Reminiscing of fond memories from CES, more specifically in the Thermaltake suite, I definitely remember seeing this cooler sitting on top of a baby grand piano. At that time there were just the coolers sitting there, nothing mounted to the motherboard that you could really check out the features that were being discussed; you really had to imagine it in your mind. The biggest feature of these coolers lead to their naming for these coolers, and that is the lone fact that these coolers have non-interference cooling space. Simply what this means is that these new coolers won't conflict with memory modules on either side of these coolers, you can mount the cooler to the board and still access motherboard screws to mount them as one unit in a chassis, and getting to fan plugs, voltage controls on the cooler, and the 8-pin all can be done with ease.
There are two groups with two coolers in each group of the non-interference cooling (NiC) offerings from Thermaltake. There are the NiC F3 and F4 for starters, and these offer PWN controlled fans with wire fan clips, and an exposed heat pipe cooler between the pair of fans of the F4, where the F3 comes with only one fan. Another thing separating them is the TDP where the F3 is rated for 160W and the F4 is rated for 180W. On the flip side there are the more aggressive solutions with the NiC C4 and C5. Here again there are raised TDPs and the C4 is rated for 220W while the C5 is rated for 230W, and both C-series coolers have two fans on them. This time the fans are slid into some very cool fan shrouds, and as for the cooler, we are now looking at a finely polished base with heat pipes now soldered into the two piece base assembly.
Today we are taking a look at the best of the best from this assortment of coolers, the NiC C5. You would think that a cooler rated with a 230W TDP would have to be monstrous and take up most of the top half of the motherboard, but Thermaltake is trying to flip that idea and deliver something much more user-friendly. Since we have the basic idea of what goes into the NiC line of coolers, we know clearance is top priority, I will be covering that, but there are a few nuances in this design that really made me sit and think, that is really "trick" for a cooler design, and I am surprised a lot of coolers haven't went this way before, but with the new mind behind this design, I can see there are good things to come from Thermaltake in their near future.
Let's dive in now and take a closer look at the new NiC C5 CPU cooler.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The NiC C5 we are looking at today is fully compatible with all the latest socket motherboards, going back to include LGA775 and AM2 sockets. The cooler body is comprised of 52 aluminum fins that have five 6mm diameter copper pipes running up through them. These pipes emanate from the base as they are soldered into a two piece copper base, and once assembled, the base and heat pipes are then nickel plated. As for the size of this cooler, since clearance is of utmost importance, the heatsink is 160mm tall, 140mm from side to side, and roughly 92mm from fan edge to fan edge. Once the cooler body is assembled, the cooler then receives a pair of black shrouds that will hold a pair of 120mm fans, one on either side.
The fans that come shipped in the box with the NiC C5 are a pair of 120mm TT-1225 fans. These are some serious fans, too. Of course they are 120mm square and are 25mm thick, but these aren't PWM vans, they have a VR control knob to adjust fan speeds between 1000 and 2000 RPM. At their maximum speed, these fans can deliver 99.1 CFM and 2.99mmH2O of static pressure. The combination of these fans, the shrouds, and the cooler body delivers a TDP for the NiC C5 of 230W and weighs in at 811 grams.
On top of all of the features incorporated into this design that you are about to look at, there is one other fact that is going to make you think long and hard about buying this cooler, and that is the price. I was one of the first to receive the NiC C5 for testing, and as such I am not seeing them listed in any of the usual spots right now. Getting back to the important bit, when these do hit the shelves, the MSRP has been set at $54.99.
At this point it is great to see a cooler intended for overclockers that isn't in the $80 range, but once you see just how well the NiC C5 does against the competition, you will be very hard pressed to pass this cooler design by as you look for the perfect solution for your needs.
The NiC C5 comes in a familiar black box with red accents that screams Thermaltake when placed on the shelf. On the front you can see the cooler to the left of the naming and TDP rating. At the bottom there are icons denoting the pair of fans, the amount and size of the pipes and that LGA2011 mounting is included.
This side contains features listed in 11 languages, and while I am not fluent in any of them, Thermaltake lists them in English on the next panel to make my life easy.
On the back of the box things start off with the features. This includes its overclockability and TDP, the combined VR controls for both fans, universal mounting, and of course the idea of leaving room around the NiC C5 for everything else you need access to. At the bottom you find eight views of the various parts of the NiC C5 as well.
On the last side of the packaging you will find a full specifications chart that matches the one we discussed on the last page. I like it when all the specs are given to the customer so that they make a better educated decision on a purchase at the store.
What you find inside the box is that the cooler with the shrouds attached is sandwiched in between two thick layers of dense foam for protection. Set in a little cut out of the foam, you will find the hardware kit separated from the cooler, but also kept snugly in place for transit. This approach to packaging worked perfectly. The box was damaged in transit, but the cooler arrived in perfect shape.
Thermaltake NiC C5 Untouchable Cool CPU Cooler
From the front of the NiC C5, most noticeable is the bright red fan in the center of this tower. The black and red is a nice color setup that will match most motherboard offerings, and I like the chunky design of the shroud to give this cooler some aesthetic charm over a basic tower cooler.
The side view shows that the shrouds wrap around and block off the front section and the back section of the cooler to help direct airflow. In the middle, where the aluminum is bent to support the fins, there is a small area where air can escape, but this is mostly a closed design.
Looking at the back of the cooler, you see it is exactly as the front of the cooler looked, just this time the fan is exhausting from the cooler rather than blowing in to it.
I took this shot on a slight angle so you could see how the pair of clips for the shrouds locks over the edges of the cooler, and is also a reason the middle of the sides was left open on the cooler body.
The top of the cooler has both halves of the shroud meeting in the middle, and it lines up well. There are cut outs to allow a look at the heat pipes protruding from the top of the fins, and two gold plates with the NiC C5 naming to look at as well.
Lifting the clips on the side of the cooler allows both shrouds to simply pull off the cooler body. Something to keep in mind is that the fans wiring is tied together so don't go too far with one fan without addressing the other as well.
To hold the fans into the shroud, there is a pressure tab in each corner. These don't actually "clip" the fan in place, but rather just "hold" the fans in. This allows for them to be easily removed without needing to pull the shroud for mounting, cleaning, or just replacing the fans if you wish to.
Thermaltake NiC C5 Continued
Thermaltake NiC C5 Continued
For this image I disconnected the VR switch found on the right from the two pin connector seen on the left. In the middle is the 3-pin power plug for both of the TT-1225 fans.
Removing the shrouds gives us a look at the tower inside. As you can see the pipes are nickel plated before the 52 aluminium fins are pressed over the top of them. There are also wire fan clip holes in the fins since this is the same fin design used in the other three versions as well.
Looking at the top of the cooler you can easily see the Tt logo stamped into the fins, not only for looks but to disturb the airflow as well. There are also noticeable curves and notches to the fins that allow that mass of flow and pressure from these fans to build up before entering the cooler.
At the other end of the NiC C5, the nickel plated copper base is protected with this thick sticker that must be removed prior to installing the cooler to your motherboard.
Removing the sticker, as not to leave it in the way, you can now see the sandwich of the pair of copper base components as they are soldered to each of the five 6mm heat pipes to superior heat distribution from base to pipes.
If you were wondering about the polished base, this image shows it is polished to a mirror shine with no remnants of any sort of milling marks. The majority of the center is flat against an edge, but the corners and edges do deflect quite a bit.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
The hardware is found in the white cardboard box seen when the top of the box is opened, and in it you find three bags of goods. In one bag you find that the LGA2011 screws, the black spacers for the top of the motherboard, the universal mounting screws, thermal paste, and the nuts to secure the top hardware were all shipped together.
In another bag you will find the composite universal back plate. Both sides are marked with either Intel as you see here, or AMD on the other side so that once installed the correct makers name should be facing you. There is no need for any isolation material since this composite plastic isn't conductive.
In the last bag you find all the hardware needed for the top half of the motherboard. Once the spacers are in place, you select the appropriate AMD or Intel top brackets, and secure them in with the nuts. Then after setting the cooler on the processor, you slide in the cross bar at the top and screw it onto the set of brackets.
The instructions come in two parts - there is the Intel mounting instructions on the left side, and AMD instruction on the right. Both will explain everything you need to know, from a parts list, to full functionality of all of the components. Both great text and images, even if in black and white, will get even the most novice user through installing this cooler on their system with no issue.
There is also a pamphlet covering the terms, conditions, and contact information for the warranty.
Installation and Finished Product
For the installation on the Z68, I aligned the holes in the plate with the screws in the socket, and simply slid in the threaded screws so that I can get the black risers on them to hold this all in place for the rest of the installation process.
The risers actually are threaded at the top, and this allows you to thread each of the screws snugly to the motherboard. At this point the back plate is secure, and we need the top brackets and the nuts to get to the next step.
When installing the Intel brackets, you need to have the curves facing the socket, and with the oval holes to mount them, it does take a little work to align it evenly, but once you got them right where they need to be, secure them in place with the nuts.
Once you put a little paste on the CPU, remove the sticker from the base and set the cooler into place. To get to the mounting screws, you don't have to pull the shrouds, but rather just slide the fan out of it for access. Once in the right place, the groove in the cross bar, and the tabs on the top of the base locks the NiC C5 into one place, and doesn't allow any sort of wiggle room.
Looking down onto the NiC C5 when it is installed, it is a bit blurry at the motherboard level, but even from back this far, you can tell there aren't going to be any clearance issues around this cooler.
I moved the memory into the incorrect slots just to show what can be achieved with the NiC C5, but you can see that the cooler sits much lower than these heat spreaders do, maybe even as low as a set of naked stick, but with the thin design, it doesn't matter.
Once you get down and close to the memory modules, you can see there is more than enough daylight showing through between the memory and the cooler. This is also the same room afforded on the back side of the cooler for socket LGA2011 users with memory on both sides of the CPU.
The rounded edges of the shrouds aren't just to give the cooler a girlish figure. These curves were designed to allow access to both screws on the right of the cooler to allow you to drop this motherboard into a case with the cooler already installed, while offering room for the screwdriver to access these screws.
Since it matched the D-Frame so well, and this is the coolers intended environment, I had to snap this image. With an open air chassis you have access to the VR controller for the fans, and you also have access to try and improve on the cooling with some monster fans if you have them. Remember, this is a 230W TDP cooler intended for overclockers, and access to both the cooler and the components around it are the key to its design and success.
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 24.5-25C 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.
You will also see that the charts have been slightly adjusted. From now on I will mention the idle temperatures if there is something worth noting other than an average of twenty-five to twenty-seven degrees as the PWM controls and SpeedStep allow for almost ambient results in most instances. What you are now getting is a stock speed loaded temperature chart and an overclocked loaded temperature chart. To clean up the audio results, I also removed all of the fans that aren't on the thermal charts. If you want to compare those results to new coolers, the old chart is still available in the older reviews.
I limited the fan speed with the VR controller, and chose 1300 RPM for this level of testing. Of course you could turn the dial and get better results than this, but I feel with that speed, it is very comparable to other offering with PWM control. While it may look average in this large list, keep in mind the NiC C5 is within five degrees of the best water cooling solution I have tested, and is only bested by two air coolers.
Once we let the fans spin at just over 2000 RPM, the NiC C5 again pulls into the top of the rankings. Again, only two air coolers can best this cooler, and considering their massive size, that should really say something about the power of the NiC C5. This cooler just works, and works well.
Noise Level Results
With the sort of performance we saw in the NiC C5, the basic rules still apply. If you have a smaller design, it only makes sense that the fans used to gain that level efficiency will typically be louder than all the quiet offerings we have seen lately.
That being said, when I am going for a new personal overclocking record, I don't care how loud it gets. The 37 dB rating is noticeable, but again this can be adjusted to suit your needs.
When I had the VR controller spun all the way to the right, the fans really come to live and deliver a ton of airflow and no doubt a serious amount of static pressure. There is no denying these fans will overtake a room with noise with the 69 dB rating, but you have to do these things to get every last drop out of a single tower cooler design.
Where do I start with a cooler like this? There is just so much goodness to discuss. Aesthetically, I don't think there is anyone with a red and black themed build that can say this wouldn't make an awesome addition to their system. Then come all the perks of the NiC C5. It does very well in the thermal testing, almost surprising for a cooler this small. With that you also get room for swapping out memory modules with no need to remove a fan or the cooler to do so. You can easily mount the cooler to the motherboard before putting the motherboard in the chassis and still have access to all the screws, as well as this not blocking the 8-pin plug. Then there is the coolest trick and moment of awe when I saw that the fans just slide in and out of the shrouds. No complicated clips, no screws - just pressure holding them in, and even with the two piece shroud design and the way the fans fit into them, there wasn't a squeak or a chirp to be heard from them throughout my testing.
During the installation, I would have liked slightly larger heads on the universal screws that go through the back plate, or even a slightly deeper track to put them in. When I installed the black risers on top of the motherboard, if you go slightly off angle with it, the screws will spin on you. I did end up getting it all together, but it would be nice to lock the screws in a little better since the threads in the risers are tight enough for a lot of resistance. The only other thing anyone could bring up as a con of this cooler would be the noise levels. Being a guy who still likes to go for the gusto with my PCs when it comes to overclocking, I know what it takes to deliver this sort of efficiency to a single tower, so for people like myself this isn't an issue. For those of you who want something quieter, there are PWM versions of this design out there, and of course, you can set the VR dial on this to anywhere you desire.
What really takes this whole thing over the top for me is the price point. How can you deny a cooler that has this level of performance and won't break you financially to own one? To me the issues I did bring up are overshadowed once you think back and consider you are getting all of the features and function we found in the NiC C5 Untouchable Cool CPU cooler for the MSRP of just $54.99. You honestly can't beat this deal with anything I have seen lately. I mean, this thing not only can do what the monsters of air cooling can do, it competes with the AIOs, and offers the sort of room that an AIO delivers to the CPU area.
From every angle, and every design nuance in the NiC C5, there is no way you will be disappointed with this latest cooler from Thermaltake.
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