Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme: Heir to the CPU Cooling Throne

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Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme: Heir to the CPU Cooling Throne

October 15, 2007 by Lawrence Lee

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
LGA775/Socket AM2 CPU Heatsink
Thermalright, Inc.
Market Price

Thermalright has a long tradition of making excellent heatsinks with simple, aesthetically pleasing designs. Its previous flagship CPU cooler, the massive aluminum tower Ultra 120, gave the low airflow champ Scythe Ninja a serious run for its money. Not one to sit idle, Thermalright improved the design by increasing the number of heat pipes from four to six and added the moniker "eXtreme" to the name. With the original Ultra-120 being a strong performer already, the question we look to answer is: How much difference can two heatpipes make?

Unlike other manufacturers, Thermalright packs its products in a non-descript, thick cardboard box. The heatsink is surrounded with foam and the mounting hardware and accessories are located inside a plain white box.

Mounting hardware, thermal compound, fan clips, anti-vibration strips, and instructions. The cooler supports socket AM2 and LGA775 out of the box.

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme: Feature Highlights (from the product web page)
Feature & Brief Our Comment
Quiet and powerful cooling due to multiple heat pipes and large aluminum fin area
The hallmarks of good cooling.
Proprietary bent winglet design to minimize airflow resistance
We'll take their word for it, but surely unbent fins are less restrictive...
Heat pipes soldered to base (nickel plated) and fins for optimum heat transfer
Most heatsink components are now soldered together. It's an efficient heat transfer method.
Include both bolt-thru-board retention brackets for Intel and AMD
The bolt-thru method is very secure.

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme (from the product web page)
Heatsink Dimensions (L x W x H)
63.44 x 132 x 160.5 mm (heatsink only)
790 grams
Recommended Fan
All 120mm Fans
INTEL: Socket LGA775
AMD: Socket AM2

All AMD Socket 753/939/940 processors (Retention kit sold separately)

Motherboard compatibility List
(Both Ultra-120A and Ultra-120 eXtreme do not include a backplate for AM2 systems. If you have motherboard manufactured by either Asrock or Gigabyte that utilizes the push pin method, you will need to make a separate purchase for an AM2 metal backplate.

The Ultra-120 eXtreme is almost identical to its brother, the Ultra-120, with the exception of two extra heat pipes. An interesting aspect about the number of heatpipes: While there are technically just six heatpipes, in practical terms, they act like 12 heatpipes. The "evaporator end" is actually the center of each heatpipe, which is clamped at the base, at the trough of its "U"-shape. This is where the coolant in the pipes get evporated due to the heat of the CPU. The ends of the heatpipe go up through the fins separately on either side of the base, so each heatpipe actually has two condenser ends. Thus, 12 pipes go through the fins. So while only two lengths of heatpipes were added, the effective number of pipes went from eight in the Ultra-120 to twelve in the Ultra-120 eXtreme

The extra heatpipes makes the eXtreme 45 grams heavier than the Ultra, but the difference is insignificant compared to the overall weight of the heatsink. Thermalright's bolt-thru system for mounting their heavier heatsinks is very secure, so this should not be an issue. As it stands 16cm tall, narrower cases cannot accomodate the Ultra-120 eXtreme's substantial height. In addition, any fan ducts near the CPU area will most likely need to be removed to make way.

Another issue: Many computer cases have a front-to-back crossbar that adds strength and provides additional support for the power supply. With some motherboards, in the proper "east-west" orientation, the Ultra-120 eXtreme may hit that support bar. This was the case with an Antec Solo case and the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 motherboard we reviewed a few months ago.

The mounting hardware included is limited to LGA775 and socket AM2. There are two different sets of spring loaded bolts; one set each for 775 and AM2. Such spring loaded bolts, in our opinion, are the very best way ot ensuring secure, consistent installation of heavy heatsinks for DIYers. If you have an oddball AM2 motherboard without the standard retention bracket, you will need to obtain Thermalright's AM2 Bolt-Thru-Kit. Installation on older AMD sockets 754, 939, and 940 require the Socket 939 Bolt-Thru-Kit. Use with socket 478 may be possible with the P4-478 Heatsink Retention Kit.

Aside from this, compatibility is pretty good. The space between the base and the bottom fin is fairly large, avoiding interference with most motherboard components except for the most extravagant of northbridge heatsinks such as those found on the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS4/DQ6 (the only models listed as incompatible by Thermalright at the time of writing). On some motherboards, the heatsink may overhang the top edge of the board by a few millimeters. This may be an issue depending on how much clearance exists between the motherboard and power supply.

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