Taming the Flame: Thermalright Shaman VGA Cooler Review

Today we are going to talk about a new graphics card cooler with a strange name and a very large fan. Please meet the new solution from Thermalright in our new review!

by Sergey Lepilov
10/28/2010 | 09:48 PM

Did you know that the primary occupation of all shamans besides the communication with the spiritual world is taming the fire? Well, if it hadn’t been for Thermalright who decided to launch a cooling product with this unique name, Shaman, we may have never learned about it. And now I had to surf over quite a few web-pages in order to find out what exactly people like that do and what analogies could be drawn between shamans and the graphics cards cooling systems. Graphics cards indeed have something to tame. Even though the temperatures of contemporary graphics processors and voltage regulator components are still quite far from the temperature of fire, they do require highly efficient cooling, which is exactly what Thermalright is going to offer us today.

Packaging and Accessories

 

Thermalright Shaman comes in a cardboard box of medium size that is neither informative nor beautiful, but is pretty sturdy and reliable:

There are casings made of polyurethane foam inside the box holding the heatsink and fan. The box with accessories is on the side:

This box contains the following components:

I would like to add that Thermalright Shaman is made in Taiwan and is priced at $74.95. It comes with a one year warranty.

Design and Functionality

Let’s take a closer look at the heatsink:

 

We see a fully nickel-plated heatsink weighing 640 g and measuring 160x132x38 mm. The schematic image below shows more details about the size and shape of Thermalright Shaman:

In addition to the dimensions on the picture we would like to say that the distance from the center of the heatsink to the left side of the cooler (heatpipes curve) is 76 mm, and to the right side of the cooler (heatpipes ends) – 88 mm.

Thermalright Shaman heatsink consists of eight copper nickel-plated heatpipes 6 mm in diameter that come out of the cooler base:

 

They hold an array of 55 aluminum plates 0.4 mm thick that are 1.8 mm away from one another.

The cooler heatsink surface is not that big and makes only 2,990 cm2. The heatpipes pierce the entire heatsink evenly:

 

The heatpipes are soldered to the base and the heatsink plates are soldered to the heatpipes, as we see the soldering traces in all contact spots:

 

The actual base plate of the Thermalright Shaman cooler measures 55x45 mm, which is big enough to completely cover heat-spreaders of such graphics processors as GF100 (GeForce GTX 480). The contact surface of the base plate is surprisingly even. Moreover, it is also ideally polished:

The thermal paste imprint left by the Cypress graphics processor turned out impeccable:

In one of our upcoming articles you will also see the imprint from one of Nvidia GeForce GTX 4xx graphics cards 9the card is already on the way to me).

Thermalright Shaman is equipped with one TY-140 fan, which we are already familiar with from our recent 140 mm Fan Roundup. To ensure that the vibrations from the fan do not get transferred to the heatsink, the latter has special silicone strips stuck to it:

After that the wire clips holding the fan in place are inserted into the sides of the heatsink:

There is only one thing that concerns me: why did they make the ends of the wire clips so long? Even if they had been three times shorter, it wouldn’t have had any influence on the reliability of the fan retention. Now, however, it is very inconvenient to insert these long clips into the heatsink, especially, if the graphics card with a cooler is already installed into the system case.

In conclusion please take a look at the assembled Thermalright Shaman cooler with a fan attached:

Compatibility and Installation Tips

Thermalright Shaman is compatible with all contemporary graphics accelerators and even with a few discontinued ones. The following schematics may be helpful to the owners of all current graphics cards:

 

As for me, I have to say that new AMD Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 products will also allow using the new Thermalright Shaman cooler.

The step-by-step instructions provide a detailed description of the installation procedure. Let’s dwell on the most important steps here.

At first, you have to remove the default graphics card cooler from your card (for example, the ATI Radeon HD 5830). Then you have to install the heatsinks onto the voltage regulator circuitry components and video memory chips:

The latter is not absolutely necessary, because these heatsinks won’t do you that much good: the improvement will only be by 3-5°C at the most. Moreover, the sticky side is fairly weak, so they often come off the memory chips. As for the heatsink for the voltage regulator circuitry, we used the one from Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870, which unlike Thermalright VRM heatsinks is fastened with the screws.

According to the retention holes layout above, you should insert threaded mounts into the corresponding holes in the retention plate at the base of the cooler:

Although you don’t need any tools to install the cooler properly, we would strongly recommend to slightly tighten these mounts with pliers, because they may come out of the base when you dismount the cooler.

After that we apply a thin and even layer of thermal interface to the GPU and put the graphics card on top of the cooler standing upside down. Then on the bottom of the card we have to put rubber washers onto the mounts and top it all off with a backplate, which is fastened with the enclosed screw-nuts:

 

Although this plate doesn’t touch the textolite and the electronic components on it, it still has to be installed with the insulated side towards the PCB. Make sure you do it precisely like that.

And that’s it: Thermalright Shaman has been successfully installed onto your graphics card.

 

Of course, it doesn’t look as monstrous as Thermalright Spitfire, but it still goes 50 mm past the top of the graphics card. As a result, the card with the cooler measures 70 mm thick:

By the way, note that the 140 mm Thermalright TY-140 fan is so big, that it not only goes past the sides of the heatsink, but also will cool the heatsink over the voltage regulator components. Here I would like to tell you that as we will see later on, this is going to become the key the success.

Thermalright Shaman blocks four PCI slots next to the graphics card, which is, honestly, very bad:

Even in our testbed where we use only one expansion card – Auzen X-Fi Home Theater HD sound card installed into the very last PCI slot – the cooler fan turned out to be only 10 mm away from the sound card.

These are the sacrifices the potential Thermalright Shaman owners will have to make. Another issue we encountered was related to our Thermaltake Twelve Hundred system case. The thing is that there are non-removable plastic retention brackets for 120 mm fans attached to one of the case side panels and when we tried to close the system case, these brackets would hit against the cooler. As a result, we simply couldn’t close the case at all, so all the benchmarks were performed with the removed case side panel.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed and Methods

Since we couldn’t close the system case with Thermalright Shaman cooler inside, all tests were performed in an open system case. Our testbed was configured as follows:

As you already know, we overclocked our graphics card to 920/4800 MHz:

The testing programs were installed under Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64. We used DirectX End-User Runtimes libraries (from June 2010) and Catalyst 10.10 graphics card drivers. We used a 20-minute run of FurMark version 1.8.2 launched using a renamed EXE-file in stability test mode with “Xtreme Burning Mode” option enabled and in 2560x1600 resolution:

We used MSI Afterburner utility version 2.1.0 Beta 1 to monitor graphics card temperatures and frequencies and GPU-Z version 0.4.7 utility:

The tests were run at least twice for each type of load. The temperature stabilization period between the two test cycles was about 10-12 minutes. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1°C precision that allows monitoring the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. During our test session room temperature stayed around 23.8-24°C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured after 1:00 AM in a closed room about 20 m2 big using CENTER-321 electronic noise meter. The noise level for each cooler was tested outside the system case when the only noise sources in the lab were the cooler and its fan(s). The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The mainboard with the graphics card equipped with the tested cooler was placed at the edge of the desk on a sheet of polyurethane foam. The lowest noise reading our noise meter device can register is 29.8 dBA and the subjectively comfortable noise level in these testing conditions was around 36 dBA (do not confuse with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using the new controller revision by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

We are going to compare the cooling efficiency of Thermalright Shaman cooler against that of the reference cooler on Radeon HD 5830 and HD 5870 as well as against a pretty efficient Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 cooler:

 

Thermalright Shaman was tested not only with its default Thermalright TY-140 fan, but also with a slim Scythe Slip Stream 120 mm Slim fan (SY1212SL12H model) fastened on top of the heatsink with two rubber bands:

Since this fan is 16.5 mm thinner than Thermalright TY-140 and sits 2 mm deeper inside the Thermalright Shaman heatsink, we were able to free one PCI slot of the four blocked ones. However, we are going to find out very soon how many degrees of cooling efficiency it is going to cost us. I would also like to add that Scythe Slip Stream 120 mm Slim was tested at subjectively comfortable speed of 1290 RPM and at maximum rotation speed.

Performance

Cooling Efficiency Tests

Well, here are the obtained results from our cooling efficiency tests:

First of all, let’s discuss the GPU temperatures. As we see, Thermalright Shaman efficiency at maximum rotation speed of its default 140 mm fan is comparable to the cooling efficiency of Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 cooler at maximum speed of its three 92 mm default fans. I have to say that the GPU temperatures of our overclocked graphics card under this type of load are extremely low for a graphics product like that. At lower fan speeds Shaman is slightly ahead of its strong competitor, but overall, we can conclude that these two cooling products offer equal cooling efficiency and are much better than the reference cooler of our Radeon HD 5830. If we compare the results taken off Thermalright Shaman with two different fans (TY-140 and Slip Stream 120 mm Slim), at the same level of noise, which we are going to discuss below, the cooling efficiency drops by about 4°C, which is absolutely insignificant at these temperatures. However, it is important to remember that TY-140 fan was working right next to the sound card, which did block some of its airflow. On the other hand, there was no obstruction in the way of the airflow coming from Slip Stream 120 mm Slim, which gave it some advantage in this race.

The temperatures of the hottest VRM components on the graphics card are also pretty interesting to discuss (marked as “VRM max.” on the diagram). As we have already pointed out, one side of the 140 mm Thermalright Shaman fan is hanging over one of the heatsinks on the VRM components. As we know, fan airflow and air pressure are the highest in zone. As a result, we can notice very strong dependency of the VRM cooling efficiency on the rotation speed of our TY-140 fan. Even if we slow down the fan just a little, the temperature will increase substantially. For example, at maximum speed of 1330 RPM Shaman is the leader showing the best temperature of this functional knot, leaving even the reference Radeon HD 5830 cooler behind. In acoustically comfortable mode (at 1010 RPM) and in quiet mode (at 800 RPM) it falls in the middle, while at the minimal speed of 610 RPM it is the least efficient of all testing participants. Of course, we can’t disregard the efficiency of the aluminum heatsink on the VRM part, because had we installed a Thermalright VRM heatsink over there, they results would have been completely different.

Acoustic Tests

The noise measurements taken on the reference ATI Radeon HD 5830 cooler, Thermalright Shaman (with two different fans) and Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870 are given on the diagram below:

If we leave the reference Radeon HD 5830 cooler aside for a minute, we can conclude that Thermalright Shaman cooler is obviously not the quietest product tested today. Nevertheless, it remains acoustically comfortable up to 950 RPM and very quiet up to 800 RPM (at 33 dBA). Even at maximum rotation speed Thermalright Shaman is still quieter than Accelero XTREME 5870, which is another advantage of the newcomer. As for the noise comparison between the two different fans on the Shaman cooler, Slip Stream 120 mm Slim at 1200 RPM generates as much noise as TY-140 at 950 RPM and at 1550 RPM – as much noise as the default fan of the Thermalright Shaman. As for the advantage the two alternative cooling products have over the reference Radeon HD 5830 cooler, there is nothing to say really – everything is on the diagram.

Conclusion

As a result, things do not look so good for Thermalright Shaman. If we compare it against the primary competitor – Arctic Cooling Accelero XTREME 5870, then Shaman will be just a little bit more effective, but at the same time it costs $7 more (it is simply quite expensive to begin with), is noisier, blocks one PCI-slot more and may prevent the side panel from closing in some system cases. Moreover, Shaman doesn’t have a solid heatsink for the VRM components with screw-on retention, like the one from Arctic Cooling. We could claim that the Accelero XTREME one is not universal after all, but we all know very well that Arctic Cooling already released an Accelero XTREME Plus model compatible with Nvidia based graphics accelerators besides Radeon HD 5870 and 5830.

At the same time, we can’t help mentioning that Shaman from Thermalright tames the firing flames perfectly well, cooling even overclocked graphics cards with super-high heat dissipation without much effort and noise. The cooler is universal and we will definitely check it out on GeForce GTX 4xx graphics cards. So, we are not yet finished with Shaman. Also I would like to point out that its installation is very easy and doesn’t require any special tools. Therefore, summing up all the cons and pros of this cooler we can grade it with a good “C” and wish Thermalright to continuously improve their extremely interesting products.