Date: Sunday , October 18, 2009
Thermalright is back with an evolution of its flagship cooler, the Ultra-120 Extreme. When it first premiered nearly two years ago it took the top spot among all air coolers. One year later and the only cooler that would be able to beat it would be itself, made entirely of copper. But this was a limited run and in the end cost too much and was far too heavy for most users, but it was damn cool and we still use this HSF for motherboard testing here at HardOCP from time to time. It would be months before anyone would be able to even come close to challenging the TRUE. Finally, with other manufacturers nipping at their heels Thermalight started tweaking the design of the TRUE for the next generation of processors. What we have today is a bit of a unique review. When we started our review Thermalright has sent us the revision B of the cooler. Before we were able to complete the review they had notified us they had reworked the design again and had updated it to revision C. Very few revision B TRUEs would ever see retail. If you have one, it is likely a geek’s collector item.
We will be comparing both editions to the current crop of top performers even though the B series won’t be available for purchase any more. We have included it to show the steps Thermalright has taken when redesigning the best performing air cooler in the worldآ…and we had already spent all the time and money on the work. :)
Worth mentioning, is that while we are testing on the much more demanding LGA 1366 platform with a Core i7-920 at stock and overclocked configurations, all TRUE HSFs are compatible with Intel's new LGA 1156 platform for both Core i5 and Core i7 processors. All you need is a Socket 1156 Bolt-Thru Kit.
All testing of the TRUE Rev. B cooler will occur on our new test bed. Consisting of the GIGABYTE X58-Extreme motherboard, six gigabytes of Corsair DDR3 RAM and paired with the Intel Core i7 920. With four cores and a total of eight threads expect to see lots of heat. The video card of choice is the NVIDIA 9500 GT thanks to its low heat output and silent fan.
In keeping with the spirit of the [H] we are once again doing hardware testing of all heat sinks. This means milling a very small path into an expensive CPU to place our thermocouple. This is by far the best way to test coolers and the only way here at the [H].
Temperatures for the CPU will continue to be measured using our Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer.
For this article the GPU will be kept at stock speed to keep any excess heat away from the CPU that could impact the results. In 2D mode the 9500 GT generates very little heat and to further isolate it from the rest of the system we will install it in the secondary PCIE slot.
Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. Firstly, the thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. Secondly, there is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones. Lastly, because we have a special CPU on our hands it requires a compound that is more viscous so not to seep into the thermister channel and run off.
Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.
Idle temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.
Load temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v25.3 set to blend mode. In this way we can heat up the CPU as well as the memory controller which is now integrated into the die. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.
Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.