Thermaltake Frio Extreme: Extreme Freezing?

Let’s meet the new cooler from Thermaltake, which is currently the most expensive and, most likely, the most efficient processor cooler they have to offer.

by Sergey Lepilov
05/17/2012 | 08:13 AM

Two years ago Thermaltake Technology issued a rather good cooler they called Frio. Although not a leader in either performance or quietness, it could offer an attractive combination of both compared to other makers’ products of that time. A year later, they unveiled the overclocker-friendly FrioOCK which was highly efficient but too noisy. It was followed by the Frio Advanced we haven’t had a chance to test.

 

Thermaltake must have liked the word Frio so much that they decided to produce a fourth version of that cooler. The Frio Extreme (CLP0587) is supposed to be a flagship product of the series, judging by its size, specs, functionality and price. Let’s check it out right now.

Packaging and Accessories

As becomes any top-end air cooler, the Thermaltake Frio Extreme comes in eye-catching and robust packaging. The product itself is depicted on the face side of the box against what looks like the northern lights.

There’s exhaustive information about the cooler on the sides of the box. You can learn its key features and detailed specs.

  

The heatsink, fans and accessories are all tightly fixed within pieces of foam rubber inside the box.

With such packaging, you shouldn’t worry about some part getting damaged during transportation. The accessories include a box with fasteners and thermal grease, four wire brackets for fans, a mini-rheobus, and an installation guide.

The box with fasteners contains a back-plate, a retention plate, three pairs of steel guides for different types of CPU sockets, screws and plastic bushings.

The Thermaltake Frio Extreme is manufactured in China. Its recommended price of $95 is comparable to that of best air coolers. Its warranty period is a record-breaking 10 years.

Design and Functionality

The Frio Extreme has a tower-design heatsink consisting of two sections. Each tower is pierced by six nickel-plated copper heat pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter.

 

 

The heatsink measures 160x145x120 millimeters but the attached fans expand this to 160x151x148.2 millimeters.

The Frio Extreme weighs 1230 grams.

We’d tell you about the new cooler’s special features if it had any. Well, it’s got fins of varying width which alternate to reduce the resistance to the air as it goes in and out of the heatsink.

 

 

The fins with the Tt logo are press-fitted on two straight rows of heat pipes. Press-fitting is cheap but not as efficient as soldering and the top fins wobble on the ends of the pipes, indicating that the contact isn’t tight. There’s nothing else we can note about this heatsink. The aluminum fins are 0.4 millimeters thick and 2.0 millimeters apart from each other. There’s a 36-millimeter gap between the two heatsink sections.

The cooler’s 42x40mm sole is polished to a mirror shine.

The surface isn’t flat, though. It’s convex along both axes, especially the longitudinal one.

 

As a result, the thermal grease imprints on the heat-spreader of our LGA2011 processor and the cooler’s base are far from perfect:

 

They are not much better when the cooler is turned around by 90 degrees:

 

This poor contact is going to lower the cooler’s efficiency, but it’s not our job to make the cooler’s sole flat.

The Frio Extreme is equipped with two 140mm fans with 11-blade impellers.

The aggressive profile of the blades, small motor (43 millimeters in diameter) and high maximum speed of 1800 RPM allow the manufacturer to claim an air flow of 106.2 CFM for each fan. This is a high value, especially as the Frio Extreme comes with not one but two such fans! The bottom speed is 1200 RPM, which is unusually high for a top-end CPU cooler.

The fans run on sleeve bearings with a specified service life of 50,000 hours (which doesn’t agree with the 10-year warranty period of the Frio Extreme, by the way).

According to the specs, the PLA14025S12H fan is not economical and can consume up to 7.2 watts at the maximum speed. But according to our measurements, the peak power draw of one such fan was 4.8 watts and its startup voltage was 3.1 volts (instead of the specified 6 volts). The fans have 300mm cables.

There’s a rheobus included into the box to help you regulate the fans:

It can be used to enable PWM-based regulation or manually adjust the speed of the fans. It’s a simple and handy tool Thermaltake gets our thanks for.

The fans are fastened on the heatsink with wire brackets inserted into the openings in the heatsink sections.

 

Equipped with two 140mm fans, the Frio Extreme looks massive and promising, like a regular super-cooler. We’ll learn shortly if its performance is up to the mark.

Compatibility and Installation

The Frio Extreme supports every single platform from both Intel and AMD. The installation procedure is detailed on the official website and is rather easy to follow.

For example, to install your Frio Extreme on an LGA2011 mainboard, you only have to insert the bushings with dual-sided threading into the socket’s mounting holes and fix the steel guides on them.

 

Then you just mount the cooler on the CPU and press it down with the retention plate.

Just don’t forget to apply some thermal grease beforehand. The pressure is very high, so the cooler, despite its convex sole, stands solid on the processor, unlike some Thermalright models with the same peculiarity. Installing the Frio Extreme onto other platforms is basically the same but you need to use a back-plate on the reverse side of your mainboard.

The cooler’s sole is 42 millimeters lower than the bottom fin of its heatsink. Added the height of the CPU socket, this should be enough to avoid any conflict with tall heatsinks in the near-socket zone or on the memory modules. However, the 140mm fans hang 20 millimeters lower than the heatsink and may press against the memory modules as they did on our mainboard:

 

  

You can move the fan into the gap between the two heatsink sections in this case.

We tested our Frio Extreme in two positions: with its air flow going directly towards the back panel of the system case and with the cooler turned around by 90 degrees, driving the air towards the exhaust 200mm fan on the top panel of the system case.

 

We couldn’t find any difference between these two orientation variants at the minimum and maximum speed of the fans, though.

Technical Specifications and Recommended Pricing

Testbed Configuration and Testing Methodology

We tested all coolers inside a closed system case with the following configuration:

For the primary tests and summary diagrams we overclocked our six-core processor with the clock generator frequency set at 125 MHz, the multiplier set at 35x and “Load-Line Calibration” enabled to 4.375 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.385 V in the mainboard BIOS. After that we tested the new cooler at even higher frequency and voltage settings. Turbo Boost was disabled during this test session, and Hyper-Threading technology was enabled to increase the heat dissipation. The memory voltage was at 1.65 V and its frequency was 2000 MHz with 9-11-10-28 timings. All other parameters available in the mainboard BIOS and related to CPU or memory overclocking remained unchanged.

All tests were performed under Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 operating system. We used the following software during our test session:

So, the complete screenshot during the test session looks as follows:

The CPU was loaded with two consecutive LinX AVX test runs with the settings as indicated above. The stabilization period for the CPU temperature between the two test cycles was about 8-10 minutes. We took the maximum temperature of the hottest CPU core for the results charts. Moreover, we will also provide a table with the temperature readings for all cores including their average values. The ambient temperature was checked next to the system case with an electronic thermometer with 0.1 °C precision that allows hourly monitoring of the temperature changes over the past 6 hours. The room temperature during our test session varied between 21.5-21.8°C.

The noise level of each cooler was measured between 1:00 and 3:00 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. The noise meter was installed on a tripod and was always at a 150 mm distance from the cooler fan rotor. The tested cooling systems were 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 mix it up with low noise level). The fan(s) rotation speed was adjusted in the entire supported range using our in-house controller by changing the voltage with 0.5 V increment.

We are going to compare our today’s hero, Thermaltake Frio Extreme, against Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 with one TY-140 fan, which is priced at about half of what the new Thermaltake cooler is worth:

I would also like to add that the rotation speed of all fans was controlled using the same special controller as I mentioned above with ±10 RPM precision. This time no tests with alternative fans were performed, because it turned out unnecessary.

Performance Tests

Cooling Efficiency

 

The results of our performance tests of the coolers in their default configurations can be viewed in a table and in the next diagram:

The Frio Extreme seems to be as efficient as the excellent Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140. However, when we recall that the former is twice as expensive as the latter and note that the Frio Extreme can only do that by using two high-speed fans, its results are rather disappointing. Of course, the Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E and the Phanteks PH-TC14P?, which are as expensive as the Frio Extreme, would beat the latter black and blue in this competition. Well, what else could we expect from the convex base and the press-fitted fins?

You can compare these coolers with those we tested previously in the following table and diagram. Each cooler was tested in its default configuration in the quiet mode and at the maximum speed of the fan(s) with the CPU overclocked to 4.375 MHz at a voltage of 1.385 volts.


* - The peak temperature of the hottest CPU core is posted on the diagram taking
into account the difference from the current ambient temperature and is reduced to 25°C.

At the maximum speed of its two 140mm fans the Frio Extreme can deliver high performance and compete with the Zalman CNPS12X or the Thermalright Archon but its noise level results indicate the price you have to pay for that performance. At the minimum speed of 800 RPM the new cooler is as efficient as the liquid cooling system Intel RST2011LC WC at the maximum speed of the latter’s fan or as the air cooler Noctua NH-D14 SE2011 at 800 RPM.

As for maximum CPU overclocking, the Frio Extreme could make our CPU stable at 4500 MHz and 1.415 volts while working at the maximum speed of its fans. The CPU had a peak temperature of 78°C.


Thermaltake Frio Extreme
(2 fans x 1810 RPM)

Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140
(1260 RPM)

We could achieve the same CPU clock rate with a Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 with one fan at 1260 RPM, and the peak CPU temperature was even 2°C lower than with the Thermaltake Frio Extreme. We can note that when the ambient temperature was somewhat higher than 25°C, the TRUE Spirit 140 couldn’t keep the CPU stable at the mentioned frequency and voltage, but it can do that at 21.5°C. So, we can suppose that the overclocking results of the Thermaltake Frio Extreme and Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 are going to be lower during the hot summer period.

Here are the table and diagram with the maximum CPU overclocking results:

 

The Thermaltake Frio Extreme is in the middle group, between the Deepcool Assassin and the Thermalright Archon. We have to note that it’s got the highest level of noise among all the coolers we’ve tested, though.

Noise Level

We measured the amount of noise produced by the coolers throughout the speed range of their fans. You can view the results in the following diagram:

Unfortunately, the Frio Extreme is extremely loud. It can barely hold beneath the comfortable level of 36 dBA even at its minimum 800 RPM. At the minimum specified speed of 1200 RPM it is as loud as 42 dBA even with only one fan. This is a disappointing result which is incomparable to what the Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 can offer, for example. We can only add that the fans of our Frio Extreme worked smoothly at any speed, producing no rattle or anything.

Conclusion

The Frio Extreme couldn’t bring the temperature of our overclocked six-core CPU down to an extremely low level. It didn’t even prove to be superior to a cooler that cost only half as much. And it also turned out to be inferior to every other air cooler in terms of acoustic performance. The reasons for these results are obvious: press-fitted (rather than soldered) fins and a convex base. Without these shortcomings its performance could have been much higher.

Besides that, we don’t understand why Thermaltake set such a high lower limit for the cooler fans. It is 1200 RPM and 140mm fans just can’t be quiet at such speed. And of course, we can’t understand the high price of this product which doesn’t match its performance and noise level.

Yes, the Frio Extreme is compatible with all modern platforms, can be assembled and installed easily, has a handy fan controller, comes with a 10-year warranty in robust and informative packaging, and just looks good. But it’s up to you to decide if these advantages outweigh its shortcomings.