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Re-Printed From SLCentral

Thermaltake Crystal Orb
Author: Mike Kitchenman
Date Posted: February 22nd, 2002
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/cooling/thermaltake/crystalorb

Introduction

For many people, the only coolers you'll think about in your system will be the one(s) sitting on your processor(s). Outside of that, coolers seem to take a back seat to the actual hardware present in the system. Well, for any of you who are looking to get the absolute pinnacle of performance out of your system, there are a few other important items you should look into cooling. Two of the most notable parts to cool are your motherboard's northbridge as well as the GPU/CPU on your video card.

The logic behind cooling these items is quite easy to understand. The northbridge on your motherboard is what handles how your motherboard operates, as well as directly affects every component it touches; effectively, it means everything to your system. This is why people say some chipsets are good while others aren't. A good northbridge makes a good board. A side effect of this, which most overclockers run into frequently is that as you increase the FSB on your motherboard, the northbridge gets hotter; and just like any other processor in your system, heat directly leads to instability. So, keeping the northbridge cool can directly affect overclocking there, so the logic should be pretty simple.

The other part of the system that can directly be affected by cooling, if your Video card, again this especially gets pointed towards the overclocking community. The CPU/GPU on your video card is every bit as complicated and intricate as your main processor is. The graphics companies use the exact same processes to make their chips as does Intel and AMD. This means that they're every bit as dependant on cool temps as your P4 or Athlon are. This means that keeping your video card running cooler will definitely give the opportunity for better overclocking.

Recently Thermaltake put out a Chipset/GPU cooler called the Crystal Orb, which is a second generation cooler, and direct descendant of the classic Blue Orb cooler. It is designed for chipset cooling and seems like it would perform very well. How does it do when compared to its older brother? Lets take a look and see.

Design

Chipset coolers as a rule are pieces of garbage. Most chipset coolers (this also counts for video card coolers) that are preinstalled on systems generally look like a rejected cooler for a 486. They're either small blocks of metal, which aren't all that great to begin with, or a sheet of foil with a very tiny fan mounted on top of it. Granted a chipset doesn't need something the size of a Vantec 6035 or an Alpha 8045, but it needs something that isn't a reject from a heat sink factory.

The original Blue orb provided an alternative to this, and the Crystal orb is obviously the successor to it. The Crystal orb is a very intriguing design in and of itself. It is a copper based cooler, which was plated in nickel, giving it a very chrome look. The other notable change is that they added a very shiny "lid" to the cooler, so it has a less industrial look than the old versions did. The only downside to the lid, which is worth noting, is that should it get knocked out of its guide ridges, it can possibly catch the fan blades, causing them to seize up.

The cooler includes a useful 3 to 4 pin adapter, which will negate the need for an open motherboard header (of course if you have a fan on your chipset cooler already, you'll have an opening for it already.) Also packaged with it is a pair of plastic clips that it can use to attach to motherboard or video card mounting holes (assuming it falls with the holes at roughly 52-54mm apart.) Alternatively it includes a strip of thermal tape for mounting, should your board not have appropriate mounting holes.

The one catch of the design, isn't so much a design flaw, as it is an occasional motherboard design flaw, is that the cooler is relatively large (when compared to the northbridge.) Some motherboards have capacitors that will be in the way of mounting the orb. For most motherboards simply removing 3 or 4 fins will solve this, however it is something to note.

Design: 1.5/2

Installation

Installing the Orb is a relatively simple process no matter how you have to do it. They give you two ways to install it. Either with mounting clips, or with a piece of thermally conductive adhesive tape.

Installing with adhesive tape isn't the preferred way, but it will work. If you lack the available mounting holes necessary to use the clips, you simply clean the back of the orb, as well as the top of the chip, and apply the tape to it with some force, to mate them securely.

The preferred method for mounting is with the included clips. They provide a more secure mounting, as well as the ability to remove and re-mount as necessary.

I used the clip method, as my motherboard had holes that would work with the cooler.

Installation: 2.5/3

Performance

Now we're down to the infamous test stage here. Lets take a look at what we've got going for this phase:

Candidates

  • Thermaltake Blue orb (Well, it used to be, but GigaHz over at So-Trick hooked me up with a cool one to match my IDE cables, but color doesn't make a performance difference.)
  • Thermaltake Chrome orb

The Test Bed

  • Blizzard 280 case, 2x 92mm side intakes, 1x 92mm top exhausts
  • (side intakes modded to 7V for quieter operation)
  • Asus A7V KT133 motherboard
  • AMD Duron 1GHz @ 1.1 GHz (10x110MHz, light overclocking for now.)

The test

Install the coolers on the motherboard using Arctic Silver 2 as thermal grease, then fire the system up and measure temps after half an hour of normal operating load. Temperatures of the northbridge were taken with a Compunurse, which is super-glued to the corner of the chip.

The numbers

Or for those number fiends out there:

So, the Crystal orb effectively paced the blue orb, with no really visible temperature differences between the two.

Cooling: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Looks really sweet
  • Can be installed with or without mounting holes
  • Quiet
  • Very reasonably priced

Cons

  • The cover may possibly seize up the fan blades if it falls
  • May not install on all motherboards

Conclusion

Well, the cooler performed about as well as I expected, as it paced the older blue orb with no problems at all. The major difference between the two coolers is the look. The Crystal orb has a lot more, well for lack of a better description, sex appeal than the blue orb does. And for those of you who are overclocking and modding, you know that the look is just as important as performance. This is one cooler I'm sticking with.

SLRating: 8/10

Re-Printed From SLCentral