Last week I took a look at what Thermaltake had in store for us as far as their new AIO water cooling is concerned. With all the advances in these newer units, they blew the doors off of previous AIO solutions and the Performer did very well, but the Pro closed that gap between an expensive air cooling solution and a custom water cooling loop. What happens when you want that sort of performance, but you don't want to take the risk of adding liquids into a system; you keep looking on the Thermaltake site for other cooling solutions, that's what you can do for starters.
I'm pretty sure it's been almost a year since I have seen a cooler that carries the Frio naming. I remember testing the original Frio as well as the Frio OCK. These were single tower coolers with a pair of fans attached to them via a shroud that were even designed after a StarCraft bunker. While the original pair were fat single tower coolers, the latest to take on the Frio naming is slightly different in design and may have some of the most CFM in the accompanying fans that all of the three coolers that now carry this name.
This latest submission in the Frio lineup from Thermaltake is the Frio Extreme. As most companies have done, now Thermaltake has a dual tower cooler design with this entry. Along with the dual towers of aluminum fins pressed over copper heat pipes, there is also a pair of 140mm fans that come with this unit and the shroud has been tossed to the recycle bin for this version. What I personally think is going to make this cooler stand out on the performance charts is the 106 CFM capability of the included fans. While this may add a bit of noise, it should eradicate the heat from the CPU like no one's business and propel this cooler to the top end of the charts.
I don't want to give it all away, so if you want to know more feel free to continue reading and see what the latest air cooler from Thermaltake is all about.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The chart you just saw starts with the socket compatibility and so will I. I really like that most companies strive to try to keep up with the latest and greatest sockets, unlike the Spire cooler we just saw, this new Frio Extreme will mount to almost any socket. For the Intel side of things this cooler can take on any LGA775 to LGA2011 socket and everything in between. For the AMD side of things the Frio Extreme will mount up to a Socket 745 CPU and the list goes through AM3+ and ends with the latest FM1 processors. Basically the Frio Extreme will mount to anything that has been made in the last five years plus as long as the TDP of the overclocked processor doesn't exceed 250 watts.
The cooler body is a mix of 58 fins on a pair of towers that are press fit over copper heat pipes. In this cooler there are six 6mm heat pipes that get evenly spaced from the time they leave the base and remove the heat from the CPU and deliver it to the fin. These pipes come together at the base and top plate. While both the base and the pipes and copper, Thermaltake added a nickel coating to not only be used as an anti-oxidation coating so the oil in your hands doesn't discolor the cooler after a bit of use, it also makes the cooler a little more attractive since the base, pipes and fins are all relatively the same color.
To cool the Frio Extreme Thermaltake sent a pair of PLA14024S12H fans. These fans will run in the range of 1200 to 1800 RPM and will deliver up to 106 CFM each. The noise rating of 39 dBA is suggestive that this cooler will definitely be audible at full blast, but it will also be delivering 2.34 mmH2O worth of static pressure to get that CFM through the dense fin arrangements. Now we all remember the little twist knob fan controls that Thermaltake came up with and I am glad to say it's gone in this model. It has been replaced with a fan controller that takes a wire from the CPU fan header and powers this pair of fans with some cool options. The first cool option allows a switch to convert the power from the PWM signal and switch it over to manual control. The second cool feature here is the large dial that you will be using for manual speed control of the fans and it all comes in an ergonomic and easy to hold in the hand controller unit.
Finding the Thermaltake Frio Extreme is going to be really easy. Vis Google Shopping I was able to locate 85 locations of e-tailers and e-bay sales. That in mind, the prices vary as much as the locations in a price range of $86 to $110. For most buyers, you will be looking at the $91.99 listings at either Amazon or Newegg. Just flip a coin for these, both list at the same price and both offer free shipping currently. Nothing too shocking with that price tag either, as all of the dual tower coolers runs in this range.
Since we know they are easy to find and fairly priced amongst its direct competition, let's get an actual look at what Thermaltake is offering.
As with everything Thermaltake, we again get the black packaging with the red accent stripe that screams Thermaltake product at first glance. There is a large image of the Frio Extreme in the center along with its TDP rating, three features on the left and a look at the fan controller on the right.
The detailed features shown includes the six 6mm heat pipes, the finely polished copper base, the dual tower design, the 140mm fans included, the fan controller, the hardware and even a couple of images of the cooler installed on a motherboard as well as in a chassis.
The back of the packaging has the logo and cooler naming at the top while the bulk of this panel is taken with the specifications chart along with a couple of key features and the features found within that system and the socket compatibility.
In 12 languages, Thermaltake displays the same three features from the back. It mentions the TDP, the fan controller and the universal mounting.
Inside of the box you are greeted by paperwork with the cooler below in a thick surrounding of high density foam. To keep the towers square during transit, the hardware box is shipped between the towers like we have seen before and it seems to work really well.
Thermaltake Frio Extreme CPU Cooler
This is the robust fin arrangement of the Frio Extreme. It utilizes an offset in the fins that allow the airflow to be broken up and creates turbulence to make the transition of heat from the fins to the air much more effective.
The sides are a bit out of focus, but you only need to see the support of the fins bent over to support each other. In the middle of the dual tower is where I want to cover the cavity that gets created on all four sides of these two towers. This also gives the fan room to create pressure, again making this cooler more effective than if it was flat in there.
From the top you can see the even spacing of the six heat pipes as they terminate just proud of the top fins on the cooler. Between each pipe is an S-shaped embossing along with the Tt logos on both ends. This pattern is found on each of the fins and will also help to disturb the air once it passes the offset leading edges.
Under the nickel plating is a two piece copper sandwich that takes the heat from the CPU with the bottom half delivering it to the pipes. The top clamps the pipes into place and the tabs on the top allow the mounting bracket a way to keep a hold of this 1230 gram cooler.
Each of the aluminum fins is press fit over the six 6mm heat pipes for each of the two towers. The other thing to note is the tiny holes near the Tt logo, there are for the wire fan clips to run through when you add the fans to the Frio Extreme.
Where most companies solder their heat pipes into place inside of the base, this sample arrives with thermal paste clearly oozing out from where they meet.
Thermaltake said on the box that the base is polished to a mirror finish and they were not kidding one bit. Holding a razor to it, the corners are rounded just a bit, but the bulk of the mating surface is very flat and level.
Jumping ahead I grabbed the fans and the wire fan clips to install the fans on the Frio Extreme so you can see what the completed cooler looks like. The choice of these 140mm fans with the flat edges should limit their intrusion on the rest of the motherboard, but we will see soon enough if this is true.
Fully assembled and now weighing in at that 1230 grams I mentioned earlier, I am pleased to see that this is a full inch less deep that the Zalman cooler I just tested that swallowed the motherboard. With the Frio Extreme at least I can get to the 8-pin plug without the third fan option.
Accessories and Documentation
As you can see by the scuff marks on the accessory package this got shipped between the towers and includes all of the mounting hardware you will need for the Frio Extreme.
Inside that box is a clear plastic lid that the universal back plate rides on. The other part is a really dense foam tray that keeps all of the hardware compartmentalized during transit and makes for a handy place to store the goods when not in use.
Floating around freely in the box is this adapter cable with 4-pin female fan connections on either end. This is if you plan to use the fan controller, you need this to make the final connection for power.
You also get four wire frame fan clips. These will slide into those tiny holes I showed you and then they simply clip over the fan as the V-notches set in the fans mounting holes.
As far as the paperwork is concerned, there is a multi-lingual guide for AMD mounting on the left and the Intel mounting is seen with the one on the right. In the middle is all the warranty information you will need if you do run into an issue down the road with this cooler.
The pair of 140mm fans that cool the Frio Extreme are these PLA14025S12H fans. These fans have round-ish frames and 11 blue sickle shaped fan blades that will kick out plenty of CFM and static pressure to make any cooler happy. These fans use a 4-pin connection for motherboard powering or with the use of the fan controller.
And here is the black plastic fan controller that allows for either PWM or your own voltage regulation with the simple twist of the dial. There are LEDs to signify which mode the controller is in and to swap modes you just need to move the switch up or down.
Both ends of the fan controller look exactly alike, but this end says fan on it and the opposite end says M/B or motherboard to denote which of the wires go where. As there are two four pin headers to power the fans on this end, there are also two four pin headers to power it from the motherboard too, but only one is required to power this controller.
Installation and Finished Product
To get there we ran the threaded screw through the board, installed black plastic risers that thread onto the screw. Then you just grab the appropriate top brackets and use the large nuts to mount them to the rest of the hardware.
The back plate is some sort of composite more than it is plastic. When I dropped it accidentally, it sounded like a metal plate. When I took my knife to it to scratch and see what it was made of, it felt gritty, but cut much like a tough plastic.
With the cooler now mounted to that hardware with the addition of a cross bar mounting system with a screw already in each end. That allows you to grab the four tabs on the base to hold the cooler against the CPU. Even though the cooler had the correct pressure, I was still able to rotate the cooler about 3-5 degrees in both directions.
Memory is going to be an issue with this cooler for sure. While the cooler clears things pretty well, you can see I really had to push the fan far above the top of the cooler to get it to install with even these naked memory modules that I use.
At this point I went ahead and added the two 4-pin connections from the pair of fans to the top and I ran the single 4-pin extension cable from the CPU fan header on the motherboard to the bottom of the controller.
At this angle you can see that the body of the cooler is absolutely no issue at all, but if you are running large heat spreaders or any at all for that matter, you are going to lose a lot of that 106 CFM as it will blow right over the top of the cooler and ultimately make the height of this cooler an issue in some cases once installed.
Backing up quite a bit to look at the whole motherboard and cooler together, it shows that there aren't issues with the expansion slots, I can get access to the 8-pin EPS plug and well, as for the memory area, we already know the story there.
The 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.
At idle the fan was turning at 1257 RPM and was slightly audible to obtain the 27 degrees stock and the 28 degrees overclocked results. There is nothing really special here with the idle results, as these are to be expected results as you can see.
The loaded results made me look closer for a second once I got the top end readings. At stock loads it performed as well as the Water2.0 performer and is one of the top coolers in that end of the chart. Overclocked the results surprisingly leaves the Frio Extreme right between their AIO coolers performance levels taking the Frio Extreme to the top performer on this chart for air cooling.
Just for those that want to know, with the overclocked setting and 12V to the fans, they were running 1700 RPM; I wasn't able to get more speed out of them.
Noise Level Results
Just slightly better than average results is where the 38 dB rating I got with 7.5V to these 140mm fans. This isn't bad at all and is only slightly audible from three feet away with my open air test bench.
When these fans spool up with 12V applied to them, they weren't all that bad and read 54 dB on my meter. I really think this could have been lower though as this cooler allows the fans to rattle the fins.
A simple strip or a few pads could bring these levels right down and offer great performance and near silence even abusing the system as I do.
What is really left to say, but WOW! I mean really, I have seen about five or six dual tower designs by now and some offered silence and some offered performance, but until now there hasn't been a mix this good.
There are quite a few things to consider when looking into this tower for you, though. First off is the memory issue. You can always raise the fan on the cooler, but there comes a point where this will hit the inside of the side panel, then what? Then there is the point that this cooler is an amazing 1230 grams and while obviously the cooler is on tight or its performance would have shown it, I didn't like that the cooler is allowed to twist at all once the hardware is locked into place. If you have an open air system like I do or a really large case with up to 170mm of clearance inside the chassis, you are going to have to give this cooler a lot of thought.
On the flip side the Frio Extreme is designed from the jump with performance in mind, I mean even the front of the box screams it has a 250W TDP capability! Fans that push over 100 CFM with above average static pressure, they weren't thinking of those running stock rigs with no intent to beat the living daylights out of your processor. In fact, it is quite the opposite and Thermaltake is marketing this to those that want to push to the bleeding edge of stability with any sort of processor since and including socket 754 on the AMD side and LGA775 on the Intel side. No matter which CPU you plan to abuse, this is the cooler to do it. For those of us who tend to abuse hardware regularly, access to it is a must and is why most of us tend to get an open air system and for those of you with tons of room, I strongly urge you to consider this solution to air CPU cooling.
Since you can find the Frio Extreme literally everywhere it seems, and if you shop right, you can have this cooler delivered to your door for a little more than $90. Considering the price of all of the other solutions and the fact that top marks in our test results pretty much speak for themselves, there is no way I can't recommend that you try the Frio Extreme dual tower cooler for yourself and enjoy the benefits of cooling not seen in any other air cooler up to this point and noise levels that won't make your ears bleed or piss off the neighbors because this thing has to sound like a jet taking off to perform.
What you get for your ninety dollar investment is a huge cooler that eats wattage from the CPU for breakfast. I don't own one myself, but if I was going to run the hotter CPUs of late, I would definitely want to strap on the Frio Extreme to tame those high temperatures and look good doing it!
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