Thermalright Spitfire, VRM-R5 & X-Silent 140 Reviewjlqrb - May 9, 2010
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Some might see the $100 premium of this VGA cooling combination as too high a price to pay, but if this is what you are thinking, then you will be missing out on what could possibly be the best air-cooling solution available for your high-end graphics card. When comparing this kit to the HD5870 stock cooler, the Thermalright Spitfire, VRM-R5 and X-Silent 140 combination managed to reduce the core temperature by a very impressive 38°C and 29°C to the VRM. These temps absolutely smashed the performance of the stock cooler, but even more impressive was how the Spitfire heatsink was more efficient than the stock cooler even while being used passively. For an after-market cooler to out perform stock is great, but to do so without the use of a fan even during the most demanding situations just puts this offering in a league of its own. This makes this cooling solution ideal for those that are looking for an option that will greatly reduce temperatures, but do so while still being extremely quiet - or in the case of being used passively, completely silent. With such amazing cooling performance, this VGA cooling combination will allow overclockers to easily raise the core voltage using a program such as MSI's Afterburner. This can help increase clock frequencies while overclocking, in turn making for smoother game play, as well as enhancing programs that utilize GPU acceleration technologies. In my case, I was able to reach a core clock of 1050MHz once I raised the voltage above the 1.3V mark. This gave me an almost 100MHz overclock beyond what I reached while using the stock cooler. However, adjusting the voltage increased the temperatures of both the core and VRM. The VRM increase was most notable, as it jumped to 85°C after the increase. It is for this reason that I would recommend a fan be used on both the Spitfire and VRM-R5 while raising the voltage levels.
To achieve such a high level of performance, the Spitfire and VRM-R5 coolers are both large in size when compared to other coolers of this type. This size allows for a massive surface area throughout the array for more efficient cooling and also the ability for the Spitfire to hold both a 120mm or 140mm fan, and the VRM-R5 an 80mm fan. The large size does come as a bit of a double-edged sword though. With the Spitfire being as large as a CPU cooler, it does have some issues fitting into mid-sized cases and for it to be properly installed, some tweaking may be necessary. Also, using a large after-market CPU heatsink in a mid-sized chassis might create a spacing issue where both cannot fit at the same time. And if you are using anything smaller than a mid-sized chassis, just forget about it - there is little chance it will fit. Another issue is the weight. At 1.2 pounds, the Spitfire is heavy. This additional weight could lead to excessive pressure being placed on the GPU and PCIe slot. Thermalright has obviously thought about ways to address these issues before releasing the cooler though, as the base of the Spitfire is dual-sided allowing for 180° installation and there are retention bars included with the cooler to help support the weight. However, when the Spitfire is installed facing away from the CPU area, the retention bars cannot be used and, without it, I did notice (when used on my tech station) the HD5870 was slightly tilting due to the weight. One thing that is was nice to see though, is that even with the size of this cooler, the elevated finned array sits high enough to still be used in a dual-card CrossFireX or SLI setup, as long as the second card uses the stock cooler. Of course, there are a few limitations to this, but since some after-market VGA coolers completely restrict dual-card configurations as a possibility, it is nice to see this one does not.
If you are interested in a silent cooling solution more so than absolute clock speeds the combo can be used with a low noise water cooling solution for the CPU to eliminate the noise or you can take advantage of a down draft style heat sink to help pull air through the fin arrays. This of course does limit you to a low profile cooling solution for the processor. Issues with the size aside, this cooling solution from Thermalright offers unbeatable performance that is second to none. At $100 for the whole setup, it is not the cheap, but when looking at the performance, it is hard to say that it is not worth it. Also, since most VGA coolers only include RAM heatsinks to cool the VRM area that often runs hotter than that of even the stock cooler, I would say the price is actually very fair. And since these coolers are sold separately, you can pick up the VRM-R5 on its own to be paired with other VGA heatsinks on the market. Even though a HD5870 graphics cards was used for the review, the Spitfire is supported by other graphics cards, including the new NVIDIA GTX 400 series. Unfortunately though, Thermalright has yet to release a VRM heatsink for the Fermi cards, but this should be available shortly. In all, this is one of the most impressive products I have used to date, and once again, when it comes to extreme cooling methods, Thermalright shows us just how far ahead of the competition the company really is.
- Amazing cooling performance
- Can improve overclocking potential
- Can be used passively
- Spitfire uses dual-sided base for 180° installation
- Spitfire fits ATI HD58XX and NVIDIA GTX 400 graphics cards
- Spitfire supports either a 120mm or 140mm fan
- VRM-R5 supports a 80mm fan
- VRM-R5 can be used with other after-market heatsinks
- Retention bars included to help support the weight
- Can be used with CrossFireX and SLI
- Can be difficult to fit in a mid-sized chassis
- No VRM cooler for GTX 400 cards yet