Thermaltake needs no introduction to most of you, they have been around since 1999 providing a wide range of computer products. From their initial offering of CPU coolers, Thermaltake has blossomed into a company providing a wide range of products. Thermaltake’s current product offerings include computer cases, power supplies, hard drive enclosures, hard drive docking stations, water cooling kits and components, server products, and a whole host of accessories. Whew! that’s quite a list!
Today we will be looking at Thermaltake’s flagship CPU cooler, the Frio. Thermaltake advertises the Frio cooler as being “Designed For Overclocking”, so that is exactly what we will do! First though, lets get a little history lesson on Thermaltake and what the company is all about.
Company Profile (As taken from Thermaltake’s web site)
We live in a world where most things seem to move at the speed of light. At Thermaltake, we feel the same way and that is exactly how Thermaltake conducts itself to deliver innovative, reliable and customer-centric solutions to the worldwide market.
Since the beginning of Thermaltake in 1999, it has been at the forefront of creating new and exciting products at a time where most computer users were provided little to no choices for components that may seem irrelevant, but in reality crucial to the performance of a PC.
Thermaltake Server Series solutions, with years of thermal experience and industry leadership, sets its goal on reforming total thermal management in server segment by formulating the perfect mixture of versatility, efficiency and thermal management with each respective server product category: Rackmount Chassis, Server Fixed & Redundant Power Supply and Server CPU Cooling Management Solutions.
With its comprehensive line of products available, it enables Thermaltake’s core customers to enjoy a one-stop-shop experience, reduce product design-in evaluation period and most important of all, flawless integration process. Each of Thermaltake’s strengths enables its customer to focus on their core business while taking advantage of the skills and efficiency of a single thermal management solution partner.
Values & Principles
- While still a relatively young company, established in 1999, Thermaltake is built on unwavering will and dedication to address issues and innovate at the same time for computer enthusiasts and corporate users worldwide .
- With strong support of Research & Development team standing behind the brand, Thermaltake is committed to never-follow but always-lead.
- In past decades, the industrial and technological advancements in different fields have shaped the world we live in today and have also made a big impact on the environment. Thermaltake takes great measures to ensure the product that we produce relieve these impacts by being first to act on 80 PLUSÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â® specification for computer power supply that greatly reduces the amount of electricity that a computer consumes.
- Always striving to be the best, we continuously benchmark our performance against the very best internally and externally.
- Customers are our greatest asset and Thermaltake does not take that for granted. That is why Thermaltake is the industry leading in customer service and customer support with around-the-clock automated product return service.
Thermaltake has always used excellent design quality for product packaging, and the Frio packaging continues this fine tradition. The packaging in general sports a black theme which seems to be popular amongst many computer part manufacturers. The front of the box has an attractive picture of the Frio with a blue light splashed behind it. There is also an oval banner proclaiming support for up to 220 watts of CPU heat dissipation. Also noted on the front of the box is the inclusion of two 120mm fans, 5 heatpipes, and the 4 in 1 socket compatibility. The back of the box is loaded with pictures of the contents along with the feature set of the Frio cooler. The side of the box lists the specifications of the cooler and the CPU socket compatibility.
Lets have a look inside and see what Thermaltake has provided in the package. Upon lifting the box lid you are presented with an instruction sheet and a warranty information pamphlet. A small white box containing all the installation hardware is tucked in to the left side of the styrofoam protective insert, along with an additional 120mm fan for use in a push/pull installation. You can also see in the picture below all the hardware needed for the different Intel and AMD CPU sockets. Thermaltake has done an excellent job of providing everything a user would need to get the most from this product
Here is the list of all the included accessories:
- Thermal grease
- AMD backplate
- Intel backplate
- 4 x white nylon washers
- 4 x black pad washers
- 2 x mounting clips each for socket 775, 1156, 1366, AM3, AM2+, AM2
- 4 X nut for Intel installations
- 4 x bolt for AMD installations
- 4 x screws for mount brackets
- 4 x vibration absorbing soft mount for second fan installation
Before we get much further along, a list of the Frio CPU Cooler specifications would be in order.
You might notice in the above specifications that the fans are rated at a RPM range from 1200 to 2500 RPM. This is because each included fan has a round dial type knob build in to the cabling, allowing for fan speed adjustment. While this is a nice feature, there really is no mounting option for this knob. This forces the user to open the case to gain access to the fan speed adjusting knob. Either a longer cable for the dial or perhaps the option to use a PCI expansion bracket would have been a good idea here. You do have the option of removing the knob completely if you so desire, but doing so would make the fan run at full speed all the time. Below are a couple pictures showing the fan cabling and attached fan speed adjustment dial.
It’s time to unveil the star of this show, the Frio Cooler itself! The Frio weighs in at a hefty 1,042g (2.297 lbs.) so it’s not a lightweight cooler by any stretch. Once we had this cooler mounted it did not appear to be too heavy as to flex or warp a motherboard, even when loaded up with both fans. We must say that the looks and build quality of the Frio are quite appealing to the eye. The black and red outer areas coupled with the white fan blades really give this cooler an exceptional look. When handling the Frio, the build quality becomes apparent rather quickly. The unit feels extremely solid and everything attached to the cooler fits tightly, a testament to adhering to tight tolerance specifications. The Frio boasts five 8mm heatpipes designed in a “U” design, this should allow for quick dissipation of heat from the CPU’s surface through the copper base and aluminum fins. Speaking of aluminum fins, the Frio boasts no less that 48 rows of .5mm fins!
There are two red plastic bars across the top of the Frio, other that aesthetics they really have no useful function. Lifting the cooler with the red bars will more than likely result in them popping off, they are also not strong enough to use for removing the fan shrouds. These bars do bring a splash of color to the cooler and do compliment the looks quite nicely. Having a look at the nickle coated base reveals the area that will make contact with the CPU. Machine marks were visible to the naked eye, but the finish was overall pretty good.
Installation of the Frio CPU cooler was pretty straight forward. However, installing the cooler according to the instructions for Intel sockets, we were concerned about the lack of insulation between the backing plate and the motherboard. There are two sets of washers that come with the Frio, one set is the thin white nylon style, and the other is a thicker black pad style washer. According to the instructions you are to use the thick black washers on the top side of the motherboard between the mounting bracket and the face of the motherboard. Instead we opted to use the thin nylon washers there and utilize the black pad style washers on the back side to insulate the backing plate from the motherboard.Â Not using the black pad style washers for the backing plate resulted in the backing plate itself to come uncomfortably close to touching the motherboard once tightened down. An easy enough fix, and kudos to Thermaltake for providing the pieces necessary to appease our paranoia!
Once we decided on our preferred method of installation, the first thing was to attach the mounting brackets to the base of the cooler and place the washers over the studs.
Next we applied the thermal compound to the CPU, and positioned the Frio top side down. Then we placed the motherboard in position over the mounting studs, installed the black pad style washers, and secured the cooler with the provided backing plate and nuts.
Once installed the the fit was terrific, and looked very nice indeed. Because we installed the Frio on a mATX motherboard, there was not a lot of room between the memory and the cooler once installed. Luckily this H55 platform motherboard requires dual channel memory to be installed in the 2nd and 4th dimm slots which allowed the cooler to fit. We are also using G.SKill memory that has very tall heat spreaders, so installing the memory in the first dimm slot would not work had we been required to do so. You will want to make sure that your dimm slots are either a good distance from the CPU socket area, or that your memory modules are not too tall should your motherboard require memory to be installed in the dimm slot closest to the CPU. Any standard sized memory without heatsinks attached to the top of the heat spreaders will fit just fine in any dimm slot.
Here are a few pictures of the Frio installed with a single fan attached.
All test results were performed in an open air environment (Tech Station) with an ambient temperature of 72Ã‚Â° Fahrenheit (22c).Â For the purpose of this review we will compare the Frio to the stock Intel cooler with a copper base. This should give the potential buyer a good idea of the cooling benefits the Frio provides over a stock setup. Innovation Cooling Diamond thermal paste was used on both coolers, our favorite. We will attempt a solid 1 GHz overclock from the stock 3.06 GHz speed of the i3 540. Idle temps were recorded after 30 minutes, and load temps were recorded after a 20 pass run of LinX stress test. Each test was run using a single fan configuration, and then a dual fan push/pull configuration. Fans were run at highest speed to show maximum cooling potential. We used RealTemp 3.40 to monitor the temperatures, and the highest reading from all cores was used for the results.
The following components were used in the test bed:
- Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H
- G.Skill 2X2 Gb Trident DDR3-2000
- PC Power and Cooling 750 Watt PSU
- Intel i3 540 CPU
- WD 500 Gb Sata HDD
- Lite-On Sata DVDRW
The testing began at stock 3.06 GHz cpu speed at the default 1.137 vCore.
As you can see by the above results, the improvement over stock cooling is tremendous. As we have found with most coolers offering a push/pull option, the results vary only slightly when adding the second fan. These results alone would justify upgrading to the Frio cooler even if you do not plan on overclocking. Simply upgrading to this cooler on a system that will run at stock speeds will increase the life of your CPU based on the the cooling performance.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Thermaltake advertises “Designed for Overclocking” when describing the Frio. So, lets see how well it stands up when we start adding some speed and voltage to the CPU!
After reviewing the results from the stock speed and voltage test, we are expecting some pretty good results as we ramp up the speed and voltage to the CPU. We started off with a mild overclock of 3.5 Ghz using 1.20 vCore. The stock Intel Cooler began to reveal pretty warm temperatures, but the Frio was not troubled in the least with the added voltage and CPU speed. Here are the idle and load test results.
Again, the difference between a single and dual fan setup was minimal at best. Also the temperature spread between the two coolers begins to expand to over a 20c difference. Pretty impressive stuff so far!
Next, we overclocked the CPU to 3.8 GHz using 1.22 vCore. We are quickly running out of head room with the Intel cooler, but as expected the Frio handles the additional heat without so much as a whimper.
For the first time we see a 2c difference between the Frio’s single and dual fan configuration. I think at this point we can call the Intel cooler maxed out, but we’ll try one more time at our goal of a 1 GHz overclock. The Frio obviously has a lot of headroom left as it has only reached 50c territory.
Next was our target 1 GHz overclock. The intel cooler reached 80c after a few minutes of the LinX pass, so we shut it down. You guessed it…… our paranoia set in again! However, the Frio continued to humm right along as if to beg for more.
The Frio continued to impress only reaching the mid 50c area. As I’m sure you can see the CPU speed and voltages could be raised quite a bit more and still be within the “Safe” range. There is no arguing at this point that the “Designed for Overclocking” label attached to the Frio is indicative of what it can do. Time permitting I’ll push the envelope further and post the results at a later date.
There are, no doubt, literally hundreds of CPU cooling options on the market and pricing can vary widely. The Thermaltake Frio is positioned at a price point ($59.99 USD Suggested Retail) that falls in the middle of the CPU cooler market.Â The Frio’s performance makes the price a bargain when compared to other high end CPU coolers on the market. Something else to consider along the line of pricing is the fact that the Frio comes with all the necessary hardware needed to install it on all the current CPU sockets on the market. The inclusion of two 120mm fans just adds to the value of the Frio. There is no additional cost of having to buy fans or backing plates which are not included on some other high end CPU coolers, all the goodies are included with the Frio.
- Complete set of accessories including two 120mm fans.
- Easy Installation which can be easily altered for the paranoid amongst us!
- Single and dual fan push/pull installation options
- Beautiful aesthetics, pleasing to the eye.
- Great build quality.
- Fan speed knob/dial should have a longer cable or PCI bracket option for easy access.
- Depending on application, alternative mounting options not in the instructions may be necessary.
If your looking for a major upgrade to stock CPU cooling without a major price tag, the Thermaltake Frio should be on your short list. Considering the price, performance, build quality, and bundled accessories it is easy to give the Thermaltake Frio CPU cooler an Overclockers Tech rating of 9/10 and our gold award.
Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)