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Thermaltake Chrome Orb CPU cooler

by Eric Heupel

Thermaltake Chrome Orb
CPU cooler: fan/heatsink
a review

by Eric Heupel

A few months ago, Drew Dunn gave us a review of the Thermaltake (Tt) Golden Orb CPU cooler. I decided when I saw the Socket A version locally to try them out after Drew's experience with the Gold Orb. There are actually three versions of the Chrome Orb. The original (Tt part DUO462) is designed for Socket A processors up to 1.1GHz. The DU0462-2 is a slightly narrower version designed for Socket A CPU's (again up to 1.1GHz) installed on space limited motherboards such as the Abit KT7. So while you still need to measure your board, it's no longer to see IF you can use an Orb, it's to see which one you can use. The latest addition to the Chrome Orb family is the Super Orb (DU0462-3) with twin fans and a much taller design, rated for CPU's up to 1.5GHz. I picked up a pair of Chrome Orbs at a local dealer for $25 each, but they can be found at Plycon for about $17.

The Chrome Orb is, like the original Orb, a rather large Aluminum heat sink with a 69mm diameter and a 45mm height. The fan is 43x25mm, rated at 5500RPM and pushes 22 CFM through the fins. The power connection is via a motherboard 3 pin header.

Interestingly when I pulled out the pair of locally purchased Orbs, I noticed they were not exactly the same... the mounting surface/design was different. With their initial design a number of customers had damaged the Socket A processors while installing the Orb. Although this same problem was experienced with a number of heatsink manufacturers and designs, Thermaltake got together with AMD and redesigned the Orb's base to eliminate the problem. The original design (on left in image) was only used for the early Chrome Orbs. All current models use the redesigned base/clip. Notice that the new design (on right in image) uses a redesigned clip and a larger square base utilizing the bumper pads on the Socket A CPU's.

If you get a Chrome Orb locally make sure it has the redesigned base before you buy it. Plycon and many other on-line cooling specialty shops only have the redesigned models listed, but check the description to be sure.

The testbed for the Orb is an AMD Duron 750 CPU on an Abit KT7-Raid motherboard. This system has been getting quite a workout lately rendering 3D animation frames. The system has constant 100% CPU utilization and nearly constant hard drive use. When it's not rendering it runs SETI@home. The case has excellent cooling already, but with an ambient room temp of 76 degrees the system temperature is 76 degrees and the CPU is 102 degrees with a GlobalWin heatsink/fan combo. After pulling it off of the network, I test fit the Orb. Unfortunately there were three capacitors that would prevent the orb from going on without modification. This is one of the boards that the Narrow version was specifically designed to fit.

Not wanting to order a DUO462-2, a couple of quick measurements, a minute with the Dremel and 5 minutes dusting with cotton swabs was all that was needed. It took a bit of effort to actually get heatsink locked in place, but not quite so much that I felt I was going to smash my Duron. The power leads on this Orb are about 8 inches long, which should be more than long enough to reach the CPU fan header on most Socket A motherboards.

When I booted the machine I did not notice a difference in sound level between the Chrome Orb and the previous CPU cooler , although the room it was installed in has a few computers already. The Orb is rated at 29 dBA which is pretty much the norm for aftermarket heatsink/fan combos. After letting the system run renders for an hour the system was at 78 degrees and the CPU at 95 degrees. Although the system temperature climbed by 2 degrees, it was still excellent, and the CPU temperature dropped considerably.

Since this is a Duron CPU, (affordable to replace if I kill it), I decided to overclock it a bit to 900Mhz. After running a test to check for any render errors (overclocked CPU's often show errors in the finished image) I let it run renders for two hours. After 2 hours the system temperature was steady at 78 degrees, while the CPU temperature had only climbed 2 degrees to 97. That's still a lower CPU temperature overclocked than with the previous heatsink and no overclocking.

Will I keep using the Orb?
You bet, at least until I can get my hands on a Super Orb. Would I recommend this cooler to anyone else building up a Socket A based machine? Most definitely! The Chrome Orb is an excellent CPU cooler at a very affordable price, and it looks good too. As Drew cautioned before, measure your system to make sure you get the right version.

Plycon Computers:


Update November 3, 2000

This afternoon I received my latest bundle (ordered Monday night) from Plycon which included an Alpha PAL6030 Socket cooler. This model has been replaced by the Alpha PAL6035 with a slightly taller heatsink that should perform almost identically. I really like Alpha coolers. They have quite a following, especially in overclocking circles and a top notch reputation. The PAL6030 is no exception. With a copper inlay for better heat conduction, this cooler is very efficient.

I decided to test the Chrome Orb against this hot cooler. After running renders with the system clocked from 750 up to 900MHz, the results only confirmed how good the Chrome Orb is. At every processor speed except 900 MHz the Chrome Orb matched the Alpha's performance for CPU temperature. Even at 900MHz the difference was small: 2 degrees Fahrenheit. System temperature was consistent at all speeds. The Alpha was always 1 to 2 degrees cooler. I would surmise that this is in part due to the difference in which the two coolers operate. The Alpha draws air through the heatsink fins and exhausts it through the fan away from the motherboard. The Orb pulls air down through the fan and pushes it out across the heatsink, dispersing it radially over the motherboard.

Bottom Line:
You would be hard pressed to do better than the Chrome Orb on Socket A systems up to 1GHz. The Alpha costs twice as much to deliver only 2 degrees of difference at 900MHz. I can't really tell which cooler would be best above 1 GHz as I was unwilling to push my Duron 750 above 900MHz. I would say, based on what I did see, that above 1 GHz and for hardcore overclockers, (trying to boost a Duron by 50% or more), right now I would recommend the copper slugged Alpha PAL6035. If I am able to I will try to line up a 1+ GHz Socket A along with an Alpha cooler, the Hedgehog (a spendy
all copper beast seen only in Japan so far) and the Super Orb to see which performs best at these speeds.




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