Thermalright Spitfire – Review

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The installation will be covered in two sections. The first will deal with the installation of the cooler and VRM heatsinks. The second section will deal with securing the card in the computer chassis.
INSTALLATION ON THE CARD
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The weapon of choice is an ATi 4870 from XFX. This is the standard version with the traditional cooler. The default cooler was removed to expose the card.
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The center of the card is occupied by the 4870 GPU.
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This is surrounded by 8 GDDR5 memory chips. The voltage regulator modules are located towards the right of the card. The large chip next to the VRMs is the Vitec inductor chip. The spitfire itself includes a heatsink for the Vitec chip, which can’t be used in conjunction with the VRM-2. The VRM-2’s heatsink doesn’t cover the vitec chip.
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The installation begins with the memory modules. The protective tab is removed from the two sided tape and the heatsinks are simply stuck on the memory modules. As the modules located towards the top of the GPU will have the heat pipes running over them, small form factor heat sinks are used on them.

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Larger heatsinks are placed over the memory towards the right of the GPU. The memory heatsinks are well designed, but they have do have a major flaw: The two sided thermal tape. Even during installation a couple of the larger memory heatsinks fell off! If you have an adhesive thermal paste, use that. If you don’t, do yourself a favor and buy it. Otherwise you’ll end up with some really hot memory chips.

Once that was done the, GPU cooler (spitfire) installation begins. And this is where most of the problems start.

I had two cases to try the spitfire in: A Cooler Master Stacker 830 and HAF 922. The former had a large tower cooler installed over the CPU. Thus the only possibility was to install the spitfire pointing downwards (beyond the card). This however wasn’t possible as the heatsink would just not fit in the case (i.e. it was too long). The ends of the heat pipe did not clear the bottom of the case. I never thought I’d live to see the day when something wouldn’t fit inside a Stacker!

The next case I used was a HAF 922. This had a traditional Intel top-down Heat-sink fan cooler. Thus it should have been possible to install the cooler both ways. Unfortunately this was not possible either. The cooler would not fit hanging over the expansion slots (pointing downwards) as this time the power supply unit got in the way! It was only possible to orient it so that it over hangs the processor cooler.

This is why I would strongly recommend Thermalright to come up with a list of possible conflicts arising out of the cooler’s fitting. I know it is difficult to test all the popular cases, but they can at least add some clearance numbers. I spent a good part of an hour trying to get this cooler into any of my test cases, but as you will see later this was not the end of my travails

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A thin layer of The Chill Factor III was applied on the GPU.
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The heat sink was affixed using the mounting mechanism. My initial idea, which did not quiet work out (see rant above) was to install the cooler so that it over hangs the expansion slots (as none of them were occupied). This was done to allow testing with the default tower cooler on the processor. The bracket mount was threaded with four screws and placed on the heatsink. The heatsink was placed on the GPU, with the bracket going on it. The card was reversed and the heatsink secured with the back plate, after application of the safety padding.
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It is recommended to balance the card on the edge of the box if you don’t happen to have a friend around to hold the card while mounting the heatsink. This is another use for the brown box.
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This is how the cooler appears when seen from the front
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The heatsink base makes good contact with the ATi GPU
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The next to go on is the VRM heat sink. The thermal pad is applied on the heat sink.
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The heatsink is positioned over the VRMs.
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The screw holes are aligned (between the card and VRM). The heatsink is secured with the provided screws. It is easier to keep the card on its side, balance on the GPU heatsink on an antistatic surface, while installing the VRM heatsink.
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The VRM-R2 heatsink is oriented parallel to the front of the case when installed.
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INSTALLATION OF THE SECURING SYSTEM IN THE CASE
Once the GPU and the VRM heatsinks are installed, it is time to turn the attention towards securing the card in the case. For this a system of vertical rods and securing bars is provided.
My only option was to install the card in a HAF 922, which takes a maximum of ATX sized board.
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To install the securing system I had to take the motherboard mounting screws on either side of the memory slots out and install the vertical rods. And again my luck ran out.
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The mounting hole where the vertical rod is supposed to be fixed is right below the video card! As this is an ATX only case, I did not have the option to use the E-ATX mounting holes. (They were present in the Stacker, but that presented its own set of challenges as mentioned in the rant above).
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I decided to install the securing system using only one of the vertical rods.
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Finally a 120mm Thermalright 2000 rpm fan and an 80mm fan were installed on the GPU and VRM heatsink respectively.
INSTALLATION TIPS

    1. Make sure you know the requirements for installing this cooler in your case with as little hassle as possible:
    a. You must use an aftermarket (preferably a Thermalright) top down
    cooler if you want the card to run passively
    b. You must use a top down cooler if you plan to overhang the heatsink over the video card. (i.e. over the video card)
    c. Make sure your case is large enough to accommodate the cooler
    d. Make sure your case can take an EATX for the easiest installation of the securing system.
    e. Make sure you order the correct version of the VRM heatsink.
    2. It is easier to balance the card on a box to install the GPU heatsink. This way you can use both of your hands to fix the heatsink. If you have a friend, that helps too!
    3. The double sided tape on the heatsinks for memory module is not very good. It will fall off eventually. Take it off and use an adhesive thermal paste.

You must really do your homework prior to even beginning the installation process of this cooler. It is a very good idea to use a top-down cooler. If you have any other expansion cards, the only possibility is to install the cooler overhanging the card (i.e. spitfire over the CPU cooler). It will only fit this way if you have a low profile top down cooler. The GPU heatsink is recommended to be run in passive mode in this orientation as the CPU heatsink-fan will aid in removing hot air from the GPU heatsink as well. And just any CPU cooler will do if you want the spitfire to run passively –an aftermarket top-down cooler (low profile) is highly recommended.

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