Thermalright XP-120 Review: New sound of Silence?

Cooling/CPU Cooling by jmke @ 2004-09-03

Thermalright introduces a new heatsink with support for 120mm fans, made from aluminum it?s light as a feather, but does it perform? We?ve installed the XP-120 on our test system with a variety of fans on top to see how it stacks up against the competition.

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Test Setup & Results


First and foremost, before considering this heatsink you need to verify if it fits your motherboard, as mentioned in the introduction, Thermalright did some in-house testing for AMD K8 and Intel S478 compatibility, if yours is not listed then send of an email to Thermalright’s support.

There are two version of the XP-120 for sale, one will fit both P4/K8, the other only P4. The addition to the K8 package is this custom bracket which also allows you to install pretty much any other P4 heatsink which uses the default Intel bracket, onto your A64 setup:

Madshrimps (c)

I’m using an Asus P4C800 in this test which is listed with remarks: * caps mechanically obstruct pipe slightly, cap tilting necessary , so that’s what I did and ended up with this:

Madshrimps (c) Madshrimps (c)
Click the thumbnails for a larger version

A tight fit but it works. The 2nd area of concern is the northbridge; if your motherboard has a tall heatsink on there it might obstruct the XP-120’s fins. On the Asus P4C800 there is still some room left:

Madshrimps (c)Madshrimps (c)
Click the thumbnails for a larger version

If you look closer at the 2nd picture you’ll see two blue plastic stripes, they reduce fan vibration noise, they don’t come preinstalled but are very easy to put in place

For the installation of the heatsink it is best that you remove the motherboard from the case, or if you have a removable mobo-tray, that you make good use of it! Using a long screwdriver and some maneuvering it’s quite easy to make the 4 clips go over the 4 corners of the bracket.

The fan is secured in place using Thermalright’s popular method of metal clips, they make fan installation a breeze.

Update! 08/11/2005: I was informed by an attentive reader (thanks Bill!) that fans with bridged or webbed mounting holes (Nexus 120mm, Sanyo Denkis) are incompatible with the standard fan clips. However additions fan clips can be ordered (for a low ~$1) which allow you to fit these fans. The owner of clued us in.

Test Setup

The Swiftech MCX478-V reviewed here (vs the SP-94 and Zalman 7000) is also aimed at silent PC operation and I thought it might serve well as a comparison for this test.

JMke's Test Setup
CPU Intel P4 2.4 "C" @ 3 Ghz - 1.65v vcore
Mainboard Asus P4C800
Cooling * Thermalright XP-120
* Swiftech MCX478-V
Memory 1 * 256Mb PC3200 Mushkin Level II
Video ATI R9000 Passive Cooling

  • Room temperature was 23.5-24°C during test
  • Setup was installed in a case less environment

    Fans used in this test:

  • Coolink 80mm at high/low speeds on the Swiftech MCX478-V, specs of that fan here
  • PAPST 120mm 4412 F/2GLL (pic) rated at 18dBA at max speed it delivers ~40CFM. Was run at max speed ~1250rpm and at ~850rpm, more specs here.
  • YS-Tech 120mm FD1212257B-2I (pic) , rated at 45dBA at max speed (~2600rpm), more specs here. Was tested at 12/9/7/5v. At 5v it's still louder then the Papst at maximum speed.

    Test results

    All fans are set to blow air down onto the heatsink in our first test:

    Madshrimps (c)

    The XP-120 obtains very impressive results, even with the 120mm Papst fan running at its slowest setting it equals the competition which needs a very noisy 80mm to keep up. No matter what speed setting is used with the tested 120mm fans, the performance is breath taking. Silence and performance come together with this product. For those seeking extremely high overclocks you can slap on the highest rated 120mm fan and enjoy load temperatures which are normally only seen with water cooling!

    Test results: suck vs blow

    Our second test consists of comparing the impact of fan blowing direction on performance. I’ve included the northbridge temperature as this seemed relevant for this test:

    Madshrimps (c)

    Depending on your case fan setup you might obtain different results, in an open air setup the fan direction does not change performance, although the motherboard temperature takes a dip when air is sucked away from the heatsink. I suggest you try both ways to see which proves best for your case fan setup!

    After these tests I clocked the P4 down to 1.8Ghz (150Mhz FSB) with 1.5v vcore (minimum this motherboard allows) and left the CPUBurn running after I unplugged the fan. The PC was stable for ~5 minutes before it hit critical temperatures and the system shut down.

    Please check out our Heatsink Roundups results here including the XP-120 and many others

    Onto our conclusion ->
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