IntroductionThermaltake is back with one of our favorite CPU cooling designs, the Orb. The latest offering is a revamp of the MaxOrb we tested back in December, but with a twist of copper added in for good measure. The original MaxOrb fared well in our performance tests and I found the mounting mechanism for Intel motherboards innovative. To this day, I use the MaxOrb on one of my open-air test rigs and have yet to uncover any issues with the design.Copper is better at pulling heat away from an object, but it takes longer to pull the heat away from copper when it is used as a fin. This said, I am not too sure why Thermaltake chose to make the fins on the new MaxOrb copper, since in theory it would take longer to dispel the heat from them in relation to aluminum. The inner loop of fins is still made of aluminum as you will see in the images, so maybe the change is purely cosmetic. Let's dive in and take a look at the new Thermaltake MaxOrb EX; we'll then test it the same way we did the MaxOrb and all of our other CPU coolers to see if Thermaltake were able to get even more performance out of the Orb design.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The MaxOrb EX plays on both AMD and Intel LGA platforms. The best feature about the cooler for me is that you do not have to remove the motherboard from its case to install the cooler. The Intel mount is a very good design that allows the cooler to install almost exactly like the stock Intel heatsink.Other than the outer row of copper fins, the MaxOrb EX and MaxOrb share the exact specifications and even the same 120mm fan. The fan uses a three-pin design and has a variable resistor located on the outer rim, allowing the user to fine tune the fan speed while at the same time changing the acoustic footprint of the cooler. The best thing is that Thermaltake is not charging a premium for the copper EX. The same 69.99 MSRP is shared with both coolers, and just like many other Thermaltake products the availability is good since Thermaltake products are sold just about anywhere computer accessories are sold.
The front of the package allows us to see the cooler in all of its shiny copper glory. Thermaltake put a lot of useful information right on the front like the compatibility list and some of their marketing buzzwords.
The side shows a couple of graphics on how the cooler works, but the description in English that states, "This is a computer CPU Cooler, please refer to our official website, http://www.thermaltake.com for detailed product information" leaves much to be desired.
The back portion of the box has several product images and a feature list.
The other side shows all of the specifications and a list of patents from the product.
The inner package is like many of Thermaltake's flagship coolers. The plastic keeps everything from moving around and the cooler is quite secure.
One of the best features on the MaxOrb EX is the user adjustable fan speed system. Many companies send along the same type of device but make it with a long wire so it can mount to the back of the case in a PCI slot cover. The wire is difficult to hide and usually longer than a full tower case is tall, making concealment impossible. For the MaxOrb the adjustment is right on the cooler and users can fine tune and forget.
As stated before, the main difference between the two MaxOrb coolers is the outside copper fins. Here we have a good look at the fins and their height. The fins are very thin but not as thin as those used on the Nexus coolers.
Along the outside we see the six large heatpipes that pull heat from the base and move it to the fin area. You can also see the inner fins in this picture.
The mounting mechanism on the MaxOrb is unique and allows the same hardware to be used for both AMD and Intel setups. The only difference is if the bracket will use screws or pins to hold it to the motherboard.
Blue LEDs light up the fan when active, but the real thing to look at here is the inner fins that are made of aluminium just like the first MaxOrb. We will have to see if changing the outer set alone will give the EX better cooling performance.
The base of the cooler wasn't exactly a mirror finish, but it was close. There were a couple of odd machine marks on the bottom, but I have seen worse.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
Testing eight to ten CPU coolers a month means I like simplicity when mounting them. The last thing I want to do is start yanking an entire system apart just to change the CPU heatsink, and that is on a moderately configured setup. For enthusiast systems it is even worse since many of you run several hard drives, a couple of optical drives, wires going all over and lights hanging. Pulling a motherboard can be an all day job, making a heatsink change one of the biggest pain in the butt operations around if you need to remove the motherboard.Thankfully, Thermaltake feels your pain and came up with a really cool way to mount the cooler without taking your motherboard out, whilst keeping the parts list (budget) down as well. The top mount is used for both AMD and Intel platforms. In the case of AMD systems, you use the motherboards own under-board bracket, or if you do not have one Thermaltake supplied a spare. For Intel setups, usually a sure motherboard removal with most companies' aftermarket heatsinks, you can attach the OEM style pins by clipping them to the top bracket and inserting the entire bracket/cooler combo directly to the board. I really like this arrangement.
The manual was written in a step-by-step fashion and is easy to follow along. The illustrations make for a fast look over so you know everything is performed correctly.
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.
Thermaltake was able to shave off a couple of degrees by using the copper outer layer of fins, and the cooler is a great little performer. Unfortunately, many other companies have really picked up the pace with new designs and have better performing coolers at a lower MSRP.
We saw little change in the MaxOrb to the MaxOrb EX when it comes to sound pressure. Since we test all of the fans at their highest settings, the chart shows the new EX running very loud. But since the cooler has a built-in variable resistor the end user can detune the cooler to achieve a much quieter experience without taking away a large portion of performance.
Final ThoughtsRecent product launches have really shaken up the performance database this month, with just about everyone getting a new cooler out before Computex. Take away the new Noctua, Sunbeamtech and ZEROtherm coolers and the MaxOrb EX would be in the running for our Best Performance award, but these other new coolers perform just a little better. Still, the Thermaltake MaxOrb EX is a great cooler that is capable of performing really well. The next thing to consider is the price. At 69.99 the EX is an enthusiast cooler, and one that even some enthusiasts might not consider given the high MSRP. The ZEROtherm Zen FZ120 is much cheaper, performs a tad better but does not have the same availability as Thermaltake products do. Availability is where the EX is really going to make users weigh the high cost. Do I buy it locally now for 69.99 or order something else online, wait a couple of days and save a couple of Dollars? - That is one for you to decide, but given my track record I will take it now and be done with it. One of the best things about the MaxOrb EX is the mounting system. If you are not looking to remove your motherboard, especially on Intel systems, there is not a lot of options out there. The MaxOrb EX is included in this limited field of products and that goes a long way with many users since the time of removal can be so much more than one would expect.
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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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