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Thermaltake DuOrb CPU Cooler Review

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AkG

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Thermaltake DuOrb CPU Cooler Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Thermaltake DuOrb For CPU P/N:CL-P0464
Product Number: CL-P0464
Availability: Now in US (soon in Canada)
Price: 65 USD
Warranty: 1 year


The wonderful world of computers; you simply gotta love it since it has to be one of the fastest -if not the fastest- evolving marketplaces in the world. It seems that every day some one or some company is bringing out a new idea (or even just a tweak on an old one) that makes our computers more efficient or more powerful. However, if there is one truism that seems to be the only constant in this ever changing ecosystem it is this: computers run hot, always have and probably always will. The more transistors we cram into a smaller and smaller space the more energy is lost to heat. Hopefully, one day we will solve this dilemma and our systems will be 100% energy efficient (though I highly doubt this day will come unless we get Quantum computers).

In the past we have reviewed numerous different CPU cooling solutions and as varied and different looking as they all were, they all had one thing in common: they either used only one fan or to install the second fan they had to become overly large. Today we will be looking at unique down-draft cooler that promises to be a change from the ordinary, as this CPU cooling solution not only comes with two fans as standard but promises to be no taller than a regular single fan cooling solution.

The DuOrb from Thermaltake is a down draft cooler that manages to cram two 80mm fans onto a package that is about the same height as your normal stock cooler. Yes, those wiley engineers at Thermaltake have been burning the midnight oil again to bring us another unique CPU cooling solution. Don't get this product mixed up with the similarly DuOrb GPU cooler since aside from the dual 80mm fans, it is a completely different product. Priced at around $65 USD and not yet available here in Canada, this cooler represents quite an investment of your hard-earned money. In this review we will take a good look at the DuOrb and see if it’s different just for difference sake or if Thermaltake has another innovative solution on their hands. So without further ado let’s get started!

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories




(Click on images for a larger view)

The box that the DuOrb comes in a prime example of classic Thermaltake packaging, it is bold, colorful and above all else it catches your eye instantly. Some people say that Thermaltake crosses the line into garishness with its near seizure-inducing color scheme; but honestly you can’t please everyone and as long as it doesn’t have hologram stickers all over the place with fake awards or flashing LEDS it is neither vulgar nor garish in our books. Like it or hate it, there is very little room for middle ground when it comes to Thermaltake boxes and that is a good thing. After all, no one remembers mediocrity and rather, people remember the outlandish and the exceptional; both of which can be equally applied to this packaging scheme. Honestly, whether you like it or not, no one can contend that it doesn’t get your attention and that truly is the main goal of any retail store shelf packaging scheme.

Now this box is not just a pretty face, it also contains all the necessary information a first time buyer will need to make an informed decision. This is always a good thing as bright and shiny will only hold a persons attention so long, after that it is up to the merits and looks of the product to convince people to buy it. This leads us to the one area that we do not like about this box; that area being the huge cutouts on both the front and back of the box. These cutouts basically give you a darn near 360° view of the item. That is the upside, the downside (and it’s a honkin’ big downside) is that the internal plastic clamshell/ blister pack is all that protects the DuOrb from the big bad world.


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When one does remove the DuOrb from is external box one realizes that maybe Thermaltake has learned a trick or two over the years. This is because when you remove the top of the clamshell plastic shipping container you are greeted a secondary layer of protection in the form of another smaller, molded piece of plastic that protects the top of the DuOrb from anything that manages to cut the clamshell. This was a nice little bonus and while it does little to protect the DuOrb from blunt force trauma, it will certainly help keep the unit safe from sharp slashing instruments.


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As you can see from the above picture, the accessories that accompany the DuOrb are not complete. Unlike many other coolers this CPU cooling solution uses neither a push pin mounting system nor a backplate reinforced mounting system. While yes, they do include one for AMD based systems, one is expected to just use washers and screws to mount this cooler to a Intel 775 system. We will get into this unique mounting scheme later in the review, but for not let’s just say that a 775 backplate was conspicuous by its absence.

Overall, the first impression one gets from the DuOrb depends greatly on how much you like seeing the cooler before buying. For us the most apt description of the DuOrb would be: cautiously optimistic. We like Thermaltake boxes, but the “missing” backplate leaves us with some doubts about this cooler. Only time and testing will tell on whether our worst fears are realized, or just like the DuOrb itself is a unique idea, so too will be the mounting arrangement!
 
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AkG

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Heatsink Construction & Design

Heatsink Construction & Design




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Well if there is one thing that is painfully obvious it is the fact that Thermaltake is certainly all about truth in advertising; with names like Big Typhoon and V1 where they take the names directly from their appearance (in the case of the Big Typhoon because its one honkin huge cooler and in the V1’s case because it looks like a large copper V). Upon just hearing the name DuOrb one would suspect that two orbs or circles are involved and you would be correct. In a nutshell, what Thermaltake has done is take two Golden Orbs, stuck a bunch of heatpipes under them and molded them together into one wide yet surprisingly short CPU cooling solution.

To be fair, calling this nothing more than two Golden Orbs crammed together is not fair to the DuOrb; it may look like two Golden Orbs but the fact remains this is a highly sophisticated down-draft cooler. More importantly instead of just a regular copper base that morphs off into two orbs this cooler has a copper base with six heatpipes going through it. This is lightyears more efficient than the Golden Orb’s design and should be able to handle extremely high thermal loads; or at least that is the theory behind it.

This CPU cooling solution is only 8.64cm high and only 10.6cm deep but this guy is 20.2cm wide! In English that is 3.4 inches high by 4.17 inches deep by 7.95 inches wide. Wow, either way it is one short yet fat cooler. To make things even more dwarven in nature this bad boy is weighs in at nearly 600grams (598 to be precise which is nearly 21.1 ounces).


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When one gets over its strange shape and takes a really good look at the underside of the DuOrb a few things tend to stand out. The first of these is the very fact that Thermaltake has taken the time to include 2 aluminum support struts to help support the weight and torque that this cooler must surely create. This is always a good thing to see, as many down draft coolers simply rely on the strength of the heatpipes themselves to support the full weight of both the cooling fins and any fans attached to said fin assembly. For longterm durability you can’t beat the overkill approach and this design is certainly a great example of overkill.


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The next thing that stands out on the unit is something that is not so nice to see. As you may notice in the above pictures the heatpipes themselves show a lot of stress was placed upon them so they would conform to the unique twisting nature of the DuOrb. While it is doubtful these stress bends will reduce their efficiency or the DuOrb’s life expectancy, it would have been a lot more reassuring if Thermaltake had taken the time to finish them better than this.


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While the above are two things that stand out when you take a good look at this CPU cooling solution, the biggest thing that stands out is the fact that it is an aluminum and copper hybrid cooler. What this means is that a lot of heavy (and expensive) copper has been swapped out for lighter-weight aluminum; while this does make it lighter (and cheaper to manufacture) it also reduces the DuOrb’s cooling efficiency. Worse still is the fact that four of the six heatpipes only have aluminum fins covering them, which means that four of the six heatpipes will not be as effective as the other two heatpipes.

This actually wouldn’t be a problem if the fins were large enough to have a sufficiently massive surface area so as to make up for their inefficiency (after all brute force always works…as long as you have a big enough hammer) but the aluminum fins on this cooler are extremely short and are almost decorative in nature. Heck, even this is forgivable as these aluminum fins cover a good portion of those two heatpipes but what is not forgivable is the last two heatpipes we have been ignoring. We have been ignoring them for the simple reason that they are almost totally and completely useless. If you take a close look at the above photo you will see (in each half section) one heatpipe nearly completely covered with largish copper fins, one nearly completely covered by short aluminum fins and the last short heatpipe with a only a little slice of heatpipes covering it. For all intents and purposes this heatpipe has almost no surface area to shed its heat and this means that while the 2 aluminum heatpipes that are nearly completely covered are less effective than the copper ones. Those two stubby heatpipes with their little wedge of small fins are for all intents and purposes there for show only. Thermaltake can proclaim all the want that this is a six heatpipe cooler, but in fact it is really only a poorly designed four.

So in a nutshell, Thermaltake has allowed form to take precedence over function. What was Thermaltake thinking? It is one thing to make the DuOrb pretty looking (and it really is a striking cooler) but when the good looks interfere with its main goal of cooling our expensive CPU….well lets just say that is a Bad Thing and leave this topic with just one thought. We may be going out on a limb here when we say that if they had sacrificed a little bit of its amazing low profile abilities to make it a more efficient unit, alot of people would have bought into Thermaltake's idea of the DuOrb.

On the positive side the DuOrb is a very durable and sturdy feeling cooler. Due to those aluminum struts we talked about earlier, this unit has almost no downwards flex and feels very solid in ones hands. The copper fins themselves are highly malleable so while yes they do bend easily out of shape, they just as easily bend back.


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Also on the positive side is the fact that the base of this unit is almost perfectly done. Not only are the heatpipes soldered into place to help increase heat transfer but the bottom of the DuOrb has been polished to an almost mirror-like brightness. While you can see some minor polishing marks this level of quality is certainly above average and is always nice to see.

Overall you can tell a lot of time and effort went into the look and feel of the DuOrb. Hopefully, time and testing will prove us wrong on its curtailed abilities to handle high thermal loads.
 
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AkG

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Fan Design

FAN DESIGN




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Even before we removed one of the fans from the DuOrb we knew that this fan was not going to be your usual 80mm fan; as anyone can see this lil’ guy has 11 fan blades instead of the more standard 7 or 9 blades. When one does make the effort and removes one of the fans from the DuOrb, Thermaltake’s choice in fans becomes clear. As you can see in the above picture the fans used on the DuOrb is an 80X80X20mm Everflow fan. However, unlike past versions of the TT-8020A which were ball bearing design fans in this iteration, this is a sleeved bearing fan. You can tell this by decoding the Everflow model number.

Here is a full break down on what the Everflow T8020SL model designation means: T stands for “tripod” or in this instance frameless, the 12 is for the voltage it runs at, the 80 is for the frame size, the 20 is the thickness of the fan, S is for sleeved bearing and the L refers to the fact that this is the low speed variation of the fan. In any case this fan rotates at a nominal 2000rpm and produces a moderate 37.67 CFM with 1.27mmH20. Since there are two of these fans the total CFM does rival that of many high performance single 120mm fans. Even though the static pressure is fairly low this should not matter as this cooler has obviously been designed with low pressure fans in mind (as shown by the widely spaced, small fins).

The fan had a lot of shaft “slop” or forwards and backwards motion to the fan blade assembly; however, the fan was very tight when pushed off center and displayed very little angular slop. This combination is very common in sleeved bearing fans and is nothing to worry about.


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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 (as confirmed by the inclusion of the fan voltage regulator).

On the positive side, the fan cable is long and is completely sleeved. It is always nice when the manufacturers take the time to do this as it makes for a both a cleaner/neater install while also helping to keep air flow restrictions to a minimum.

Rather that rely on MTBF numbers, an easier and better way to get a “feel” for what the manufacturer thinks is the real length of time a product should last is to 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 it's worth, the DuOrb comes with a 1 year warranty.

Overall these fans felt and acted like most sleeved bearing fans we have examined and used in the past, i.e. they are classic examples of what a good, quiet, low cost fan should be. Everflow once again does not disappoint us when it comes to making good value added products. The only point of issue is the fact these fans only 80mm low profile 20mm fans; we would really have preferred to have seen the DurOrb with dual full height 92mm fans that produced at the very least more CFM and preferably more mmH20 static pressure. All in all they are good examples of what an 80mm fan can and should be, but in the end those lil guys are still doing a job that really calls for bigger fans.
 
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Installation

INSTALLATION




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Quirky is fine, heck quirky can be wonderful; but when you are talking about an installation process the last word you want a reviewer to use to describe a simple CPU cooling installation process is quirky. Unfortunately, that best sums up the DuOrb’s installation process. You can’t really call the process unique as it borrows heavily from many tower style coolers (like the Silentator & Ultima 90); and it is not exactly bad as it is a fairly easy installation. What the installation is, is quirky...there is no other word for it. It is almost like the Thermaltake engineers designed a proper installation setup and then the accountants came along and told them they had to cut something from it to keep the production costs low, so in typical engineering fashion they dropped the backplate.

This is a 65 frickin’ dollar cooler, the very least Thermaltake could have done is spring for a backplate for 775 systems. This cooler is not exactly a light weight as it weighs in at just under Intel’s maximum rated weight for the socket 775. Heck, we would have actually preferred to have seen pushpins than this streamlined and value oriented setup; and we are firm believers that 600 grams is too heavy for pushpins.


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Anyways, let’s take it from the top. The first thing that one must do to begin the installation process is remove the motherboard from the case. This is to be expected as it is a 600 gram cooler that has two fans, creating two specific sets of vibrations and torque that the motherboard has to deal with. When you has done this you simply inserts one of the two mounting brackets through two of the CPU mounting holes, then put the included washer on each screw and tighten down two nuts to secure the mounting bracket in place.

When this stage is accomplished, one simply repeats the process for the second mounting bracket. When both mounting brackets are in place you apply a small amount of TIM to the CPU and gently place the DuOrb in place. Depending on the location of the CPU fan plug, you may want to plug in the fan cord before mounting the DuOrb as this cooler is really short and fitting a plug underneath its considerable girth may be difficult.


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To finish the installation process you simply install the tension bracket with the arrow pointing to the fan cord side of the DuOrb and secure it over the two mounting brackets screws with the included metal nuts. You cannot over tighten these nuts as the mounting brackets have stand offs that keep this from happening. As a side note, this spring loaded nut (that looks more like a bolt than a nut) was very nicely executed; one could easily get it started without having to compress the spring first as the spring was slightly shorter than the height of the nut. This is always nice touch and makes installation so much easier, while at the same time still giving the DuOrb positive mounting pressure from the compressed springs. Then you simply reinstall the motherboard back into you case and you are ready to go.

That is the installation process from start to finish, and while it is almost as fast as a pushpin installation (it clocks in at about 7 minutes from start to finish) we do have to wonder: why the extra hassle with the nuts on the underside of the motherboard? Would it really have cost that much more to include a backplate, even a plastic backplate? Don’t get us wrong it is a good and secure mounting system but as mentioned before this is not a cheap CPU cooling solution; and in all honesty, this quirky installation process does cheapen it in our eyes.


On the positive side, this cooler looks downright amazing when it is in use. The red & blue glow that emanates from it is very well done and will add a bit of spice and pizzazz to an otherwise boring system. This goes doubly sure if your case has a clear side window this as you will get the full effect of its colored LEDs.
 
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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 DuOrb 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 8 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: When viewing the results of the Q6600 and the e4600 please understand that in this instance the quad @ 1.45 volts actually is a cooler running chip than the relatively bad overclocker chip e4600 used. This is usually not the way it works but due to the variable nature of overclocking we happened to get a "good" quad and a bad "dual"; in that the quad is a good cool running chip when extra voltage is applied where as the dual heats up very quickly as extra voltage is applied. It would not surprise us if 1.4 volts is significantly shortening the life of the dual e4600 and that it will die a lot earlier than the quad q6600.

Please note: Because the Ultima 90 does not come with its own it was paired with a single Scythe S-FLEX SFF21 "F" 1600RPM 120mm fan for the results listed in this review. CPU fan speed control was set to voltage only.

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 Performance Results

E4600 Performance Results



Idle Temperatures

e4600_idle_24GHz.jpg


e4600_idle_32GHz.jpg


e4600_idle_MAX.jpg

When it comes to cooling idling dual core systems the DuOrb posts some impressive numbers. Even when overclocked, the E4600 ran significantly cooler than some other higher profile coolers (like the Ultima 90) and only the Scythe Ninja Copper was able to beat it.


Average Load Temperatures

e4600_load_24ghz.jpg


e4600_load_32ghz.jpg


e4600_load_MAX.jpg

Once again the DuOrb posts some very good numbers, unfortunately the older Big Typhoon eeks past it to take second place. One has to wonder if this down draft cooler will suffer the same fate that the Big Typhoon did when exposed to quad core thermal loads. I don’t know about you but I’m eager to find out!
 
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AkG

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Q6600 Performance Results

Q6600 Performance Results



Idle Temperatures

q6600_idle_2.4GHz.jpg


q6600_idle_30GHz.jpg


q6600_idle_MAX.jpg

Just as I thought, the lack of cooling fins on some of the heatpipes and the overall less than optimal design leaves the DuOrb struggling even when the Q6600 is just idling. On the bright side at least these numbers are better than the stock Intel cooler was able to do.


Average Load Temperatures

q6600_load_2.4GHz.jpg


q6600_load_30GHz.jpg


q6600_load_MAX.jpg


Ouch! The DuOrb is only capable of handling minor overclocking loads on a quad core. Anymore than 3.0GHz resulted in a near instant FAIL due to temps skyrocketing above our safety cut off mark of 75° C. As it stands, this is not the cooler for anyone who wants to do some serious overclocking on a quad.
 
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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.

e4600_value_chart.jpg


e4600_value.jpg

When it comes to dual core value only the Big Typhoon (which oddly enough is made by Thermaltake) has a better ratio. If you are looking for a value oriented dual core cooling solution than maybe the DuOrb is the one for you. Of course, it is hard to call any $65 cooler “value oriented”!


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.

q660_value_chart.jpg


q660_value.jpg

If you are trying to justify the high sticker price of $65 then you are going to be disappointed; as only the Triton 77 has a worse quad core value rating than the DuOrb. Its numbers are better than Intel stock but then again your stock cooler didn’t cost you $65 either.
 
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