Thermaltake's Big Contender: The Big Typhoon

Cooling
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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
Brand Thermaltake Power Rating 0.30A
Manufacturer Hong Sheng Airflow Rating 54.4 CFM
Model Number TT-1225 RPM Rating 1,300 ± 10% RPM
Bearing Type Sleeve? Noise Rating 16 dBA
Hub Size 1.58" Header Type 3-pin
Frame Size 120 x 120 x 25 mm Starting Voltage 5.1V
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.

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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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