Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme Review

airman - 2009-09-18 09:59:16 in CPU Cooling
Category: CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: November 10, 2009
Price: $65


Picking a new CPU cooler is never easy, due to many manufacturers with unique designs and competitive specifications. Some coolers that should perform well may be disappointing, and some that seem small or inadequate may return surprisingly good results. The Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme is a recent addition to Tuniq's line, designed with the latest LGA 1366 processors in mind. A division of Sunbeamtech, Tuniq has received many awards for its products and continues to produce products worthy of ownership by the highest PC enthusiasts. The Tower 120 Extreme is a revision of the original Tower 120, said to have many improvements and capable of providing much more cooling capacity over its older companion. I have high expectations for this cooler, and I look forward to seeing how well it handles under the extreme heat of Intel's i7 line.

Closer Look:

The box is colored blue and black, and the front features an angled picture of the heatsink with the blue LEDs on  its fan lit. Along with the picture, the front expresses three points: Core-Contact Technology, TX-3 Included, and MFDB Fan Included. The abbreviation MFDB will be explained on the next page. One side of the box displays specifications of the heatsink, thermal paste, and the fan, such as weight, dimensions, thermal conductivity, bearing type, etc. The other side expresses that TX-3, or their thermal paste, and a fan controller is included. On the rear, less-technical specifications are displayed, as well as a full list of included contents.













The outer, visible box is basically like a sheath for the plain, black cardboard box inside that houses all the components. A plastic handle is attached to the top, and protrudes through the sheath. With the inner box opened, a smaller white cardboard box can be removed that contains the mounting hardware as well as the fan controller. After the smaller white cardboard box is removed, the plastic clamshell packaging that holds the cooler can be seen, snugly sandwiched between two pieces of styrofoam to protect against damage that may occur during transport.




Included in the white accessory box is the universal mounting bracket, thru-screws, nuts to hold the thru-screws to the mounting bracket, adhesive foam washers to isolate the nuts from contacting the motherboard, and thumbscrews with built-in springs that apply even pressure between the hold-down plate on the heatsink and the thru-screws attached to the backplate. With the packaging and contents explored, the next page will contain a closer look at the cooler and an evaluation of its appearance.

Closer Look:

The entire heatsink is painted a dark gray color, even the heatpipes themselves. The heatpipes actually appear to be anodized, or plated in some way. The fins on the heatsink are constructed out of aluminum, and are layered onto the heatpipes. Air is blocked off on two sides, so that it can only flow in the direction of the fan. This happens because the fins are folded over on each side. Each side of the cooler looks identical to its opposite, with the exception of one side where the 3-pin header from the fan hangs down. In the picture of the side where air does not flow through, the small passively cooled protrusions can be seen above the contact plate. This addition doesn't seem like it would do much for heat, and might be just for show. The protrusions are quite short, less than 1cm tall, and are very coarse in design.















The top of the heatsink features a cover with a satin finish and a similar design found on the fins cut on the side. Stamped into the top cover is the text "Tuniq". To remove the top, four screws must be taken out. With this top piece detached, sliding it out will also remove the fan, as these two elements are attached. With the fan removed and looking through the heatsink, the passively cooled protrusions on the top of the contact plate can be clearly seen, as well as the tips of the heatpipes.



The fan is a clear, blue LED 120mm fan that operates on 12v and draws a specified 0.16A. It moves a little over 90CFM, and uses a magnetic fluid dynamic bearing, which is a very quiet, long lasting bearing type that uses a fluid to suspend the rotating shaft between the contact surfaces rather than ball bearings, for example. The fan uses a 3-pin header and can be connected directly to a motherboard header or through the included PCI-mounted fan controller.



The Tuniq Tower uses a direct contact design. This means that the heatpipes cooled by the fins are in direct contact with the processor's IHS, rather than the heat having to pass through an extra interface before being transferred to the heatpipes. This allows for faster heat dissipation, and usually results in a higher performing cooler. The base itself is visually square and the gaps between the heatpipes and the rest of the base aren't very large. While these points are good, the base isn't as finished as you would expect out of a high end cooler, meaning the machining marks are still visible. High end coolers are usually found to have nearly mirror-finished bases, as the tiny machining marks can trap heat, leading to higher temperatures.



There is no doubt this cooler is large, and fits snugly in a mid tower case. Installation, due to the "tightening" step being inside of the case rather than being tightened down from behind the motherboard, is a huge pain if the cooler is being installed with the motherboard inside the case. In order to access the thumbscrews, I had to first remove the video card, memory, and rear exhaust fan so that I could contort my hand enough to get my index and middle fingers around each screw. There wasn't even enough room to get my thumbs around any of the screws to tighten them, which made the task even more difficult. Then, with my knee applying pressure to the top of the cooler, and my other hand applying pressure to the backplate so that it would not fall off while trying to tighten the screws, I would turn each screw very delicately and hope that the threads catch so I can give my hand a break. The pictures below show the cooler installed, and one of the "easier" thumbscrew locations.



Thankfully, after about 30 minutes of fiddling with the thumbscrews, and probably dropping each one four dozen times, I finally had the cooler installed. There would have been no problem with this done having the motherboard out of the case, but I didn't forsee this issue arising until I was already halfway into the installation process. On the next page will be the specifications and features of this cooler, provided by the manufacturer's website.



Dimensions L x W x H (mm)
775g (without fan)
Ø 8mm x 3 + Ø 6mm x 2
TX3 Appearance
TX3 Viscosity
83500 cP
TX3 Thermal Conductivity
6.2 W/mK
TX3 Operating Temperature
-45°C ~ 200°C
TX3 Specific Gravity
3.011 @ 25°C
TX3 Volume Included
Fan Bearing Type

Magnetic Fluid Dynamic Bearing

Fan Rated Voltage
12V DC
Fan Rated Current
0.16A (max)
Fan Air Flow
90.65cfm (max)
Fan Noise
16~20 +/- 10%dBA
Fan Speed
1000~2000 RPM
Fan Life 
50,000 hours
Fan Thermal Resistance
0.092 (°C/W)




All information provided courtesy of Tuniq @ http://www.tuniq.com.tw/Cooler_Info/Tower-120-Extreme.htm



Before testing for the data found on this page, I had to adjust a few of the thumbscrews (that I could reach) so that I could make sure the base had even contact with the processor. I noticed I needed to do this during my first run of testing, where the temperature was higher than I expected. So I put some pressure on the cooler and I watched the temperature drop a few degrees. I loosened some screws, then tightened the others. This process took me 20 minutes of trial and error, between removing the GPU, RAM, and a few fans to reach some of the screws, then replacing them all to check the temperature. I knew I had reached a stopping point when I couldn't get the temperature to go any lower.

Testing of the heatsink will involve load simulated by Prime95 using small FFTs in stock and overclocked scenarios. Idle and load temperatures will be recorded. Load temperatures will be the maximum value displayed in RealTemp after running eight threads in Prime95 for over one hour, and idle temperatures will be the minimum value recorded by RealTemp with no computer usage after one hour. The temperature values for each of the four cores will be averaged. The ambient temperature is held at a constant 25° C throughout testing of the Tower 120 Extreme, as well as the comparison heatsinks. All the data shown in the graphs is in Celsius. The TX-3 thermal paste included by Tuniq will be used during testing.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Heatsinks:





Overall, the Tower 120 Extreme performed quite well, and close to the very similar Cooler Master Hyper N620. It provided the lowest temperatures in 3 of the 4 tests, falling to second best in the overclocked load. On the next page, I will add my final thoughts and conclude this review.


Although this cooler performed well and offered good performance, I did have a little bit of a gripe with the installation process. For one thing, the positive stop method of holding the heatsink used on the original Tuniq tower was abandoned on this refresh. It could have been because of the bad reputation of the brass screws that would strip or break outright. Even so, a positive stop type of mount would have been better. I still wonder why there is a slot for a screwdriver on top of the thumbscrews, considering that there is only about a half an inch above them before the bottom end of the heatsink begins. I thought I may have been installing the cooler wrong, considering its difficulty, but I was following the provided instructions. As I stated previously, this process would have been much easier with the motherboard out of the case, but I and a lot of other people probably aren't willing to deal with that process if the case they are working with has access to the rear of the motherboard.

Besides that, the cooler is attractive and offers a nice blue glow while in operation, and the included fan controller is a nice feature. While running at full speed, the fan is audible, but not distracting. Direct contact cooling has been a proven technology and this refresh of the venerable Tuniq Tower bares this out. Minus the difficult installation, the Tuniq Tower 120 Extreme performed just as well as I expected it to, and didn't let me down with its performance.