This is the first time I have had the pleasure of reviewing a product from Spire. Spire is an international, ISO-14001 certified company with its locations spread over in eight different countries. Being spread so widely gives Spire a better chance to serve its customer base and distribute more of their cooling products, power supplies, cases, and accessories. Spire puts most of their effort into going after the 20-45 demographic that can appreciate style, reliability and performance.
Spire's first cooler for me to review is the TherMax Pro. While Spire has also another in its line-up that is very similar to this cooler with the Spire TherMax II, that is the more expensive version with a higher rated CFM fan applied than in the TherMax Pro. Either way, these coolers come with Direct Touch heat pipes, which we all know can hold a bit of an edge over the flat copper or aluminum solid base designs.
Today we are testing the TherMax Pro and we get a chance to see just how well their take on a Direct Touch system works against our testing. Since we have tested some very similar style coolers previously, I can only imagine this cooler should be able to hold its own against the rest of our tested coolers. Let's get down to brass tacks and see just how the Spire TherMax Pro performs.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The SpireTherMax Pro is a relatively small cooler only measuring 125mm in height. The base of the cooler features three 8mm Direct Touch heat pipes that take the heat to the 45 stamped aluminum fins. The TherMax Pro is equipped with a 90mm Blue Star UV-reactive fan to whisk the heat away. Spire has also designed all of their mounting hardware to work off of the same retention clamps, to ease the installation process and keep things simple.
The TherMax Pro is designed to only accept one 90mm fan. Spire has released the TherMax Pro with a 53.12 CFM version of the BlueStar UV-reactive fan. The Spire TherMax II uses a 93.3 CFM version. Both of the BlueStar fans are rated to run at 29 dBA max, which is a bit more than the usual 21 dBA that most companies list. Spire has included a PCI-slot mountable fan controller, so that you may find the balance between fan noise and performance.
While Spire does have this cooler already on the Asian and European markets, it will not be available on US shelves until March of this year. I wasn't able to actually locate this cooler on any of my various searches through Google and Yahoo, both with EU searches. I was told from Spire that the cooler is €27.00 in the European market. With just a currency conversion, the cost would translate to around the $36 mark. Look for availability of the TherMax Pro to hit the shelves at Cool PC and Coolerguys.com first upon their US release.
The TherMax Pro comes in a very flashy red and black package with a see-through window displaying the cooler. Don't worry, the stickers don't come torn, they are this way due to a bit of mishandling on my part.
The side of the package has more red colouring, but not much else to show other than a ghosted design printed in the black area. They do, however, display their web address proudly at the bottom.
The back of the box is where Spire puts their mission statement. Beneath that is the listing of included hardware, followed with some product images of what else Spire has to offer.
This is just a mirror image of the other side.
Once the outer box is removed it reveals a three compartment package that contains all your hardware and mounts to get this cooler under way. I removed the mounts from the package for the image as they kept trying to fall out. When shipped, they are located in the right end cavity.
The Spire TherMax Pro
You can see this cooler follows the general rules for a tower cooler. The three heat pipes take the heat up to the stamped fins. Something to note is the way this cooler clamps on, more on this later.
The top of the TherMax Pro is capped with a Spire logo stamped top fin. This top fin also covers where the heat pipes would protrude, unlike that of a typical tower type of cooler where they are exposed. Spire has decided against the usual design here and I have to say it is a nice touch. Each of these 45 fins is also grooved at the right and left to accept the fan clamps.
This is the view the fan has of the cooler once it is installed. Each fin has a tab on the right and left to keep the fan on the cooler, so it won't shift right or left during use. At the bottom is a side view of the retention mechanism.
The business end of this Direct Touch cooler is a bit different from my previous coolers I have tested. Spire took the base and the pipes and built it as one piece prior to the milling process. What this did was, it made the entire base surface flat and level, both the copper pipes and the aluminum base. No gaps to fill like with some coolers.
Take a closer look at the retention mechanism on this cooler. As it sits it can lock onto AMD brackets, but with a simple addition of an adapter plate, Intel CPU's can benefit as well. This retainer did take the use of two hands to lock onto each side, but the pressure required isn't too much that installation becomes problematic.
Here we get a look at the side of the completely assembled cooler. Notice how the tabs I pointed out earlier hold the fans anti-vibration pads into place. A simple clamp system locks the Blue Star fan into place.
Here you get a better look at the way the fan is nestled onto the cooler. You can more easily see the rubber anti-vibration pads. Like a lot of other coolers on the market, the TherMax Pro also uses the wire fan retainer clips that many manufacturers do.
A front-on view of the assembled TherMax Pro shows that the 90mm, 53.12 CFM fan does cover the fin area pretty well. As you can see, the Blue Star fan is aptly named as the 7 blades are blue and this is the UV-reactive part.
Accessories and Documentation
Spire sends the TherMax Pro with a large assortment of goodies. Let's start at the top. They supply a new LGA1366 back plate and a Blue Star, UV, 90mm fan. Moving down, they use the wire fan retaining clips to keep the fan mounted to the cooler. There are four pins that insert in the LGA775 bracket to lock the mounting bracket in place.
As far as the supplied wiring and electronics, Spire sends a fan controller with not only an adapter to wire the controller to the fan, but a 4-pin to 2-pin power adapter as well. On the very right inside of the fan clip is the supplied screws that are for assembling the LGA1366 mount and a hex-head screw for the fan controller. Lastly, Spire has sent a 0.5g tube of Stars-700 silver grease as their TIM of choice.
These are the two mounting adapters that Spire sends with the TherMax Pro. The one to the left is the LGA1366 mount with the four screws in place holding the back plate in place. This obviously makes the mount on the right for LGA775, which uses a simple solution to a push-pin install. Both brackets are flanked with two locking tabs on the outer ring. This is where the clips on the TherMax Pro lock onto.
This is a close up of the already installed anti-vibration pads that come on the fan. They are made of a soft rubber and can be removed and replaced if needed, simply by pulling them through the screw hole.
Here is a look at the underside of the LGA775 mount. The clear plastic part snaps into the motherboard with a click. Then once all four are into the board, the top has a hole to receive the pin which spreads the locks and keeps it in place. Removal was simple, it just took a pair of needle nosed pliers to persuade the locks into letting go.
There were no instructions with this sample, but I was told it was due to the need for them to be rewritten to include instructions on the LGA1366 mounting. To be completely honest, there is no need for them; I found the installation to be very easy and self explanatory.
TweakTown 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.
The Spire TherMax Pro does well in the list of coolers we tested, loading at 61.3° Celcius. It was only bested by five of the coolers and not by that large of a margin. Idle temps were right on the mark as well at 54.8° Celcius. I think a two fan setup on this cooler could work some magic in a small space, but mounting the second fan may lead to issues, as there are no previsions pre-built into the cooler.
Spire does keep the heat down with the Blue Star fan they have chosen, but this cooling does come at a price. Mainly this price is paid by your ears. An idle reading of 62dB put this cooler already over a few loud sound levels of other coolers. Once I set the testing to load I could hear the hum of this cooler over my main rig, while it was inside the box. Taking the sound test at load reported that this fan was putting out 77dB of sound. There isn't another cooler that rates as high as the TherMax Pro on the chart.
While the TherMax Pro is a stereotypical tower style cooler, Spire has done a good job of packing a load of features into a cooler with such a small footprint. With the use of easy to assemble hardware and even getting a fan controller included is a nice touch. I really think Spire is on the right track with this cooler.
The temperature performance puts the TherMax at the top third of our list, which isn't an easy feat to accomplish. The sound levels on the other hand were too much for me personally. The TherMax Pro scored last in this category, with a nice looking UV-reactive fan. While the UV is a nice added feature, I would rather do away with the flash and have a fan that performed close with less noise.
As far as complaining about this cooler, I have already addressed the noise, which is my only real complaint at all. Spire put out a very easy to install, universal cooler with the TherMax Pro. The noise factor alone will keep most HTPC users who can fit this cooler to pass it up as a choice. But Spire has designed a really competitive cooler here. Based on the $36 price tag and good performance, I would recommend this cooler in a smaller case where noise is not a factor.