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Thermalright ALX-800 Heatsink Review

The Themralright ALX-800 is a copper/aluminum hybrid heatsink that offers great performance. In this review, the ALX-800 is tested on two different AMD mobos and compared to the popular Thermaltake Volcano 9 and a retail AMD Athlon XP 2500+ HSF.

[review_ad]Introduction


Being the “techie” that I am, I am always looking for something new and exciting. The ALX-800 from Thermalright is just that. For way too long, I have looked at Thermalright’s heatsinks and mostly thought to myself, ” They’re really nice and seem to work really well, but they’re too heavy and too costly.” Well, now finally they have designed a hybrid copper/aluminium heatsink that is in my price range (around $25 US) and weight range. The guys at CrazyPC were kind enough to send me one of these new Thermalright ALX-800 coolers to review (actually, I personally requested it as I managed to stumble across one review a while back, and the cooler looked like it had some good potential). Our trusty PR contact managed to to get me this new hybrid cooler from CrazyPC along with a 80mm Delta fan, dubbed as the “stock” fan for this cooler.

Now, I have read many reviews and heard some stories about the infamous Delta fans, but until you experience their ear-splitting noise in person, you cannot truly imagine it. They are very loud, but they do push a hell of a lot of air. I’ll be using this Delta fan along with a YS Tech TMD 70mm fan and a stock 80mm fan to test this cooler. I mean, seriously, I want a cool CPU, but I also want to be able to hear myself think and talk on the phone in the same room as my computer.

The ALX-800 arrived packaged in a plain brown cardboard box with the Thermalright logo printed in black. Once I opened it, I saw that it was packaged nice and tight, which meant no chance of in-transit damage. The actual sink had a protective plastic sticker protecting the lovely finish and was encased in a plastic bag. The package contained the heatsink, thermal paste, retention clips and spacer pads.


Plain brown but sturdy cardboard box

Package Contents, Features and Specs


Package Contents:

  • ALX-800 Heatsink
  • Retention clips for fan
  • Thermal paste and and Stand-off pads.

Features:

  • Super thin aluminum fins for maximized heat dissipation
  • Trapezoid heat sink base ensures effective heat conduction
  • Six pronged type heat sink clip

Technical Specs:

  • Dimensions: L84 x W58 x H42 (mm) – Top, without fan, L32 x W58 – Base(mm)
  • Weight: – 400g (heat sink only)
  • Stock Fan-Maker: DELTA
  • Model: FFB0812EHE
  • Size: 80 x 80 x 38 (mm)
  • Bearing: Dual Ball Bearing System
  • Voltage: 12V
  • Speed: 5700 RPM
  • Air Flow: 80.16 CFM
  • Noise Level: 52.5 dBA

AMD: Athlon XP Palamino, Thoroughbred, and Barton 2500+ and up

* Specs subject to change without notice

Construction / Finish


I have been using “hybrid” copper/aluminium coolers for some time now and think they offer the best combination of weight and heat dissipation you can get. The ALX-800 is basically the same design as the SLK-900, but instead of being all copper (and heavy as hell), it has a trapezoid copper base, which then contacts to the aluminium fins, and to me at least, a better design idea (and a lot lighter – 400g – almost 120g than the SLK-900).


A nice big warning label adorns the base of the heatsink – you can’t say you didn’t see it.

Copper transfers heat away from a source to itself very, very fast, but it does not dissipate this heat as fast as it takes it in, so you end up needing high speed fans to help all copper coolers work properly. Aluminium on the other hand doesn’t take heat away as fast as copper from an object, but it dissipates it a lot faster once the heat is transferred to the aluminum. So in essence, the cooper gets the heat off the CPU fast and then transfers it to the aluminium which dissipates the heat faster than the copper and, therefore, requires a less powerful fan, making it a lighter, quieter and better cooling solution than an all copper heatsink.


You can see that there’s been some quality workmanship put into this heatsink
as evidenced by the nice mirror-like base finish.

The finish on the base of this Thermalright ALX-800 heatsink is by far the best finish I have ever come across on any of the heatsinks I have owned. You can barely see the machining marks if you look very, very carefully. It’s not your bathroom mirror, and you couldn’t use it to shave, but it’s pretty darn close. You can see some of the thermal adhesive used to bond the trapezoid copper base to the aluminum fins — looks like good stuff to me.


With the 38mm tall Delta fan installed, the combo is the same height as the Tt Volcano 9 using a 25mm Tt fan.

If you’ve bought any of the newer AMD CPU’s, you would have received a pretty nice hybrid copper/aluminum cooler with it. They work pretty well, especially when you switch the provided fan for the YS Tech TMD 70mm fan as I have. I also own a Tt Volcano 9, and with its stock fan, this thing almost competes with the Delta screamer on noise level, but put on the YS Tech TMD fan and you get almost the same amount of air movement at significantly lower noise level. So, you see where I’m heading with this. The main thing I will be looking at is how the ALX-800 compares to these coolers using the same YS Tech fan and the Delta 80mm “screamer.” After an intial run of the Delta fan at full throttle in my MSI-based system, I decided that I would run the actual tests in my Asus A7N8X and do tests running the Delta on my fan controller at full throttle and at lower RPM’s that are more tolerable to human ears.

Installation



Very good contact between the CPU and heatsink as evidenced by the
thermal paste pattern on the base and CPU lug.

Contact between the CPU and heatsink was to me quite exceptional. When I installed the sink for the first time and tried to “wiggle” it around, there was no moving it. After running the heatsink for about 12 hours on my MSI K7N2 Delta-L motherboard running Folding@HOME and completing a unit, I decided it would be a good time to remove the sink and see how that contact was and how the thermal paste had “spread.” As you can see, the heatsink was very firmly attached and “squashed” out most of the thermal paste, thereby making almost direct contact with the CPU lug, which of course is the best solution for heat transfer.

CompuNurse thermal probe installed .

Dust pattern after 2 weeks installed .

After some intial testing and using my different motherboards over time, I have found that there are great variances between MB manufacturers. To make sure I had accurate temperature readings, I affixed a thermal probe on the CPU, as close to the lug as possible, therby eliminating any sort of variance I could encounter testing from MB to MB.

Installed on test MB, you can see that it’s a pretty big sink, but the taper from small at bottom
to big at top helps this big sink fit easily onto any MB.

In the two photos above, you can clearly see the design difference (highlighted by the yellow border) between the more square Tt V9 and the ALX-800. The Thermalright ALX-800 follows in the SLK line’s rectangular design, therby making it have more of a chance of fitting more motherboards than the square Tt design. This also makes attaching the clips for the sink a hell of a lot easier since you can clearly see the notches and what you’re doing. You can also see that the ALX has 32 thin aluminum fins compared to the V9’s 23, giving a much higher amount of surface area to be cooled.


The most recent stock AMD heatsink I received with my last Athlon XP 2500+. It returned
some decent temps but was still 8 to 10 degrees hotter than the ALX

Testing


For testing, I’ll be using the following components:

  • Thermalright ALX-800 Heatsink
  • AMD Stock Heatsink
  • Thermaltake (Tt) Volcano 9 Heatsink
  • Asus A7N8X Deluxe – Rev 1.06
  • MSI K7N2 Delta-L
  • AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton
  • 2 x 256MB PC3000 Kingston HyperX
  • Maxtor 80GB – 133 ATA HDD
  • Asus Radeon 9600XT
  • PNY Ti4400
  • ATI Catalyst 4.3
  • nVidia 56.72
  • WinXP Pro SP2

For testing purposes, I used the heatsink on both of my 2500+ Barton CPU’s in both my Asus A7N8X Deluxe motherboard and my MSI K7N2 Delta-L motherboard. In using these two MB’s before, I have found them to report significantly different temperatures. Also, they are both set up in two different cases, which could be what I would call representative of medium and full tower cases. In my testing, I pitted the ALX-800 against the stock AMD heatsink I received with my last 2500+ Barton CPU and the Tt Volcano 9. On the stock AMD sink, I used the standard fan as well as a YS Tech TMD 70mm fan to show the difference achievable just by switching fans. For the Tt V9, I used the stock Tt smart fan and the YS Tech TMD 70mm fan. For the ALX-800, I used the supplied Delta 80mm fan and set it to different RPMs using my fan controller.

In my testing, you will find overall conclusions of the performance of this sink and fan combo. I did my best to make sure room temperature was kept pretty consistent during testing, but I do live in the tropics and don’t have AC, so basically it was up to mother nature. I will say this however, this was real-world testing — no fancy high tech thermal dies or measuring devices, just a plain old thermal probe and MBM 5 results for comparison. During testing, according to MBM 5, using the Tt V9 and the stock sink led to the CPU diode temperatures under load exceeding the CPU core temps. However, when using the Thermalright ALX-800, the CPU diode temps stayed at least one to two degrees lower than the CPU core temp, meaning the ALX-800 was doing a better job at dissipating the thermal load.

Hetasink / Fan Combo

Idle Temp

Load Temp

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ Delta 80mm Full RPM

35.2

37.1

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ Delta 80mm 4,200RPM

36.0

39.0

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ blue LED 80mm Full RPM

36.7

39.5

Tt Volcano 9 w/ blue LED 80mm Full RPM

38.5

42.8

Stock AMD w/ 60mm Full RPM

42.0

46.7

Stock AMD w/ YS Tech TMD 70mm Full RPM

38.8

42.7

AMD XP2500+ on Asus A7N8X Deluxe

Hetasink / Fan Combo

Idle Temp

Load Temp

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ Delta 80mm Full RPM

31.2

39.1

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ Delta 80mm 4,200RPM

31.9

39.7

Thermalright ALX-800 w/ blue LED 80mm Full RPM

33.4

41.9

AMD XP2500+ on MSI K7N2 Delta-L

Now, here’s what I find strange and why I present results from two different MB manufacturers. I used the same XP 2500+ Barton, set at the default 166 x 11 clock, default V-Core 1.65V and used the same thermal probe placed in the exact same spot next to the core, but in the Asus MB, I get a difference between idle and load of around two to three degrees, but with the MSI MB I get a difference of around eight degrees. I have always found this difference between the two different MB’s even when using MBM 5 and the onboard thermal sensors. You will also note that the idle temps on the MSI are a few degrees cooler than on the Asus and a few degrees higher at load than on the Asus. This is why all reviewers will say that results will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and between the same MB’s in a given brand.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to run the tests using all three of the heatsinks on the MSI MB. I did, however, think that at least testing the ALX-800 on both could give you some idea of what could be expected.

Stock sink & fan installed

Stock sink w/ YS Tech TMD 70mm fan

Tt V9 w/ 80mm LED fan installed

ALX-800 w/ 80mm LED fan installed

ALX-800 w/ Delta 80mm fan installed

Installed on the MSI K7N2 MB

Conclusion


It has been a pleasure to work with this heatsink and fan combo. I have gotten some seriously sweet, low temps using it and am very happy and could definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a socket 7 / 462 heatsink. With the hybrid copper / aluminum construction, weight is reduced — the sink comes in at a tolerable 400g, 120g lighter than its all copper “big brother” the SLK-800. Also with this hybrid construction, we lose the need for an absolutely screaming fan (needed to properly cool copper, since it has a lower heat dissipation than aluminum), so we can now use a very tolerable, lower RPM fan and still get very good results and even add some LEDs to the mix. Be warned, the heatsink itself and the 80mm LED fan make a light-weight combo, but if you add the 80mm Delta to the mix you are going to be adding quite a bit of weight as the Delta is not a light fan. I personally would recommend the ALX-800 with a nice 3,500-4,200 RPM lighted fan to produce a good-cooling, light-weight solution and also add a nice effect for a windowed case. I did use the ALX-800 and Delta fan combo, and it worked fine. However, I found I had to attach it to my fan controller to lower the RPM’s of the fan and thus the noise. I still got very good cooling and tolerable noise levels, and I actually opt for the Delta when attending a LAN party to make sure I have all the cooling I need. For home, I stick with the 80mm LED fan. I have tried the sink on different motherboards and in different cases, and it has worked like a dream on and in them all. With its easy method for attaching the fan, it is even easier to install it into a mid/smaller form factor case and even makes it possible to install it without having to remove the motherboard in most cases.

PROS

  • Price – at $25 US or under you can’t go wrong
  • Hybrid Aluminium / Copper design
  • Good Design
  • Great Cooling
  • Solid Construction
  • Good finish on base
  • Easy to Install

CONS

  • The Delta fan I received with the ALX-800 is quite loud

All I can say is “This is the best damn heatsink I have used thus far.”
For this reason, I am awarding it the Golden Bear Award and a score of 9 out of 10.

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to for sending me this great heatsink and fan to review.

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