For those of you who like me have seen just about eighty to ninety percent of all CPU coolers made in the last five to ten years, you see a few coolers that are essentially the same as a few others that are already available. This is one of those instances. I have personally seen this cooler shipped out from three different manufacturers up to now and one of those three is bringing it back to life again.
Jumping into my Way Back machine and setting a course for about this time in 2009 we see the release of the ExtremeGear HP-1216, which used this exact cooler just in a more natural state of aesthetics. Spin the dial ahead another year and we see the EFFIZIO from SilenX, which had a slightly different fin shape, but is the same cooler under it all. Around that same time Spire released the TherMax Eclipse in its original form.
So just with Spire alone there has already been another version of this design since the original TherMax Eclipse released. This would be the TherMax Eclipse II. Shockingly throughout this process, there have been absolutely no changes done to anything in the cooler design, it is more or less a choice of fans that makes the difference between the TME and TME II, not even the hardware was changed. Sort of as a punch to the gut of cooler design, Spire is releasing the same cooler again in its third incarnation of the TherMax Eclipse CPU cooler.
The cooler we get to look at today is the Spire TherMax Eclipse III or TME III as you will see on the packaging. Once again we are left with the same exact tower design as the previous two TME coolers and again the only major change to the cooler is the choice of fans accompanying this cooler.
Hang tight as we look through quite a bit of "been there; done that" and see what sort of performance this old tower with new fans brings in terms of performance and see what sort of sound levels we have to deal with to obtain said performance.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
There is quite the list of specifications to be seen at the Spire site for the TME III. It starts with the list of compatible processors and since the design hasn't changed in three years, neither has the compatible sockets such as FM1 or LGA2011. It then moves into the dimensions of the cooler along with its material makeup of copper and aluminum and the use of five 8mm thick heat pipes. They don't however make much of a mention to the pre-cooler on top of the base of the TME III. In short, this is a compact cooler at only 152mm tall, but when fully assembled it will add 1300 grams of weight to the socket retention.
This time around to cool the TME III, Spire sends a pair of 120mm BlackStar seven blade fans to deliver the air across all of the dimpled fins. These fans are rated to 22 dBA for maximum noise levels while delivering up to 74.63 CFM of airflow. These fans are both PWM controlled and get mounted to the cooler with supplied wire fan mounting and no accommodations are made to isolate these fans from the cooler.
Sorry if I seem a bit blunt with the specs here, but it is hard to get excited the fourth time you write about the same cooler.
Availability at this time in the USA is a bit limited, but I would expect it to be almost everywhere on the other side of the Atlantic. I almost hate to say this, but the one place I was able to locate the TME III was at Amazon and they are asking $69.95, whereas the MSRP was set from Spire at $59.95. So not only are you having to pay top dollar via Amazon to obtain one, you are spending near $70 for a three year old cooler design with new fans added to it?
Once again, I am going to be very blunt here, for a cooler body you already have laying around in a warehouse from the previous incarnations, add a new set of fans and charge top dollar? This cooler better be one hell of a performer.
Not sure if it was done to save money or for familiarity, but even the packaging uses the same red and black design in the background and the same peek-through window. What did change was the name of the cooler as TME III tops this panel. Under the window is an image of the cooler with a list of features at the bottom.
Spire used this side of the packaging to let us all know that the instructions are in the box, in seven languages and we see the same cooler image as the front panel has.
At the top Spire starts with what the TME III is all about and what it offers to compete with today's top coolers. It then shows other offerings in their lineup with their model numbers for reference. I'm not exactly sure how this is "powered by innovation", but Spire was sure to put that here as well.
On this side of the packaging there is a shortened specifications chart than the one provided on the site, but none the less, the give potential buyers all of the pertinent specs on size, weight and fan capabilities.
Opening the packaging you are first greeted by the hardware box. Simply insert a finger into the cut out and lift this box out of the way to gain access to the cooler itself.
Once the hardware is out of the way, we can see the TME III is also packaged in the clear plastic clamshell that all versions of this design have arrived to me in. It did allow for a perfect sample to test with no bent fins or warping of the cooler in transit.
Spire TherMax Eclipse III CPU Cooler
I wanted to start from this angle to show the four most important things that lead to the success of this design. There is the V-configuration of the 8mm heat pipes, the dimples in the fins, the side of the cooler being "closed" and of course the choice of fans, even though one is still in the hardware box.
The 120mm BlackStar fans that come with the TME III covers the vast majority of the dimpled fins to take the most advantage of the 74 CFM and 2.8mmH2O static pressure provided for both sides of the Eclipse tower design.
On the side of the TME III the sides of all forty-six fins are bent over to close off the sides of the cooler to better utilize the fans airflow.
Both of the sides are identical to this, as the fins use five scoops into the fins to allow the fan to build pressure, more at the center and less toward the edges. This helps to concentrate the airflow over the configuration of the heat pipes.
Each of the fins in this stack are identical to the top fin seen here. They all utilize the dimple pattern and allow the heat pipes to form V's on both sides of the cooler, right in line with where a fan performs at its best.
The top of the base of the TME III keeps the same 54 fin pre-cooler that the previous coolers had. This in conjunction with the fan being set a little lower than the bottom fin, allows for a bit of cooling before that heat even gets to the fins.
The universal mounting plate come attached to the base with a Phillip's head screw on either side of the five direct contact heat pipes that are currently covered with the protective film. As it states, remove this film before use.
With the film removed you can get a better look at the contact area. The five pipes are milled flat with the aluminum spacer in place to make for a level surface across the top. However there are pretty large gaps that will need a bit of TIM to fill before use.
Accessories and Documentation
The box found in the top of the packaging is where the extra fan for a push/pull configuration and all the hardware you are going to need, aside from a Y-splitter for the fan connection.
Here is the universal backplate that is bare metal on the opposing side, but this side has a thin plastic film applied like a sticker to keep it from shorting out the motherboard. On the right and left are the AMD mounting holes and in the corners are the Intel holes.
The AMD supports are on the far left and right. In the center are a set of four screws to set the brackets into the base of the cooler to secure them. I also received a set of thumbscrews that are too large for the threaded screws and these larger plastic washers. The manual shows I was supposed to get a sheet of stick on washers, but they were not to be found.
Then I also was shipped this assortment of goodies. There are the mounting nuts with springs on the left, some BlueFrost grease, washers, retaining nuts, metal washers and the threaded rods run the center of the image. That leaves the six extra rubber fan mounts to have a couple spare as you mount the second fan with the other four.
Of course we have the other seven bladed BlackStar 120mm fan that is also in the hardware box to complete the push/pull concept of the TME III design. Also if you didn't notice on the earlier images, the 4-pin connector is very close to the fan and isn't going to connect to a motherboard like this.
This is why Spire sends a pair of eight inch long braided cables that are male to female 4-pin extension cables. This is nice and all, but as the TME III is shipped you need two fan headers on the motherboard to work in sync to power this cooler as there is no Y-splitter to power this from the CPU FAN header.
There is a warranty card sent along with the cooler. On this side it explains what you receive when you register your product with Spire. On the back of this, as well as in the specs list, it shows that this cooler has a five year warranty.
The whole manual is written as this look at the front of it shows. There are images of hardware and what to do for both AMD and Intel installations in tiny images at the top, while in eight languages, the instructions for each step take up all of the room.
I sort of found this bit in the instructions to be a bit comical. With HDT cooler and a "drop" of TIM in the middle, I find the TIM never makes it to the outside, but gets channeled away in the grooves before it spreads across the IHS. I will continue to lay a thin line down each pipe, even if only three of them will touch my LGA1155 CPU.
Installation and Finished Product
Before we got too far into the build process, I wanted to go ahead and show the TME III with both fans on it since this is the way the cooler is equipped and designed to run.
This was a dry assembly just for the image and is why the thin nut is not holding the threaded screw into place, but to mount the cooler to said rod, you simply use the large thumbscrews with heavy springs to press the pre-mounted top plate down onto the CPU.
Once the TME III is all mounted and set up with the push/pull configuration of fans, you can see it isn't the largest set up we have seen. You still have good access to the memory and the 8-pin EPS plug on the motherboard.
Looking at the TME III from this side of things, you can see taller heat spreaders will block some of the fans intake of air, but as for my standard profile sticks, I can populate all four slots without any issues.
If you are using high density sticks and only need two then you are all set, even with the tallest spreaders on those sticks. Where you will see an issue is in the nearest slot on most motherboards. This will require the fan to be moved up and there is only about 15mm before the fan mount won't hold the fan in the top any longer.
As for the wiring mess left after powering the cooler, I am not really sure why they went the route of eight inch extensions rather than a simple four inch long Y-splitter to allow you to cleanly power this cooler off of one fan header on the motherboard.
Test System and Thermal Results
Testing for the CPU coolers is done with the use of RealTemp to ascertain temperatures, Intel Burn Test to deliver the load to the CPU and CPU-Z to verify the CPU speed and the voltage being used in Windows. All of the testing is done with an ambient temperature of 24.5-25°C and humidity is maintained to 35% sometimes less.
For the "stock" runs, it's more of a plug and play setup where the PWM of the motherboard is in control of the fans speeds for both the idle and load results. Speed Step is active and the processor idles at 1600 MHz and loads at 3500 MHz for the stock settings. I also set the memory to run at 1600 MHz for stock. As for the overclocked runs, I load the CPU at 4.5 GHz and idle results are obtained with 7.5V to the fans while the load run is set to deliver 12V to the fans. This allows me to gauge the lowest and highest fan ratings for my charts.
There is nothing really surprising for the idle results. When I took the reading for the stock level the fan was turning at 900 RPM and only at 1000 RPM when I took the overclocked reading. That explains a fair bit of the increase in temperatures over the other coolers in the chart.
The performance at load was on par for where a tower cooler should perform on my setup. The issue is that in reality the TME III gets beaten by both the Xigmatek DK NHE and the CM TPC 812 and they are both cheaper solutions to your needs and neither even has a second fan to do this.
Noise Level Results
With 7.5V running through the fans, both fans attached to the cooler too, I got a reading of 38 dB of noise level. That isn't all fan though, my sample had a rattle that was obviously audible. I thought at first it was the sides of the cooler, but I was lead to think the rubber fan mounts allowed for an oscillation that makes the fins jiggle a bit.
When I delivered 12V to the fans there was a noticeable increase in noise levels to 53 dB. It is in the top half of the charts, but honestly there is nothing innovative or surprising about this cooler or its performance in my testing.
As I said in the beginning of this review, it is really, really hard to get excited about a cooler I have seen so many times already and the performance levels and sound levels in my testing weren't helping this one bit.
As much as I try to look for the positives of this cooler, I just can't seem to find them. The one thing I can say is that if I had never seen this cooler before, it does look good with the dimpled fins, the nickel plating and overall sleek look with the BlackStar fans. But seriously, is that one trick pony going to continue to make Spire the money they claim that the predecessors brought them?
I am just going to come right out and say no, it isn't at all - the fact that this is at least a three year old design and 150W TDP is not enough. I mean I guess it is a good thing that they didn't change the hardware to allow for LGA2011, I really don't think this cooler is that capable. When I first saw this cooler design, it was impressive for its day, but I seriously think it is time for Spire to go ahead and relieve this design of its duties or drastically cut the price to a level where I would feel comfortable telling people to buy one and that is in the $30 - 40 range. If you are still interested in this design, let me put it into a different perspective, buy a used TME II and get new fans of your choice, you are still going to end up well below the MSRP of this cooler and likely get the same if not better performance depending on the fans you chose.
It is rare that I really go out on a limb and outright bash a product like this, but to be honest, I see this as more of an insult to the community at large. The cooler has been around forever, so obtaining the body of the cooler is easy and super cheap at this point. Granted they used a pair of different fans and used the braided cables, which just made a mess, when a splitter cable is much more appropriate for this design. They didn't seem to change much of anything and the performance isn't worth the hassle of installing this cooler on your motherboard over what else is currently being offered from others.
Share the wealth Spire and drop the price about in half and I think you may have a product that will continue to make you money. As it sits, for the price it is demanding currently, I just can't recommend this as a smart purchase.
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