Thermalright Spitfire, VRM-R5 & X-Silent 140 Review

jlqrb - 2010-04-26 14:26:23 in VGA Cooling
Category: VGA Cooling
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: May 9, 2010
Price: Spitfire $64.99 VRM-R5 $24.99 X-Silent 140 $11.49

Introduction:

Today's high-end graphics cards draw a great deal of power and as with all components in a PC, the more voltage that is supplied to a certain area, the more heat that will be generated. To address this issue and ensure these cards are cooled properly, graphics card manufacturers often use large dual-slot heatpipe coolers. Even though stock coolers have been improving over the years, they are still just the bare minimum needed to cool a hot GPU. There are, however, a few options available to address this overheating issue and reduce your temperatures into a more acceptable range. The first such option is to adjust the stock cooler's fan speed to a level that will more efficiently cool the graphics card. This does work well and can drastically reduce the temperatures, but the higher the fan speed, the louder the fan noise. The second option is to ditch the stock cooler all together and instead use an after-market heatsink that is designed to fit your particular graphics card. This option is usually the best method for those looking to keep their temperatures low and not increase the noise level in the process. Thanks to companies such as Thermalright, there are a great deal of choices available. Thermalright offers a few different kinds of VGA cooling solutions, but the one we are going to be looking at is actually its largest option and comes as a three-part combination. This setup consists of the Spitfire VGA cooler, VRM-R5 voltage regulator module heatsink and a 140mm case fan called the X-Silent 140. Each of these parts are sold separately and can be used individually, but when paired together make a very complementary setup that should cool your graphics card well beyond that of stock cooling. At over $100 for the entire setup though, it is definitely not a budget method of cooling your graphics card. Nevertheless, if Thermalright's past performance is any indicator, this could be a product that is worth every penny.

Closer look:

When it comes to packaging, Thermalright usualy keeps it nice and simple. This remains true today and both the Spitfire and VRM-R5 come packaged in plain brown cardboard boxes with Thermalright's logo on the top and the product name on the side. The X-Silent 140 fans packaging, however, does have a bit more flare to it. This package shows a jet engine on the front as well as the model name of the fan. There is also a clear circular cutout on the front panel, making a portion of the inner fan visible to appear as if it is part of the pictured jet engine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both the Spitfire and VRM-R5 comes packaged in the same way. They both have the installation guide, listed accessories, and Thermalright logo sticker sitting on top of a thin layer of Styrofoam padding. Once the thin layer is removed, you have access to the heatsinks and accessories, which come layered throughout the Styrofoam and are covered in a thin layer of plastic. The packaging Thermalright uses is very secure and should hold the heatsinks and accessories tightly in place, protecting them from any damage while in the box.

 

 

 

The accessories that come with the Spitfire and VRM-R5 come packaged in a plastic bag and include all the assembly tools you will need to secure the coolers to the graphics card. The Spitfire includes installation screws, mounts, screw nuts, RAM heatsinks, 120/140mm fan clips, thermal paste, and a retention bracket. The retention bracket is used to secure the graphics card in place after it is installed into a case. This will prevent any damage to the graphics card or motherboard due to the weight of the cooler. The VRM-R5 cooler comes with less accessories, but again, it is all you need to install the heatsink to the GPU. The accessories are screws, screw nuts, thermal pads, and fan clips for a 80mm fan.

 

 

The X-Silent 140 fan comes in a retail package showing a jet engine and model name on the front. On the back panel, Thermalright lists the fan's features and specifications, as well as includes another image of a jet engine. All the inner contents of the packaging come in a plastic liner, with the fan on the top and the accessories at the bottom. The included accessories are installation screws, tool-free anti-vibration rubber screws, and a power adapter.

 

 

Now that we have everything out of the packaging, we can get our first look at this monstrous VGA cooler.

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

Spitfire VGA Cooler:

 
Cooler Dimensions
 
 
147mm (L) x 123mm (W) x 154mm (H)
 
Cooler Weight
 
550g (excluding fan and mounting hardware)
 
Heat-pipe
 
6mm sintered heat-pipes x 6 units
 
Cooler base material
 
C1100 pure copper with nickel plating

 

VRM-R5:

 
Dimensions
 
118mm (L) x 117mm (W) x 122mm (H)
 
Weight
 
140 grams
 
Heat-pipe
 
6mm heat pipe x 2 units
 
Fan
 
One 80 x 15mm or 80 x 25mm

 

X- Silent 140:

Dimensions
140 x 140 x 25 mm
Bearing Type
Liquid State
Start-up Voltage
7.0 VDC
Rated Current
0.14 A (Max)
Rated Power
1.68V (Max)
Rated Speed
900 RPM +10%
Air Flow
60.42CFM
Noise Level
20.9 dBA
Weight
170+10grams
Life Expectancy
50,000 hours

 

Features:

Spitfire VGA Cooler:

 

VRM-R5:

 

X-Silent 140:

 

 

All information courtesy of Thermalright @ http://www.thermalright.com/new_a_page/product_page/vga/spitfire/product_vga_cooler_spitfire.html 

All information courtesy of Thermalright @ http://www.thermalright.com/new_a_page/product_page/vga/vrm/product_vga_cooler_r5.html

All information courtesy of Thermalright @ http://www.thermalright.com/new_a_page/product_page/fan/product_tr_x-silent-140.html

Testing:

To test the cooling performance of the Thermalright Spitfire & VRM-R5 combination, I will be using the very demanding Furmark GPU stability program. Furmark will be for up to 20 minutes and the tempratures will then be checked using the latest version of GPU-Z. For idle temperatures, I will let the system run in an idle state with only minimal background programs running for up to 20 minutes and will again check the temperatures using GPU-Z. This will give an accurate idea of how the Thermalright Spitfire & VRM-R5 combination will compare to the stock cooling solution that comes with the graphics card. This combonation will be tested three different ways, to best replicate how it will be used in real life situations. The first test I will run is with the cooler installed passively and with no additional side cooling. The next test will again be passive, but in this test I will use an additional side fan. The last test will be with fans installed on both the case and heatsinks. All temperature testing will be performed in the mid-sized NZXT Tempest EVO case.

 

Testing Setup:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cooling performance from this VGA cooling combination was just amazing. When comparing the Spitfire against the stock cooler, there was a huge 38°C difference when the stock fan was set to auto and a 18°C difference when the stock fan was set at full speed. If you have ever heard a HD5870 fan at full rotation, you know just how loud it is, so the fact that the Spitfire was 18°C to 38°C cooler and nearly silent with the X-Silent 140 fan was phenomenal. Even more impressive though, was that the Spitfire outperformed the auto setting of the stock cooler even passively, with the temperature being a full 12°C lower at full load. The cooling of the VRM-R5 was equally impressive and even when it was used passively, still out performed the stock cooler regardless of the fan speed. Also, a nice bonus was that, even when the side case fan was removed, the 140mm fan on the Spitfire helped reduce the chipset and processor temperatures.

Conclusion:

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.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: