Articles: Cooling

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As you probably know, tuning is the process of modifying a car to improve its characteristics or appearance. It allows to achieve a higher output power from the engine, make the aerodynamics of the car more efficient or just make the car look special and unique. What you probably don’t know, CPU coolers can be tuned as well. The only difference is that this kind of tuning is done by the manufacturer of the cooler rather than by a third party. The manufacturer adjusts its cooler design by introducing small changes in order to increase performance or reduce the manufacturing cost. Sometimes such changes are only limited to the product’s exterior design and do not affect its noise level or price.

This review is about three coolers that have undergone such modification and the effect it has had on them: Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme revision C, Cogage Arrow and Zalman CNPS10X Flex.

Testing Participants

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme revision C

The Ultra-120 eXtreme enjoys a cult following. This cooler has been manufactured since the distant year of 2006 and has always remained the same, except for new fasteners, a fan that is now included into the box, and such cosmetic changes as revised packaging. Throughout this long period of time, the Ultra-120 eXtreme has kept a leading position in terms of performance, being only inferior to the Thermalright IFX-14 which was introduced later as well as to a few models from other brands that were introduced in the last year. The unique nature of this product is emphasized by the fact that it was released in an all-copper version (as a limited edition at a very immodest price). The new revision of this cooler seems to be the last one as it has got a successor called Thermalright Venomous X. We’ll discuss it in an upcoming report. Right now, let’s see what innovations are implemented in the C revision of the Ultra-120 eXtreme.

The packaging has not been modified. It is a red “brick” of robust cardboard with pieces of foam rubber inside. The product revision is indicated on the top of the box, so you cannot confuse it with an older version. Included with the cooler’s heatsink are fastener kits for all modern platforms, an installation guide, two wire brackets with two silicone strips to attach a fan, a key, and Thermalright’s thermal grease called The Chill Factor.

It is hard to spot any changes in the Ultra-120 eXtreme C at first sight. It still measures 132x63x161 millimeters, weighs 790 grams, and consists of six nickel-plated copper heat pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter, that go through the nickel-plated copper base and carry a lot of aluminum plates.



There are now 48 plates rather than 52 as on the earlier versions of the cooler. They are 0.5 millimeters thick as opposed to the older versions’ 0.4-0.45 millimeters and the distance between them is increased from 1.8 to 2 millimeters. This shows Thermalright’s desire to make the heatsink less dependent on the speed of the fan(s), retaining the same performance at medium and high speeds and boosting it at low speeds. On the other hand, the reduced number of plates means a reduced total heat dissipation area, so the resulting effect is hard to predict.

One more new feature of the new cooler’s heatsink is the arrow-shaped cutout in the center of the plates.

Thermalright’s engineers say that this cutout is meant to make the air flow inside the heatsink more turbulent to cool the plates more effectively. We have already seen similar solutions in heatsinks from other manufacturers. So, these are actually all the changes we could find in the heatsink of the new revision Ultra-120 eXtreme.

Like before, the cooler has a slightly convex base.

This is confirmed by the footprint our Core i7-920 processor makes on it:

There is no fan in the Ultra-120 eXtreme kit, which is normal for Thermalright’s products. You only get two wire braces for attaching one fan to the heatsink.

Oddly enough, the kit includes only one pair of such braces although the heatsink is designed in such a way that you can mount two 120mm fans on it. This kind of saving does not do any credit to the developer. The installation procedure has not changed while the recommended price of this product is $59.

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