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Thermaltake Big Typhoon CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Thermaltake Big Typhoon CPU Cooler Review






Manufacturer Product Page: Big Typhoon - CL-P0114
Product Number: CL-P0114
Availability: Now
Price: Click Here to Check Prices
Warranty: 3 years



Today we will be looking at what many consider to be the king of the down-draft coolers: the Thermaltake Big Typhoon. When this big guy was first release back in 2005 it made quite the splash (pardon the pun) as it was truly a step forward in the world of air cooling technology. Back then, not only was it purported to give amazingly low temperatures to both the CPU and the motherboard but do it at near inaudible noise levels. Many a reviewer compared its noise and cooling potential to that of entry level water cooling systems and in our books that is mighty big praise indeed!

This of course was then and this is now. What was the best yesterday may have been surpassed by other newer and even more advanced designs. While this is sometimes true there is usually more than a grain of truth in the old adage “just because something is newer doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better”. Even though this may not be the most modern of CPU coolers, we needed to take a look at it after all of the coolers we have reviewed.

After more than three years on the market, the Big Typhoon’s price has come down some since its introduction and is available from many retailers and e-tailers throughout Canada, the US and rest of the world. Just the fact that it is STILL available speaks volumes about the legendary name Thermaltake's super-cooler made for itself.

Today’s review will hopefully be able to answer whether or not this really is the king of the down draft coolers and more importantly if it is still a contender to the ultimate title of King of Air Coolers. This is very exciting for us as it is not every day one has the opportunity to not only see but actually participate in Regicide. So will it be “Long lived the King” or will it be “The King is Dead!...Long live the (new) King”?

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


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

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



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It is a little surprising to see what the Big Typhoon comes packed in, and while it does border on the shocking it falls more into the disappointing end of the spectrum. For such a majestic cooler to come packaged in nothing more than a plastic clam shell is a more than a little disappointing. Heck we have seen cheaper, lighter weight coolers came in much more robust cases than this. Where is the classic Thermaltake flash and dash which we have all come to know and recognize?

Thermaltake has spent considerable time, effort and money in producing a brand image which is instantly recognizable; and even if you are a relative newcomer to the world of aftermarket cooling you probably already have seen and know what a Thermaltake box looks like. In marketing speak this is called “positioning” and plays a big role in IF and HOW people remember your product.

When it comes to brand awareness we all only really remember a few items in a given category and we all rank them according to our personal preferences. Think of any kind of any computer item; now think of your favorite brand of that item. Got one? Now in ten words or less describe the item, chances are you will describe it in either terms of its performance or appearance. Like any successful company, Thermaltake knows this and usually spend a lot on its packaging; so why did they skimp on what can be considered one of their flagship products? Yes their customary red and black colors are there but certainly in a very muted, and down right minute quantity. The only other company who has ever really pulled this low key approach off is Thermalright with their blank cardboard box containers. However, any way you slice it a cardboard box is a heck of a lot better at protecting it contents than a plastic clamshell which can open during shipping and is thus universally hated.

On the positive side, at least you can say that you get a very good look at the Big Typhoon before you buy it. Except for one side of the Big Typhoon you can literally see every detail of the cooler without the need to remove it from the packaging. Of course, this also has a down side as there is only a small layer of plastic protecting this cooler from life’s bumps and bangs which seem to always occur in transit.

Please don’t get us wrong, we may not like the packaging of the Big Typhoon and even think it is disrespectful to treat such a high performance cooler with such lack of concern for its welfare, there is really a simple explanation why Thermaltake did this: this CPU cooling solution is built like a freakin’ tank. You don’t see Abrams main battle tanks wrapped in bubble wrap when the military wants to transport them now do you? The same goes for the Big Typhoon since Thermaltake in a rather gutsy move are basically saying: “Look this doesn’t need no wimpy protection”.


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One truly bright point, with absolutely no downside, is the accessories which come with the Big Typhoon. You get all the mounting hardware you will need for both AMD and Intel 775 systems. You also get a detailed instruction pamphlet which not only includes all the needed instructions to install it on either AMD or Intel systems but also alternate mounting instructions if you run into incompatibility problems (such as capacitors being in the way of the top mounting bracket for example). This was very nice to see and it certainly helps prove Thermaltake does care about its customers.
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design




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When Thermaltake named this bad boy the “Big Typhoon” they were not kidding. When it was released it was one of the first true super coolers and tipped the scales in at a little over 800g (813 to be precise which is just over 1.792lbs); however, it the “Big” in Big Typhoon more than likely refers to its height rather than its weight. This cooler stands a tall and proud 13.4cms (5.27 inches!), which still makes it one of the taller single fan down draft cooler on the market today.


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Unlike many down draft coolers on the market which are nothing more than a single tower cooler bent 90°, the Big Typhoon is in reality two tower coolers which have been bent 90° and in some ways look like to UFC fighters bowing to each other before a match. Each “cooler” is approximately 3/4s the size of a normal tower cooler but contains 3 long heatpipes. This gives the Big Typhoon a very wide girth to go with its height and as an added bonus this means the Big Typhoon has 6 heatpipes in total. Of course, even though there is six heatpipes (and unlike the 6 U shape heatpipes on a Ultima 90) each heatpipe can only transfer heat in one direction only which has a tendency to reduce their individual efficiency somewhat, but as there are six of them this should only become a concern under extremely high thermal loads.


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The intriguing thing about having two independent heatsinks set in opposition to each other is half of the copper base is covered by its own heatsink. In theory this should provide better thermal transfer for multi core processors as in dual (and quad) core chips the individual CPUs are themselves offset. Only real world testing will prove or disprove this theorem, but either way it is an intriguing idea.


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Once the fan is removed, you will immediately see how Thermaltake was able to not only mount a large fan to two separate heatsinks but also able to meld those two separate heatsinks into such a stable and secure platform. In a nutshell, they have bent over the two heatsinks and then mounted an aluminum plenum to them. When one removes this plenum you instantly notice those two heatsinks are in no way attached to each other and they flex a little bit out of shape. This is a good thing as this means when they are “captured” by this fan shroud / plenum they are actually under pressure and thus a lot tighter than if they were just loosely held together.

In testing, the individual heatsinks exhibited a lot of flex which does instantly disappear when the cooler is put back together. In fact it is a very stable and secure cooler when in its ready to use factory configuration and felt very tight and strong when in one’s hands.

In total there are 142 fins (71 per small cooler) and they are mounted extremely close together. This gives the Big Typhoon a very large surface area for cooling but it also comes at a higher static air pressure price and a powerful fan will be required to properly cool them (thus making the Big Typhoon a bad candidate for passive cooling). The fins themselves have a wavy pattern which helps negate some of the negative effects of being so closely mounted together but will it be enough?


(Click on images for a larger view)​

On the positive side, the heatpipes themselves have been soldered to the base to help maximize the transference of heat from the copper base to them. This is always good and next to having the actual heatpipes in contact with the CPU itself, is probably the next best thing.

The base of the Big Typhoon itself has not been polished to a mirror like surface and in fact shows some major tool marks and for intended price range this is one area where the Big Typhoon shows its age as it is now a bit below average.
 
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AkG

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Fan Design

FAN DESIGN




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The fan which Thermaltake has chosen for the Big Typhoon is the TT-1225 model A1225L12S. This fan is 120x120x25mm thick, has 7 orange blades and is made by Hong Sheng of China. This fan is rated to run at a nominal 1300RPM (ours ran at nearly 1400rpm) at which rotational speed it produces 54.4CFM of air and a very impressive 1.87mmH20 of static pressure. To put this last figure in perspective the Noctua NF-P12-1300 fan (which as the name suggests runs at 1300 RPMs) only makes 1.68mmH20 worth of static pressure. Needless to say our worries on the closed spaced fins of the heatsinks is for naught as Thermaltake obviously thought of it and went out and selected the Mac truck of 120mm Fans!

For anyone who doesn’t understand what the big deal is about static pressure and why it so much more important than CFM numbers should read Matthew Fogg’s Static Pressure Theory which outlines exactly why it is so important Overclock3D.Net :: Review :: Scythe Ultra Kaze 120mm Fans :: Static Pressure Theory

The Hong Sheng fan exhibited very little shaft “slop” or forwards and backwards motion to the fan blade assembly and felt very tight. More importantly the fan displayed no angular slop what so ever when pushed/tapped on only one side of the fan. Just as importantly it was extremely quiet and didn’t create much felt vibrations and was way below the noise levels produced by Scythe E’s. If forced to be more precise than this we would waffle a bit and say it’s not quite as quiet as a Noctua NF-P12, but the difference was more in the tone of noise it created rather than the amount (though it was also slightly louder). The Hong Sheng fan makes more of a tonal “whirr” sound than that of the Noctua. For the majority of people this fan will be the quietest fan in their system and unless you run 6 Noctua’s or Scythe D’s you should never hear this fan. It really is that well mannered and is a very nice fan to work with.


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One interesting thing about this fan is the fact that it uses the older style 3 pin fan header. It is understandable why this was done since it enhances compatibility with older systems but it also limits fan speed regulation to variable voltage only. This is certainly not a big deal, as this fan is easily controlled via voltage changes. Also on the positive side, the fan cable is completely sleeved in a white mesh material. It really is nice when the manufacturers take the time to do this as it does make for a both a cleaner/neater install while also helping to keep air flow restrictions to a minimum.

Rather than 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 Big Typhoon comes with a 3 year warranty.
 
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AkG

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Installation

INSTALLATION




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The installation process has to be the biggest weakness of the Big Typhoon. It is not that it is overly hard or even convoluted; it is just you never know exactly when the four mounting screws are tightened “enough” and you can damn well forget about getting even mounting pressure. All these issues are due to the fact there is no visual or even physical indicator to tell you when to stop tightening the mounting screws. To understand what we are talking about, let's start at the beginning and work towards the problem area just as you would if you were installing this wee beastie.

To install the Big Typhoon, you need to remove the motherboard from the computer case but this is fairly common for the big boys so no surprises here. In an interesting twist on it Thermaltake has not mounted the anti-static strip (or in this case full size covering) nor the foam pad to the backplate; rather, you the end user are expected to do both of these things. This is not a big deal and adds only about a minute to the installation time and the instructions are clear and concise about how one goes about doing this.


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After mounting the anti-static strip and foam pad you simply mount the backplate to the back of the motherboard, thread four long screws through the backplate and motherboard, then thread a small red washer over each of the screws and tighten each screw down with a brass nut (which looks like a brass standoff except that it is hollowed out). When this is done you can then lay the motherboard back down, install some TIM onto your CPU and then gently lay the Big Typhoon into place.


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When this step is accomplished one simply has to mount the top H looking bracket over the top of Big Typhoon’s base and then through the four mounting screws. Unfortunately, you are now ready to enter what we laughingly refer to as the “PITA Zone” as this is where the simple installation goes off the rails and turn it into a real train wreck. What you are now expected to do is tightened down the top H bracket by threading a large chrome nut onto each of the four screws and tighten them down.

Herein lies the problem: when you tighten the nut down as far it SHOULD go, there is still plenty of room left below it before it hits the top of the brass nut. This means trying to get each nut to exert the exact same amount of pressure comes down to how close you can “eye ball” them! In testing, temperature variances were over 10 degrees on load between what was seemingly tight enough and what really was tight enough. The best tip we can tell you is to take a look at the foam pad underneath the backplate, when this compressed to about three quarters its original width, you are pretty much finished. This is such a foolish problem which could have easily been avoided by simply making those brass nuts taller and stating in the instructions to tighten the chrome nuts until they bang into the brass ones!

Thermaltake of course is aware of this issue and when the released the Big Typhoon VX (AKA Big Typhoon 2.0) they did away with this mounting system and went with a push pin system….which brings up a whole bunch of other issues which we won’t even get into right now.

Overall when done right the first time installation should only take you 10 minutes or less. Of course, getting it right depends on a good measure of luck so you should schedule in a lot of “trial and error” time to be on the safe side.
 
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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 CoreTemp’s 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 Big Typhoon is a nonPWM fan all CPU fan speed control was not disabled and rather was set to voltage only.

Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste was used for all coolers during these tests unless otherwise noted. 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 CPU cooler (i.e. they were basically pointed down and angled away from the CPU socket).

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.

For e4600’s I consider 1.4 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 10seconds 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
 
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AkG

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E4600 Temperature Testing

E4600 Temperature Testing

Idle Temperature Results


At stock speed the Big Typhoon idles with the best of them; however, when the thermal loads increase, the Big Typhoon’s numbers get slightly worse. The numbers are far from bad (and are still better than the Silentator’s numbers), but they are no longer as good as the Ultima 90’s or Scythe Copper Ninja’s numbers. All in all, still a good showing for a CPU cooling solution that has been on the market for 3 years!


Average Load Temperatures


At first the Big Typhoon’s numbers only make it a mediocre performer, however as the temps increase so does the speed at which that big, yet very quiet Hong Sheng fan rotates. This increase in RPMs helps propel its overclocking results to a very impressive second place. When one takes into consideration the fact that the Scythe Copper Ninja is over 1KG in weight, a mere 3 degrees Celsius difference is not that big a deal.
 
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SKYMTL

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Q6600 Temperature Testing

Q6600 Temperature Testing

Idle Temperature Results




What else can you say but WOW. These numbers are certainly impressive and not only show how effective the dual heatsink concept is but also underlines how important static pressure is. After all, the Scythe F fan that is on the Ultima 90 produces more CFM but it can’t hold a candle to the pure power of the Hong Sheng fan. Thermaltake definitely made a wise decision in picking that fan over cheaper alternatives.


Average Load Temperature Results




When all is said and done it looks like once again the march of progress has claimed another casualty. The newer and more advanced design “Tower Style” coolers simply outclass this once great cooler. Even though it is no longer the “best of the best” it still posted some reasonable numbers and considering the fact that back in ’05 there was no such thing as quad core CPU’s, Thermaltake’s engineers’ have nothing to be ashamed of.
 
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Value

Value



The term “Value” is such an amorphous term that it truly has different meanings for different people. For some a CPU cooler is only as good as it overclocking potential, for others it is how quiet it does its job; for others still it’s how effective it is for its cost. We here at HWC try to provide as many answers as possible for the term “Value”. Hopefully by this point in the review people looking at OC potential or loudness levels will have a fairly good idea of what its Value is. For the “best bang for the buck” crowd we have included a chart below showing how much each 1*c less costs when compared to Intel’s FREE stock cooler. No consideration has been made for noise levels, “looks” or any other extraneous factors; this is just raw performance vs. monetary cost. For any cooler which performs worse than the Intel stock cooler a rating of “FAIL” will be given. For any cooler which has a “Value” of more than $10 per 1*C a rating of “FAIL” will be used in the graph but the chart will list its actual “value”.

All prices are based on either their MSRP (if no e-tailer prices were available at review time) or the online price they sold for at the time of their review. IF a CPU cooler does not include a fan the price of a Scythe F has been included ($12).

To make it as easy as possible for you to modify this ratio we have also included the various coolers temperature difference so if you do come across one of them on sale you can easily modify its “Value” rating. We here at HWC are in no way saying this is the definitive answer to “Value”, rather it should be considered another tool to help you make your final decision. After all something is only as “valuable” as what you consider it to be.


E4600 VALUE

Please note: This chart has be calculated based upon the differences between Intel stock cooler’s average load at its highest OC on a e4600 @3.2GHz versus various after market coolers average load temperatures (in their stock configuration with MX-2 TIM) also on a e4600 @ 3.2GHz.




When you combine a 21° drop in temperature and add in a very reasonable price tag what you get is a Great Value. Of course, this is a three year old cooler so that may have something to do with its mid level price, but just because it’s old doesn’t mean it can’t cool your dual core with the best of them! From a value point of view, the extra hassle involved with installing this CPU cooling solution just might be worth it.


Q6600 VALUE

Please note: This chart has be calculated based upon the differences between Intel stock cooler’s average load at its highest OC on a q6600 @3.0GHz versus various after market coolers average load temperatures (in their stock configuration with stock TIM) also on a q6600 @ 3.0GHz.




Unfortunately, when it comes to Quad cores, the fact that it was never designed to cool them does handicap the Typhoon. In the end, the Big Typhoon lands smack dab in middle with a $2.87 value for the cooling it offers on quad cores. Mediocrity is not necessarily a bad thing (and we are sure some of it’s competitors would have loved to have scored as well as it did) but when you combine middling results with a frustrating installation process what you are left with is a cooler that is tough to consider a good value.
 
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