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Thermaltake TMG ND5 8800-series GPU Cooler Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     September 10, 2007



Thermaltake TMG ND5 GPU Cooler Review



Table of Contents

Intro

1- Specifications
2- Packaging and Accessories
3- The Heatsink
4- Base Surface Quality
5- Installation
6- Case installation

Performance Tests

7- Idle Temperatures
8- Load Temperatures
9- Overclock Temperatures
10- Thermal Compound Performance
11- Interior Case Temperatures
12- The impact of direct airflow upon the ND5
13- Acoustical Performance

14- Conclusion


Manufacturer Product Page: Thermaltake TMG ND5 CL-G0099
Product Number: CL-G0099
Price: Approx. $55CAD
Availability: Now
Compatibility: All 8800-series cards


Since the release of Nvidia’s G80 series of graphics processors enthusiasts have been clamoring for alternate cooing solutions for their space heater-like graphics cards. Unfortunately, manufacturers have not been quick to release coolers for the 8800-series cards and we are only now beginning to see the fruits of their labor almost a year after the original release of the 8800GTX and 8800GTS. Now within the flurry of releases Thermaltake has released their new TMG ND5 cooler. When looking at Thermaltake products it should be noted that their GPU coolers ending with “ND” are for Nvidia cards while the “AT” designation is for ATI cards.

Thermaltake has been known for quite some time in the enthusiast community as a company that releases high-performance cases, coolers, power supplies and other products. Since their inception in 1999, they have been at the forefront of cooling research and have been going strong ever since. Even with all of that history behind them, this is their first 8800GTX / GTS cooler but there are definitely some high hopes for this particular product considering its pedigree. The ND5 is the newest iteration of Thermaltake’s vaunted TMG cooler series and if the past versions are any indication, this should be a very interesting product. According to Thermaltake, the ND5 will cool off the G80 GPU core better than the stock Nvidia heatsink while also outputting less noise. This is a tall order of promises considering the G80 puts out copious amounts of heat.


1- Specifications




2- Packaging and Accessories


The Thermaltake TMG ND5 comes packaged in a plastic blister pack which shows the cooler in all its glory through a clear front “window”. The front also holds a listing of some of the major features as well as mention of Thermaltake’s extremely long 6-year warranty.

The rear of the packaging holds more detailed information about this heatsink including the noise output and its cooling performance when compared to a stock 8800-series cooler. You will also notice that there is a small box protruding from the back of the packaging; this holds all of the mounting hardware and other accessories that come with this cooler. Let’s take a look at what is packaged in there….


The hardware included is quite basic without any frills that might differentiate it from the competition. On the other hand, I really don’t think that consumers need any extra bangs and whistles bundled with the mounting hardware of their GPU cooler. Included are 12 thermal pads for the ram chips, 4 VRM heatsinks, mounting screws and the washers that go along with them, an instruction manual, a warranty card and a TMG case sticker.

Unfortunately, Thermaltake does not provide any extra thermal pads and two of our pads did not have enough adhesive and refused to attach to the ram modules. We might have been a bit stuck if we were installing this on an 8800GTX which would use the full 12 pads for its ram modules. In this case (as you will see in the installation process) we installed the TMG ND5 cooler on an 8800GTS 320MB card so we had enough with the 10 remaining thermal pads.


3- The Heatsink


The first thing anyone will notice about the ND5 is that it is a very wide yet short heatsink. The heatpipes and the cooling fins are all protected by a clear plastic cover which not only looks good but it also gives you a good look at the internal workings of this cooler. Compared to some of the other GPU coolers available on the market, Thermaltake has designed this one to look extremely streamlined and pretty pleasing to the eye as well.

Interestingly, at first glance this cooler looks exactly like Thermaltake’s older TMG ND2 cooler which was released some time back. There are however some noteworthy additions which have been made such as the addition of another heatpipe (making a total of four) and a different layout to the cooling fins.


While the heatsink seems to be well designed, it is a huge disappointment that it could not have been orientated differently. This is because the ND5 is designed in such a way that all of the hot air will be let loose into your case instead of out the back. As we will see in the benchmarks, this scorching hot exhaust air causes absolute havoc with the interior temperatures of a case.


The fan used is an 80mm, 21-bladed unit which looks a heck of a lot like what you would find in a jet engine. According to Thermaltake, the unique fan blade design coupled with a constantly-lubricated bearing mean that the TMG ND5 is extremely quiet while able to efficiently dissipate heat. The fan works at a leisurely 1650 RPM while producing a claimed 16dBA.

The fan operates at a constant speed due to its being plugged into a Molex connector from your power supply and this causes us to question Thermaltake’s decision concerning this addition. The cable leading to the power connector is far too short and this means that you will have to route a peripheral cable from your power supply all the way down to your graphics card. If you have a bottom-mounted power supply, you should count your lucky stars. We were hoping to see the plastic area above the 2 pins break off to form a kind of hybrid 3-pin motherboard fan connector….but no dice. As we will see later, the power connector along with its lack of length and its placement on the cooler can cause a real headache when it comes to cable routing.


The four 6mm copper heatpipes run the width of the cooler and they come into direct contact with the fins for quick dispersal of the heat generated by the G80 core. Thermaltake has also slightly expanded the surface area of the aluminum fins from that of the TMG ND2 in order to increase the cooling potential of this cooler.


Once we flip this behemoth onto its back we can see that there is a small amount of thermal compound pre-applied to the copper contact area of the heatsink. All of the ram chips transmit their heat to the slightly raised aluminum plate which surrounds the copper GPU base plate. You will also see a small indentation on the right part of the heatsink; this is for the I/O chip which controls things such as HD decoding and the RAMDACs.


4- Base Surface Quality


We are going to do a little comparison here; on the left we have the base of the Thermaltake TMG ND5 with its pre-applied thermal compound removed while on the right is a picture of the stock 8800GTS cooler’s base.

The ND5’s base is very flat with a slightly mirrored finish but the machining marks are quite evident and indeed cause a slightly “ribbed” texture on the copper. When comparing this to the stock Nvidia cooler’s base, it is more than evident that the stock heatsink has superior finishing quality. Make no mistake about it; even though it is not up to the high quality of the OEM base it replaces, the ND5’s copper base is still very well finished. It would have been nice to have seen something on par or better than the stock base though…..


5- Installation

To be honest, the Thermaltake TMG ND5 really shines when it comes to the ease of installation it affords the consumer. While there may seem to be quite a few steps the one thing that will take you the longest time is cleaning off the loads of thermal compound that Nvidia applies to their G80 cards.


All of Thermaltake’s instructions are laid out in pictures with very simple explanations detailing every part of the installation process. Thankfully, there are no “Engrish” words here and all of the steps seem to be written by someone who has real working knowledge of the English language (thank God!!).


After cleaning off the excess thermal compound that Nvidia slathers all over the core and cleaning off the ram chips, it is time to install the thermal pads. The included pads stick onto the ram chips like no one’s business but are relatively easy to take off if you intend to remove the ND5 sometime down the road.


The next step is to install the VRM heatsinks which are designed in a way that they channel the airflow from the cooler through a “tunnel” for increased cooling performance. Just like the thermal pads, the adhesive applied to these leaves them securely attached of the VRM modules.


There is also a small thermal pad which needs to be installed in the recessed are intended for the I/O module.


The next thing that needs to be done is to position the cooler on the graphics card (or in my case, position the graphics card on the upturned cooler). Here you can also see the relative small size of the thermal compound application versus the size of the GPU core. Yes it may spread out but the coverage will be limited considering there is only a very thin layer of thermal compound applied. We will see a bit later if this limited amount of thermal compound affects cooling performance in any way.


All the final step consists of is installing the plastic washers and then tightening the screws to evenly apply pressure between the heatsink base and the GPU core. That’s it….installation complete. Easy, wasn’t it?


So, this is it; the Thermaltake TMG ND5 in all it’s glory when installed on an 8800GTS. Once again we can see the major drawback of this heatsink; it blows all of the hot air directly into your case. Yes we have mentioned it before but we are so disappointed by this that we will be repeating it a few more times before this review is done.


6- Case installation

The ND5-equipped 8800GTS was installed onto a DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert motherboard which was installed into a Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570 case.


The Thermaltake TMG ND5 does not cause any installation problems in any way except for its ludicrously short power connector. Not only did this power connector force us to route another Molex cable to the bottom of the case but even then the heatsink power cable was stretched to its limit. Another 3” of cable length would do wonders for this heatsink’s desirability.

Even though this Aurora has been modified with a second 120mm front fan (shown to the right of the graphics card) we can see that this cooler will completely mess up the airflow dynamics of your case. Many cases have left to right airflow in order to suck in cool air from the front while expelling hot air out the back. The problem with the ND5 is that it basically blows hot air straight back into the front intake fan of any case. Thus, instead of working with a case’s natural airflow patterns, the ND5 works against it.


Luckily, installing a second card for an SLI configuration does not pose any sort or problem at all.


Performance Testing

System used:

Processor: AMD X2 3800+ (at 2.6Ghz)
Processor Cooling: Arctic Cooling Freezer 64
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert
RAM: 2GB Corsair XMS PC4000 DDR (at 520Mhz)
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint 250GB, 7200Rpm SATAII
Case: Gigabyte 3D Aurora 570
Case Cooling: 4x Noctua NF-S12-1200 fans @1200rpm (2 intake, 2 exhaust) (REVIEW)
PSU: Silverstone Decathlon 650W (REVIEW)
Graphics Card: 8800GTS 320MB


Testing Methodology:

We have in our possession a pair of 8800GTS 320MB cards and after extensive testing, we chose to install the Thermaltake TMG ND5 on the hotter-running of the two cards. All of the stock results are taken with the stock cooler in its default fan speed profile. After installation, we put the card under load for 60 hours in order to allow the pre-applied thermal compound to properly set. For all of these tests, we disabled the additional front 120mm fan unless otherwise specified since the Gigabyte Aurora does not originally come with this fan installed nor has the mounting holes for it. All of the tests were conducted with the side panel of the case closed.

The room where the test was conducted was kept at a steady 24.2C (+/- 0.3C) for the beginning of each test. Since we want to replicate real-world conditions, the temperature of the room was allowed to climb as the 30 minute tests were run. Before every subsequent test was run, the room was allowed to cool off to its original 24.2C temperature.

For all of the performance tests we used ATItool’s temperature logging feature to log the GPU temperature throughout each of the 30 minute and 1 hour tests. These results were compared to logged temperatures as reported by Rivatuner.

Any benchmark-specific methodology will be explained in its own section


7- Idle Temperatures

In this test we allowed the graphics card to sit for 30 minutes on the Windows desktop.





At idle, the installation of the Thermaltake TMG ND5 really doesn’t make much difference in the GPU temperatures when compared to the stock cooler. On average it was only about 3C cooler but it was a reduction nonetheless. Both the stock cooler and the Thermaltake cooler increase their temperature in a very linear fashion without any large spikes throughout the 30 minute test period.


8- Load Temperatures

The “Load” tests were conducted after 30 minutes of the graphics card being in idle mode. The ATItool “spinning box” was then allowed to…spin for 30 minutes, which puts significant load on the GPU. We have found that ATItool’s “spinning box” puts a constant (and high) load on the GPU which is quite unlike games and VERY much unlike 3DMark.





The Thermaltake ND5 makes a good showing of itself in this test by reducing the temperature of the G80 core quite significantly when compared to the stock cooler. It is very interesting to see that the temperature completely evens out by the 7 minute mark with the ND5 but the stock heatsink allowed the temperature to increase all the way into the 20 minute mark. When all was said and done, the maximum temperature put down by Thermaltake’s cooler was about 8C cooler than the card in its stock form.

While this may not seem ground-breaking, it should be noted that the stock cooler of the 8800-series cards is extremely efficient in dispersing the heat from the ridiculously-hot core. To knock another 8C off of its result is a resounding success in our books.


9- Overclock Temperatures

This test was conducted in the same way as the Load test but the card was overclocked to 623mhz on the core and 1835mhz on the memory. This was the maximum overclock which was allowed by the stock cooler after 1 hour of running ATItool’s Artifact Scanner.





The differences between the stock cooler and the Thermaltake ND5 are about the same in this test as with the regular load test but the gap between the two heatsinks has shrunken a bit. It would have been interesting to see if the gap would have closed further if we had been successful in overclocking the GPU even more using the stock cooler.


10- Thermal Compound Performance

First of all, let’s take a look at the coverage afforded by the pre-applied thermal compound after the heatsink has been in use for over 60 hours:


Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the stock thermal compound which Thermatake supplied with this heatsink covers the entire GPU core very well. Granted, most of the heat produced by the G80 is centered on the middle of the core so it will be good to see how this thermal compound footprint competes with an even application of OCZ Ultra 5+. Unfortunately, we ran out of Arctic Silver Ceramique just before this test…..

For the thermal compound tests we wiped clean the stock thermal compound and applied OCZ’s Ultra 5+ directly to the GPU in an even manner with a finger wrapped in plastic. The entire face of the GPU was covered in a thin and even coating of Ultra 5+. The compound was then left to cure by putting the card under load for 60 hours. For the test itself, the card was overclocked to 623 / 1835 and the exact same test was run as we did for the “Overclock” test.



It is not surprising to see that there is a difference between the stock and the OCZ thermal compound but seeing a difference of almost 4C is downright stunning. Remember, these are the average temperatures recorded after 30 minutes of load on the GPU which makes these results even more convincing.

It is our opinion that the amount and placement of the pre-applied thermal compound is more geared towards smaller-sized GPU cores and not the mammoth-sized G80. Therefore, a quick application of quality thermal compound can do some wonders for the temperatures you will see with the Thermaltake TMG ND5 heatsink.


11- Interior Case Temperatures

With the ND5 blowing hot air directly into the case, we were a bit concerned that the interior temperatures in our Aurora case would climb quite a bit. So, a Compunurse digital thermometer (in our very early tests we used the interior temperature readout as indicated by Rivatuner) was used with its probe located in the following position within the case:


The non-stock front 120mm fan was disabled for these tests as well.



Ouch. What more is there to say? A nearly 10C difference in a confined space is a HUGE increase in temperature which will affect the temperatures of your other components (such as your processor and ram) and could make previously stable overclocks unstable. Without a doubt, expelling hot air into a case is not recommended but there is little we can do to rectify this situation as the next test will clearly show….


12- The impact of direct airflow upon the ND5

We have already mentioned that the ND5 works against the natural airflow of a standard computer case and to illustrate this, we set up a little test. Remember that front 120mm fan we have had disabled for all of the tests?


Well, we are now going to start it up again. When this fan is running without the Thermaltake heatsink installed (i.e.; with the 8800GTS in its stock form) we see a significant drop in temperatures throughout the installed components. We even see a significant drop in temperature from the GPU itself due to the stock cooler’s ability to take advantage of sucking in cooler air. But with the ND5 installed….



The average temperatures skyrocket to a point where they are nearly in-line with the stock cooler’s performance without the front fan functioning. Keep in mind that these are maximum numbers recorded after a 30 minute period of heavy load. It is obvious that the front fan is conflicting with the ND5’s ability to move hot air away from the GPU area and because of this the temperatures increase quite a bit.

It is very hard not to be disappointed by these results since with the front fan working, the maximum temperature from the stock cooler almost competes blow-for-blow with the ND5’s best temperatures. On the other hand, many consumers lack a fan blowing directly at their GPU so they will be perfectly happy with the performance from the Thermaltake TMG ND5. It is just extremely important to take the airflow conditions of your case into account before buying this heatsink.


13- Acoustical Performance

The Thermaltake TMG ND5 promises to beat the stock cooler quite handily when it comes to the noise it produces and we found that it did just that. One of the main benefits the ND5 has over the stock heatsink is that its fan operates at a constant speed while the stock heatsink’s fan is temperature controlled. So, around the 15 minute mark of the load test the noise produced by the stock fan was quite noticeable over the other fans in our case. Meanwhile, the ND5’s fan stayed as silent as a sleeping mouse throughout all of the tests.


14- Conclusion

Thermaltake claims that their TMG ND5 heatsink offers superior cooling and acoustical performance over the stock Nvidia 8-series heatsink and we have found that it does exactly that…though to varying degrees of efficacy. The build quality of this heatsink is top-notch and this fact plays itself out to good effect in nearly all of the performance tests. Beating the stock 8800GTS heatsink by an average of between 7C and 8C in the load test is no small feat and the ND5 followed this up by a strong showing in the overclock test as well. Thermaltake can be particularly proud of the noise produced considering it is minimal at worst considering this heatsink’s cooling capabilities. It is also refreshing to see a cooler that is so easily installed; some of the coolers we have seen in the past have been a lesson in futility to install correctly. We also like the fact that Thermaltake backs this cooler up with its suitably long 6-year warranty.

Yet, it is not all sunshine and roses for the Thermaltake TMG ND5 since there are some areas where it falls flat. The major issue we have with this heatsink is the fact that its installation will drastically raise the temperature inside of your case. We used a large case for these tests so it should be noted that the result would just be magnified in a smaller case. Yet, if you tried to offset this jump in case temperatures by installing a front intake fan, the resulting flow of air into the ND5 will play havoc with its cooling potential. Also, whether it is the amount or the dispersal pattern, the pre-applied thermal compound quite simply fails to provide satisfactory results when compared to an application of OCZ Ultra 5+. Finally, there is also the price to consider; while approximately $55CAD isn’t outrageous you will have to ask yourself if a slightly quieter fan coupled with drop of about 8C (at best) is really worth that kind of cash. It should also be noted that finding this cooler presents a bit of a problem here in Canada; the only store we could find selling it had it for sale at an incredibly-inflated $67.

To sum things up, the TMG ND5 performs very well and delivers exactly what Thermaltake promises: good cooling and a near-silent acoustical profile. Yet, there are some nagging issues such as its influx of hot air into your case and lackluster thermal compound performance that keep it form achieving a higher score. The Thermaltake TMG ND5 gets a 4/5 rating from Hardwarecanucks.


Pros:

- Cools quite a bit better than the stock cooler
- Quieter than the stock cooler
- 6-Year warranty
- Very easy installation
- Great aesthetics

Cons:

- Significantly increases interior temperatures in case
- Works against airflow direction of a standard case
- Lackluster stock thermal compound performance
- Price for performance



Thanks to Thermaltake for providing us with this sample

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/nvidi...html#post19313
 
 

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