Thermalright Spitfire – Review

Posted May 4, 2010
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If there was ever an awe inspiring sight in the realm of video card coolers it has to the Thermalright spitfire. As you read the review you’ll find out that this is one product that you just want to love, but might just give out in aggravation

Thermalright is well known for its CPU coolers. They also manufacture fans, thermal paste, chipset coolers and VGA coolers. Like all Thermalright designs, their VGA coolers are “interesting”. When I say interesting I mean they employ out of the box design techniques to get the most out of their products. The Spitfire is probably the best example of this. I am sure Thermalright (TR) nomenclature has more to do with the product “spitting” fire, rather than the traditional meaning of the phrase (a quick tempered, emotional girl!). I’d like of think of this as an equalent of the venerable World War II fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire.

PACKAGING

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I recently looked at the new TR CPU cooler the Venomous-X. Its packaging was a departure from “traditional” card board brown that company employed for most of its products of yesteryears. The spitfire, however, fails to break the tradition and ships in a large brown box.
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The box (at its most descriptive) simply says Thermalright Spitfire VGA cooler and provides the company’s URL. As most computer components are purchased from on-line stores, catchy boxes aren’t really necessary. They do add some eye-candy but eventually they are stored in the attic, thrown away or utilized as makeshift dustbins. I am sure the creative among you can probably employ them for other uses, but in all honesty a box is a box no matter how you look at it!
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Inside the box lies the Spitfire heat sink, in the usual foam shroud. At the side is a white accessories box. With it comes the usual installation leaflet (you will want to hang on to this) and a TR sticker.

THE SPITFIRE COOLER –Wow.

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The minute I saw the box I knew this has to contain something gigantic. But I really wasn’t expecting anything as big as this! The first phrase that came to me after I took it out of its protective shroud was “Wow, what were TR engineers thinking when they designed this”.
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The cooler is simply humongous. It is the largest GPU cooler I have seen in my life! It is also the first GPU cooler I have seen that comes in a peculiar two part design bent at right angles. The heat sink base is oriented perpendicular to the heat plates. This is to accommodate the mammoth in a computer case. It is nigh on impossible to fit it in parallel to the graphics card. The easiest solution was to make it hang at right angle to the card. This, as you will see, leads to many of the frustrations involved with the cooler’s installation.
The cooler measures 147mm x 123mm x 154mm (LxWxH) and weighs in a hefty 550 grams. The cooler consists of six heat pipes that leave and consequently enter the heat plates in line while taking a 90 degree turn. This is so that the cooler can hang over or beyond the video card (either way i.e. over the card and over the CPU cooler or over the expansion slots).
Cooling Tower
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The cooling tower consists of 300 cooling plates arranged in 6 columns of 50 plates each. The tower is made up of six columns of heat plates that are separated from one another. Each column gets its own heat pipe. Why was this “odd” design chosen? Probably to reduce the weight without unduly compromising the cooling efficiency. The cooling tower is not symmetrical in its surface topology. The side facing the heat sink base is flat, while the other side is not. This is because the heat plates are of different orientation. The heat plate columns at the extreme (2) and the center (2) are oriented vertically, while the remaining two are oriented horizontally. All the heat plates are of equal size (2.8mm x 1.9mm). Despite its size the cooling plates provide only about 240 cm2 of heat dissipation area. The plates have a flat edge design.
Heat Pipes

The cooler has 6 Nickel plated Copper heat pipes with a 4mm diameter. They are bent at right angles as they enter the cooling tower which gives the cooler its shape. The heat pipes emerge in line from the heat sink base and enter the cooling in line as well. As noted before one heat pipe enter one column of heat plates, thus 6 pipes for 6 columns. The heat pipes are “cleanly” soldered to the heat plates as well as the heat sink base.
Heat Sink Base
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Both sides of the heat sink base can be used to transfer heart from the GPU. This is because the cooler is designed to either hang over the video card (and thus the processor cooler), or over the expansion slots. The change in orientation necessitates that both sides of the base must be polished and finished so that they can be used to exchange heat.
The base is very typical of TR coolers. It has a matte finish, which only contrasts with the recent Venomous-X cooler (which had a shiny base). Both sides of the heat sink are exactly the same.
Impressions
As I said before, seeing this cooler for the first time is certainly a sight to behold. It is very, very big and as you will see, TR had to develop special mounting system to accommodate its dimensions. As far as the quality goes, this is TR we are talking about folks! The solders are clean; the finish is top notch as is the workman ship. The design is a departure from the usual TR VGA coolers of late. Most of the design elements reflect TR’s intention: They wanted a Cooler that can do what the standard cooler does without any fans and do much, much better with one and with much less noise. What remains to be seen is how its size and installation weighs in on its performance (and I fear it’ll weigh on quiet a lot, pun intended!)

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