By now, nearly everyone has heard of the product line called Thermaltake Volcano. With their latest revision hitting the streets, we need to find out firsthand whether it is a worthwhile choice for our cooling needs. So come join Mike "Darthtanion" Wright as he takes a look at the newest heatsink to wear this name, the Volcano 11 "Xaser Edition". And whie we're at it, we'll go ahead and see if it deserves a spot in our own power system!
IntroductionWhen you hear the name Thermaltake, you generally think cooling. Whether it comes in the form of processor cooling, chipset cooling, case cooling...just about everything Thermaltake has something to do with cooling.Also one of the first things that come to mind is the product name of Volcano. This particular product line has been out for several years and has gone through numerous facelifts and improvements. So is it any surprise that they have finally come up with a new revision to this popular label?Today we'll be looking at the Volcano 11. The new revision has gone though some improvements over the mediocre performance of the Volcano 9, so we'll need to see if it has what it takes to earn a spot in our performance rig. After all, cooling is the name of the game, so lets crack into the newest sink to wear the Volcano name and see if it has the right stuff.
Volcano 11 - The Cooler
Well, the first thing that pops right out is the fact that this sink is made of all copper. They tried reverting to an aluminum hybrid thing in the last revision, so it is good to see that they went back to the quality components. It is a well established fact that copper has better thermal dissipation capabilities than aluminum, but when weight and cost comes into play it can sometimes be an alternative that manufacturers look at. Not so with the Volcano 11, though, and this is certainly a very welcome concept.The sink itself measures in at 70mm x 66mm x 31mm and has a metal shroud that covers the sink and allows for installation of the fan (ala Volcano 7+). The fin technology that Thermaltake uses for this model is called "Opti-Fin Technology" and it utilized many very thin fins to help increase surface area. Considering that the copper material used helps add to the overall mass, we can see that we have the ingredients for a workable cooling solution. Here is a shot of the fin design a little closer:
The base of the cooler is very smooth with no serious marks from the milling process. Although not polished to a mirror finish, the quality of the finished base is far above many that I have seen. If you have the desire to get out the polish and take care of business yourself, the work involved will be minimal since the base is already smooth to begin with. Lapping will not really be necessary, just the polishing phase.The Clip
The clip used to secure this cooler to your motherboard isn't anything fancy, but it is very functional and requires no abnormal amount of force to attach it to the socket. Also, the three prong approach pictured above will help make sure that your screwdriver doesn't slip out when installing the cooler and ruin the tracings on the motherboard.It is also good to see that the folks at Thermaltake have decided to stick with a clipping mechanism that uses all of the lugs on the socket. I have seen a few manufacturers lately reverting back to a single hole and it is rather disappointing. Thanks for recognizing the needs of the enthusiast crowd!The Fan
For those who have used some of the Thermaltake fans before, you will immediately recognize the Smart Fan II pictured above. It measures in at a hefty 80mm x 80mm x 25mm and spins at speeds upwards of 4800RPM. But the really impressive number that it pulls out of the hat is an airflow rating of up to 75-CFM! That's right, this fan is capable of pushing just over 75 cubic feet of air per minute when at maximum speed. Of course, the noise associated with this high-end performance is also staggering to the tune of 48dBA, but sometimes you just have to have that extra oomph to get the job done right.
Volcano 11 - Fan Speed Control
Fan Speed Control
I will apologize for the poor photo quality of this print, but I was having a fight with the auto-focus and lost.At any rate, you'll notice that there are two different connectors shown above. Depending on how you configure the setup of the cooler, you can have one three different methods to control the fan speed. Lets take a look at them.
By using the included thermal probe and attaching it to the larger of the two connectors, you can have the cooler automatically adjust your fan speeds in accordance with the temperature registering on the probe. It will spin at a minimum of 1300RPM (20.5-CFM @ 17dBA) for temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius or less to a maximum of 4800RPM (75.7-CFM @ 48dBA) when it reads 55 degrees Celsius.Now while this may look good on paper, I still don't know of many enthusiasts who use this function. Personally, I want the ability to adjust the fan speeds according to what I think my needs are, not the built-in probe. But there you have it, just by putting the probe butted up against the processor core gives you the ability to have automatic fan speed adjustments.
Next up is a feature that has been gaining a lot of popularity amongst the Power Elite. It is a very simple rheostat device that fits into any empty PCI slot in the case. This allows you to manually adjust the fan speeds according to your own needs from the exterior of the case. Using this method, there is no need at all to have to break open the side panel of the enclosure just to adjust the fan speed.So if you're doing some light word processing and Internet browsing, you can slow the fan speed down to a minimal level and have good cooling and a low level of noise. But if it happens to be Saturday night and you have a local LAN party to head off to, then crank that thing up to maximum speed and have all the cooling potential available heading straight onto the processor to keep things nice and chilly.See why I like to be able to adjust the speeds myself?
The final method of fan speed control is really no control at all, but it is quite effective if you don't mind the noise. It is simply a full bore fan speed that forces maximum speeds at all times. Just attach the provided jumper onto the smaller of the two connectors and you're set. It gives maximum performance 100% of the time.
Volcano 11 - Testing
TestingWhen it comes right down to it, we all want to see cold, hard numbers. They are what determines the success or failure of any given product, so we will make sure not to disappoint. But first, lets take a quick look at out test system.Xoxide modified Lian-Li PC60 CaseEPoX 8K9A2 MotherboardAMD Athlon XP 1800+ Processor (Palomino)512MB Crucial PC2700 DDR MemorynVidia Reference Ti4200Seagate Barracuda 40GB Hard DriveArctic Silver IIIThe tests performed on this cooler will follow my standard guidelines for determining cooling performance on a heatsink. This will consist of measuring the temperature at idle, after a grueling Quake III Deathmatch, and finally after a looping run of the 3DMark2001 Demo. Once these results have been tallied, I'll boost the FSB to 145MHz and run the tests again. While not an aggressive overclock, it will serve to show how well this cooler does under both normal and overclocked conditions. Ambient air temperature is a stable 21C throughout tests and voltages are set at 1.8v for the processor and 2.6v for the memory.A final note: Each set of test results below will have two graphs shown. The top graph will be the default speed results and the bottom graph will show overclocked results. I just want to make sure that there isn't any confusion here, though the numbers should speak for themselves.Results - Idle
While the newest Volcano model hasn't beaten out all contenders, it does a very good job of holding its own. With results that are just a shade warmer than the Cooler Master X-Dream SE cooler, it makes a fair standing for itself. Also remember that I have used a Palomino processor for these tests since they tend to get hotter than the newer Thoroughbreds with their lower voltage requirements.But this is a simple test here. Lets put a little stress on the system and see what happens next.Results - Quake III Arena
We are seeing the same type results with this series of tests as well. The Thermaltake Volcano 11 comes solidly into second place. While not the overall winner, it still remains a very solid performer with regards to protecting the precious processor of the system. And when it comes right down to it, this is the primary goal of the heatsink.Results - 3DMark2001 Demo Loop
Once again we have the Volcano 11 coming solidly into second place. This seems to be a trend and also indicates that while the Cooler Master has more overall cooling potential, the Volcano unit also has the consistency to remain a solid competitor and not fail you during those times of stress.
Volcano 11 - Conclusion
Overall, the Volcano 11 from Thermaltake does a fine job of cooling your processor. There are always better coolers out there, but when it comes down to our purchase we have to consider things such as price -vs- performance. With retail prices researched at roughly US$30, it is going to be a good bit higher that the Volcano 7+ which has a near cult following among many enthusiasts. But then, it has features that are not available on the V7+ too.One advantage of the newer Volcano, however, is that it uses a more standardized 80mm fan. And while it can get downright noisy with it cranked to full power, the included rheostat helps make sure that you get exactly the kind of cooling you need. Meager power output? Slow the fan down and enjoy your newfound peace and quiet. Fragfest? Adjust the fan speed to maximum and never have a worry about excessive heat build-up over the processor core.Another benefit is that the shroud and the heatsink go high enough to alleviate any problems with a larger than normal fan getting in the way of the capacitors surrounding the socket. Even when used on the EPoX line of boards, there was no problem with the big fan interfering with the hardware that sits close by the socket.Of course, there is the problem of noise if you happen to be inclined to a life of quiet solitude. When the fan spins at max speeds, it truly is loud. Though it doesn't compare to the screaming Deltas of old, it still manages to leave you know doubt that it is there. But then you can always use any 80mm fan in the sink with no problems. One of the largest problems I remember with the Volcano 7+ was the use of a 70mm fan, which is still not a readily available size when shopping.Bottom line...When it comes down to cooling, you just can't go with the cheapest thing on the market. There is simply too much at stake to risk the health of your processor. Quality cooling is a must for a performance rig and when it comes to air cooling, the Volcano 11 is just that. With an all-copper design and a fan that just drips airflow, the Volcano 11 would make a nice addition to any power user system. And besides, it looks cool too.- ProsEffective cooling80mm fan sizeBuilt-in external rheostatAll copper sinkMultiple fan speed controls- ConsFan is LOUD at maximum speedA little expensiveRating - 9/10
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