Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme Rev.C Review

ccokeman - 2009-09-12 06:02:56 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: May 6, 2010
Price: $63.99


Whether you are a hardcore enthusiast, gamer, or just one of the many interested in cooling your processor down, finding a better cooling solution is something that takes some thought. As a result, it is one of the most asked questions in 99% of the computer-related, online communities. Cooling solutions run the gamut from a simple small heat sink that offers slightly better noise and thermal performance complete, with stock type retention methods, all the way up to complex custom designed liquid cooled systems. Even further up the ladder you get into the pure enthusiast sub zero contingent. Along with the capabilities of the cooling solution, you have the price commitment that has to be made for the improved cooling. Somewhere in this progression you can find a cooling solution that meets your performance and cost needs. Whether it be air cooling, liquid cooling or sub zero cooling, it's all there for you.

Most people do not relish the thought of mixing liquid with their high dollar electronic components or have the wherewithal to install and maintain a sub zero cooling solution. That leaves air cooling for the majority. The fact is, there is nothing wrong with air cooling. Thermalright has been one of the high end air cooling suppliers to the enthusiast community for quite some time now. I had my first introduction to Thermalright with the SLK-800 and SP-94. This time around I get to take a look at Thermalright's Ultra 120 eXTreme Revision C heatsink. This version is supposed to be a slight improvement over the Revision A TRUE that has been quite popular over the years. Lets take a look at this revision to see if it can surpass the performance of the Revision A as well as some of the high end coolers on the market.

Closer Look:

If you have ever purchased a Thermalright product, you will recognize the packaging. Other manufacturers paint the box with images, specifications, testimonials and product technical drawings. Not so with Thermalright. The packaging is pretty bare bones with just the product name and company name visible on the box. The rear panel is much more if the same, understated appearance. Included with this package for testing purposes, are one of Thermalright's TR-FDB-1600 fans and an Ultra series fan holder that takes the place of the traditional wire clips the TRUE comes with.








Opening up each package, you have the Ultra 120 Rev. C encased in foam, with the accessory box to the right. The box contains the mounting hardware for both Intel and AMD socket compatibility. On top of the heat sink are several documents that illustrate the installation of the Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme Revision C on both Intel and AMD hardware. The foam insert is rigid but still pliable enough to absorb the shock of traveling the world so it makes it to your door with no damage.



Once you pull everything out of the package, you are able to see what really comes with the Revision C of the TRUE. You get the documentation and installation hardware to put the TRUE on any of the latest sockets from Intel or AMD. The mounting hardware for Intel processors is a step away from the past method of securing the TRUE to the motherboard while the AMD is a refresh of the design that is more like the earlier bolt through socket 1366 kit. This I will look at a bit later.



Looking at the packaging so far, we have the standard packaging for a high end Thermalright cooler with a high end quality installation kit to boot. Lets dig into the Revision C TRUE to see where the differences are between it and the Revision A I have been using.


Closer Look:

So what makes the Revision C TRUE different from the Revision A? At a casual glance, they look pretty much identical front to back and side to side. It's the details that show the difference. If you sit down and count the aluminum fins in the array, you have a total of 52 on the Revision A and only 48 on the C. This means the fin spacing is opened up a bit at the cost of some surface area. The fins are not as spread out as say on the Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366, but a less dense fin package is better for lower airflow(noise) fans. Where this loss of surface area may be recovered. I can surmise the V shaped holes in the fins could create some turbulence, instead of laminar flow through the heat sink fin array. Now on to where the two are similar. Both designs use similar construction and are both nickel plated for excellent looks. Each use a total of six copper heatpipes running through the copper base and aluminum fin array with the heatpipes staggered to hit as much airflow as possible. Each uses what is called a Bent Winglet design to improve the airflow through the fin array. Thermalright also ensures that each point of contact between the heatpipes, fins and base are soldered to promote better heat transfer from the CPU to and through the fins.












Thermalright has been much maligned for the less than flat surface of their TRUE heat sinks but the convex surface takes advantage of the depression seen on most IHS equipped Intel processors. Even Intel's own stock cooling solution for the Core i7 920 has a round copper slug that sits in the center depression of the IHS on the processor. The base is nickel plated as well and is not mirror finished but you can still easily make out the reflection of the tube of thermal grease.



The fan included with this package is one of Thermalright's FDB (Fluid Dynamic Bearing) fans. This Fluid Dynamic Bearing technology is used to reduce both vibration and noise during use and help allow the fan to run all the way down to 7 volts. The FDB fans come in five different speeds from 800 to 2000RPM. This one is rated at 1600 RPM and discharges 63.7 CFM worth of air and is rated at 28db/A so you get low noise and reasonable airflow. To get rid of the wire clips that hold on the fan(s), you use the Ultra Series fan holder that just clips onto the TRUE like it is giving the heatsink a hug. Simple and easy to use.




The new Revision B mounting hardware for the Intel socket 1366 package is a bit different from the old bolt through design that used an x shaped bracket and 4 spring loaded screws to hold the TRUE in place. This revision functions much the same way that Noctuas Secufirm2 mounting hardware does. The backplate is secured to the board with a solid mount and dual brackets that have a single screw hole that attaches to a cross brace so you only have to worry about tightening down two spring loaded screws. Same thought process just a different way of getting to the end result. This mounting system is easy to use although it does not "feel" that it gives the same pressure as the old design. However the proof is in the testing.



As an added bonus for this test we were able to get our hands on a TRUE Copper to see how its performance compared to the Revision C and A TRUE coolers. Where the regular cooler has aluminum fins and is nickel plated the Copper is 100% copper and is a thing of beauty. We shall see how it performs during the testing to see if if it is all its cracked up to be. If my experiences with Thermalrights all copper coolers in the past is any indication, it should do well.




Lets see how this duo perform and see if they earn the right to be called TRUE!


Ultra 120eXtreme 1366 RT Revision C
132 x 63 x 160.5 mm
790  Grams Heatsink only
6 x 6mm copper


TR-FDB -1600
L120 x W120 x H25mm
Bearing Type
FDB (Fluid Dynamic Bearing)
Rated Speed
1600 RPM
Noise Level
28.0 dBA
Air Flow
63.7 CFM





All information courtesy of Thermalright @


The TRUE from Thermalright has been a proven performer. For this revision, I will be making a comparison of the temperatures at idle and under load. Both will be made while the CPU is at the stock voltages and clock speeds, as well as when the CPU is overclocked and 'over-volted'. This will help to show what kind of cooling performance that this updated cooling solution from Thermalright has to offer. These cooling systems will be tested head-to-head as they are delivered from the manufacturer. I could throw in a bunch of testing variables such as adding fans, but that isn't what the products delivered with. To test the idle temperatures, I will allow the computer to stay in an idle state for 30 minutes and take the idle temperature at this point. For the load testing, I will use Prime95 version 25.11 and choose the blend testing and allow the processor and memory controller to heat up to the maximum temperatures. The time frame is a four-hour run, to allow the temperature to peak - usually during one of the CPU only tests. I will use Real temp 3.0 to take the high and low temperatures and average the temperatures generated over the four cores as my reported temperatures. Testing is performed inside of a case for real world results.

Testing Setup:


Comparison Heat sinks:







The temperatures delivered by the TRUE Revision C as delivered, gave results that matched the original TRUE I have been using in my testing when overclocked. Even with the reduced surface area caused by opening up the fin array, the results are similar. The differential of 1°C in the stock testing when comparing the two shows that they are pretty much spot on performance wise. What was kind of surprising was that the TRUE copper gave a slightly better idle temperature when overclocked and the same load temperatures as the Revision C. That makes the TRUE Revision C still one of the top performing heat sinks I have tested, yet the Copper version was a slight let down with temperatures that were almost identical to the Copper/Aluminum models.


When it comes down to it, the Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme Revision C heat sink does an effective job cooling down the processor. With the Core i7 920, just about anything better than the stock Intel cooling can keep the CPU under 30°C in an idle state. Where the TRUE earns its keep is when you throw a load on it. Each of the three Thermalright coolers in this test performed within 1 °C of each other. That shows the consistency of the product and shows that the design features on the Revision C really do the job with less surface area to cool the processor. The four fewer fins opens up the spacing so that you do not need to use a high RPM/CFM fan to get the cooling performance you need.

The included TR-FDB-1600 fan runs at 1600 RPM and pushes almost 64 CFM of airflow to get rid of the thermal energy from the CPU. It does this with a relatively quiet 28 db/A so you get both cooling performance and a low noise solution. The increase in fin spacing allows this cooler to be optimized for lower speed fans, a plus for the noise free crowd. Thermalright offers fans in its TR-FDB line up from 800 RPM to 2000 RPM. The Revision B mounting hardware included with this heat sink is a bolt through design that is a bit different than the earlier bolt through design. The best way to describe this mounting solution is if you have seen the SecuFirm2 mounting kit from Noctua. Instead of having an X brace with four spring loaded screws to get into place, you have a backplate that is held in place with the help of two mounting brackets that run parallel to the 1366 socket. There is a straight brace that comes across the heat sink base and is secured to the two brackets with only two spring loaded screws. This makes the process a little easier since you can mount the brackets, install the motherboard, then mount the TRUE. The nickel finish used on the TRUE looks flawless everywhere except where the bends are in the heatpipes. At this point the finish looks like it is ready to peel off like a bad chrome job and is really not the type of quality I am used to seeing with Thermalright's products. It's one small glitch and may be just a defect on my sample, but it's visible when looking at the heat sink. However, once you have it mounted in the case, it's impossible to see.

Current pricing on this package comes in at right about $65, putting in the higher end price range for a performance heat sink, but still much less than the premium the NH-D14 form Noctua goes for. If you want this heat sink sans fan and bracket you can get it for roughly $4 less, but then you can add the fan of your choice. This of course brings up the price, making the four dollar premium for the inclusion of the TR-FDB-1600 fan a bargain. The TRUE revision C offers great performance for a decent price with the stunning good looks that a nickel plated heatsink brings to the table. If your price point is right in the $60 range, you can't go wrong with the TRUE.