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Thermaltake EXTREME Volcano 12 HSF Review

Thermaltake's latest heatsink fan for the AMD Athlon XP platform, the EXTREME Volcano 12, is on the test bed today. Extreme or conventional? Read on and find out!
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Published Sat, Nov 8 2003 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Thermaltake

Volcano 12 HSF - Introduction

IntroductionFor those who have been around performance computers for a while, the name Thermaltake has been a longtime staple for air cooling. Making a name for themselves with their Volcano 7+ product, they have been improving on this name for the past couple of years.Their latest iteration, the Volcano 12, comes with the capabilities we have come to expect from Thermaltake, but they have also managed to bring some new features to the front lines that should make this cooler stand out a bit from the average heatsink.So let's take a gander at this newest HSF to wear the Volcano tag and see firsthand whether it can earn the respect garnered to other worthy coolers that bear the same name!

Volcano 12 HSF - What You Get

What You Get
It generally isn't necessary to discuss what comes in the package of an air cooling setup, but things have changed lately. With all the enthusiasts wanting top notch cooling but quiet operations, additional components have had to be added to the retail packages.So besides the HSF, you will also receive several added items, which make it possible to manually adjust the fan speed of the cooler. Since we're still using an 80mm fan of the performance variety, the noise levels can get a bit high for some users. Not nearly the levels of noise the monster Delta 60s of years past used to put out, but more noise than your common 80mm fan.So the folks at Thermaltake have come up with a choice in the manner you use to battle noise:
To begin with, you can choose between either of these two rheostat devices. The front model fits nicely into an empty 3.5" drive bay and allows you to simply turn the knob to control fan speeds (and noise levels). This gives you the ability to take charge of noise levels without having to root around in the system.But for those without an empty 3.5" drive bay, or those who prefer not to mar the front layout of their custom rig, the back choice might be just what you're looking for. This version of the rheostat fits into a vacant PCI slot on the back of the enclosure allowing you the same control as the other without having to see it from the front of the enclosure.
For those looking for a more automated means to handle the noise levels, you can make use of this thermal probe. Place it next to the processor core and it will automatically adjust the fan speed in accordance with a pre-determined setting within the unit.These limits work out to a fan speed of 2,000 RPM at 20C, and work up to a maximum fan speed of 5,500 RPM at 55C. I prefer to handle the tasks of cooling myself, but there are quite a few folks who prefer this type of setup. It all amounts to personal preference.
The final choice is to use an included jumper to close off the open-ended 2-prong jumper block above, which allows you to run the fan at full speed at all times. This can be especially handy when it comes to those machines being used for a Seti or Folding type environment. With high-end systems being on 24/7, heat can be a very realistic enemy.So now that we've seen what comes in the package and how to control fan speeds, let's take a closer look at the heatsink itself.

Volcano 12 HSF - The Heatsink

The Heatsink
The heatsink design used in the Volcano 12 is a full copper type with very thin fins (Editor Note - Try saying that 10 times in a row!). This allows for the excellent thermal dissipation capabilities of the copper to be combined with the higher surface area that goes with the thin fin design. These are two of the most significant areas to look at with quality air cooling, so it is good to see them both put into play with this cooler.The entire sink is surrounded by a shroud that works in two ways. It acts as a mounting device for the fan and also works to direct the large quantities of air toward the base of the sink to work to effectively cool your processor. We'll look a bit later as to the effectiveness of this.Oh, and for those looking at this large chunk of metal and wondering what it weighs in at, the answer is 708 grams! For the metrically impaired, this works out to a shade over a pound and a half. Make sure to remove this cooler before moving the system around. This is a special note for those who partake in LAN parties!
Above is a closer look at the fin layout. The thinner design gives the heatsink the ability to utilize more fins than normal. This allows for a greater surface area, which aids in the cooling process.The Base
While the camera didn't care too much for an angled shot of the base of the sink, it looks worse than it truly is. While there appears to be numerous manufacturing lines across the surface, I was unable to feel any deformities with a finger. Of course, a small amount of lapping would be welcome, but the HSF will be tested in its native state.The Fan
While we have grown rather accustomed to the presence of 80mm fans on modern heatsinks, this one was a bit out of the ordinary.First off, it measures in at a very hefty 80mm x 80mm x 32mm in total size. This adds 7mm of height to the standard design. To make it stand out even more, the fan blade itself it not what you normally see. It has only three blades and the pitch is considerably more drastic than normal. All in all it creates an impressive look, but then this isn't what we really care about, is it?As far as numbers go, this monster will spin at a maximum speed of 5,500 RPM and put out a hefty 73CFM of airflow when at max speed. While doing so it will emit roughly 48dBA of sound output making it about the same actual noise level as a fast sinning 60mm fan. But the sound you hear is not nearly so intrusive as it creates a much lower pitch droning noise instead of the high pitch squeal.Since we're on the topic of the fan, I will step onto my little soapbox and mention the lack of a fan grill. I have had folks write concerning the fact that any true enthusiast will make sure their wiring is away from the fan, but let's be realistic...not all of us are true enthusiasts. Normal PC users are getting into the modified cases and are looking for cooling solutions like this that look good and are still effective. A fan grill is simply a must when it comes to high-speed fans.For those of you using a factory type rheostat, you'll be interested in knowing the power draw from this beast is 0.45A, so plan accordingly. It will likely require a channel of its own due to the high draw, so make sure your equipment can handle the load before hooking it up.The Clip
The clip itself is pretty normal, but there is an addition of a full 3-point brace surrounding the area where you apply force to attach the entire unit. While this may seem minor, it will ensure a firm placement of the screwdriver when it comes time to install the cooler. After all, a single slip could render your mainboard useless if you happen to destroy some of the tracings making up the board's circuitry.The clipping mechanism uses all six lugs of the socket, but then this was expected due to the heavy weight involved. And while the pressure needed to install wasn't excessive, it did a very good job of holding the heatsink firmly in place when mounted. Even with the system in its normal position of the sink sitting at a 90-degree angle to the board, it showed no tendency to move at all.

Volcano 12 HSF - Testing

TestingTo keep with the conformity of previous tests, I went ahead and used an older model AMD Palomino processor. While a bit dated, it will allow an accurate comparison of past coolers. After this series of tests had been completed, I reinstalled a newer Barton core Athlon and overclocked it to give a more realistic result to our tests.Before I get too much further, let's take a look at the base test system.Test System SetupCase: Xoxide modified Lian-Li PC60 (supplied by Xoxide)Motherboard: Soltek SL-75MRN-L Motherboard (supplied by Soltek)Processor: AMD Athlon XP 1800+ ProcessorMemory: 512MB OCZ PC3500 Platinum DDR Memory (supplied by OCZ)Video Card: Sapphire Radeon 9800 Pro "Ultimate Edition" (supplied by Sapphire)HDD: Western Digital 80GB Hard DriveThermal Paste: Arctic Silver IIITesting conditions will follow my standard guidelines concerning coolers. Ambient temperature is kept at a regulated 21C and the cooling system will be tested in a closed case. The processor voltage was set to 1.8v and memory was set to 2.8v. Temperatures are measured at idle after 15 minutes of no activity, measured again after a rugged Quake III Arena Deathmatch, and a final time after a continuous demo looping of 3DMark2001. After these temperatures have been recorded, we'll boost the FSB to 145MHz and run it through the same series of tests. The moderate overclock of only the FSB will allow the processor to do the work and not share the load across the entire system.A final note: Each category will have two screenshots of the temperature results. The top set of results will be at default speeds (1533MHz and 69.8 watts) and the bottom results will be at the overclocked speeds (1668MHz and 73.8 watts). The results should speak for themselves, but I wanted to make sure there wasn't any confusion here.Results - Idle
So far the newest iteration of the Volcano line is earning the name, but then we haven't put any real stress on the cooling capabilities yet. So let's crank up the heat just a bit and see how it handles the added stress.Results - Quake III Arena Deathmatch
Even at nearly 74 watts of heat output, there is very little change between the idle temperatures and the stress temperatures. This says a lot regarding the abilities of the cooler. With just a small amount of temperature gain, we can see that the cooler is handling the chores with ease.Results - 3DMark2001 Demo Loop
Again we see the trend of effective cooling. But considering we're not doing an aggressive overclock, can we really say the cooler is an above average choice? Let's try something a bit different.Results - Barton CoreWith the base system being the same, I have changed out just the processor to an Athlon XP 2500+ variety using the Barton core. Voltage will be set to 1.65v and the speed is sitting at a moderate 2205MHz. While the processor will go higher, this will act as a good indicator regarding the cooling capabilities of the newest Volcano. The heat output will be roughly 82.3 watts, so it will take a bit more cooling prowess to keep the processor running at workable temperatures.
Even at more than 82 watts, we see the Volcano 12 handles the load with ease. Keeping the temperatures well under 40C at this level shows the true capabilities of this heatsink.

Volcano 12 HSF - Conclusion

Conclusion
Thermaltake has been around for quite some time now and we have come to expect good things from their product line. The Volcano 12 follows in the footsteps of this lineup with great success. It manages to not only keep up with its peers, but surpass them as well.With a choice of fan speed control and a much more aggressive fan profile, it manages the task of cooling the processor with ease. It also has the ability to allow the user to handle the job of noise output so it can be used in a variety of systems and conform accordingly.Price-wise, you'll be looking at approximately US$39, so it isn't outrageously priced. While not the cheapest cooler in town, it gives you very good performance for the price.I still prefer to have some sort of fan grill in place, but with the capabilities shown today in this new behemoth, this is a small concern.Bottom line...If you haven't had the notion of taking up alternative cooling, then you will do very well with the Volcano 12. It offers excellent cooling and numerous options for noise levels at a price that is reasonable.- ProsExcellent coolingAggressive fan designNumerous fan speed optionsPlenty of mass and surface area on heatsink-ConsNo fan grillRating - 9.5 out of 10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award

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