02/17/2006 | 05:54 PM
I have to be frank with you: I was not excited about testing another cooler with heatpipes at all. Its construction was no revolution any more and has become quite common these days: copper footing, three heatpipes, tower-heatsink and a 120-mm fan. It meant that the thermal performance of this cooler could be quite predictable. One of our latest articles called Battle of the Titans: Super Coolers from Scythe, Thermaltake and Zalman Face to Face demonstrated very clearly that if it is a really good cooler, it will be as efficient as the best solutions from the well-known brand names of today. Despite significant construction differences, Zalman CNPS9500 LED and Scythe Ninja performed almost equally well, and Thermaltake Big Typhoon was close behind them. So, we thought if the new cooler has some design drawbacks or construction flaws, it should turn out somewhat less efficient than these leaders.
Well, if we know everything beforehand, why waste time on tests? Am I right? It turned out that I was completely wrong, but I realized it later. And at first I though I should nevertheless check out some details about this cooling solution, that is why I went on the Tuniq company’s web-site. The information available on this web-site didn’t inspire me at first: the listed product range appeared surprisingly small. There were only two case models and one single cooler mentioned in the Products section. However, the About Us section helped me regain my enthusiasm, because it said that Tuniq was a division of Sunbeamtech, a pretty well-known name in the industry. So, this warmed up my curiosity about the product, especially since we haven’t had any solutions from Sunbeamtech or Tuniq reviewed on our site yet.
Please welcome Tuniq Tower 120 cooler!
First let’s take a look at the official technical specifications of the cooler:
Tuniq Tower 120 cooler is shipped in a nice-looking box with a plastic insertion, which allows you to see the cooler itself:
The box looks pretty worn-out, however despite all the transportation hassles the contents was pretty safe and secure due to the way it was packed:
Not just the cooler itself, but each component of the bundle was placed into an individual section. The porous foam inside the box protects the bundle from severe transportation damage, just like in our case.
The bundle includes a user’s manual, an H-shaped plate with holes for different type of processor retention, two backplates for Socket 478 and LGA775, four spring thumb screws for Socket 478 and LGA775 fastening, two spring thumb screws for K8 AMD processor (Socket 754, 939, 940) retention mechanisms, four screws for fastening the fan frame. Besides it also comes with a fan rotation speed regulator that is installed into the case rear panel and a small tube of thermal paste.
The name of the cooler – Tower 120 – is a pretty precise description of its design. The cooler is shaped like a tower with a 120mm fan.
The three heatpipes have numerous aluminum plates threaded onto them. The cross-section of the tower is of rectangular shape.
The top black cover turned out to be the base of the metal frame for the fan. It can be easily removed:
So, you may easily replace the original fan with a regular 120x25mm fan, if you wish. However, the manufacturer stresses that nine blades of their original fan are more efficient than seven blades of other common fans.
There are three grooves in the copper footing of the Tuniq Tower 120 cooler. The heatpipes sit in these grooves and thus receive better contact with the footing (bigger contact area).
Tuniq Tower 120 cooler boasts very smart and well-thought design. The only thing it really lacks is the finish on the copper footing. There is simply no finish at all, I would say:
I used to believe that Thermaltake coolers were the ones with the worst polished footing. No I see that I was greatly mistaken :) I even had the feeling that I would scratch myself over the rough surface of the cooler sole.
It is not for nothing that I mentioned Thermaltake. If we look at Tuniq Tower 120, it will surely remind us of Thermaltake Sonic Tower. However, our today’s hero has every single trifle taken care of and is free from multiple Thermaltake’s flaws. We have already discussed Thermaltake Sonic Tower in great detail in our review called Battle of the Titans: Super Coolers from Scythe, Thermaltake and Zalman Face to Face , however I think that I would still mention a few things here again.
Thermaltake Sonic Tower
You will agree that these two coolers have a lot in common. Even their names sound similarly: Tuniq Tower / Sonic Tower, although this is an indisputable coincidence. Sonic Tower has no grooves in the footing, the pipes are just slightly flattened to increase the contact area. The fan of the Tuniq Tower 120 is mounted in the center, which is exactly what we thought would be great to improve the cooling efficiency of the Thermaltake Sonic Tower. It creates much better airflow with higher cooling efficiency compared to what you get when the fan is installed on one of the sides of the heatsink. Moreover, by placing the fan into the heatsink, you do not increase the size of the cooling solution. As you remember, Thermaltake’s cooler will not fit onto any mainboard. Last time we had to move the memory DIMMs into the farther slots when we tried to install the Sonic Tower onto the mainboard.
Installation difficulties with Thermaltake Sonic Tower
As for Tuniq Tower 120, the manufacturer claims that it will fit onto the majority of boards and into most mid- and full-tower cases out there, because its heatsink fins start at 5.5cm above the mainboard PCB and no electronic components should be in the way at that height. The cooler itself is only 15.5cm high, while the standard case depth is 19cm.
The installation of Tuniq Tower 120 is fairly simple. If it is a Socket 478 or LGA775 mainboard, first you fasten the corresponding backplate onto the back side of the PCB. Then you cover the CPU top with a thin layer of thermal paste and install the cooler. You screw it to the backplate through the corresponding holes in the H-shaped plate. You will hardly ever mix them together, but just in case they are all marked.
As for the AMD K8 processors, the installation is absolutely identical, with that only difference that you use a default backplate and fasten it with two screws.
These are thumb screws, as I have already said, and you can tighten and untighten them easily with bare hands due to ribbed tops. This was exactly the retention mechanism we would advice Thermaltake to use for their Big Typhoon cooler. Tuniq guys seem to have listened very carefully to recommendations like that and as a result, they eliminated these drawbacks typical of their competitor.
Well, Tuniq Tower 120 is easier to install, is more compatible with contemporary platforms. Now all we have to check is the cooling efficiency.
I have already referred to our previous article called Battle of the Titans: Super Coolers from Scythe, Thermaltake and Zalman Face to Face for a good reason. The thing is that it doesn’t make much sense to test only one cooler without comparing it against any other competitor’s, and the more testing participants are involved the more informative the comparison would be. However, it is a pretty time consuming task to test the whole bunch of coolers anew. So, I decided that I would simply assemble the same testbed we used for that previous test session and see how the newcomer from Tuniq will perform against the rivals.
The testbed was configured as follows:
We used the same thermal chamber to maintain stable environment temperature. As for the software, we used S&M utility version 1.7.3 and SpeedFan 4.26. The operating system was also practically the same, because it was restored from the image created with Norton Ghost. Since all the testing conditions were absolutely identical as in the previous case, we decided to test only Tuniq Tower 120 cooler and borrow the results of the other comparison participants from the previous article.
Only one question remained unanswered: what fan rotation speed we should set. At the maximum fan rotation speed of 2,000rpm it works just like any other 120mm fan: it is not too noisy, but you can still hear it working. But if you reduce the speed down to about 1,600rpm, the noise from the fan will be completely absorbed by the other system noises and will be eaten up by the case. Moreover, this was the speed our Scythe Shogun, Scythe Ninja and Thermaltake Sonic Tower coolers worked at during our last test session.
So, the testbed with the overclocked to 4GHz processors was placed inside a thermal chamber with the constant temperature maintained at 30o C. Before the CPU temperature got stable the system was idling for a while. After the temperature in idle mode got stable we measured it (idle). Then we ran the S&M utility version 1.7.3 with 100% workload and had it running until the CPU temperature stopped rising (burn mode). The temperature changes were all checked and the following diagram was built from the results:
You can see very well how the temperature inside the thermal chamber was rising and then leveling out. Slight deviations from the level can be explained by the way the thermal chamber works: it turns on and off to make sure that the temperature inside is 30±0.5o C (29.5-30.5o C). The temperature in idle mode varied between 41.5o C and 43.5o C resulting into the average of 43o C. In burn mode under the workload created by the S&M utility the temperature rose to 52.5-53.5o C, 53o C on average. Everything seemed to have gone perfectly well, and I could have ended the tests here, however the Scythe Ninja cooler that was the best in that previous test session could only cool the CPU down to 47o C in idle mode and 60o C in burn mode.
I started looking for differences between the testing and measuring conditions of our today’s test session and the previous one. And I did find them! I used the RightMark CPU Clock Utility version 1.8 for throttling management, and this time I had a newer version of this program. So, I repeated my tests again.
If we disregard the preheating period for the thermal chamber that was absent during the second round of tests, the results shown by the Tuniq Tower 120 were absolutely the same: 43o C and 53o C in idle and in burn modes respectively. The conclusion was as follows: there must be some other small differences between the test systems that I accidentally omitted. Otherwise, how could I explain that an unknown cooling solution easily outperforms the best coolers out there? And the advantage is really tangible! I couldn’t think of anything else that could have been different, so there was only one way-out left: I had to test the other coolers again, too.
Well, since I have just revealed such remarkable results of the new Tuniq Tower 120, why not pay some extra attention to the thermal paste that comes with it? However, I regretted this brave decision: sticky, thick thermal paste of dark gray color would want to evenly smear over the CPU cover. It would stick to anything possible but for the processor. After some vain efforts to make it look decent, I decided to put up with a few chunks in the very middle and set the cooler on top of the CPU. Actually, it would solely be Tuniq’s fault if the results worsen, because of this stubborn and hard-to-smear thermal solution.
But, the situation didn’t get any worse at all. With Tuniq TX-1 thermal paste the results remained the same: 43o C in idle mode and 53o C in burn mode. It indicates not only that the thermal conductivity of the Tuniq paste is similar to that of Zalman paste, but also that the differences between various kinds of thermal paste are negligible because of high processor heat dissipation.
Well, let’s remove the Tuniq Tower 120 cooler and install Zalman CNPS9500 LED instead. Let’s see what the repeated tests will produce:
This was a truly unexpected result! The cooler didn’t perform any better, and simply repeated the results obtained in the previous test session. Just to make sure I removed the cooler and reinstalled it again, but nothing happened: 47o C in idle mode and 60o C under workload. It could mean only one thing: it’s time we gave up our search for missing differences and admitted the evident: there are no differences in the testing environments and conditions, the comparison is absolutely correct. Simply the new Tuniq Tower 120 cooler is a much more efficient solution than its famous rivals. You can see it much better on the diagram below:
The results are especially impressive if we take into account the fact that Tuniq Tower 120 has some room left for improvement, i.e. it has not yet exhausted all its reserves. For example, you can polish off the footing and thus gain a little bit more on the efficiency side. As for the faster rotating fan, I wouldn’t take this option into consideration, because a 120mm fan working at 2,000rpm can be a little bit too noisy for a home system.
What will a hardware enthusiast do when he finds out about a great cooling solution like that? Of course, he will try to buy it. I also went online to Tuniq’s web-site section “where to buy”, but found no answer to my question. Shoppin.com search also resulted in a single offer from one store where this baby is selling for $49.
But this is a good sign. If they start selling this solution, then it means that there is some interest. And hopefully after our review this interest will increase.
According to the results of our tests we decided to award Tuniq Tower 120 cooler with our prestigious Editor’s Choice Award.