Thermaltake Frio Review

Bosco - 2010-03-28 16:44:04 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Bosco   
Reviewed on: May 12, 2010
Price: $59.99


Once you decide to start down the long road of overclocking, one of the first things to get under control is the cooling for the CPU. Its one of the easiest improvements and usually pays big dividends over the stock cooling solution from AMD or Intel. Much in the same way installing a free flowing exhaust on your high-performance car helps increase performance, the installation of a high-end cooling solution can help you reach higher clock speeds. This in turn equates to higher performance, whether it is increased benchmark scores or reducing the time it takes to render video, or cleaning up the photos from the last family vacation. Add in the greater comfort factor and it's a win/win situation. But which one do you choose? There are a million to choose from it seems, and the difficult bit is getting the right one to fit both your wallet and performance expectations. Thermaltake has a cooler that may just fit your needs in the FRIO. It is a cooling solution "Designed for Overclocking", so the expectation is that it will be up to the task. Priced at $59.99, it sits at the lower end of the high-performance spectrum for fully equipped heatsinks. On paper, the FRIO looks full of potential, so let's see if it can deliver.

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Thermaltake FRIO shows a profile shot of the heatsink and lists several of its features along the bottom of the front panel that show the inclusion of two 12cm VR fans, the use of 8mm heatpipe technology and the 4-in-1 mounting assembly. Thermaltake also states that the FRIO supports up to a 220 watt thermal load hence the "Designed for Overclocking" underneath the name. The rear panel lists the features of the FRIO as well as pictures of the heatsink, fans and mounting hardware. The left panel lists the specifications and the right side tells you how to get to Thermaltake for more information in a variety of languages.









Opening up the package shows that the company takes great care to make sure that the FRIO arrives with no damage. The base assembly accessory box and second VR fan are all separated by the foam inserts. Pull them all out and you get a look at what is included for the use and installation of the FRIO.


The accessory bundle includes mounting hardware for all the latest Intel and AMD sockets, from LGA 775 to LGA 1366 on the Intel side and AM2 to AM3 on the AMD side of the fence. The FRIO bolts on to the motherboard, so the hardware is different based on what CPU socket you have. The AMD and Intel hardware is packaged separately with the common components included in a separate bag, so there is no confusion as to what belongs with which mounting assembly. The common parts kit includes a tube of thermal grease, nylon washers, screws and rubber vibration isolators used to mount the VR series fans to the FRIO. The instructions are well laid out, but are a bit small and difficult to read.


Just the initial look shows that Thermaltake may be onto something with the design and implementation of this heatsink. Not to mention that it looks pretty good to boot.

Closer Look:

The FRIO is a tower style heatsink constructed similarly to the myriad of tower heatsinks on the market. The copper heatpipes pass through the copper and aluminum base and deliver the thermal load to the .05mm aluminum fins. The five copper heatpipes used are 8mm in diameter, making them some of the largest used in a CPU cooler. Tower-style heatsinks are usually large and the FRIO is no different in this respect. At 165mm from the base to the top, 139mm from side to side and from 90mm to 118mm thick depending on whether you use one or two of the supplied VR series fans, the FRIO is fairly large. The FRIO is also nickel plated to give it that high tech look that is so popular right now. This also has the additional benefit of keeping corrosion from the copper components increasing their life span. Stripped down to the core, the FRIO looks much like many of the other tower heatsinks, but it's how it performs that sets it apart from the crowd. 












The top of the FRIO is covered with a decorative plate that hides the fins while allowing the heatpipes to pass through. The aluminum fins have the Thermaltake logo stamped in them that is not only nice to look at, but adds more surface area, while increasing the rigidity of the fins at the same time.


The base on the FRIO is much better than I expected. The base is quite smooth without any machining marks to detract from the performance of the cooler. The five 8mm heatpipes occupy much of the space in the base-plate and helps contribute to the performance of this cooler. The mounting lugs to attach the cooler to the mounting hardware, are part of the base. This allows for an easy installation for your specific needs. The FRIO suffers from one of the same problems as the TRUE I just looked at - the nickel plating looks like it is ready to peel off at any time.


The VR series fans that are used on the FRIO are called VR because of the variable resistor or fan speed controller that are part of the fan assemblies. This allows the fans to run from a low speed of 1200 RPM to a high speed of 2500 RPM for when you really need maximum cooling. As you can guess, noise will be a bit of a problem for some at 43 dBA when you spool up the fans to maximum speeds, but with the fan controller, you can easily find a happy medium in between the high and low speed settings. The maximum amount of airflow through each of the fans is almost 102 CFM, so there is some serious airflow moving through the FRIO. What good is a lot of airflow if it wont make it through the heatsink? Static pressure is a way to judge how well the fan pushes against an obstruction to air flow and these are rated at 4.2 mmH2O - a little bit over two times higher than the Noctua NF-P12 120mm fan. The fans are held in place with a rubber mount/vibration isolator. Many times I find these are a one-use item, but was surprised to see these go through a couple of on/off cycles while tearing apart the heatsink.


Once installed, the size of the FRIO is evident. Unlike some of the heatsinks I have used, the memory modules were not impacted when using only 6GB of memory. Moving up to 12GB and occupying all 6 DIMM slots may prove difficult depending on how high the heat-spreaders of the modules you use are.

Let's see if the FRIO is actually 'designed for overclocking', or is simply the victim of a bad advertising line!



 Intel Socket
LGA 1366
Core i7
LGA 1156
Core i7
Core i5
Core i3
LGA 775
Core 2 Extreme
Core 2 Quad
Core 2 Duo
Pentium D
Pentium 4
Celeron D
 AMD Socket
Phenom II X4
Phenom II X3
Phenom II X2
AM2+ / AM2
Phenom X4
Phenom X3
Athlon 64 FX
Athlon 64 X2
Athlon 64
139(L) x 98(W) x 165(H) mm
Heatsink Material
Aluminum Fins, Aluminum & Copper Base
8mm x 5PCS
Fan Dimension
120(L) x 120(H) x 25(W) mm
Rated Voltage
12 V
Rated Current
0.5 A
Started Voltage
6 V
Power Input
6 W
Fan Speed
1200 ~ 2500 RPM
Max. Air Flow
101.6 CFM
Max. Air Pressure
4.2 mmH2O
20 ~ 43 dBA
Life Expectation
50,000 hrs @ 40℃
3 Pin
1042 g





All information courtesy of Themaltake @


Finding out how the FRIO performs is the object of this exercise so I will be making a comparison of the CPU temperatures in both an idle and loaded state. 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 cooling solution from Thermaltake has to offer, when compared to other socket 1366 compatible high-performance cooling solutions. 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, but it is not what the products are capable of as delivered. 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 at or around the 14K test. 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 Setup:


Comparison Heat sinks:







The cooling performance of the Thermaltake FRIO was not what I was expecting - it was in fact better! When compared to other heatsinks in its class, it delivers performance similar to the Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366 and Thermalright TRUE, both of which are single tower-style heatsinks, but with one more heatpipe than the Noctua and one less than the TRUE revisions. The dual fans help it achieve these numbers. In both stock and overclocked tests, the low fan speed setting was four degrees warmer than the full-bore setting on the fans. Not a bad result for a low noise solution.


The Thermaltake FRIO is a cooler that delivers excellent cooling when compared to some of the current high-end cooling solutions on the market. Able to handle a 220 watt thermal load, it delivered temperatures that were right in the same ballpark as the vaunted Thermalright TRUE and Noctua NH-U12P at 54 degrees Celsius under load. Playing in the same field as these coolers is a step up the performance ladder for Thermaltake. When the CPU was overclocked, the FRIO delivers the same comparable performance as the TRUE and NH-U12P SE 1366. A pretty impressive performance when you get down to it. When compared to the Noctua, it is a physically smaller design with a more dense fin array and one more heatpipe, while being comparable in size to the TRUE that carries six heatpipes instead of the five on the FRIO. The five 8mm heatpipes do help carry the 'up to 220 watt' load to the fin array.

The performance can be tailored to your needs by using the variable fan speed adjustments on the VR fans. You can set a low 1200 RPM setting for a low noise, yet still cool running CPU, or you can go all-out with the maximum 2500RPM setting for all-out performance. If you opt for the all-out 2500 RPM setting, the fans are a bit noisy at 43 dBA. While noisy at the top-end, Thermaltake has opted to mount the fans with what it calls a 'vibration absorbing' mount. This does indeed prevent any rattles from the fans at full song. With this kind of mount, it is often a one-use item. I found in my haste to mount the FRIO onto the motherboard that I had installed one fan backwards, so I prepared to find a "fix" to remount the second fan. However, when I pulled the fan off, the mount did not tear in half like I expected. This allowed a successful remounting of the fan in the correct orientation.

The multi-socket mounting proved easy to use and install. I had no troubles mounting the FRIO to the motherboard. The only problem I see is one that most people will not experience, but to swap out a CPU for an upgrade the motherboard will need to be removed to access the nuts on the back side of the mounting assembly. Thermaltake has included all the hardware to mount the FRIO to any of the latest sockets from Intel and AMD, so the whole market is covered.

The FRIO has the look of a high performance cooler with the nickel plated finish and excellent surface preparation on the base plate. There are no visible machining marks that you commonly see on the contact surface of the base, meaning a thinner layer of TIM and better contact for reduced temperatures. It's a cooling solution that looks good and just works, with performance that can be tailored from mild to wild - simply by making an adjustment to the fan speed. Couple that with competitive pricing and Thermaltake has a winner on their hands with the release of the FRIO.