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Thermaltake’s Big Contender: The Big Typhoon

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Thermaltake is not known for being quiet or even particularly innovative… but they are well known, and they have a lot of products on the market — far too many for us to test them all. However, we’ve heard good things about the Big Typhoon, so we decided to take a closer look. In the past, Thermaltake’s reputation has taken quite a beating on our forums, and we are pleased to note that the Big Typhoon doesn’t deserve it. Could it be destined for greater things? Read the whole story to find out…

January 23, 2007 by Devon
Cooke

Product
Thermaltake Big Typhoon CL-P0114
Socket 478 / 775 / K7 / K8 CPU Heatsink
Manufacturer
Market Price
US$40~65

Thermaltake is one of the most recognizable brands in aftermarket cooling,
having hit the ground running with the Golden Orb back in 2000 when the market
was just getting started. Thermaltake’s products tend to be well distributed,
colorfully packaged, and well marketed, which has gained them a reputation for
being a company grounded in marketing at the expense of good engineering.

Despite excellent brand recognition, neither of the two Thermaltake products
that we’ve seen before have impressed us: The
"Silent" Tower was noisy and difficult to install
, while the
PurePower fanless power supply hummed and overheated
. Nevertheless, every
product is different, and the Big Typhoon came highly recommended.

In fact, it’s been successful enough that Thermaltake has released an updated
version of the Big Typhoon called the Big Typhoon VX, which features
a fan controller, a different fan and a new mounting system. Our sample was
the plain vanilla version, but, as the heatsink itself is unchanged, the thermal
results of our testing should apply to both models. However, as we do not have
a sample of the updated fan, our acoustic results apply to the original version
only.


Flashy, plastic packaging designed by Thermaltake’s talented marketing department.


The heatsink is partially disassembled in this photo.

Thermaltake Big Typhoon: Feature Highlights
(from the
product web page
)
Feature & BriefOur Comment
Application for Intel P4 LGA 775, and AMD K7, K8
It’s not clear in the text, but "P4"
refers to older P4 processors that use Socket 478. Support for this socket
was dropped from the "VX" revision. AM2 compatibility is not advertised,
but appears to be supported by both versions.
6 Heatpipes, transfer the heat quickly
Heatpipes feature prominently in almost
every high end heatsink these days.
High density aluminum fins provide more surface area for good
heat dissipation
More surface area is indeed good for heat dissipation… but high
density is bad without a high pressure (read: noisy) fan to force air
between them. The best heatsinks feature a good balance between the number
of fins and the space between them.
Copper base solder, perfect contact to ensure the best performance
In theory, soldered joints are superior
to contact-fitted joints, but how much superior?
12 cm silent fan, perform well at
low noise, 16dB only
Such large fans do tend to be the quietest,
but we don’t believe the 16 dB number.
Thermaltake Big Typhoon: Specifications (from
the
product web page
)
Part Number
CL-P0114
Heatsink Dimensions
122 x 122 x 103 mm
Heatsink Material
Copper Base & Aluminum Fin (142 Fins)
Heatpipes
Copper Tube (6 mm) x 6 pcs
Compatibility
– Intel P4 LGA775
– Intel P4 478 Prescott FMB1.5
– AMD Athlon 64 / Athlon 64 FX
– AMD Athlon XP up to 3400+
– AMD Sempron up to 3400+
Fan Dimensions
120 x 120 x 25 mm
Maximum Air Flow54.4 CFM
Maximum Air Pressure1.87 mm H2O
Rated Voltage
12V
Started Voltage
7V
Power Input
3.6W
Fan Speed
1,300 RPM (±10%)
Noise16 dBA
Connector3-pin
Weight813 g (28.70 oz)

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Big Typhoon is a hybrid between the traditional top-down design,
and the "tower" style that currently dominates the high end. It is
a tower because the main body of the heatsink is elevated above the base by
six heatpipes, but because the fan blows downwards, not sideways, it retains
the look of a more conventional heatsink.

It’s a good design; heatpipes, which allow heat to be spread across
more and larger fins, have proved their worth over and over in the high end
market sector. Furthermore, the Big Typhoon gets around two big downsides of
the tower design: Excessive height and poor cooling for motherboard components.


Seen through artistic eyes, the Big Typhoon resembles a large, industrial
mushroom…

It’s a little unclear just how much vertical space the Big Typhoon requires.
The technical specifications list a height of 103mm, but that’s too low, since
it doesn’t include the 25mm thick fan. Thus, the effective height should be
approximately 130mm… but even that isn’t quite right as the fan needs some
breathing room above it to be effective. Add in another two centimeters for
that, and the height difference between the Big Typhoon and many tower heatsinks
almost disappears. And, with most of the weight elevated about three centimeters
above the base, the torsion on the mounting system is not insignificant. Like
many large heatsinks, the Big Typhoon is probably at risk of breaking loose
if the system it is in is handled roughly.


…or perhaps a grove of metallic trees.

It’s quite likely that the Big Typhoon could have been made shorter by using
shorter heatpipes, but the added height does confer a few benefits. First of
all, it makes is easy to work with, as there is plenty of room around the base
to fiddle with screws and mounting clips. Second, it reduces the back pressure
by allowing more room for air to escape underneath the fins. Given how much
the closely spaced fins impede airflow, keeping the back pressure at a minimum
is probably quite important to keeping low airflow performance at an acceptable
level.


Dense fin spacing, as advertised.

Unlike most heatpipe-based heatsinks, each heatpipe in the Big Typhoon offers
only a single path for heat to travel. Heat goes from end to end rather than
from the middle to both ends. It’s not clear whether this has any effect on
thermals, but it does have one nicety: It makes the area around the base more
open and easy to work in.


Heatpipes are terminated at the base rather than passing through on either
side.

The copper base is not especially well finished, and a few ridges could be
felt by running a fingernail across it. Is that enough to make a difference
in performance? It depends; certain thermal interface materials seem to "like"
different surfaces, and although it is usually true that smoother is better,
it’s not a universal rule.


The grain of the copper base can be easily seen.

FAN DETAILS

The fan is a strange hybrid of orange and black from Taiwanese company Hong
Sheng
. This is worthy of comment because one of our favorite 120mm fans
— the Nexus Real Silent 120 — is also orange. A closer inspection
revealed a few other similarities: Closed corner flanges, similarly shaped blades,
and a frame that looked nearly identical. In fact, aside from the color of the
frame and the label on the hub, we were able to find only one difference: A
small tab on one of the support struts that kept the cables in place on the
Nexus. The two fans were similar enough that it seems very likely that the original
manufacturer is the same for both fans. This is strange, since the original
source for the Nexus is reputed to be Yate
Loon
, not Hong Sheng.


The label on the hub clearly identifies Hong Sheng as the OEM.

After a few puzzled moments, we compared our Nexus to some others in the lab…
and realized that there were two distinct versions of the Nexus, with
only a very slight difference in the shape of the central spokes to distinguish
them. Presumably, the second frame style comes from Yate Loon. A photo showing
the two versions side by side can be found in our
recent 120mm fan round up
.


The stock fan is seemingly identical to the Nexus 120. That’s a very good
sign.

Although it looks identical, the Big Typhoon’s fan is rated for 300 RPM more
than the Nexus, and did seem to be louder at stock voltage. However, when matched
up rotation-for-rotation, its noise signature was indistinguishable; both had
the same smooth growl that quickly disappeared into the background below ~700
RPM. There is little doubt that this fan is a winner.

However…

Revision Note: Big Typhoon VX Fan and Fan Controller

As mentioned in the introduction, the newer Big Typhoon VX has a
different fan from the Big Typhoon tested here, so comments about noise
and the comparison with the Nexus only apply to the original revision. The
VX revision also comes with a fan controller, which further complicates
things.


A wire grill is included for looks and safety, but can probably be left off
for better thermal and acoustic results.

INSTALLATION

The mounting system is the same fiddly some-tools-required system used by the
Silent Tower
, with all the same pros and cons. Pros: Security and wide compatibility
(Sockets 478 and 775 for Intel, Socket A, K8 and AM2 for AMD). Cons: Very difficult
to install, and no indication of when to stop tightening.

While we were impressed that Thermaltake has managed to design a single clip
that works for all five of the most recent major sockets, supporting processors
from as long ago as 1999, we were less than thrilled to find that installing
the clip was both difficult and time consuming.

The installation process is to remove whatever stock mounting system exists
and thread thin bolts through a custom backplate, the stock mounting holes,
some brass standoffs to secure the backplate to the motherboard, the mounting
plate, and finally some tiny nuts to hold it all together. Each bolt needs to
be dealt with individually, and some of the bolts can be very tough to get to
once the heatsink is in place. The hardest part is putting the nuts on, as no
wrench is included and they are too small for most wrench kits. They are too
thin and awkwardly placed to use an adjustable wrench. Our eventual solution
was to use needle nose pliers to tighten them, but this was time consuming and
required a lot of room around the base. It would be nearly impossible to install
on a motherboard in a case.


The mounting system uses tiny nuts and bolts… and doesn’t include a wrench.

Revision Note: Big Typhoon VX Mounting System

Thermaltake has replaced this clumsy system in the updated Big Typhoon VX,
although the revision does not support Socket 478 or Socket A. What it loses
in compatibility it gains in ease of use: Custom clips that fit the stock
mounting systems easily and without requiring extra tools.

TESTING

Testing was done according to our
unique heatsink testing methodology
, and the stock 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:

Test Tools

  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    for measuring AC power at the wall to ensure that the
    heat output remains consistent.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable-speed fan controller, used to
    regulate the fan speed during the test.
  • Bruel & Kjaer (B&K) model 2203 Sound Level Meter. Used to
    accurately measure noise down to 20 dBA and below.
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .

Software Tools

  • SpeedFan
    4.31
    , used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensor. This sensor is not
    calibrated, so results are not universally applicable; however,
  • CPUBurn
    P6
    , used to stress the CPU heavily, generating more heat that most
    realistic loads. 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.

Noise measurements were made with the fan powered from the lab variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

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. Every fan was tested at four voltages: 5V,
7V, 9V, and 12V, representing a full cross-section of the fan’s airflow and
noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 19 dBA and 18°C.

TEST RESULTS

Stock Fan Profile: Thermaltake Big Typhoon
BrandThermaltakePower Rating0.30A
ManufacturerHong
Sheng
Airflow Rating54.4 CFM
Model NumberTT-1225RPM Rating1,300 ± 10% RPM
Bearing TypeSleeve?Noise Rating16 dBA
Hub Size1.58"Header Type3-pin
Frame Size120 x 120 x 25 mmStarting Voltage5.1V
Voltage
Noise
RPM
CFM
Power
12V
25 dBA@1m
1250 RPM
60 CFM
1.21W
9V
21 dBA@1m
1010 RPM
46 CFM
0.93W
7V
~19 dBA@1m
810 RPM
35 CFM
0.75W
5V
<19 dBA@1m
590 RPM
25 CFM
0.58W
Thermaltake Big Typhoon with Stock fan
Fan Voltage
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
Noise
12V
42°C
24°C
0.31
25 dBA@1m
9V
45°C
27°C
0.35
21 dBA@1m
7V
50°C
32°C
0.41
~19 dBA@1m
5V
62°C
44°C
0.56
<19 dBA@1m
Thermaltake Big Typhoon with Reference fan
12V
42°C
24°C
0.31
22 dBA@1m
9V
45°C
27°C
0.35
~19 dBA@1m
7V
53°C
35°C
0.45
<19 dBA@1m
5V
63°C
45°C
0.58
<19 dBA@1m
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~20 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (19°C) at load.
°C/W: Temperature rise over ambient per Watt of CPU heat, based
on the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU (measured 78W).
Noise: SPL measured in dBA@1m distance with high accuracy B &
K SLM

As expected, the stock fan and our reference fan sounded very similar; we couldn’t
tell them apart when they were running at the same speed. The only significant
difference was the stock speed, which is 1,300 RPM for the stock fan, but only
1,000 RPM for our reference fan. Despite the speed difference, thermal results
with the two fans were not significantly different. Only at 7V did the two fans’
performance diverge — and even that was only a 3°C difference.

Fan @ 12V: The stock fan was both quiet and smooth at full speed; with
the exception of some of our regular readers, many people would consider it
quiet enough without reducing the speed any more. Cooling performance was somewhere
in the middle of the pack: Good enough for most systems, but far from challenging
for the top end.

Fan @ 9V: At 9V, the stock fan approached the minimum noise level in
most conventional systems. Some users will see no benefit in reducing the speed
below this level, though the fan was still plainly audible on our test bench.
Most of the noise at this level was airflow; the low hum of the fan motor had
died away almost entirely.

Cooling performance continued to be middle-of-the-road, rising a modest 3°C
above the 12V results.

Fan @ 7V: At 7V, the stock fan was more or less at the ambient noise
level, and we had to struggle to pick out the noise from the background. Only
the quietest systems will draw benefit from reducing the fan speed below this
level.

However, the cooling performance dropped off considerably; it is probably only
possible to cool low-to-midrange processors with the fan at this level. In a
real system where the ambient temperature would be 10~15°C higher, our test
processor would certainly have overheated at this level.

Fan @ 5V: There would be little point to using the Big Typhoon with
the fan at this level. Not only is there nothing to be gained from a acoustic
perspective (7V is already quiet enough for the vast majority of systems), but
the performance suffered too much to be usable. The tightly spaced fins simply
didn’t cool well enough with so little airflow; if you are absolutely convinced
that you need a fan that runs this slowly, you’re better off using a heatsink
with widely spaced fins.

VS. THE HEAVYWEIGHTS

The Big Typhoon is the first heatsink to be reviewed under our new testing
methodology, so direct comparisons are currently a little hard to come by. However,
we did profile a few of the best heatsinks in our
updated methodology article
. Thermaltake definitely has high-end aspirations
for the Big Typhoon, so it’s worth throwing it into the mix — just remember
that it is being compared against the best of the best. It’s a little outclassed.

Heatsink Comparison: Heavyweight heatsinks &
SPCR’s 120mm Reference Fan
Fan Voltage
Thermaltake
Big Typhoon
Thermalright
XP-120
Thermalright
Ultra-120
Scythe
Ninja
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
24
0.31
25
0.32
15
0.19
14
0.18
9V
27
0.35
26
0.33
17
0.22
16
0.21
7V
35
0.45
28
0.36
21
0.27
17
0.22
5V
45
0.58
34
0.44
26
0.33
21
0.27

The performance numbers place the Big Typhoon roughly on par with the Thermalright
XP-120, although the XP-120 does significantly better at lower airflow levels.
With more airflow, it is quite possible that the Big Typhoon would pull ahead…
but at the expensive of greater noise. The current high end heatsinks —
the Ninja and the Ultra-120 — outperform the Big Typhoon significantly.

NOISE RECORDINGS IN MP3 FORMAT

Thermaltake Big Typhoon: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient
between levels
: One
Meter
, One Foot

Comparatives:

Scythe Infinity: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between
levels
: One Meter,
One Foot

Arctic Cooling Alpine 64: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One Meter,
One Foot

Scythe Mine w/ stock fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between levels: One
Meter
, One Foot

Reference 120mm fan: 5V-7V-9V-12V, 5s Ambient between
levels
: One
Meter
, One Foot

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made
with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system and are
intended to represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one
meter
, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is
intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound 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. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient
noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not
be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from one meter, chances are we
couldn’t record it either!

The one foot recording is
designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording
with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject
sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you
have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we
make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio
Recording Methods Revised
.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

With the Big Typhoon, Thermaltake joins Scythe as one of the only manufacturers
we know of that sells a heatsink with an acceptably quiet fan. That in itself
makes the Big Typhoon worthy of special mention, no matter what other attributes
it has.

The other attributes are fairly run-of-the-mill: Middling performance, wide
compatibility, and a poor mounting system. We liked the concept of a "top-down"
heatsink with a 120mm fan and heatpipes — tower heatsinks are often a little
on the tall side — but we were a little disappointed when we discovered
that it didn’t actually end up being that much shorter.

What we really want to know is how the fan on the Big Typhoon VX sounds.
The VX model addresses our biggest concern with the Big Typhoon — the mounting
system — but the change of fan concerns us. It’s not easy to find a fan
as quiet as the one on the original Big Typhoon, so the change is unlikely to
be for the better.

It’s tempting to give the Big Typhoon a high recommendation. There’s no question
that it’s quiet, and we think it’s capable of remaining quiet while dissipating
up to ~60W. These days, it’s not difficult to get a high-performance processor
within that power envelope. However, the difficult installation procedure —
unchanged from the Silent Tower — really holds back our full recommendation.
We’ll compromise by calling the Big Typhoon the best Thermaltake product we’ve
seen, and hopefully we’ll see their products continue to improve.

Pros
* Fan is very quiet and smooth
* Performance good enough for most users
* Updated VX model has simple installation
* Top-down airflow good for system cooling
* Socket A and Socket 478 are supported
Cons
* Installation is complex, fiddly, and difficult
* Very heavy
* Poor low-airflow performance
* Somewhat expensive

Much thanks to Thermaltake
for the Big Typhoon sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest


Recommended Heatsinks
SPCR’s Unique Heatsink Testing
Methodology

SPCR’s Standard Fan Testing
Methodology

Thermaltake Silent Tower
Heatsink / Fan

Scythe SCNJ-1000
Ninja Heatsink
Scythe "Summit"
Mine Heatsink / Fan
Thermalright Gets
Back on Top with the Ultra-120

* * *

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