Thermaltake Frio Advanced and Frio Extreme Review

airman - 2012-05-10 12:16:52 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: May 23, 2012
Price: Advanced $58.99, Extreme $96.99

Introduction

Thermaltake is a name in this side of the computer world that everyone knows. Most likely, when it comes to naming off companies that manufacture heatsinks, fans, cases, power supplies, water cooling equipment, and even HDD enclosures and laptop coolers, Thermaltake is going to be one of the first three names that pop up in conversation. Additionally, when it comes to Thermaltake heatsinks, the name Frio lights up in our brains as well. The original Thermaltake Frio came to us over two years ago in 2010. Its performance was noteworthy for its price and many chose it for their own builds. About a year later came the Frio OCK, beating is predecessor by clear margins in cooling performance. Now, we are pleased to get our hands on two new Frio models: the Frio Advanced and the Frio Extreme. Both coolers are currently available, though the price difference is large at $59.99 and $99.99 respectively. The Frio Advanced is a single-tower cooler with five 6mm heatpipes and two 13cm fans, while the Frio Extreme is a dual-tower cooler with six 6mm heatpipes and two 14cm fans. Both support all recent sockets and are rated for 230W and 250W of heat dissipation.

I am looking forward to seeing what these coolers can do and am excited to see if the Frio Extreme has the capability of putting up numbers like the Noctua NH-D14 and the Phanteks PH-TC14PE — especially for its $100 price tag. In this article, I will provide a thorough evaluation of the Thermaltake Frio Advanced and Frio Extreme that includes unboxing, a close-up look at each cooler, and specifications and features, followed by a measure of their performance metrics and how they compare to other coolers out there.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging for both coolers is nearly identical with the exceptions being the size, shape, and pictures. The front of each box has a picture of the coolers with their fans in place, its wattage rating, and icons for its fan size, heatpipe configuration, and the fact that they are LGA 2011-ready. The right side of the Frio Advanced box lists its features in non-English languages, and the right side of the Frio Extreme package has eight pictures of individual features that I will cover shortly. The rear of the Frio Advanced box contains a graphic feature list and some other information; the rear of the Frio Extreme box has a tabular listing of its specifications and features. Finally, the left side of the Frio Advanced package contains its tabular list of features and specifications, while the let side of the Frio Extreme box contains the feature listing in non-English languages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The internal packaging for each cooler is rather similar since both use Styrofoam on each side of the coolers (Advanced will be shown on the left, Extreme on the right for the remainder of the article). The installation manuals and warranty information is found directly on top of the packaging. The accessory box sits at the top of the Frio Advanced's box, and the accessory box for the Frio Extreme is located between its two towers. The Frio Advanced is already assembled with its fans though the Frio Extreme will require some assembly. The two coolers use similar mounting hardware (not entirely identical), although the Frio Extreme's mounting hardware is presented in a more elegant way than just several zip-lock baggies! With it, you get a nice black box with form-fit foam on the inside so everything has its own spot.

 

 

 

As far as the Frio Advanced goes, the only extra "loose" stuff in the box are the paper manuals and the box of mounting hardware. On top of the mounting hardware and paper manuals for the Frio Extreme are two pairs of fan clips, the two fans, a fan controller, and a 4-pin "jumper" cable. This fan controller looks interesting; I will be sharing more info on that soon. With both coolers removed, it's clear where the price difference comes in. The Frio Extreme is a larger heatsink that uses more material and offers the fan controller along with hopes of excellent performance. Both coolers look to be good specimens, and I am excited to see how they perform.

 

 

Closer Look:

Side by side, these two coolers are quite different — about the only similarity between them physically is their height of about 160mm. Most coolers at 160mm and above may experience clearance issues in small cases, but for most chassis it should not cause any issues. The heatpipes for both coolers are bent in a C-shape that exit from both sides of the base. The heatpipes on the Frio Advanced are not coated, so they remain the natural copper color. However, the Frio Extreme's heatpipes are nickel plated given them a silver color. While each of the heatpipes exiting the base of the Frio Extreme are bent at the same location, the bend locations for the Frio Advanced's heatpipes are staggered. This difference is most likely due to the direction of air passing through the coolers — if the heatpipes of the Frio Advanced were aligned, the middle heatpipes would be "shadowed" from airflow by the ones in front of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The interface between the heatpipes and the base is of acceptable quality in both coolers. While some gaps are visible on the Frio Extreme, I can tell that they are soldered into place which significantly reduces this being an issue. The heatpipes on the Frio Advanced are well-formed into the base and also provide a good level of contact, though it's not as much of a concern since the heatpipes are in direct contact with the CPU. The base of the Frio Advanced extends on both sides and has countersunk holes for the screws that allow its "legs" to bolt to the motherboard. On the other hand, the Frio Extreme just has a small, notched channel for a different 2-point mounting bar.

 

 

 

The fin design between both coolers is quite different. The fins on the Frio Advanced are uniform in cross-section, with a thickness of about 0.45mm and a spacing of ~2.4mm. The fins on the Frio Extreme, which are positioned in a staggered pattern, seem to be more thin at ~0.40mm and more dense with a fin spacing of only about 1.5mm. The thinner, more dense fin arrangement on the Frio Extreme has the ability to perform well, as long as the fans are properly matched to satisfy the greater pressure requirements of the higher fin density.

 

 

 

I always take a very close look at the base of my heatsinks where it will be in contact with the CPU. A high-quality base is far from effortless to achieve, requires fine machining tolerances, sometimes clever manufacturing processes, and is often a good indicator of the manufacturer's level of investment with the heatsink's production. A fine surface finish is important to have, but the surface flatness is also a heavily-weighted factor. A base can have mirror-like reflectivity, but a "wavy" surface will not produce an acceptable amount of contact area between the CPU and the heatsink. For direct-touch heatpipe coolers, we typically do not see a finely polished surface but they are usually quite flat. Minimizing the size of the gaps between the base material and the heatpipes themselves are typically how a high quality direct-touch base is improved.

For the Thermaltake Frio Advanced, we can easily see the machining marks left behind from the grinding process, which should leave a flat surface. Upon inspection, this surface is visibly convex in the direction perpendicular to the heatpipes. I could list this as a negative, but this may serve a purpose. In many of the heatsinks I have reviewed, the base may have slight convexity, but it is almost always along the direction that is parallel to the mounting force. It is possible, with enough mounting force, that bases can deform slightly to produce a proper surface flatness. We are talking about almost 10mm (3/8") here, but I suppose it's possible. The Thermaltake Frio Extreme's base, while polished to a mirror reflectivity, also has a slight convexity along the mounting direction. However, the convexity is much more obvious here. As I said, I am beginning to see this shape as a trend across several manufacturers, and it's plausible that it is designed to compensate for the base's deflection after being mounted. With the Extreme's base however, there is a lot of room that needs to be made up, and I don't think the mounting can cause the base to flex that much!

 

 

 

The fans from the Thermaltake Frio Advanced already have toolless shrouds attached to them, but they are removable meaning a user can swap in other fans that they desire. These fans are 130mm fans, though they have the same "corner" dimensions as a 120mm fan. The black housing simply extends past the corners to make room for the red impeller. These fans use a 4-pin PWM plug, though no Y-adapter seems to be provided. The rear badge lists it as a 12V fan that pulls a whopping 0.5A — meaning we could be looking at some serious noise. Looking back to the box, I see its dB rating varies from 21~44 dBA from 800-2000 RPM, and only moves a maximum of 88 CFM. At an astonishing 44 dBA at full-rip, I would desperately expect more than 88 CFM out of it. A 120mm Delta fan operating at the same 44 dBA noise level is specified to produce over 120 CFM, and there are plenty that can push 80CFM at less than 30 dBA. I sure hope the 44dBA is a misprint!

 

 

 

On the contrary, I am not as scared by the Frio Extreme fans' specifications. These 11-blade, 140mm fans still pull 0.5A at 12V and operate between 1200 and 1800RPM, but are specified to move up to 106 CFM at 39 dBA in full swing. However, 39 dBA is still by no means quiet. These are listed to only produce 19 dBA on its lowest setting, but like the Frio Advanced, no air flow metrics are given. These also use 4-pin connectors, but the provided "remote" fan controller is capable of acting as one.

 

 

 

Getting these coolers into the case is the next step. Both coolers use similar mounting mechanisms, but they vary slightly so I will briefly cover what is required for both. The Frio Advanced first needs to have the "legs" installed, which contain the two posts that anchor the cooler to the mounting bracket in the final step. The Frio Extreme uses a bar-type clamp that is not fastened to the cooler at all — it only applies pressure on top of its base once attached to the mounting bracket. Those differences aside, both require placement of the backplate and assembly of the mounting components. After these are in place, the coolers can be clamped into place.

 

 

With the coolers mounted, we can clip in the fans move on to the testing phase. After powering up with both heatsinks, I can definitely say that these two aren't silent, but they aren't totally intolerable either.

 

 

I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but the way that the fans on the Extreme are constructed makes the edges of the fins VERY close to the front mounting surface. So close that they actually begin to contact the heatsink at high RPMs. The first time this happened, I was surprised the fan itself didn't break with it cranking away at almost 2,000RPM! I'll explore this problem further during testing and provide my thoughts on it in the conclusion.

Specifications

Thermaltake Frio Advanced:

Compatibility
Intel® Sandy Bridge & 6-Core Processors
Intel® Core i7 Extreme (Socket LGA1366 & LGA2011)
Intel® Core i7 (Socket LGA1366, LGA1155/1156 & LGA2011)
Intel® Core i5 / i3 (Socket LGA1155/1156)
Intel® Core 2 Extreme / Quad / Duo (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Pentium & D / 4 (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Celeron & D (Socket LGA775)
 
AMD® Llano & 6-Core Processors
AMD® Llano Processors (Socket FM1)
AMD® Phenom II X6/X4/X3/X2 (Socket AM3+/AM3/AM2+)
AMD® Phenom X4 / X3 (Socket AM3/AM2+)
AMD® Athlon II X4 / X3 / X2 (Socket AM3)
AMD® Athlon 64 & FX / X2 (Socket AM2/939)
AMD® Sempron (Socket AM2/939/754)
Heatsink Dimension
130.6 (L) x 122 (W) x 159.2 (H) mm
Heatsink Material
Aluminum Fins
Aluminum & Copper base
Fan Dimensions
130 (L) x 130 (H) x 25 (W) mm
Fan Speed
800~2,000 RPM
Noise Level
21~44 dBA
Max. Air Flow
88.77 CFM
Max. Air Pressure
2.7 mm H2O
Power Connector
4-pin (PWM)
Rated Voltage
12 V
Starting Voltage
6 V
Rated Current
0.5 A
Power Input
6 W
MTBF
50,000 Hrs @ 40°C
Weight
954 g

 

Thermaltake Frio Extreme:

 

Compatibility
Intel® Sandy Bridge & 6-Core Processors
Intel® Core i7 Extreme (Socket LGA1366 & LGA2011)
Intel® Core i7 (Socket LGA1366, LGA1155/1156 & LGA2011)
Intel® Core i5 / i3 (Socket LGA1155/1156)
Intel® Core 2 Extreme / Quad / Duo (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Pentium & D / 4 (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Celeron & D (Socket LGA775)
 
AMD® Llano & 6-Core Processors
AMD® Llano Processors (Socket FM1)
AMD® Phenom II X6/X4/X3/X2 (Socket AM3+/AM3/AM2+)
AMD® Phenom X4 / X3 (Socket AM3/AM2+)
AMD® Athlon II X4 / X3 / X2 (Socket AM3)
AMD® Athlon 64 & FX / X2 (Socket AM2/939)
AMD® Sempron (Socket AM2/939/754)
Heatsink Dimension
148.2 (L) x 151 (W) x 160 (H) mm
Heatsink Material
Aluminum Fins
Aluminum & Copper base
Fan Dimensions
140 (L) x 140 (H) x 25 (W) mm
Fan Speed
1200~1800 RPM
Noise Level
19~39 dBA
Max. Air Flow
106.2 CFM
Max. Air Pressure
2.34 mm H2O
Power Connector
4-pin (PWM)
Rated Voltage
12 V
Starting Voltage
6 V
Rated Current
0.5 A
Power Input
6 W
MTBF
50,000 Hrs @ 40°C
Weight
1230 g

 

Features:

Thermaltake Frio Advanced

 

Thermaltake Frio Extreme

 

Information provided courtesy of Thermaltake @ http://www.thermaltakeusa.com

Testing:

Testing of these heatsinks will involve applying a load simulated by Prime95, using small FFTs in stock and overclocked scenarios, where both idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in RealTemp after running eight threads in Prime95 for one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum recorded value by RealTemp with no computer usage during a period of one hour. The temperature values for each of the four cores will be averaged and displayed in the graphs below. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 23°C throughout testing of the Thermaltake Frio Advanced and Frio Extreme as well as the comparison units. All the data shown in the graphs below is in degrees Celsius. The included thermal paste from Thermaltake will be used during testing, and thermal pastes on other heatsinks from their respective manufacturers will be used. Due to the high noise level produced by these coolers, I will gather data for both LOW and HIGH speed operation.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Heatsinks:

 

 

 

 

We see that the difference between low and high speeds made a difference in testing by at least a degree or two in every test. In this group of tests, the Thermaltake Frio Extreme floats towards the high end, ~$100 cooler area and the Thermaltake Frio Advanced hangs around with the other ~$60 coolers. The Thermaltake Frio Extreme does not take the crown in any test, but it stays within a couple of degrees of the current trophy-holders.

Conclusion:

The similarities between these coolers and other models on the market are noticeable, albeit understandable — there can only be so many designs out there for heatsinks. The dual-tower Thermaltake Frio Extreme resembles many of the high-end coolers on the market, and the Frio Advanced can be compared to most of the other coolers in its class as well. The part where heatsinks are made into something super special is the tolerance tightness and care of how they are put together, which leaves little room for error. I've had my hands on many heatsinks and many have impressed me. These two Thermaltake Frio models perform as we should expect them to, but they don't offer anything groundbreaking. This lack of ingenuity is not necessarily a negative however, since only so much can be done with a heatsink!

Both the Advanced and Extreme have their pros and cons. The clip-on, interchangeable fans of the Frio Advanced are very convenient because of the ease of removing and installing the fans. It also presents the opportunity for the user to change the fans out to something they feel is a better fit for their desires — some earlier "clip-on" fans from Thermaltake were proprietary and could not be easily changed. The Extreme offers high end performance, but only at a high end price. The Extreme is fitted with an extreme 10-year warranty, which far exceeds the life of the computer system that it will be cooling.

Acoustically, these coolers are rather unimpressive. Other models in each of these coolers' price ranges offer equal or better performance at much lower noise levels. I have never been bothered by excess noise, but I have seen plenty of coolers that perform exceptionally well at little more than a whisper in volume. As far as the base concavity goes, I would love to hear from a manufacturer on this topic. Between many brands of coolers, even high end models, I have witnessed many bases that are clearly convex perpendicular to the mounting force. Although there is always going to be some deformation due to these mounting forces, I truly cannot imagine that it's enough to make the base of the Frio Advanced anywhere close to flat. Yes, its base has a mirror finish, but if it's like a circus mirror, it does no good!

For the price of each of these coolers, I cannot say I was blown away. Taking price, performance, and noise level into consideration, I think there are better options available. With the Frio Extreme, you do get a 10 year warranty and the included remote fan controller, but you'll have to ask yourself if those features make it worth the extra $15-$20 price premium over where I believe it should be priced. The Frio Advanced is better when it comes down to pricing versus performance, but there are other, quieter options out there that may be of equal cost.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: