by Sergey Lepilov
02/04/2010 | 03:35 PM
I think it would be difficult to accuse Thermalright Inc. of being slow to the market with new cooling solutions. Strange as it might seem, but we should actually blame their competitors, who only last year managed to introduce products with similar or slightly better cooling efficiency than the solutions from Thermalright, which have been in the market since 2006-2007. The leadership of Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme was undeniable and indisputable until solutions like Scythe Mugen 2, ThermoLab BARAM or Prolimathech Megahalems came out, and Thermalright IFX-14 managed to keep the performance crown until the end of 2009. That could be the reason why the company didn’t pay too much attention to developing new cooling systems: they had stable revenue coming in anyway.
However, everything comes to an end one day. And so did the sole leadership of Thermalright coolers. Noctua NH-D14 and Cogage Arrow came out and appeared more efficient than Thermalright IFX-14. As for Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, its position has been threatened by at least a dozen cooling solutions from different makers over the past year. Unwilling to put up with this situation, Thermalright undertook a counterattack starting with the launch of the recently reviewed new revision of Ultra-120 eXTreme. The second cooler that should help Thermalright get their leadership back is the main hero of our today’s article – Venomous X. The company is also rumored to be working on a new successor to their IFX-14, but that will be a different story. In the meanwhile, let’s see what the new Venomous X looks like.
The new cooler comes in a compact cardboard box colored mostly black:
Now Thermalright packaging looks much more interesting than the brown boxes they used to have, although there is still very little information on the packaging. Inside this box we find another one, a small flat box with accessories. The heatsink sits inside a polyurethane foam casing beneath the accessories box:
Like most coolers from this manufacturer, Thermalright Venomous X ships without a fan, but all the other accessories are in place:
Among them we get retention kit for LGA775/1156/1366 mainboards, installation instructions, four wire clips and four silicone strips for the fans, Thermalright The ChillFactor 2 thermal paste and a company logo sticker.
Venomous X is made in Taiwan and its MSRP is set at $65.
When you see Venomous X for the first time, it immediately reminds you of Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme. True, Venomous X heatsink is barely different from that of the predecessor:
The new heatsink is 5 mm shorter and 1 mm smaller: now it measures 127 x 63 x 160 mm and weighs 755 g instead of 790 g by Ultra-120 eXtreme. The cooler is still composed of six copper nickel-plated heatpipes 6 mm in diameter that hold aluminum heatsink plates:
Venomous X has 1 plate less compared with Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C. The gap between the plates is a little smaller than by Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C (1.9 mm vs 2.0 mm), but still a little bigger than by the old Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, which plates were spaced out at 1.8 mm from one another. The plates are 0.5 mm thick.
Although the heatsink of Venomous X cooler is shorter and have one plate less, its effective surface area has hardly been affected, because it is of almost rectangular shape, while the Ultra-120 eXtreme heatsink was curved inwards. The heatpipes inside the heatsink are shifted in a little different way than by Ultra-120 eXtreme. The latter had its heatpipes arranged in an oval-shaped pattern. The new Venomous X cooler has its heatpipes lined up in two precise rows (three in each) that are shifted away from one another:
The heatpipes and heatsink plates are soldered together. The heatpipes are also soldered to the grooves in the cooler base plate. The thinnest part of the base plate below the heatpipe measures 2 mm:
The base of the new Venomous X is finished in a completely uncommon way for the solutions from this maker: it is polished to mirror shine:
However, the evenness is still the same - with a bump in the center – which is a typical distinguishing feature of all Thermalright coolers:
As a result, the imprint of the processor heat-spreader on the cooler base shows a clear emphasis on the central part:
Although Thermalright have been constantly protecting this bump claiming it is a “constructive peculiarity” of their cooling solutions, we still believe that ideally even base surface is way more efficient than the mirror-shining finish. Unless the heat-spreader of your CPU has a concavity in the center shaped exactly as the bump on the base of your cooler :)
Thermalright Venomous X in its standard configuration is positioned for Intel LGA775/1156/1366 processors. However, it is also possible to install this cooler onto AMD mainboards. In this case you will need to purchase an additional retention kit. Venomous X step-by-step installation is described on a separate page of the official company web-site. Besides, you can also download a PDF file with it. We also decided to check out the main installation steps, especially since in our opinion it is the key peculiarity of the new Venomous X cooler.
So, at first you have to take a universal backplate and insert the threaded retention spindles into the loops on its ends. You must use special plastic clips: just put them over the spindles and insert in one of the three locking holes in each corner of the backplate:
I believe that you have already understood that each of these holes is designed to match LGA775, LGA1156 or LGA1366 socket. This is what the assembled backplate looks like:
The thumb-screw on the right with a spindle on one end and a silicone washer on the other should be used to tighten up the retention plate:
After that you place the steel retention frame over the spindles and tighten the thumb-screws. There are four mounts coming out of the frame that will hold the retention plate pressing the cooler against the mainboard and processor. Note that there are four of them, which means that you will be able to turn the cooler any way you want without removing the retention frame and backplate. Now all you need to do is apply a very thin layer of high-quality thermal compound onto the CPU heat-spreader, push the retention plate between the cooler heatpipes and tighten the spring-screws with a screw-driver or enclosed wrench:
But that’s not all yet. This when the most interesting things begin. There is a large knob in the center of the retention plate that serves to adjust the pressure between the cooer base and the processor heat-spreader:
By turning this knob clockwise with the included wrench you can increase the pressure from 40 lbs (18.144 kg) to 70 lbs (31.752 kg). According to Thermalright engineers, this feature improved heat transfer and processor cooling efficiency. I have to admit that it is a pretty interesting and unique solution that we haven’t yet seen in any other CPU cooling systems. I would also like to add that when you are tightening this pressure knob the cooler retention panel is lifted up above the base that is why the cooler may actually turn on the processor. To avoid it, please make sure to hold Venomous X when tightening the pressure knob.
The final touch in the Thermalright Venomous X installation procedure is fans installation. You can attach one or two fans using the four silicone strips and four wire clips included with the cooler:
Thermalright recommends installing Venomous X in such a way that the airflow could be directed towards the back of the system case (perpendicular to the PCI-E slots):
It contradicts our theoretical assumptions that the preferable cooler positioning would be with the heatpipes going along the LGA1366 processor die. That is why before we proceeded with the cooler efficiency tests, we checked out its performance in two different installation positions:
Although in the first case (as shown on the left) the heatpipes were directed along the processor die, which is considered less effective position, Thermalright Venomous X performed 2°C better than if installed as shown on the right. During our comparative tests we checked the performance of Venomous X equipped with one fan rotating at 1200 RPM and with the case fan disconnected.
We are going to compare the technical specifications of Thermalright Venomous X side by side with those of its predecessor, Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C:
The testbed and methodology applied in this case was exactly the same as the testbed and methodology described in our previous article about tuned up CPU coolers that is why we are going to skip this section and proceed right to the test results. Besides Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C, we also added the results of Cogage Arrow and Noctua NH-D14 for comparative purposes.
First of all we have to say a few words about the effect of the new retention mechanism on the cooling efficiency. Unfortunately, the most interesting design innovation of the new Thermalright Venomous X produced the least interesting results. Namely, tightening the knob that increases the pressure by 75% doesn’t have any influence on the cooler performance. Moreover, the peak CPU temperature doesn’t drop with any of the two tested coolers: Thermalright Venomous X as well as Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, which we also tested with the new retention kit. It is hard to explain why both coolers proved so indifferent to the new enhanced retention mechanism. Maybe the bump in the center of the cooler base ruins the engineers’ efforts, and maybe the increased pressure is simply the wrong approach to improving the cooling of LGA1366 processors with the largest contact spot between the cooler base and the CPU die. Hopefully, you will have better luck. As for us, we would like to move on to the actual efficiency tests.
Before we compare Thermalright Venomous X against its competitors, let’s check out the dependence of its cooling efficiency on the number of cooling fans and their rotation speeds:
Obviously, the cooling efficiency of Venomous X increases most significantly in the 600-1000 RPM fan rotation speed range, where peak CPU temperature lowers on average by 10°C with one fan and by 7°C with two fans installed for air intake/exhaust. You can win a few more degrees by speeding up the fan(s) to 1200 RPM, while further increase in fan rotation speed doesn’t lower the CPU temperature that much anymore. For example, in the 1200-2000 RPM range the peak CPU temperature will only get 2°C lower. This way we can conclude that Thermalright Venomous X heatsink doesn’t really need high-speed fans. At the same time, those users who appreciate quite system operation and consider an 800 RPM fan to be as loud as they are willing to go, could use Venomous X with two fans.
Finally, here is the diagram comparing the results of our today’s hero, Thermalright Venomous X, against three best coolers from the previous test session:
Only in one test mode out of six Venomous X yielded 1°C to Ultra-120 eXtreme, while in all other modes it outperformed its predecessor having caught up with Cogage Arrow and Noctua NH-D14. We may have expected a little more from Venomous X, but it didn’t go through. Despite this fact, the new cooler is still one of the best CPU air coolers.
In conclusion let’s check how far we could overclock our test processor using Venomous X with two cooling fans in two speed modes: at 800 RPM and at 1600 RPM. For the same of comparison I will also provide the results obtained with Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C:
In quiet mode Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C turned out a little better, while at 1600 RPM Venomous X takes revenge leaving its predecessor a little behind. I have to say that the results demonstrated by both coolers are very close, so we can’t declare any of them an ultimate winner at this point.
It looks like we can once more time conclude our review with a phrase that there is yet another super-cooler out there right now, but for some reason we are not particularly excited. Over the past year and a half we have witnessed very moderate and slow evolution of the CPU air cooling systems. That must be the reason why we are not raving with optimism just yet. I wish that Moore’s Law worked for cooling systems, too, so that we could finally see a significant improvement in cooling efficiency.
Yes, Thermalright Venomous X is an excellent cooler with remarkable efficiency. It is a little expensive, but the fans of Thermalright brand will not be discouraged by a 65-dollar price tag. New retention mechanism and mirror-shining base surface are good bonuses, but unfortunately, they do not produce the desired effect. At the same time, we don’t quite understand why Thermalright engineers didn’t perforate the heatsink plates of Venomous X the same way they did with the pates of Ultra-120 eXtreme rev.C, and why they didn’t make the cooler wider (83 mm instead of 63 mm). Even with two 120x25 mm fans the cooler would still be only 135 mm wide and would definitely stay below 900 g. Both these parameters are quite typical of contemporary CPU cooling solutions, but these measures could have increased the effective cooling surface by 32%, which would positively affect the efficiency. I don’t know if Thermalright engineers are thinking about it at all, but I am sure they could have checked it out, just out of curiosity.