IntroductionThe idea of placing a fan inside of a heatsink has been around for a very long time. The first time an "Orb" style cooler was used on a CPU was around 1998 when a product became available through surplus catalogs that didn't have any markings other than on the fan. The fan was Panaflo branded and so this product became known as the Panaflo Orb. In reality this super cooler designed like a metal circle with a fan tucked in the middle was developed with HP's war chest in one of their secret Skunk Works style projects, and it was actually called the Polar Logic inside of the company. Back in the early Pentium III and K6-2 days companies were scrambling to make coolers that were able to handle 80 watt CPU loads coming from Xeon and Alpha super computer processors. Luckily the 80 watt processor never happened but the cooling technology that came from this 'cold' war did. It wasn't long before Thermaltake learned about the Polar Logic and made the design mainstream. The Golden Orb was the result, one the enthusiast welcomed. Since the Polar Logic was not designed for either AMD or Intel commercial processors the mounting mechanisms did not line up, thus leaving the door open for Thermaltake to make a consumer friendly Orb. The Golden Orb was followed by a new design called the Dragon Orb; this featured two fans inside of a taller circular heatsink. Since releasing the Dragon Orb, Thermaltake has been through a rainbow of colors and super sounding names for their Orb line and today we are going to take a look at the latest Orb. This heatsink uses the decade old Orb philosophy and merges the latest heatpipe technology to make the MaxOrb.
HP Polar Orb cooler on an early modified AMD Athlon slot processor.
The MaxOrb is designed to fit all socket 775, AM2, 939, 940 and 754 motherboards. Even though the cooler is large, a majority of the mass is located several inches above the motherboard and components. When using the MaxOrb with extremely large memory modules such as Corsair's Dominator Series you may have to move the memory over one slot. I tested the MaxOrb on an XFX reference 680i SLI with a 2GB kit from Winchip and needed to move the memory module closest to the CPU over one slot. When doing this remember to move the second module over one slot to retain dual channel capability.The Thermaltake MaxOrb uses a 3-pin power connector on the fan with a rheostat placed on the cooler. With the fan speed adjustment located on the unit, the option of controlling the speed from the back of the case is eliminated, but so is the wiring mess associated with it. A set it and forget it mentality has to be used but to be honest I can't say I like stringing extra cabling all over my case anyhow.
The front of the package has a window that shows the product and all of the possible processors that the product will fit.
The first side of the package has a nice illustration of how the cooler works and a description in eight languages.
The rear of the package goes over the feature list and has some images of the product.
The other side shows the specifications which we listed on the previous page.
The cooler and accessories are packaged inside of a clear plastic shell for protection.
From the top of the cooler the MaxOrb looks similar to other Thermaltake Orb products.
The side view tells a different story. As you can see this Orb has a rheostat mounted on the side so you can control the speed of the fans. Unlike other coolers, when you turn down the speed of the MaxOrb fan it will not reduce the brightness of the blue LEDs.
On this side you can see the way Thermaltake used three heatpipes and routed them to the fin area and back down to the base. This should theoretically double the cooling capacity of the MaxOrb.
The MaxOrb uses thin aluminium strips for the cooling fins. These can bend very easily so you need to be careful when mounting or moving the Orb by the fins.
Here you can see how Thermaltake made three rows of heatpipes to go around the cooler.
As you can see here the pipes go all the way around the cooler making use of the entire fin area.
The base of the MaxOrb is very smooth and has a mirror finish due to the nickel plating.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
The accessories that come with the MaxOrb are shown here. You will find the mounting system to be a little different than what most CPU coolers use. I was concerned about it not working with some motherboards but after checking several, the only problem I found was when using very tall memory modules. Like many other companies, Thermaltake did not send along any extras but none of the pieces are considered very small, so as long as you keep the parts you are not using in a secure location everything should go well.
Even though the documentation is on one oversized sheet, Thermaltake managed to include installation instructions in several different languages while detailing the installation process.
Test ResultsTweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
As you can see, the Thermaltake MaxOrb bests everything we have tested so far since we started using the T.E.C.C. method. The Intel and AMD retailers didn't stand a chance and were beaten by around 10 degrees C in both idle and load settings. The Rosewill Z5 was very close but the MaxOrb proved to be just a little better.
When it comes to SPL the MaxOrb is a bit louder than the Rosewill coolers, and comes very close to the retail coolers from Intel and AMD. Don't let the charts fool you though, with the built-in rheostat it is possible to reduce the fan speed thus reducing the noise, but of course your temperatures will suffer also.
Final ThoughtsThe Thermaltake MaxOrb does a good job carrying on the Orb name and design philosophy. As with the other Orb products I have used before, this level of performance does carry an audible penalty. While it is possible for an end user to adjust the fan speed to reduce the fan noise, the cooling capacity will also be reduced. Product availability is one of Thermaltake's strong suits. In the U.S. just about every computer shop I have entered carries their brands, and even Radio Shack is now carrying Thermaltake parts now. A quick scan on Pricegrabber shows the MaxOrb being offered for a little over $50 USD after shipping. All things considered, the MaxOrb is a well designed cooler with solid construction but the price is a turn off. For a almost $10 USD less the Rosewill Z5 is a better buy with both thermal and SPL performance that is comparable to the MaxOrb.
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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.
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