Thermaltake v1 AX CPU Cooler for S1366

Overall Score

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Cool all your life.

That message is embedded in Thermaltake’s logo and plastered on their entire product line.  What does it mean?  It means that Thermaltake is dedicated to cooling all your computer hardware.  They offer a large line of products ranging from power supplies to cpu water blocks to HDD enclosures, but most known for computer cooling hardware.  Since their beginning in 1999, Thermaltake has been committed to innovate and solve issues for computer enthusiasts and corporate users worldwide.  They strive to provide reliable and customer-centric solutions for a worldwide market. 

To cool all of your computer life is a big task.  Computer hardware seems to change daily with new processor architectures and faster, hotter graphics cards.  Keeping up with such a dynamic market is not an easy task, to see how well Thermaltake handles this challenge, Xtreme CPU tests their latest CPU cooler fitted for Core i7, the v1 AX.

Thermaltake describes themselves as being committed to never follow but always lead.  That is a mighty task to accomplish given the diversity in the CPU cooling market, let alone the rest of the hardware community.  Xtreme CPU examines just how well Thermaltake has accomplished this goal.  Does the v1 AX have what it takes to lead the competition?  Read on to find out.

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Our first order of business is taking a look at the v1 AX’s packaging.  Thermaltake provides a busy box with a window that lists product specifications, mounting information and some other useful tidbits.  The v1 AX’s box may be busy, but it certainly works and is not excessive.

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Included with the v1 AX is all the mounting hardware you need which offers support from AMD Socket 754 CPUs to Intel’s Core i7 Socket 1366.  What you may notice right away is that the mounting hardware includes push-pins much like that of the Intel stock cooler.  That kind of retention mechanism does not sit well with the kind of testing we will be doing today, but we will get to that on the results page.

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You cannot deny that the v1 AX is an attractive heatsink.  The dual fan design looks extremely fashionable, but, if only looks could kill.  The fins are made of aluminum and the heat pipes are made from copper.  These are typical metals you will find in many of the top end air coolers.  Along with an impressive design, Thermaltake outfits the v1 AX with a 110mm fan that puts out 16dBA when at its lowest rpm.  The fan comes with a blue LED.  The four copper heat pipes are attached to a copper base plate.  The base plate is coated with a mirror finish to allow the best possible contact with the CPU heat spreader.

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Here you can see how reflective the base plate really is.

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Attaching the necessary hardware to mount the v1 AX to your motherboard is very straightforward.  Simply choose the appropriate bracket for your motherboard socket and attach the mounting brackets to the heatsink.  You can see the screw holes in the first picture and the finished heatsink ready to be mounted on the Socket 1366 motherboard in the second one.

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Once the mounting bracket is attached, installing it is very simple.

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Now that the introduction to the v1 AX is complete we can move on to our test setup. 

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To test the Thermaltake V1 AX we housed it in a Cooler Master ATCS 840 case equipped with the following:

  • Gigabyte EX58-Extreme Motherboard
  • PC Power and Cooling 1kW Power Supply
  • EVGA GTX 280 GPU
  • 6GB OCZ DDR3 1600 RAM with 7-7-7-21 timings
  • Intel Core i7 Extreme 965
  • G.Skill Titan 128GB SSD
  • Ceramique thermal interface material (TIM) was used for each test run, in lieu of TIM provided by the manufacturer
  • Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Ambient room temperature was maintained at 20C throughout all tests and we used Prime95 to stress the CPU.  Prime95 was run for 30 minutes at each setting to properly heat the CPU and obtain a maximum load temp.  Idle temps were taken with the system sitting idle for at least 15 minutes.  Temperatures were measured using Real Temp v2.70.

Each heatsink used in this review was setup directly out of the box.  In other words, no modifications were done to the coolers such as adding stronger fans or lapping the base.  The only item not used directly out of the box is the TIM used for our testing.  For consistency we chose to use a high quality 3rd party TIM (Arctic Silver Ceramique) to eliminate any advantages or disadvantages offered by the TIM provided by each heatsink manufacturer.

Previously, the TRUE-120 has come without a fan.  This decision by ThermalRight was intentional, as it allowed the user to select a fan best suited to their needs (high flow, low noise, etc.).  Recently, however, ThermalRight has started to offer a complete TRUE 120 kit that includes a fan.  For this review, we purchased the TRUE-120 with a fan (our particular unit can be found here for $74.95).  The factory fan that comes with the TRUE 120 is rated at 63.7CFM @ 1600RPM and 28dBA.

Our reasoning behind the out of the box review is simple.  Most consumers looking to purchase a CPU cooler want a solution that is easy to use and "ready to run" out of the box with minimal assembly.  Our hardcore enthusiasts will not be left out, however, because we are working on an ultimate performance review of today’s best coolers utilizing more labor-intensive measures designed to squeeze the last degree of performance out of these heatsinks.

With the test setup and our testing method out of the way, let’s move on to the results!

Remember, our results were achieved from a controlled environment, so you might not end up with the exact same results we got.  However, through our testing method we can determine how an air cooler performs compared to others under the exact same conditions.  With these results we determine which cooler performs best with regards to overall performance, best cooler for the money, etc.  It is ultimately up to you, the end user, to decide which air cooler best fits your needs.  With that said, let’s get to it!

First up, results at 3.2GHz under idle and load conditions. 

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The Thermaltake v1 AX averages about 10C warmer than the competition.  Right off the bat we can see that the v1 AX does not lead, but follows.  That conflicts slightly with Thermaltake’s stated philosophy. 

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At load testing with the CPU running at 3.2GHz, we see that the difference actually increases by about 5C to 15C.  Again, the v1 AX simply cannot keep up with the competition.

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At 4GHz idle, we actually see a huge improvement in the results.  This change is most likely due to the fact that the v1 AX fan is operating at a higher RPM pushing more air through the fins.

Just as things were looking up for the v1 AX, we get slapped in the face at 4GHz load.

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The heat output from the Core i7 965 is just too much for Thermaltakes air cooler.  We registered 99C before the system would BSOD from excessive heat.

At this point, things may seem dismal for the v1 AX.  If you are an enthusiast, dismal it is.  However, if you are a regular computer user you may actually prefer the looks of the v1 AX because it is a viable alternative to Intel’s stock cooler.  Do not expect to push your processor to its limits with this cooler as it comes out of the box.  We have spoken with Thermaltake on improving the cooling of the v1 AX.  What really holds this unit back is the lack of a better mounting solution.  A back plate and screw down mechanism would increase contact between the base plate and CPU which would most likely increase its cooling capabilities.  The smaller 110mm fan also holds back some of the cooling potential and the inclusion of a larger fan would help unleash that potential.

The reasoning we were given as to why a back plate solution wasn’t included with the v1 AX is that customer complaints swayed Thermaltake to utilize a much simpler attachment.  Push-pins are certainly easier, but at what cost?  In Thermaltakes own words they are out to lead not follow, but the test results indicate the v1 AX needs more work before it can lead.

The v1 AX is a beautiful air cooler with a ton of potential.  It is up to Thermaltake to release that potential and stick to the company’s core values and beliefs.  All is not lost, and we at Xtreme CPU hope to see some great improvements from Thermaltake and the v1 AX.  The best thing about the v1 AX at this point is the attractive price and attractive design.  You can pick one up for as little as $47.99 ready to go out of the box.

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