by Sergey Lepilov
05/03/2011 | 06:24 AM
About a year ago Thermaltake Technology Co., Ltd released a Frio processor cooler, which we tested almost immediately. Despite its ambitiousness, Frio didn’t win overclockers’ hearts, because it wasn’t among the performance leaders and could offer neither low noise, nor low price. However, Thermaltake didn’t give in and recently launched their new FrioOCK cooler:
The “OCK” abbreviation stands for “OverClocking King” and obviously announces Thermaltake’s serious intentions in this field. Well, let’s find out how effective this overclocking king actually is and if any of the existing coolers will be able to compete against it.
He packaging of this cooler is designed in Thermaltake’s traditional manner. It is a relatively large cardboard box with the cooler photo on the front:
The information on the sides of the package tells us everything we need to know about Thermaltake FrioOCK, including the detailed technical specifications and the list of bundled accessories:
There are two inserts made of polyurethane foam inside the cardboard box, which hold the cooler securely. So, it looks like the package is sturdy enough to ensure proper protection for the cooler against transportation mishaps.
There is a smaller box in the upper part. It contains accessories, installation guide and a warranty slip:
The miniature sections of this box hold two types of steel retention for Intel and AMD platforms, two retention plates with spring screws, four threaded plastic bushes, four screw-nuts, eight screws of two different types, and Thermaltake thermal grease:
Thermaltake FrioOCK is made in China. Its recommended retail price is set at $79.99 and it comes with a two-year warranty.
Although the name of this cooler is almost the same as that of the previous cooler modification, the new FrioOCK has very little in common with its predecessor. The only thing they share is probably only the type of the heatsink design – a tower. Everything else is totally different, starting with the exterior looks. FrioOCK sports StarCraft 2 design and is positioned as a stylish and uncompromising solution for the fans of this game. Semitransparent blue fan blades match the top plastic cover in color, and the bright-red inserts in the top part of the cooler make FrioOCK look uniquely laconic:
The cooler is pretty large in size: 158.4 x 136.8 x 143 mm, although it is not any bigger than any of the leaders in this department. Thermaltake FrioOCK cooler weighs 1093 g.
Almost the entire cooler heatsink is hidden beneath the fans and plastic covers of all sorts. Only the bottom parts of its sides and the actual bottom of the heatsink remain “naked”:
Note that all this plastic armor may be easily removed: just undo the clips on the sides of the heatsink and lift the whole thing up:
Beneath it, you will find a two-array heatsink made of 90 (45 per array) aluminum plates, each 0.4 mm thick. The plates sit on six copper nickel-plated heatpipes and are spaced out at 2.0 mm distance from one another:
Does this heatsink remind you of anything? You are right: it is a pretty close copy of Prolimatech Megahalems cooler, which we reviewed over two years ago. Even the number of plates is identical, not to mention their shape and the heatpipes layout. The only difference is probably the embossed “Tt” logotype on each plate, although this is an insignificant difference. Thermaltake obviously decided to take an easy route by copying a heatsink design that was a success for its time. However, while Prolimatech’s cooler had each of the heatsink plates made of two halves soldered to the heatpipes, Thermaltake’s FrioOCK has its heatsink plates made of a solid piece of aluminum and then pressed against the heatpipes. The effective surface area of the new Thermaltake cooler doesn’t exceed 7,000 sq. cm, which is a pretty modest number for contemporary super-coolers, and especially for a solution that intends to win the air-cooling leader’s crown.
Unfortunately, the heatpipes are laid out linearly inside the heatsink, so the heat won’t be distributed evenly over the heatsink array. This is a pretty strange solution, because Thermaltake currently offers a cooler with non-linear heatpipes layout – Thermaltake Jing (we are going to review it in one of our next articles). In other words, this is no new technology for the company. So, it is very unclear why they didn’t shift the heatpipes away from one another, which could allow them to achieve better heat distribution over the heatsink plates.
The heatpipes lie inside specially cut-out grooves and are soldered to them. The thinnest part of the cooler base beneath eh heatpipes is 2 mm.
The contact surface of the copper nickel-plated cooler base is finished quite nicely, although it is not ideally even: there is a small bump in the center, which immediately showed on our thermal compound imprint below:
Thermaltake FrioOCK is equipped with two nine-blade fans 130 mm in diameter and 25 mm thick:
The fans are not only installed for air intake/exhaust, but also rotate in different directions, which allows concentrating the air flow on the heatsink plates, according to Thermaltake. The fans are powered from one three-pin connector, with a small rotation speed regulator wired right next to it:
The fans are claimed to work in 1200-2100 RPM speed range, each fan creating 121 CFM airflow and generating 31-48 dBA of noise. The fluid dynamic bearings used in these fans should last no less than 50,000 hours. We were very surprised with the nearly gigantic power consumption of these fans , which is claimed to be 14.4 W! Our measurements showed that these two fans consume 12 W of power. It is a very impressive result, although it is not the ultimate maximum for the corresponding mainboard connector. The fans startup voltage turned out 3.7 V.
The high-end cooling systems have long been designed to fit any type of platform, and Thermaltake FrioOCK is no exception. The newcomer supports all contemporary platforms with Intel LGA 775/1155/1156/1366 and AMD Socket AM2(+)/AM3. The cooler is installed with a backplate and a set of screws that go through the mainboard PCB. The mainboard will need to be removed from the system case in order to attach the backplate with screws to the bottom of it:
The backplate is made of sturdy plastic and doesn’t have a sticky surface, so you will need to hold the screws in place while putting in the bushes from the other side. I have to admit that it is not the simplest procedure. After that you have to set the steel brackets on top of the bushes (there are two different kits for Intel and AMD platform) and secure them in place with large screw-nuts:
Note that during installation the plastic casing with the fans needs to be removed, otherwise you won’t be able to tighten the retention screws holding the heatsink against the CPU. of course, do not forget to remove the protective film from the base of the cooler and apply a layer of thermal grease to the processor heat-spreader. By the way, Thermaltake’s grease is extremely efficient, as we determined during our last testing.
The cooler is pressed very firmly against the processor, and the retention is highly reliable and will hold the 1-kilogram FrioOCK cooler securely on the CPU. now you only have to put the casing with the fans back in place by locking the clips on the sides. If you feel that we missed something during our description of the installation procedure, you can always consult the step-by-step guide on the company web-site.
Our Thermaltake FrioOCK sample was tested in two positions: when the fans airflow was directed towards the back of the system case and the heatpipes were positioned in parallel to the processor heat-spreader, and when the airflow was directed upwards and the heatpipes go across the processor heat-spreader:
However, we didn’t detect any significant difference in cooling efficiency neither at low, nor at high fan rotation speed. I would also like to add that the installed FrioOCK cooler blocks the first memory DIMM slot (if you are using modules with tall heat-spreaders), and that the minimal distance between the bottom of the heatsink and the mainboard surface is 43 mm.
We performed all cooler tests inside a closed system case. Here is our testbed configuration:
We overclocked our six-core processor (with its default non-lapped heat-spreader) with the multiplier set at 25x and “Load-Line Calibration” (Level 2) enabled to 4.38 GHz. The nominal processor Vcore was increased to 1.43125 V in the mainboard BIOS:
Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading technologies were disabled during our test session. The memory voltage was at 1.64 V and its frequency was 1.4 GHz (7-7-7-16_1T 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 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 CST 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 the annoying 24.6-25.0 °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 35 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.
Since Thermaltake FrioOCK shoots for the title of the Overclocking King, it will be competing against the best. Although Thermalright Archon looks less impressive, it is known for its extreme efficiency, so it will be Thermaltake's primary competitor in the today's test session:
Besides the tests in its standard configuration with one Thermalright TY-140 fan, Archon was also tested with two fans like that installed for air intake/exhaust in two rotation speed modes: at quiet 900 and maximum 1300 RPM.
The results of our cooling efficiency tests are given on the diagram and in the table below:
The results show that overclocking community has just got another super-cooler at their disposal. Thermaltake FrioOCK proved to be extremely efficient. For example, with two default 130 mm fans rotating at 1010 RPM the new cooler is just as good as Thermalright Archon with one default 140 mm fan at 900 RPM (we are going to talk about acoustics in the next chapter of our review). At the same time, with one default fan rotating at its maximum speed of 1280-1300 RPM Archon doesn’t let the temperature of the hottest processor core to go beyond 80 degrees. To achieve the same result with Thermaltake FrioOCK, its fans had to be sped up to 1700 RPM.
In the end, Thermaltake FrioOCK in its default configuration turned out more efficient than Thermalright Archon in its default configuration. Although this victory comes at a price: the noise level is fairly high, since the new Thermaltake cooler has to have its fans working at least at 1800 RPM. However, the Archon fan at its maximum speed of 1300 RPM produces considerably less noise. By the way, Thermalright super-cooler takes its revenge very quickly, once you install a second TY-140 fan for air exhaust. Nevertheless, I have to admit that the efficiency of Thermaltake FrioOCK is truly impressive.
Since the new cooler demonstrated such remarkable results, we decided to check it out during maximum CPU overclocking test. FrioOCK with the fans at 1290 RPM coped perfectly fine with our six-core Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor overclocked to 4.45 GHz with Vcore set at 1.46875 V (for comparison purposes on the left you can see the results of Archon cooler with identical frequency and voltage settings):
Thermaltake FrioOCK (2 x 1290 RPM)
Thermalright Archon (2 x 910 RPM)
The peak temperature of the hottest processor core reached 88°C. Thermalright Archon with two fans at 910 RPM showed the same results, but at a lower level of noise, as you probably guessed. When we overclocked our test CPU to the same level, with two FrioOCK fans rotating at 2000 RPM the temperature dropped by only 4°C, while at the maximum 1300 RPM speed of two TY-140 fans on the Archon the peak temperature got 7°C lower.
Thermaltake FrioOCK (2 x 2000 RPM)
Thermalright Archon (2 x 1300 RPM)
Thermaltake FrioOCK can maintain our processor’s stability at its maximum frequency of 4.5 GHz and 1.475 V Vcore only at the maximum speed of both its 130 mm fans:
Thermaltake FrioOCK (2 x 2260 RPM)
Very few coolers can do the same, even though this result is obtained at a significant noise level. so, let’s actually take a closer look at the acoustic performance of our today’s testing participamnts now.
We measured the amount of noise produced by the coolers throughout the speed range of their fans according to the method explained above. You can see the result in the next diagram:
Unfortunately, the noise level of Thermaltake FrioOCK is above the subjective comfort level even at the minimal rotation speed of its fans and is very far from being noiseless. It can compete against Thermalright Archon in acoustics only in the 920-1280 RPM rotation speed range, but even at these low speeds two Archon fans work quieter, not to mention the amazingly quiet mode when only one fan is working. If you take a closer look at the comparative noise graph, you will see that high level of noise is the price you will have to pay for superb cooling efficiency of Thermaltake FrioOCK.
The new Thermaltake cooler is totally worth checking out, especially for overclockers who need maximum cooling efficiency at all costs and do not mind the noise. And FrioOCK will prove absolutely up to their expectations. Today this cooler demonstrated exceptionally high efficiency for an air-cooler allowing us to squeeze every last megahertz out of our six-core processor at a substantially high core voltage setting, which is something very few CPU coolers can actually do. So, without a doubt, the new product from Thermaltake will be very popular among overclocking fans, who enjoy challenging super-hot CPUs. This superior cooling efficiency is the reason we are proud to award Thermaltake FrioOCK with our Ultimate Innovation title:
At the same time, note that Thermaltake FrioOCK is far from being acoustically comfortable or quiet even at the lowest rotation speed of its two 130 mm fans. And at the speeds when FrioOCK demonstrates its great cooling efficiency it generates so much noise, that it becomes a less attractive choice than similarly priced Thermalright Archon. Moreover, we believe not all the potential of this cooler has been actually uncovered yet. Arranging the heatpipes inside the heatsink body in a staggered order could help distribute the heat more evenly over the heatsink plates; and removing the plastic casing and using silicone fan mounts instead could lower the noise. These minor modifications could make FrioOCK even more efficient and definitely quieter. And while it is up to Thermaltake engineers to decide whether to use these modifications or not in their future cooler revisions, the cooler choice is totally up to you.