Several years ago I ran an experiment on a set of Samsung PC-100 memory to find the effects of cooling memory and if it would benefit overclock performance. The processor used was an Intel Pentium III running at 500 MHz with plenty of potential for overclocking. At the time memory did not come with any type of heatsink or heat shield; the concept wasn't even thought of and Mushkin had not yet released their heatsink which later became the industry standard.
To cool the memory, which at the time wasn't much warmer than ambient air I used a government surplus heatsink that was shipped to me in a two foot section. The aluminum bar was cut down to size with a hack saw and held in place with several rubber bands and standard silicon thermal paste as was the standard at the time. The appearance wasn't pretty and neither were the test results, I concluded that additional cooling to the sample PC 100 memory did not gain a performance advantage over the bare modules, even when pushed to 150 FSB.
Times have certainly changed and even budget memory comes with a heatsink these days. Memory now runs much warmer than the ambient air surrounding it and companies are spending a great deal of time and effort to cool their products. While early coolers were held in place with what amounted to double sided tape from 3M and the coolers were more for appearance than performance, a few companies have invested in thermal transfer material to effectively transfer heat away from the RAM and pass it to the cooler.
Thermaltake is now taking the idea of the cooling RAM to a new level and incorporating one of their most popular product lines. The new Thermaltake RamOrb (PN: CL-R0029) is now shipping to retail and e-tail locations and will be available in the coming weeks.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Thermaltake RamOrb uses a single 6mm heatpipe to draw heat away from the aluminum blocks that fit over each side of the memory stick. A fan is placed in the middle of a dissipation area where fins are soldered to the heatpipe.
The blue LED fan is quite small but adequate for cooling memory; it measures only 50 x 10mm and is powered by a 4-pin Molex power connector. Each RamOrb cooler has its own pass through power connector, so it is possible to power two or more coolers with a single 4-pin connection from the power supply. The fan is rated at only 20dBA when running with 12 Volts at 4500 RPM so you should not hear the RamOrb coolers outside of your case and other fans such as CPU, GPU and power supply will be louder than the RamOrb.
While not labeled in the specifications, the RamOrb works with DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 memory modules. Removing the memory from the cooler is easy, so the product should scale with your system upgrades quite well.
Pricing is still a mystery at this time since retail and e-tail locations have yet to list the RamOrb. Given Thermaltake's large network of resellers, finding the product will not be difficult once it hits the supply chain.
Our two sample RamOrb coolers came to us in the standard packaging, but in limited edition G.Skill labeling. Thermaltake and G.Skill teamed up to provide samples of the RamOrb with G.Skill's new highly sought after PI memory running at 1100 MHz. Other than the additional G.Skill branding and the included memory, the Thermaltake RamOrb seen in todays review will be the same as what you can purchase on the retail shelves.
The RamOrb follows Thermaltakes traditional packaging and includes a window that allows you to see the cooler. The initial packaging lists DDR and DDR2 as being supported, but I would suspect later revisions will list DDR3 as well.
The back of the package shows specifications, features and even includes a small picture of the RamOrb in action on a motherboard.
The side of the package shows the images of the features in detail.
The other side has additional images of the RamOrb.
With the inner package removed we see that Thermaltake has isolated the cooler and fins away from the accessories. This will keep the cooler from being damaged during shipping.
The Thermaltake RamOrb
Here we see the cooler with the G.Skill PI memory installed and how yours should look once memory is installed in the cooler. Notice the length of the cable; you should be able to run the power cable to a CD/DVD ROM as long as your memory is on the side of the case. Some motherboards place memory in odd locations and running a dedicated power connector to the memory may be needed.
On the back we get a better look at the copper fins that are soldered to the copper heatpipe. The actual shield is made of aluminium.
Here is a closer look at the fin to heatpipe connection. Many companies simply place the fins over the pipe and do not take the extra step of securing them with solder. Thermaltake did not take the easy way out and managed to get a tight secure connection that will transfer heat better.
When I first opened the package and saw the RamOrb I was worried about spacing, but the heatpipe is able to rotate inside of the cooler making it possible to angle the fan and fins.
Using an Allen Head, the two aluminium shields are easily removed making memory installation a snap. You can see that Thermaltake has already applied thermal paste on the cooler where it holds the heatpipe. Our sample cooler came with thermal transfer material already in place; retail products will include the material in the accessory bag along with silicone compound. You can tell by the indentions that the transfer material presses firmly across the memory modules and will even conform to their shape.
For those interested in more information about the G.Skill memory used in our testing, here is a picture of the specifications and model number for the DDR2 memory.
Accessories and Documentation
Everything needed to attach your DDR, DDR2 or DDR3 memory is included. Be sure to remove the thin plastic protective layer from the transfer material before installing the modules to gain the maximum performance of the cooler. As you can see, thermal paste is included as well as the Allen head driver.
The documentation will walk you through installation with a series of images.
Testing System and Results
Processor: Intel QX6700 (Supplied by Intel)
Motherboard: Gigabyte X38-DQ6 (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Memory: G.Skill PC2-8800 2x2GB PI (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Graphics Card: ASUS HD 3870 TOP (Supplied by ASUS)
Cooling: Thermaltake MaxORB (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate
Temperatures were read with a thermal probe similar to the one used in our T.E.C.C. unit. A probe was placed next to a memory module and held in place with a strong tape to keep it from moving. This allowed us to get an accurate temperature reading of the memory module. Several tests were performed, with and without the cooler to ensure accuracy. The memory was tested with and without the RamOrb and with and without the fan being powered. This was mainly conducted to answer my own questions of the usefulness of the fan.
To stress the memory I ran a 32M SuperPI test and read the results at the end of Loop 10.
Just to note, the G.Skill memory used for testing runs at only 1.8 Volts and does not get very warm under standard load. The memory is extremely efficient at 1100MHz. Most enthusiasts looking to cool their memory will be running in the 2.2 to 2.4 Voltage range and your results should show a larger reduction in temperatures than our G.Skill PI.
With the ambient air temperature of 25.5 degrees, the RamOrb was able to keep the memory module to just 32.1 C when the fan was activated. The chart shows the progression of the cooling, all the way down to just a bare memory stick. The memory running without a shield rose to near 40C under load.
There are several things to consider before deciding on purchasing Thermaltake's RamOrb coolers. The first is the type of memory you are planning to use. To be honest the G.Skill memory supplied to us by Thermaltake isn't really a module that suffers from high temperatures; it is actually one of the most efficient modules on the market and that is why it is in such high demand to enthusiasts. My Winchip memory running at 1200MHz and using 2.4 Volts on the other hand would benefit a great deal from the RamOrb.
The next consideration is your memory packaging. My early tests with DDR2 several years ago resulted in several dead modules. This was due to the way Crucial mounted their coolers to the memory and it made removal deadly, at least for the RAM. Make sure you run a search and investigate ways to remove your ram from their factory applied coolers. There are a few sure fire ways to achieve your goal of removing the sticks, but this varies depending on how they were put together. Spending a solid hour researching the proper method for your modules may just save you a few dollars in the end. With that said, our own Andrew Jones constructed a guide not too long ago which delves into ways of removing the spreaders with as little risk as possible.
The Thermaltake RamOrb is designed to cool your memory and it does a good job of it. The benefits of cooler running memory are still up in the air, but with todays BGA packaging running memory at a lower temperature is a sure fire way to extend the life of the product. Users with little case air circulation should take note that a case running with a 40C ambient air temperature and high performance memory could lead to damaged solder between the memory PCB and the BGA modules over time due to the heat cycles.
On the appearance side of things, the RamOrb adds to the overall look of your system if you have a case window. If you frequent LAN parties a few people will notice your trick RAM coolers and ask about them the instant they are seen. Inside the case the blue LED adds to your bling factor and does it while actually cooling.
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