Thermalright Ultima 90 Review

Admin - 2008-01-03 09:51:22 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: February 4, 2008
Price: $49.95 USD


It’s hard to keep cool in Florida; at times the humidity is so high you feel as if there is a one hundred pound weight laying on you. Sure you could stay indoors to beat the heat, but air conditioning can only do so much. Most of Florida’s houses are cooled with heatpumps (a version of forced air heating and cooling). What I have found living here for over seventeen years is that when the air shuts off, the ambient temperatures in the room heat up quickly. This causes havoc on computers; I have seen an increase of three degrees Celsius almost immediately upon the air cutting off. So trying to find a CPU cooler that offers the best defense against these rapid changing conditions can be a challenge.

The Thermalright Ultima 90 CPU Cooler offers the availability of using both a 90mm and 120mm fan on a 90mm chassis. The Ultima 90 is one of a long line of CPU coolers developed by Thermalright. The Ultima 90 was developed to produce rapid heat transfer away from today’s Intel and AMD CPUs and is part of their Premier line of extreme cooling solutions. With its six heatpipes, will the Thermalright Ultima 90 be able to conquer the rapid changing ambient temperatures of Florida?


Closer Look:

The Thermalright Ultima 90 comes packaged in a cardboard box with the Thermalright logo stamped on the top. Having purchased Thermalright products in the past, this is something I have become accustomed to seeing. When the box is opened, you see that the Ultima 90 is very well protected by the surrounding Styrofoam.



The Ultima 90 has six heatpipes and is built as a 90mm cooling solution that can accommodate either a 90mm fan or a 120mm fan.


Closer Look:

The Ultima 90 is constructed of aluminum fins, six heatpipes and a nickel base. The two holes to the left and right of the heatpipes, on the fins themselves, are for the mounting clips that will hold your fan.










Since the Ultima 90 can be used for both Intel and AMD systems, mounting clips are provided for both platforms. The rear mounting plate is universal and contains pre-drilled insert holes for the fastening attachments.




Also supplied are the mounting brackets for either a 90mm or 120mm fan and heatsink paste. Finally there is an instruction manual that contains instructions for mounting the Ultima 90 on either platform.



You will need to choose the proper pillars to attach to the mounting plate based on the platform you are using.









After placing the mounting plate on the motherboard you will need to place the correct mounting clips over the pillars to fasten the plate to the board. Once the mounting clips are fastened, place the heatsink over the processor and fasten the two mounting screws to the mounting clips.





To see more detailed instructions on installing the heatsink on either platform, please look here.


Technical Specifications:




Processor Compatibility:


Motherboard Compatibility:


To test the Thermalright Ultima 90, as well as the other heatsinks, the benchmarks used will be at stock speeds of 2.4GHz (Intel) and 2.3GHz (AMD), and overclocked speeds of 3.15GHz (Intel) and 2.7GHz (AMD). The stock heatsink tested will be benchmarked at stock CPU speeds and 2.7 GHz (Intel), just to show the large temperature drops when using an aftermarket heatsink. Temperatures tested will be at both Idle and 100% Load. [email protected] will be used to achieve load temperatures. All room temperatures will be climate controlled at 25.5° Celsius (78° Fahrenheit). All temperatures will be measured in Celsius.


Testing Setup:













In order to achieve the overclocked speeds of 3.15GHz, the VCore voltage was raised from 1.22 to 1.35, the system RAM was run unlinked, and the NB voltage was set to 1.375. For the stock heatsink, the overclock of 2.7GHz was achieved at stock voltages all around. The stock heatsink was used just for comparison and, as you can see, even without any increased volts, its temperatures are significantly higher. Since there was no voltage added to the core while overclocked, idle temperatures remained the same.


Testing for the AMD Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition was conducted as per the previous page.














In order to achieve the overclocked speeds of 2.7GHz, AMD Overdrive was used, the VCore voltage was raised from 1.25 to 1.37, the system RAM was run unlinked, and the NB voltage was not changed. For the stock heatsink, the overclock of 2.7GHz was achieved at the same voltages all around. The stock heatsink was used just for comparison and, as you can see, its temperatures are significantly higher.


As I stated earlier in this review, it's very hard to find a CPU cooler that will adjust properly to the constant changing ambient temperatures in Florida. The Ultima 90 is no different than any other when the climate control in the house shuts off; within 5 minutes the temperatures increase two to three degrees Celsius. All temperatures reflected are taken when the climate control is off.


Although the Ultima 90 does allow you to use a 120mm fan, it did not make a difference in temperatures when I tested it with one. I actually did get a one degree difference on the Intel system, but it was an increase other than a decrease. This could be due to the decreased CFM of the fan I used or because the 120mm fan did actually come over the top of the heatsink itself. My Panaflo fan (92mm) is rated at 68 CFM, while the Thermaltake (120mm) is rated at 62 CFM. I figured that six CFM wouldn’t make much of a difference since the fan covers much more of the heatsinks body. I just might be wrong.

How well did the Thermalright Ultima 90 actually do? On the Intel side, compared to the stock heatsink, the Ultima 90 won hands down. As per its other two competitors, both come equipped with 120mm fans that put out between 85 and 110 CFM, where the fan that I used only put out a max of 68 CFM. On the AMD side, while it was only compared to the ZeroTherm Nirvana and the stock heatsink, it performed just as well or better aside from idle temps while overclocked. The Ultima 90 is much lighter and compact than the Nirvana and the Tuniq tower, which to me is a plus since I always seem to cut my hands on the fins of the others. Although the Ultima sat firmly on both platforms, I did not like the fact that did move up and down with just a light nudge (turning motion). The other problem I encountered is that although the back plate is universal, on some motherboards it may cover resistors on the back of the motherboard. Even though it comes with plastic anti-ground strips attached to the plate, it can cause a ground or even crush the resistors if not carefully placed. I experienced that with the DFI 680I motherboard and had to RMA the board due to that problem. A simple fix would be to send two mounting plates, the second being the x-type.

Although the Thermalright Ultima 90 has one or two faults, those should not be a deterrent if you are careful enough, as it performs fairly well and you may find that it outperforms what you are using at this time.