• Home
  • blog
  • ThermalTake SpinQ: Unique Blower-fan Heatsink

ThermalTake SpinQ: Unique Blower-fan Heatsink

The SpinQ is one of the most unique CPU coolers designs from a brand that seems to pride itself on wild and whacky heatsinks. The integral 80x85mm blower fan should provide even airflow in a 360 degree arc through the cylindrical radial fins. Does it match the competition?

Thermaltake SpinQ CPU Cooler: The Return of the Blower

December 15, 2008 by Lawrence Lee with Mike Chin

Product
SpinQ
LGA775/K8 CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Thermaltake
Street Price
$60~$65 USD

Whatever Thermaltake’s faults, the company has
persistence and gumption. SPCR has given poor marks to many Thermaltake products
time and time again, but their PR/marketing department has never stopped sending us samples to review. This is in stark contrast to some brands, which we won’t mention, who have snarled and turned tail at a single fair-but-negative review, then treated SPCR as website-non-grata forever on. Thermaltake’s willingness to take the lumps and still keep working with us to reach the silent PC audience deserves our respect and encouragement… even if our feedback and criticism, often constructive, we like to think, never seems to reach the design team.

Thermaltake continues to pump
out cooling products with unique designs that are difficult to ignore.
A quick look at their CPU
cooler catalogue
reveals a huge array of heatsinks of many different
shapes and sizes.


The SpinQ ships in a large white box with very little decoration, though
a window is cut out so you can glimpse the actual heatsink.

Today we’re looking at one of the weirdest looking coolers we’ve
encountered. If not for the heatpipes, it could be some kind of
meat grinder. The SpinQ is Thermaltake’s latest, fusing the now traditional
heatpipe tower design with a blower fan to create a CPU cooler
unlike any other. Blower type fans have inherent advantages — they create
greater amounts of pressure and lack the dead-spot that is endemic to traditional
fans. Though they are rarely seen by PC enthusiasts today, some manufacturers
like Cooler Master toyed with the idea in the not-so-distant past, using them
for their Aero series of CPU coolers.


The box contents reveals that Thermaltake’s love affair with plastic packaging is
alive and well. Still, there’s no question the product is well protected within.


The SpinQ ships with LGA775 and K8 mounting hardware, and a packet of
thermal compound.

Thermaltake SpinQ: Key Features (from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
Stylish Appearance
– Cylinder Heatsink and Spiral Aluminum Fins are absolutely a presentation
of aesthetics.
– Eye-catching Scurve™ Blade Fan plus blue LED makes it unforgettable
We agree that the SpinQ is an exercise in aesthetics
— whether it is successful or not is a subjective judgement.
Optimized Structure
– 50 waved aluminum fins, 6 copper heatpipes and generates efficient cooling
performance
– Mirror coating copper base conducts heat effectively from CPU and gets
more surfaces to dissipate the heat
Six heatpipes is enough to cover the entire base.
A polished base isn’t necessary as thermal compound fills in any imperfections
— it’s flatness that is key.
Smart Airflow Design
– Integrated with the System to maximize the cooling performance
– VR™ Fan allows the users to adjust the fan speed according to their
needs. It makes good cooling effect at low speed
and generates minimum noise.
– Cylindrical Structure dissipates the hot air with 360°
We have not seen a blower CPU heatsink in a very long
time. With the right design, it could be competitive with the CPU coolers
of today.
Thermaltake SpinQ: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Compatibility Intel® Core 2 Extreme
(Socket LGA775)
Intel® Core 2 Quad (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Core 2 Duo (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Pentium D (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Pentium 4 (Socket LGA 775)
Intel® Celeron D (Socket LGA775)
Intel® Celeron (Socket LGA775)
AMD® Phenom (Socket AM2+)
AMD® Athlon 64 FX (Socket AM2/939)
AMD® Athlon 64 X2 (Socket AM2/939)
AMD® Athlon 64 (Socket AM2/939/754)
AMD® Sempron (Socket AM2/754)
Heatsink Dimension 121.63(L) x 90(W) x 151.85(H)
mm
Heatsink Material 50 Aluminum Fins w/ Copper
Heatpipes & Base
Heatpipe Ø 6 mm x 6
Fan Dimension Ø 80 x 85 mm
Fan Speed 1000 ~ 1600 RPM
Bearing Type Sleeve
Noise Level 19 ~ 28 dBA
Max. Air Flow 86.5 CFM
Max. Air Pressure 2.22 mmH2O
LED Fan Blue LED
Power Connector 3 Pin
Rated Voltage 12 V
Started Voltage 7 V
Rated Current 0.45 A
Power Input 5.4 W
MTBF 50,000 Hours
Weight 667 g

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The SpinQ is an odd looking beast— like a typical radial cooler flipped
90 degrees. The overall appearence is menacing, resembling a series of
circular saws or a drill-bit designed to burrow into the center of
the earth. It is quite easy to cut oneself on the SpinQ, not because of the
fins are sharp, but because there are so many pointed edges. (Editor’s Note: It got me in seconds!)


The SpinQ is designed to transfer heat from the base to the heatpipes
and then to the rest of the cooler. The blower fan pulls cool air in from
the sides to cool the fins, exhausting the air radially.


The cooler is composed of 50 thin aluminum rings friction-fit to six nickel-plated
copper heatpipes. Though the fins have the appearance of
a continuous spiral, it is an illusion — the fins are
identical, only fanned out at equal intervals. Manufacturers often
use a non-uniform surface to face incoming airflow to improve cooling with added turbulence,
but here, with the fan in the center, this pattern
on the outside edges has no value outside aesthetics. In contrast, the inside edges which does face the airflow from the fan are perfectly even.


The blower fan, 80mm in diameter and 85mm long, takes up a considerable amount of volume in the center and
extends almost the entire length of the cylinder of fins. The fins are fitted quite close together, which can impede airflow, but the higher pressure of the blower fan could well compensate. The six holes in the fins are for positioning or stabilizing rods.


The fan assembly’s plastic frame is bolted to the heatsink with screws.
It has a 3-pin connector and is wired to an internal manual fan speed
controller like most other Thermaltake CPU coolers. The fan blades are
transparent to enhance the glow of the blue LEDs. The large diameter of the fan is easily apparent here; it leaves a ring of just ~2cm width.


The heatpipes are secured to the base with a very small amount of solder. With top cover plate off (by removing four tiny screws), the base stayed affixed to the heatpipes, but only a trace of solder could be seen.

STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS

The radial blower fan is obviously integral to the design of this unusual heatsink. Even without turning the fan on, it’s clear to see that every fin surface will benefit from a greater, more even airflow than with typical box fans. Despite it’s height, the airflow is not like any other tower heatsink; it is more like a classic blow-down fan heatsink, as the intake is bi-polar, while the exhaust is almost omnidirectional. With socket 775, the heatsink can be set up so that the intakes of its fan face the back and front of a tower case, or the top and bottom. Which alignment would work better? It’s difficult to guess.

Given that the fan required a hole of >80mm cut from each fin, just how much surface area does the heatsink actually have? This requires some simple math to calculate: Imagine each fin as a circle without a hole and calculate its area, then caclulate the area of the hole and subtract the second number from the first. This would give the surface area on on side of each fin.

  • The outer diameter of each ring is about 112mm, taking into account the "wave" pattern around the outer edge.
  • The inner diameter is 82mm.
  • The area of a circle is Pi * r².
  • Moving to cm, the area of a 5.6 cm radius circle is 98.56 cm², and a 4.1 cm radius circle is 52.83 cm².
  • Hence, the area of one side of each fin is about 46 cm².
  • There are 50 fins, each with 2 sides, so the total cooling surface area is 4,600 cm².

How does this compare with other heatsinks tested by SPCR? Recently tested models with surface area specified:

The 121.63(L) x 90(W) x 151.85(H)mm SpinQ takes up about as much room as any of the above heatsinks, but because of the cavity taken up by its fan, the cooling surface area of the fins is distinctly smaller. The question is whether this can be compensated by the more even, higher pressure, enveloping airflow of the radial blower fan.

THE BASE & INSTALLATION

The base is the first conduit of heat transfer, so logically
it should be the most efficient piece of the puzzle. A flat base is ideal
unless the manufacturer decides to match CPU heatspreader curvature.


We found the base to be very flat and it did indeed have a mirror coating
as Thermaltake claimed.


Installation on AMD systems is faciliated using a simple tension clip
which fits in two grooves running perpendicular to the heatpipes. It’s
a very common design.


For LGA775 boards, a pair of push-pin brackets are attached using four
screws. We’re not fond of this system but for lighter heatsinks it isn’t
too much of a concern. Surprisingly, we found the heatsink weighs only
520 grams compared to the 667 grams listed in the specifications.


The SpinQ installed on our LGA775 test platform. The blower fan generates
airflow in a 360 degree arc parallel to the fins. In the above orientation
(which corresponds to how most AMD sockets are arranged), the fan pushes
air towards the top and bottom of the board. It also creates signficant
top-down airflow on the VRMs at the edge of the board and the northbridge
heatsink. If the heatsink is positioned with fins parallel to the PCI
slots, the VRMs near the rear of the board and the memory modules would
receive extra cooling.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we take some basic physical measurements.

Thermaltake SpinQ: Approximate Physical Measurements
Weight
520 g (heatsink alone)
560 g (including LGA775 mounting hardware)
Fin thickness
0.31 mm
Fin spacing
1.69 mm
Vertical Clearance
Not an issue
Horizontal Overhang
5 mm (measured from the
edge of the heatsink to the top edge of our test motherboard’s PCB)

Note that the measured weight is much lighter than the 667g specified by Thermaltake. It’s light enough that the standard socket 775 pushpins are perfectly adequate, as is the simple AMD tension clip.

Comparison: Approximate Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Ninja
0.31 mm
3.95 mm
Scythe Ninja 2
0.39 mm
3.68 mm
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Xigmatek HDT-S1283
0.33 mm
1.96 mm
Zerotherm Zen FZ120
0.37 mm
1.80 mm
Thermaltake SpinQ
0.31 mm
1.67 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120
0.45 mm
1.42 mm

Testing was done according to our
unique heatsink testing methodology
, and the reference fan was profiled
using our standard fan testing
methodology
. A quick summary of the components, tools, and procedures
follows below.

Key Components in Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel
    Pentium D 950
    Presler core. TDP of 130W; under our test load, it measures
    78W including efficiency losses in the VRMs.
  • ASUS
    P5LD2-VM
    motherboard. A basic microATX board with integrated graphics
    and plenty of room around the CPU socket.
  • Samsung MP0402H
    40GB 2.5" notebook drive
  • 1
    GB stick of Corsair XMS2
    DDR2 memory.
  • FSP Zen 300W
    fanless power supply.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Nexus 120 fan (part of our standard testing methodology; used when
    possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm fans)
    Nexus 120 fan measurements
    Voltage
    Noise
    RPM
    12V
    16 dBA@1m
    1100 RPM
    9V
    13 dBA@1m
    890 RPM
    7V
    12 dBA@1m
    720 RPM
    5V
    11 dBA@1m
    530 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the
    heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan
    4.32
    , used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensor. This sensor is not
    calibrated, so results are not universally applicable.
  • CPUBurn
    P6
    , used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat than most
    real applications. Two instances are used to ensure that both cores are stressed.
  • Throttlewatch
    2.01
    , used to monitor the throttling feature of the CPU to determine
    when overheating occurs.

Load testing was accomplished using CPUBurn to stress the processor, and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to make sure that the load temperature was
stable for at least ten minutes. The stock fan was tested at various voltages
to represent a good cross-section of its airflow and noise performance.

TEST RESULTS

Cooling Results

Thermaltake SpinQ
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
30 dBA
42°C
21
0.27
9V
27 dBA
43°C
22
0.28
7V
21 dBA
45°C
24
0.31
5V
16 dBA
48°C
27
0.35
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~10 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (21°C) at load.
°C/W: based on the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU (measured
78W); lower is better.

Fan @ 12V: Considering this is the fan’s maximum speed, performance was not impressive
at 21°C above ambient temperature. The fan produced a consistant hum but
the sound profile was dominated mainly by broadband turbulence. The subjective noise
wasn’t as harsh or grating as most other 30 dBA
fans we’ve heard.

Fan @ 9V: It was nice to see the CPU temperature increase by only a single
degree when the fan was dialed down to 9V. At this level, the fan had a bit of
a low-pitched whine with a somewhat subdued rattle coming from the motor/bearings.
SPL dropped by 3 dBA.

Fan @ 7V: Thermal rise was an additional two degrees. At 7V the fan generates a very low-pitched
hum. At 21 dBA, it is pretty quiet. We would consider this to be the SpinQ’s sweet
spot: the best compromise between noise and performance.

Fan @ 5V: Cooling suffered another 3°C. The fan exhibited audible clicking
which became inaudible with a bit of distance — at 1m it
was hard to pick out. The overall noise level was very low at 16 dBA.

We have no way of accurately measuring the airflow of a blower fan due to its geometry, but subjectively by feel alone, the SpinQ’s fan is impressive. The flow felt all around the cyliner of fins is very high at 12V, and still quite good at 5V.

The SpinQ fan sounds
smoother than almost any fan Thermaltake (and Zalman) has used on its heatsinks in the past. It is still
a long way from the smoothness of the best box fans, though.
Cooling performance is not in the highest ranks, especially
at its sound levels. The fan itself seems to take up too much room, and as a result, the fins lack the necessary
surface area to take advantage of the nice airflow.

The manual fan speed controller at its minimum puts the fan SPL at 18 dBA@1m, which corresponds about 6V. So, for those without a fan control system, the SpinQ can be adjusted
to a fairly low noise level without any extra software or hardware.

Thermaltake SpinQ vs. Zalman CNPS9300 AT
at the same SPL
Zalman CNPS9300 AT
Thermaltake SpinQ
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m
°C Rise
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m
°C Rise
9V
30 dBA
17
12V
30 dBA
21
7V
25 dBA
18
9V
27 dBA
22
5V
21 dBA
23
7V
21 dBA
24
 
5V
16 dBA
27

The SpinQ produces noise levels similar to the Zalman
CNPS9300 AT
, the only heatsink with an integral fan we’ve tested in the anechoic
chamber so far. At higher noise levels, the 9300 AT is superior, but when the fans
are slowed down to approximately the same noise level, the SpinQ comes in about
even. This suggests that the airflow across the SpinQ’s fins remains very good even when the fan is slowed significantly. Whether it’s the higher pressure of the blower fan, or more efficient distribution of the flow is hard to say.

SpinQ vs. Top-down Coolers
@ 16 dBA
Heatsink
°C Rise
Xigmatek HDT-D1284
20
Thermalright SI-128
21
Big Typhoon VX
22
Thermaltake SpinQ
24

Against other top-down cooler, the SpinQ disappoints. At 5V and 16 dBA, the SpinQ
performs worse than older heatsinks like the Thermalright
SI-128
, and even the poorly reviewed Big
Typhoon VX
(both equipped with our reference Nexus 120mm fan, also at 16
dBA).

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that some of the sounds that you can hear in these recordings may not be audible in actual use!
The ultra-low ambient noise level of the anechoic chamber (and our recording gear) allows us to record quiet sounds that would be overwhelmed by the higher ambient noise in a normal room!

The recording starts with 10 second segments of room ambience, then the fan

at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Thermaltake SpinQ is a noble attempt. Its performance
is poor compared to similarly priced competitors, whether they be traditional towers,
top-downers, or radials. (The price is currently between $60 and $65 at most sites we’ve
checked — though this is a lot lower than the $80 MSRP listed on Thermaltake’s
site.) While the quality of SpinQ’s acoustics are
improved compared to Thermaltake’s previous offerings, it’s not good enough to challenge the best.

The main problem is the SpinQ’s relatively low cooling surface area. The fins are thin rings, rather than broad, expansive
sheets like traditional tower coolers. The space taken up by the fan, by comparison,
is quite large. The cooling performance had a spread of only six degrees
between the fan at 12V and 5V, suggesting that airflow is not the limiting factor,
despite the dense fin alignment. With larger rings and a more compact fan, it
probably would do much better.

Other execution and design factors that could contribute to the less than stellar performance:

  • Fins only press-fitted, not soldered, to the heatpipes.
  • Too little solder on heatpipe-to-base interface?
  • Only one end of the heatpipes run up into the fins (unlike, for example, the Zalman 9000 series heatsinks, but like most top-down heatpipe coolers).

The SpinQ is the latest in a long line of Thermaltake CPU coolers
with interesting designs and eye-catching aesthetics that don’t quite achieve the performance they promise. Still, we applaud the innovations in the SpinQ and encourage Thermaltake’s engineers to go back to the drawing board to remake it with larger fin area, a smaller diameter fan, and perhaps add fin-heatpipes soldering in the manufacuring process.

Thermaltake SpinQ
PROS

* Generates top-down airflow
* Excellent, even airflow

* Integral manual fan controller
* Innovative design

* Light enough to make special mounting hardware unnecessary

CONS

* Fan too loud
* Cooling not competitive
* Expensive

Our thanks to Thermaltake
for the SpinQ heatsink sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Thermolab Baram Blows In
Scythe
Ninja 2: Tweaking a Classic

Zalman
9300AT: Not me too, but me again

Noctua
NH-U12P Tower Cooler

Zerotherm
Zen FZ120 CPU Cooler

Noctua
NH-C12P: A Top-Down Cooler Rises Up

* * *

Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *