolers out there. In grand total there will only be 8 coolers represented in a graph. However, if the review is a “round up” review this limitation will be extended to include all coolers in that review plus the above 7 cooling solutions. We will endeavour to keep the number as low as possible while still giving an accurate picture of the performance of all coolers being reviewed.

Each chart will include the Maximum or “peak” temperature we recorded, the average temperature and the idle temperature.

No passive results will be shown UNLESS manufacturer claims the ability to passively cool a processor. If a manufacturer claims passive capabilities we will include the performance numbers in the charts. The only exception to this is if the review is a “review roundup” and to keep the charts from becoming confusing we may not do so.


Sound Pressure Testing:

To give a more accurate and less of a personal opinion on the noise level of the stock fan which accompanies the heatsink, we have included a new section for sound pressure testing. These tests are done in our open case setup outlined above with the meter positioned 30 inches away from the cooler and mounted on a tripod. To ensure the background noise does not skew the results all tests will start by recording the ambient noise of the room. Only when it meets our standards will the testing commence.

To ensure that no external noise unduly skews the results, the GPU used will be a passively cooled unit and the only active fan will be the one on the cooler while the PSU and HDD are isolated away from the immediate area.

These tests are run late at night when no other people or animals are awake and thus unable to influence the results.

All fans are run at their maximum speed with no voltage or PWM control being used during the sound pressure tests.

The sound pressure meter used is a DT-805 which has been professionally calibrated and NIST certified. We will record the highest levels obtained with said meter and record it as our result. The test will be 15 minutes long and will be run while the fan is running full speed via a Molex connector and the CPU cores are under a full load via Prime 95 Small FFT.

Please note: The Scythe S-Flex G and Noctua NF-P12-1300 (at 1300 and 900rpms) numbers are taken when mounted to a Cooler Master Hyper 212+. We feel that it would be extremely unfair and unrealistic to include noise rating for these after market fans if they were NOT mounted onto a cooler. They are included to help give some sense of proportion to the charts and allow you to more easily compare a stock fan against a known quantity.


Complete Test System:


Processor: Intel i7 920

Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R

Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600

Graphics card: EVGA 7300GT passive

Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB single platter

Power Supply: Topower Powerbird 900W


Special thanks to Direct Canada for their support and supplying the i7 920 CPU.

Special thanks to Gigabyte for their support and supplying the i7 motherboard.
 
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AkG

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High Speed Fan Performance Results

High Speed Fan Performance Results


2.6GHz



It appears Thermalright has solved (or at the very least) partially solved the TRUE’s tendency to only shine at higher heat-loads. We suspect the combination of increased pressure with perfect finished base is the reason for this newfound efficiency, but it will be interesting to see if it can keep up these new and impressive levels with other fans.


3.42GHz



Once again we are seeing a noticeable improvement in the cooling performance this new Thermalright cooler has; however, unlike the stock results the Venomous X is not able to beat a Prolimatech.


3.8GHz



When the heat is turned up this cooler certainly has what it takes to be counted as one of the best of the best. It even goes as far as to tie the Megahalems in terms of overall performance. Impressive.
 
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AkG

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Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results

Mid-Speed Fan Performance Results


2.6GHz



Unfortunately we are not seeing quite as impressive results at stock heat loads as we were when a Scythe S-Flex “G” fan was used. The tight spacing of the fins still need a high static pressure fan to properly cool them and while the cuts in the face of the cooler may alleviate this inherent limitation somewhat, it can’t completely do so. You really need a high speed fan for the Venomous X to shine, but at least it CAN shine at stock heat loads; something which is a first for Thermalright coolers.

3.42GHz



Once again we see that the Venomous X does not like lower static pressure fans.


3.8GHz



Any way you slice it, this cooler may not exactly love lower speed fans but when the chips are down its improved base, fin array face design and mounting pressure do help keep its performance in the upper portion of these charts. The differences between the Venomous X and the TRUE Black are certainly not earth shaking, but they are still big enough to move the Venomous X from fourth to second place and equal the performance of the Megahalems.
 
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Low Speed Fan Performance Results

Low Speed Fan Performance Results


2.6GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/26_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

Once again the differences between the TRUE Black and Venomous X are not huge, but small improvements are enough to keep this cooler competitive at stock heat loads and low speed fans.


3.42GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/34_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

This cooler may have cooling efficiency to burn, but it still does once again start to come up short when compared to the mighty Prolimatech Megahalems.


3.8GHz


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Air_Cooling/Venom/38_p12_900.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

This does seal the deal. The Venomous X may certainly be an improvement over its TRUE ancestor’s but the improvement is simply not large enough to help Thermalright regain the cooling crown. At best, it performs in the same league as the Megahalems but it just can't seem to surpass its performance.
 
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