It seems for about the last year at least, I have been trying to get the ability to look at some coolers from Thermalright. I know getting a TRUE is pretty much out of the question, but they have released some CPU coolers I had wanted to look at. With emails going back and forth, I was made aware that Thermalright doesn't care for our testing methods on CPU coolers. Point taken and if the company doesn't agree with my methods, I can't make them change their minds now can I. so I had to back up a couple of steps and rethink my plan of attack to get my hands on something built by Thermalright, so I may be able to judge for myself if what I have been reading over the last few years holds any credence or not. So what I did was look into a different venue to get my hands on something Thermalright!
Since I was already subjecting my spare GTX 470 to some testing with the Arctic Cooling AXPII and the Zalman coolers we just recently reviewed, I figured I would take my chances with Thermalright one more time. Like I said, for years I have been reading about just how much of a difference their chipset, phase and CPU heatsinks are. Shouldn't the same thing hold true for their VGA cooling solutions? With all the talk that goes around about how well all of these coolers perform, I have felt sort of lost to even speak up once something Thermalright is brought into the equation.
While I fully realize that every product a company makes can't be summed up by looking at one product, I hope this is the first of many to come in a relationship between TweakTown and Thermalright. The product that gets the glory of being the company representative to me personally, has seen many positive reviews before this one, so my expectations are already pretty well adjusted to what I have already seen.
So why don't we settle in and have a look at Thermalright's newest submission to my desk, the Shaman VGA cooler.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Thermalright Shaman is made mostly of aluminum with its fifty-five fins. This cooler is large, with dimensions of 160mm long. It isn't that long, but with the 132mm in width and 54.5mm of thickness, this four slot cooler is going to need a lot of room to house it. Along with the mass of aluminum, there are the eight, yes eight, 6mm heat pipes. These pipes are sandwiched between a nickel plated copper base and aluminum "puck" for the top. The pipes themselves are also nickel plated and make some unusual twists and bends to make their way into the fins of the cooler. Around the finely polished base you will find the mounting plate that offers four different mounting patterns to make this cooler very universal to most of the latest mid range and top end GPUs.
Unlike most of the coolers we have seen to date, the Shaman uses one large fan over a pair or trio of smaller fans. There is some give and take to consider here. While Thermalright ships the Shaman with a TY-140, 140mm fan, it uses a 4-pin PWM connector. What this means, is that you either need to adapt this to run 12V through it, or find a header on the motherboard that offers PWM control, where as the earlier submissions offered adapters, or the ability to plug the fans directly into the card for software control with your favorite application. What this 140mm fan does offer is up to 1300 RPM producing 73 CFM of air flow. Noise level ratings are impressive with a 21 dBA maximum rating, but that is one of the benefits to using a larger fan to take care of business.
As I do with every review, at this point I am checking Google shopping and it shows only eight locations if you don't count the one I found on e-Bay. Finding one isn't so tough it seems, but now we move on to the pricing. Here I found that there isn't a large gap between stores. The base price I saw was $69.99 at Mwave.com before shipping, and on the high end pricing went up to $79.95 at Heatsink Factory. So if you do decide that the Thermalright Shaman is the cooler for you, you can save yourself enough money for that TIM you always forget to add to an order if you shop right. So let's just see if in fact the Shaman is the cooler to buy as we move on to the packaging and then dive right into the cooler.
The Shaman was sent to me with the shipping labels right on the box. I tried to peel part of it back to expose what was underneath, which I assume was the Thermalright name, but didn't stand a chance to the adhesive power of that shipping label.
The right side of the box displays the Shaman name, the web address and that this is an eight pipe cooling solution.
The left is the only other printed side to this plain brown packaging and mimics the information found on the other side.
Lifting the top of the box reveals all of the included paperwork, large Thermalright sticker, hardware box and the cooler snugly tucked underneath.
I found that Thermalright uses a thin layer of foam under the cooler made of high density foam. Then the cooler is surrounded by four stacked layers of foam and topped with another thin layer. This kept the cooler in pretty good shape, but as you are about to see, it did get a little "compressed" in transit.
The Thermalright Shaman VGA Cooler
The Thermalright Shaman VGA Cooler
With all the packaging removed we can now get a look at the main part of the Shaman cooler, the base, pipes and fin array. It is hard to notice, but the left side of this cooler is sitting much lower than the right side and is the "compression" I mentioned earlier.
At this end of the cooler you can only see six of the 8mm nickel plated heat pipes on the Shaman, but this cooler is specified to have eight pipes isn't it?
Looking at the pipes from another angle, you can now see the additional two heat pipes that are traveling inside of the bends of the outer six we just looked at.
From this side you can see the base of the cooler and how it is all constructed. The aluminum top plate and copper base keep a firm grip on the eight heat pipes and delivers heat to them before they make the journey into the fins. Also, you can now see just how severely this cooler is bent.
Looking through the fin array, the heat pipes are very evenly spaced across the width of the fins. There are a lot of pipes and fins going on here, which makes for a lot of surface area. With this much material in the Shaman, it seems to have good potential to cool a card just as it sits, passively.
On this end of the Shaman you can see Thermalright took time to make the ends of the heat pipes clean and attractive as they protrude past the last fin. The little holes on the outer edge match a set on the other side to allow for the wire fan mounts to be slid into.
The other end of the heat pipes don't get as much attention to detail, but are still cleanly done and out of sight.
The mounting ring around the base has options for four different hole patterns with various spacing. To protect the finely polished base, Thermalright covers it with a thick layer of plastic with a warning sticker on it, so you know to remove it before you actually install the cooler to the CPU.
The base is very level and finely finished before the nickel plating is applied. The combination of the attention to detail before the coating left a base that is just amazing to look at, but also offers great functionality in reducing the amount of thermal paste needed.
Before we move on to the hardware, I just wanted to show that with very little effort, I was able to "adjust" the Shaman into a more presentable and level starting point.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
Part of the hardware kit is comprised of the wire fan clips and the four strips of isolation material to place on the top of the fins before you install the fan. You also get a small tube of Thermalright CFIII thermal paste to use with the Shaman.
The mounting hardware for the cooler is what we see here. On the left is a mix of four black rubber spacers and a set of four clear plastic washers to use with the studs on the right. These studs use the short threaded end to screw directly into the coolers base mounting plate. You then add the rubber spacers, set the card on it, add the clear washers and then the back plate. Once all that is in place, you then use the four nuts that have ridges for easy finger tightening to secure to cooler to the card.
There is also the heatsinks for the cooler included in a sealed bag. What you find inside are nine memory IC heatsinks and an additional six flat memory sinks. In the middle are six longer heatsinks to use on the phase chips or any power delivery chips that may need additional cooling. All of these sinks are backed with double sided tape and after proper cleaning of the ICs and phase chips, you can peel the backing and install these onto your card.
I figured this as a good a time as any to show off the dark beige and blue fan that comes with the Shaman. The TR-TY140 fan has seven blue blades in a round frame that offers 120mm fan spacing. The fan is a PWM fan and offers that control if the motherboard allows for it with the 4-pin connection supplied with the fan.
The paper work we found as we opened the box consists of the instructions sheet, with an exploded view of the installation, a parts list and full step by step instructions. There is a second card that shows all of the goodies that come packed in the sealed hardware bag and Thermalright includes a large sticker so you may proudly show off what cooler is taming your GPU.
Installation and Finished Product
Installation and Finished Product
The victim is the same and this time I skipped right ahead to its prepped state so we can move right along into the installation. After the GPU IHS is cleaned you need to take some time and make sure the oils and gunk that the stock cooler leaves on the memory and phase chips is completely removed. If you don't have a "cleaner" off the shelf, look into alcohol and an eraser from a #2 pencil as the way to be sure they are prepped correctly.
I went ahead and installed all of the heatsinks to the components as shown in the instructions. When I went to test the card, I realized I had an issue, and via emails and some replacement heatsinks I was able to fix my issue.
When I tested the card I realized the phase sinks had fallen off, and looking into it a bit more I found I had a pair of caps in the way. C98 and C121 were causing an issue where the heatsinks were hitting them and not contacting the phase chips. This way of mounting offers cooling and clearance, so if you have a GTX 470, keep this in mind.
I now have the studs installed into the proper set of mounting holes and have placed the rubber spacers on them. We are almost ready to install this bad boy!
As I mentioned, before adding the fan to the top of the fins, you need to remove the paper backing and tape the anti-vibration strips to the outer edge of the fins of both sides.
At this point the cooler is now mounted and ready for us to absorb its enormity. The Shaman offers plenty of clearance for caps and power plugs all the way around, except the end where the pipes come out, and is why Thermalright sends the flat heatsinks. There is no way I could have used the taller flame shaped heatsinks on these three ICs.
The back plate and nuts are easy to install and tighten into place. The back plate offers plenty of clearance around the back of the GPU and didn't cause me any issues as the legs extend to the mounting holes. There isn't a specified amount of pressure to look for with these screws, so it may take a bit of playing around with the tension to get the best results.
This shot was after I had the card installed and ready to test. As you can see, the heat sink from my phase chips had fallen off and is now stuck to the fins on the cooler. Another thing to mention here if it hasn't already sunken in, is that now you can definitely see this is a full four slots of cooler and fan!
Here we have the Shaman as I installed it before powering it up. You can see that this cooler is going to encompass most of the room left in any mid tower, and even in the 600T SE it is taking up a lot more room than I had expected when I first got the cooler.
Test System & Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
Testing was done in a spare computer I have in the room. Things were housed in a Corsair 600T SE and the door was on during any testing and reading of the temperatures. The room itself was kept at 25°C for the duration. To test the cards I used EVGA OC tool with a Furmark-like OpenGL 4.0 program. The card is controlled with MSI Afterburner for the overclocking and overvolting parts of the testing.
The testing is run for thirty minutes and temperature information is gathered from Afterburner for all the test results. In order to attain the idle temperatures, things were allowed to cool down and a reset was done and an additional ten minutes was waited to allow for the best possible results.
This is some terminology that will help with the reading of these charts.
Stock: GTX 470 with 608/837/1215 clocks and voltage of 1.00V
Overclocked: GTX 470 with clocks raised to 775/950/1550 and voltage raised to 1.050V for stability.
For the testing I did with the Shaman, I adapted the fan to use 12V of power supplied to it at all times. While the fan is in fact capable of PWM functionality, my P55 motherboard doesn't offer that type of fan control on the extra fan headers, only the CPU fan header. Since it was either one or the other, I opted to use more so we can see the full potential of the Shaman.
As you can see with both stock and overclocked profiles, the Shaman was ready to take on whatever I could dish to it. Even with the voltage increase with the overclocked profile enabled, the temperatures didn't budge from that thirty-six degree mark. Not only that, it ties for first place in air cooling solutions at this stage of the game.
At loaded conditions, the Shaman does slightly fall down in the listings. With the stock clocks enabled, the Shaman allowed sixty-one degrees; that's twelve degrees out of first, but still more than thirty degrees cooler than the stock solution. With the overclocked profile on, the temperatures rose another seven degrees. While it isn't the worst performer on the list, I have seen some better results at this price range.
The Thermalright Shaman is quite the cooler. While it will populate a full four slots when in use and may limit multi-card setups depending on the boards slot layout, more consideration needs to be taken with a cooler of this magnitude. Once you get past the sheer size of the Shaman, there are quite a few things that make me really want to recommend this cooler over even some that performed better in our testing. Against the latest two we tested, the Shaman has the most attractive finished product to me, and has a heavy feel to it with its well built construction. To take it one step further about the strength and durability of the Shaman, mine came bent and even with a bit of odd shaping when I received it, with very little effort I was able to square up the cooler and still get good results from the cooler. That alone says something for Thermalright in the fact that you are going to get a pretty serious piece of hardware.
The blue and beige fan is an acquired taste much like a Noctua fan is. While some may not like the color choice, I much prefer things that don't look "normal" or immediately draw the passing eye to do a double take. Speaking of the fan, during my testing the fan is near silent with 12V going through it. Since it has a 4-pin connector on it, I was able to hook it up to my CPU testing rig and gauge the noise levels. In the test box I got a measurement of a teetering 39-40 dB. That being said, it was hard to discern if I was hearing the HAVIK140 fans or the HX1000 fan over it, but again, you have to practically climb into the chassis to hear this fan. One thing I do like about this design of cooler, is that if you would like better performance than the results I have shown, you can easily add any aftermarket fan with higher ratings than the stock solution and get the desired balance of noise and even more performance.
If you are doing a bit of researched buying, you will be locating the Shaman at Mwave.com for $69.99, and at that price point, this cooler is cheaper than many of the solutions on the chart and will likely be the top reason to choose the Shaman over most of the others. If you just buy this cooler on an impulse, be prepared to spend near or above the $80 mark. Even with the issue I had with the heatsinks, Thermalright took immediate care of the issue and within a week delivered me a solution to give this cooler a proper testing. I can only assume that if you were to have an issue, Thermalright would also take care of you in the same manner, and that is really saying something about my first experience with Thermalright. The Shaman isn't going to define what Thermalright is as a whole, but it sure is a good start to our new relationship!
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de