Thermalright Spitfire – Review

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The cooler comes with two sets of accessories. One set helps to mount the cooler on the GPU and helps cool its other components (memory, VRMs etc). The other set helps support the cooler in the chassis. The dimensions of the cooler demand so!
A. Mounting system
The mounting system is very simple. It consists of a back plate that goes on the backside of the GPU, a bracket to secure the heatsink base to the back plate and four screws and washers to fit everything together. It also includes a plastic stick on for the back plate to prevent it from short circuiting onboard components.
The thermal paste provided is the latest Chill Factor in its 3rd iteration.
B. Heat Sinks
The unit comes with a bucket load of small heat sinks. There are 24 of these in 3 different sizes. The different sizes are necessitated as the heat pipes travel over some of the RAM chips and thus the large sized heatsinks can’t be used on them. Some of the heatsinks also double as VRM heatsinks. TR though has a list of video cards where it cautions against the use of these traditional heatsinks on VRMs. TR sells specially designed VRM modules depending on the video card being used. This in my opinion is a good idea as the heat sink itself can be used for a number of video cards. If a user upgrades their card, he (or she) only needs to buy a VRM module to match the new card rather than purchasing a new cooler. I will be testing this cooler on an ATi 4870. I’ll also use TR’s specially designed VRM heatsink the VRM-2 (described a little later in this section).
The heat sinks come with a pre-applied thermal tape. My experience with thermal tape based heat sinks have been less than stellar. They tend to fall off especially with continued exposure to heat. Thermalright should have bundled the cooler with a tube of adhesive paste rather than using thermal tape.
C. Fan Mounting System
The cooler can work passively, with a 120mm or a 140mm fan. As usual none is bundled with the cooler. 2 pairs of wire clips are provided to affix a 120 or 140mm fan. There are no anti-vibration strips included in the package.
D. The Case Securing System
The rest of the accessories are included to hold the cooler in the case. As the cooler hangs over or beyond the card (either way) it tends to make the card sag (because of its weight). The package includes a set of accessories to secure the cooler so it doesn’t sag. This consists of two threaded metal rods which can either take the place of the screws that fix the motherboard to the case tray, or occupy any empty holes for motherboard supports (incase you have a E-ATX case, or a m-ATX board in a ATX case). A support bar goes over the rods to complete the “stand” which secures the card. Another support bar helps connect the cooler to the stand.
As you will see later, that installation the securing system can be very frustrating. Thermalright provides alternates if one method doesn’t work. Unfortunately I ended up in a situation where none of the methods would work as they are designed to.
E. VRM-R2 VRM Heatsink (4870/4890)
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Though sold separately, technically speaking the VRM heatsink is not a separate product. It needs to be used in conjunction with a GPU heatsink. Thus it is mentioned here rather than being reviewed on its own.
The VRM (for those of you who have been wonder just what the heck is a VRM, it is an acronym for Voltage Regulator Module. They help convert +12V or +5V voltage into whatever the processor requires) heatsink comes in a traditional brown box.
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Inside the box is the VRM heatsink, mounting accessories and instruction.
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The VRM heatsink consists of two elements: the heatsink base and the cooling tower. The two are connected by two heat pipes.
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The heatsink base itself also has “fins” which help dissipate heat.
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The heat pipes that exit the base turn to enter the cooling tower, which is again perpendicular to the base (just like the spitfire). The cooling tower can be fixed with an 80mm fan for added cooling using the provided clips. The tower has a perforated design to improve cooling.
The accessories include two wire clips for an 80mm fan, two rubber pads that act as thermal interface and two screws (plus washers) to fix the heatsink to the video card.
Note: There is another version of VRM heatsink for the 4870 (and -90) called the VRM-R1. The difference is not in the performance but the orientation of the heat sink.
The heat sink in VRM-R1 faces the side panel, while in –R2 it faces the front of the case. This is shown in the figures below (taken from TR’s Website):
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As you can see if you have a side panel fan which opposes the position of the heat sink you should opt for –R1, otherwise get the –R2. Thermalright is covering its basis. Unfortunately if you later decide to change your case, or you order the wrong product, you’ll end up either having to buy the other version, trade with a friend (who might happen to have what you need), or try and work out an exchange with your dealer.

OFFICIAL SPECS & ONLINE RESOURCES

Specs & Features of Spitfire (from TR’s Website)
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    • 6 x Sintered Nickel Plated Heat-pipes, provides the GPU with the best cooling technology while capable of withstanding many years of operation .
    • 160 x 150mm of dissipating area. Can be used in conjunction with case with side-panel fans (Passive cooling), or can also be actively cooled with 14 or 12cm fans (fan clips included, additional fans sold separately) .
    • Double-sided copper base. Which allows two methods of installing your Spitfire to best suit your system.
    • Unique High-riser patented fins, allowing for unparallel cooling and near silent operation.
    • Support Pillar Hardware included, the Spitfire VGA cooler includes additional support hardware to prevent VGA card droop.
    • Soldered Heat-pipes, Fins and Copper Base, ensure all components maintain the highest of Thermal Efficiency

Specs & Features of VRM-R2 (from TR’s Website)
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    • Proprietary through holes on fins for efficient ventilation
    • Soldered fins to copper base (nickel plated) to make effective contact
    • Options to install 80 x 25mm or 80 x 15mm fans.
    • Supports ATI HD 4890/4870 VGA cards.
    • Two nickel-plated heatpipes to reduce oxidation effect, maintaining top performance for long term usage.
    • Features an all copper base and soldering technology that has each heatsink fin soldered to the heatpipes for a definite contact in producing high efficiency rate of heat transfer.

ONLINE RESOURCES
Thermalright has dedicated pages for both the spitfire and VRM-R2/R1. Both have the usual pictures, review links, features, downloadable manuals and a FAQ. It is the last bit which really needs a lot of work.
For spitfire the FAQ lists video cards that can be used with the cooler. This will also include the newest GeForce 4xx series cards (not to be confused with the 4xxx cards, which were released nearly a decade ago). The list also mentions if a separate VRM module is required.
Unfortunately the list doesn’t mention a list of compatible cases (you’ll see later in the installation section why this is important). It also fails to mention that Thermalright recommends that this cooler be used in conjunction with a low profile top-down CPU cooler. This is not mentioned anywhere on the website except the below the performance figure. This is an essential piece of information and really should be shown prominently on the website.
The installation pictures are really well done, showing each step of the way.
The VRM-R2/R1 page is also similarly arranged. The FAQ section covers how the –R1 and –R2 versions differ. As this is not a standalone product, the page also mentions Thermalright products (read: GPU coolers) that this is compatible with. Strangely spitfire is not on the list (as of the writing of this review).

I would recommend Thermalright to include a list of compatible cases and mention the bit about conflicts with aftermarket tower coolers for processor more prominently.

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