Thermalright Spitfire, VRM-R5 & X-Silent 140 Reviewjlqrb - May 9, 2010
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The Thermalright Spitfire VGA heatsink is massive and, with measurements of 147mm x 123mm x 154mm, it is the largest VGA cooler that I have seen to date. In fact, with its ability to hold either a 120mm or 140mm case fan, it rivals many CPU coolers in size. Not only is the cooler large, but at 1.2 pounds, it is also very heavy. With additional weight, there is the potential for some risk of damage. Luckily though, Thermalright is ahead of this issue and has included a retention kit that can be used to stabilize the graphics card, reducing the risk of damage. The design of the Spitfire cooler is similar to that used in some other Thermalright heatsinks. It uses a six heatpipe design that has the pipes running from the nickle plated copper base at a 90 degree angle to the finned array at the top. Each heatpipe has its own individual finned array, which will isolate the heat that comes up through the pipes to distribute it more evenly throughout the array. Since the heatpipes bend at a 90 degree angle, the cooler will actually curve over graphics cards' PCB and run parallel with the motherboard. This will put the finned array of the Spitfire in very close range to the CPU, which could create a spacing issue or just plain not fit if you use a large after market heatsink on your processor. However, this issue is addressed by means of the base of the Spitfire being dual-sided. This will allow the cooler to be rotated by 180° and installed facing the opposite direction. The base of the Spitfire does not come lapped to a mirror finish, but it is still very flat and should fit flush with the GPU core. The Spitfire does offer support for a wide range of graphics cards, but most notable are the HD58XX line and the NVIDIA Fermi line. Other graphics cards are supported as well, with the official list found here.
Next up is the VRM-R5, which was specially designed to fit the voltage regulator of 5870/5850 VGA cards. This cooler measures 118mm x 117mm x 122mm and weighs 140 grams, which is just over .30 pounds. The VRM-R5 has a large finned base with dual heatpipes running through it, up into a finned array. Again, there is a 90° bend in the pipes, so like the Spitfire, the VRM-R5 will be facing the CPU area on your motherboard. Unlike the Spitfire though, the VRM heatsink can only be installed in one direction, but with its smaller size there should not be any spacing issues. On the bottom portion of the base are two metal lines that connect the VRM and transfer the heat to the cooler by means of thermal tape. The VRM-R5 does not come with a fan, but a 80mm fan can be attached to the finned array to remove air faster and improve its cooling performance. For users of graphics cards other than the HD5870/HD5850, Thermalright offers different versions of this VRM heatsink, all of which are designed to fit specific graphics cards. The full list of VRM coolers can be found here.
Even though the Spitfire does not come included with a fan, Thermalight sent us its 140mm X-Silent 140 case fan to use during the review. The X-Silent 140 is an adjustable-speed fan that uses an 11-blade design with liquid state bearings and can operate for 50,000 hours. The design of the fan allows for an airflow of 60.42 CFM with a noise level of only 20 dBA. At 60.42 CFM, the X-Silent fan should help to efficiently cool the Spitfire, but at the same time remain relatively quiet, especially when compared to the HD5870 stock cooler.
Assembling the Spitfire VRM-R5 combination was very easy, although a little time consuming. The first step after the stock cooler is removed is to thoroughly clean the surface of the GPU core and RAM chips. It is very important to make sure that the RAM chips are clear of any dust or leftover thermal residue before installing the RAM heatsinks. If they were not properly cleaned, the RAM sinks might not properly stick to the RAM chips and could quickly fall off. There are a few different sizes of RAM heatsinks included with the Spitfire. The taller sinks are used on the RAM closest to the VRM, or any RAM that would not block the heatpipes, whereas the short sinks are used on any memory chips that sit under the Spitfire's heatpipes. Once the RAM is taken care of, you can move on to installing the Spitfire cooler. First you will need to apply some thermal paste to the GPU core and then slide the screws that are attached to the Spitfire's retention bracket through the holes on the graphics card. The heatsink is then fastened to the card using a back-plate and screw nuts. The VRM-R5 is also installed using a screw-through method, but instead of using thermal paste, thin thermal pads are used to transfer heat. Both the Spitfire and VRM-R5 can be used with or without a fan, but both do come with clips to secure a fan to the finned area of the heatsink.
With the Spitfire, VRM-R5 and X-Silent 140 combination installed on the HD5870 and on my tech station, you can see that the cooler from top to bottom nearly stretches across the entire length of the motherboard below it. This prevented the cooler from being able to be directed toward the CPU area and instead had to be reinstalled with it facing the opposite direction. With the heatsink rotated by 180°, there was plenty of spacing between the VGA and CPU heatsinks, but with so much weight pulling in one direction, the card had a noticeable tilt to it. This was hard to fix because the rear expansion support on this tech station is not as strong as that in a standard case and the included support bracket that comes with the Spitfire cannot be used when the cooler is facing in this direction. Even with the tilt though, the card and cooler were secure and there was no risk of damage. The last image below is to display how the support bracket included with the Spitfire is used to secure the graphics card in place. This mechanism is easy to set up and could be quite beneficial if your case has a hard time supporting the weight of the coolers.
In oder to fit the Thermalright Spitfire and VRM-R5 combination into the mid-sized NZXT Tempest EVO case, a little tweaking was necessary. At first, I tried to install the graphics card with the Spitfire facing down, but this was not possible due to the location of the power supply. However, it did fit into the case after the heatsink was rotated 180°, but this was only after replacing the after-market CPU heatsink that was being used with a stock AMD cooler. Also, due to the location of the finned array, the case fan on the inner side panel of the Tempest EVO had to be removed when the Spitfire was equipped with the X-Silent 140 fan. I was able to install the case fan on the outer side of the panel, but with the 140mm fan on the Spitfire, it was not even necessary. For the most part, these issues can be avoided, but that is only if you have a large, full-sized case or a tech station. If you do use a mid-sized chassis, there will be some adjustments necessary to fit the coolers.
Now that we have had a good look at the coolers, we can see how this cooling combination performs when paired with a HD5870.