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Thermaltake Volcano 9 HSF Review

For those looking for good cooling and a lower operating noise level there have been few choices. Thermaltake has a new cooler out that they think will handle the load PLUS give you lower volume in the noise category. Can their new heatsink really deliver? Come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he delves into this very question while testing out the Thermaltake Volcano 9 HSF. It is a tall order to fill, so let's see if Thermaltake can handle the heat!
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Published Sat, Jul 13 2002 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Thermaltake

Volcano 9 - Introduction

IntroductionBy now, most folks know about Thermaltake. They are the company that started all the buzz with the Orb variety of cooler. And regardless as to whether you liked them or not, they made a firm name for themselves.Through this time, they have gotten away from the round cooling setups and have concentrated on researching the best means possible to keep nearly all parts of your computer cool. Whether you're looking for a cooler case, a means to cool the hard drive, the processor, the memory...well, you get the idea.This brings us to today's contestant. Up for your viewing pleasure is the latest of the Volcano series of HSF. It is the latest iteration of this vaunted name, so it had better have some guts to be able to bring justice to it. After all, it won't be easy following in the footsteps of the Volcano 7+, which was one of the company's best heatsinks to date.So let's jump right into the thick of things and see what Thermaltake has in store for us.

Volcano 9 - Breakdown - Part 1

The Heatsink
When I saw the heatsink of the Volcano 9, I was a bit disappointed. The friendly folks at Thermaltake decided to revert back to an aluminum heatsink. It is a shame to go to an inferior sink material, but I can also understand why. This Volcano is larger than other versions from the past, so the sheer weight that would have been involved in a copper sink would have been on the high side. It is entirely possible that it would even have required a different means of attaching it to the processor, such as the need to use the four holes that surround the Socket.Also of note is the older style sink design. Instead of using the thin fin technologies that are common today, they went for a thicker fin layout. Though thin fins have the advantage of a greater surface area, this design has the advantage of increased mass. Both of these techniques aid in the cooling process, so we'll just have to see if it can still be effective in the end.As for the heatsink itself, it is an aluminum block that has 23 fins running throughout with a central groove to handle the clipping mechanism. It measures in at a large 80mm x 80mm x 52mm (without fan) and has the top shroud that is becoming a common addition to the Thermaltake line of coolers.I've said it before and I'll say it again, the shroud is a very nice addition to the cooling setup. One purpose of it is to allow you to drive the screws for the fan into its metal corners instead of driving them directly into the fins of the heatsink. That is a practice that I have seen a lot of time in the past and I've yet to be impressed by it.Another purpose of the shroud is to help direct the airflow, but since it doesn't funnel the air into a smaller path, you don't get all the turbulence associated with those popular reducers. It manages to aim the airflow without restricting it, so it helps ensure that it goes to where it is needed the most; the base of the sink.The Base
The base of the Volcano 9 unit has a copper insert. While a copper sink is normally preferable, the insert will still allow you to have a direct contact patch with the processor core. Since copper is a better conductor of heat than aluminum, this should greatly help the cooling potential of this HSF. Though not polished, the copper insert was very smooth and showed no flaws or machining grooves.
Also note that while the copper is just an insert, it does go all the way through the base of the sink. This too will help in the cooling process since the heat that is transferred to the copper won't have to go through different layers of metals to be dissipated. The copper is in direct contact with the downward airflow so can dissipate the heat in a more effective manner.The Fan
This is where I just sit back and say... WOW!First off, a huge thanks to the Thermaltake folks for dumping the 70mm fan setup. While the Volcano 7+ was (and still is for that matter) an outstanding cooler, the 70mm design didn't allow for many choices in performance fans. So they have decided to go with a more conventional 80mm layout. And what a fan you get.The fan installed with the Volcano 9 HSF is the same fan that can be bought for case cooling. It is the Smart Fan II and it has several different ways in which you can use it. But we'll get to that in a bit. The main thing that I want to point out is the airflow in this baby. Are you ready? How about 75-CFM! Though the company went with an 80mm design to bring it back to a normal size, they also went out of their way to make sure that you wouldn't need to upgrade the fan. This is a huge amount of airflow, but the noise level stays around the same level as a standard high-performance 60mm unit. Another advantage is that you don't get the high pitched droning sound that you do from the 60s either. And all this from an 80mm x 80mm x 25mm fan. SWEET.
The next featured attraction concerning this fan is the numerous choices available for using it. See the different sets of wires sticking out from the side above? Well they allow you to choose how you want to use the fan. Let me tell you just what I'm talking about.

Volcano 9 - Breakdown - Part 2

- Full SpeedTo run the fan at its maximum 4800 RPM speed at all times, just hook up the main power cable and let'er rip. Just make sure that the jumper is still attached as pictured above.- Manual AdjustmentTo have the fan adjustable in a manual fashion, just remove the jumper and then hook up the manual rheo cable. Here's what it looks like:
It goes into the enclosed connector on the fan, so there isn't any way to get it in the wrong place. Again, just make sure to have the jumper removed so that you can take advantage of the adjustable speeds. Otherwise the fan will run at its maximum speed all the time. The adjustable settings will allow you to run it at slower speeds during times when you're not stressing the system. This should be happy news for those who are wanting to quiet down their powerhouses. Here's a closer look at the adjustment knob itself:
- Temperature Controlled AdjustmentThe final mode of adjustments available with this unit is the self-adjustment technique. As I stated in the original Volcano 7 review I did a while back, I don't particularly care for this method because it takes the control out of my hands and puts it into the hands of an unintelligent object. But there are those who feel that this works great, and so the option is still there if you fall into this category.To have the fan speed controlled by temperature, you again make sure that the jumper is removed. This will be impossible to forget since the place where the jumper is located is the connector that houses the probe. From there, you attach the included thermal probe to the connector, and then set it up to read temperatures. Here's a peek at the cabling involved:
As to the actual installation of the probe, that's really up to the user. There should basically be two places to be considered for this. Either attach it to the inner portion of the heatsink or to the bottom of the processor. To attach to the heatsink, you can run it into the central fins and then set it to where it is touching the copper core. Tape the cable so that it is secure and it's set.
And if you want to attach it to the bottom of the processor, then you will be able to do so since the wiring that leads to the probe is very thin and not wrapped in extra plastic or rubber. This will allow you to secure the probe onto the bottom of the chip and then have the wires run between the pins of the processor.No matter which setup you prefer, there are instructions available that will show you exactly what to do and how to do it. There is very little chance of messing it up.The Clip
The clipping mechanism used for the Volcano 9 is not a modern marvel, but it is very functional and uses all lugs on the socket. This is especially helpful if you have recently broken off one of the central lugs due to a poor HSF installation in the past.The clip itself was simple to put on, but since it is set so close to the sink, you may have a hard time getting the back of it set onto the lugs. There wasn't any choice in this issue, however, due to the large size of the sink. So while it's just a bit inconvenient, it's not too much problem to overcome. Once you get the back lugs firmly seated, it didn't take any excessive force to hook up the front side. And here's something that was rather interesting:
This is the screwdriver slot on the clip. Notice how it offers a straight-down approach but includes an outer metal flange? This is a very nice touch as it keeps the screwdriver firmly planted in the slot and keeps it from making a new valley in your motherboard. For those who have done this before, the new valley was probably followed up by some very imaginative words.

Volcano 9 - Testing

TestingAll right then, let's take a gander at what this monster can do. During my initial inspection of the unit I was a bit concerned about the thick fins and the aluminum material used throughout most of the cooler. But then that massive fan makes me sit back and take notice. It is time to put everything on the table and see just how well the newest incarnation of the Volcano series HSF can really perform. Here's what we'll be testing it on:Antec PLUS1080 Tower CaseEPoX 8KHA+ MotherboardAMD Athlon XP 1800+ Processor512MB Crucial PC2100 DDR MemoryX-Micro Impact Ti4200Seagate Barracuda 40GB Hard DriveArctic Silver IIII'm still using the Arctic Silver TIM so that results will remain consistent, so for those who saw my recent review on the Evergreen goop, this should explain why the AS is still being used. I also make certain that the HSF has been running for at least 72 hours so that the Arctic Silver compound can set in like it needs to. Core voltage is set to 1.8v and memory is set to 2.6v. Ambient temperature during all tests was a steady 21C.Testing will consist of my standard battery of tests that I run the heatsinks through. I will begin by taking the temperature at idle. From there I will run through the processor through a fragfest in a Quake III Arena Deathmatch. After the system has had the chance to cool back off to idle temperature again, I'll run a continuous looping of the 3DMark2001 Demo. And just to make thing even more interesting, I'll do the same tests again after boosting the FSB to 145MHz. This will result in two sets of results; one at 1533MHz and one at 1668MHz. By overclocking only the FSB, I'll be ensuring that the processor is the main component heating up and not the rest of the peripherals.Also of note is that fan speed will be at maximum for the tests. The goal of the testing is to see just how well this new cooler can do at its optimal settings. While the variable speeds function just fine, these aren't optimal so won't be considered for final results.Off we go!- Temperature (Idle)
Due to recent upgrades in the test system, I have had to begin a new set of results for coolers. To give you an idea as to the effectiveness of the Dynatron unit, it performed at about the same level as the OCZ Gladiator HSF. And regardless of what folks may feel about the OCZ Company, their Gladiator was one of the better coolers to hit the market.That said, we can see right from the beginning that the new Volcano 9 cooler is playing for keeps. While there is only a small difference at the default speed, the Volcano only rises one half of one degree when we boost the FSB. This is the first heatsink that I have ever tested that was able to maintain this small a rise when overclocking.- Temperature (Quake III Arena)
The numbers speak for themselves here. This is the lowest overclocked Q3A temperature to date since I switched over to an Athlon XP. This is where that whopping 75-CFM fan is really showing what it is capable of. And considering that the noise level is really less than the fast-spinning 60mm fans, it makes this one even sweeter.- Temperature (3DMark2001 Demo Loop)
Though not as large a difference in this test, the Volcano 9 has still shown that it can take the rigors of anything that is thrown at it. No matter if you run a default system or an overclocked one, this cooler just keeps on going.

Volcano 9 - Conclusion

ConclusionWell, it appears that Thermaltake has done it once again. They have manufactured a cooling solution that is not only effective, but also addresses one of the most common complaints of the power user; too much noise. Though I was hesitant at the beginning because of the aluminum sink design, this ended up being completely unfounded after the test results were in. The mass of the sink combined with the copper insert and the massive fan proved to be more than a match for the heat that was put out by the processor.Also of note are the different means in which you can adjust the fan speeds. Whether you want to have complete control by using the rheo or a more automated way by using the thermal probe, the Volcano 9 delivers. I used the probe method and it does work, but as I stated earlier, I prefer to have control of my system. But if you are the type that doesn't want to be bothered by this, then the probe worked just fine. When the temperature reading measures 20C or less, the fan spins at its lowest speed of 1300 RPM. As the processor heats things up, the fan will gradually increase the pace until it reaches the maximum speed of 4800 RPM at 55C or more. Since I prefer to not have my temperatures quite that high, I will stick to the manual way of setting the speeds. But again, this is a personal choice.Though I don't have any prices available as yet for this cooler, it will likely not be one of the cheapest available. Of course, you can just remember the old adage "You get what you pay for" and then go ahead and get one anyway. For the amount of performance that we're talking and the option for less noise added into the mix, I think that it will be worth the few added dollars.Bottom line... If you've been looking at any of the new processors based on a Socket A/370, then you're talking about something that will be creating heat. A lot of heat. The Volcano 9 HSF is about the most effective cooler that I have yet tested to date and that says a lot. If you want a cooler system, then just go out and get one of these coolers. You won't be sorry.- ProsSuperb coolingDifferent speed optionsNot too large to fit modern motherboardsChoice of manual or automated speed adjustments- ConsHard to get back clip attachedRating - 9.5/10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award

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