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Thermaltake Volcano 9: We revisit the Volcano 9 with an Athlon XP in tow, and check it's performance with a more modern CPU.

Date: October 28, 2002
Manufacturer:
Written By:

have come a long way since releasing the Golden Orb. Other than the various Orb coolers released over the years, they have a wide variety of GPU coolers, memory coolers, Bluetooth devices, and even computer cases.

Although the word "Thermaltake" will probably mean "orb" to some of you, their last few heatsink releases have been a little more traditional in the sense that they're no longer "orbish". The Volcano series have been one of Thermaltake's better performing heatsink families, and we have had the opportunity to test their latest, the Volcano 9. Before picking apart the Volcano 9, here are the obligatory web specifications...

Specifications

A1365
Cooler Dimension 80x80x77.3 mm
Fan Dimension 80x80x25 mm
Rated Voltage 12VDC
Started Voltage 6VDC
Rated Current 0.20AMP ~ 0.70AMP
Power Input 2.40W ~ 8.40W
Max. Air Flow 20.55 CFM at 1300 rpm
75.7 CFM at 4800 rpm
Air Pressure 1.45mmH2O at 1300rpm 8.43mmH2O at 4800rpm
Noise 17 dB at 1300 rpm 48 dB at 4800 rpm
Bearing Type Two Ball Bearing
Life Time 50,000 hours
Connector 3 PIN
Tt Fan grille TR=0.38C/W

Upon first glance, the Volcano 9 appears very much like the Volcano 7. Ok, let's be frank, it is a Volcano 7, except it isn't blue. The Volcano 9 has 23 aluminum fins, just like the Volcano 7, and it has the same copper insert as its older brother. Personally, I think they should have stuck with the same all-copper design as the Volcano 7+.

Construction quality is excellent, as the base of the heatsink was perfectly smooth. It isn't shiney like some manufacturers, but lapping probably isn't needed. Unlike the Volcano 7, there isn't any pre-applied TIM on the base. The TIM that was used before wasn't too bad, but most people would have torn it off anyways. A blister pack of thermal paste is included.

Like before, a silver shroud is included to help secure the fan. In theory, this should also assist in directing airflow into the fins. Another purpose of the shroud is it helps raise the fan off the heatsink. By lifting the fan, it helps to eliminate some of the "dead zone" directly beneath the center of the fan. This will allow more air to hit the fins, thus improving the performance.

There have been concerns in our forums that the copper insert may not always mate perfectly with the rest of the heatsink, thus affecting performance. This is certainly possible, but upon close inspection, we were unable to find any visible flaws with the base this heatsink.

Included with the Volcano 9 is plenty of screws, some tape for the thermal probe, a 3-to-4 pin molex adapter, fan speed control dial and the thermal probe. As mentioned before, a packet of thermal paste is included in lieu of a pre-applied TIM.

For anyone who has used the Volcano 7, or have at least seen it up close, will know that it is very large. The copper insert, as well as the 80mm fan adds to the weight, making this one of the heavier heatsinks we've tested for the Athlon. No doubt, a few of you have snapped the center lug, either from heavy heatsinks, or from the pure force these clips put out.

Thermaltake addresses the issue by including a 3 prong clip. There are actually 3 prongs on both ends of the clip, making use of all 6 lugs on the Socket-A. The clip is quite stiff, but with 6 prongs, you cabe sure that the Volcano 9 isn't going anywhere once you put it on.

Another problem with traditional clips is that, other than needing a flathead screwdriver to install, is there is no precautionary measures to prevent the screwdriver from slipping and gouging your motherboard. Not so with the Volcano 9, as the clip has a screwdriver guide built in that ensures that you don't slip and crack your motherboard.

Smart Case Fan 2

The Smart Case Fan 2 is the update to the original Smart Case Fan. This is a thermal controled Everflow fan, meaning that depending on the temperature, the fan will speed up as it gets hotter, and slow down when the temperature drops. It worked alright with the previous version, but it wasn't perfect. The original Smart Case Fan only detected the ambient case temperature. If your system cooling is very good, it was rare for the case fan to go full bore. It was possible to mod the fan slightly, by moving the probe closer to the heatsink, but it wasn't perfect.

As before, a nice shiny Thermaltake fan grill is included in the package. I wouldn't really count on it to protect your fingers from getting caught in the fan blades, it does add a nice cosmetic touch to the overall package.

One major criticism of the previous Smart Fan was that it wasn't all that "smart". The fan was temperature sensing, meaning, if the ambient case temperature was warm, the fan would speed up, and when ambient temperature was lower, it'd slow down. The reasoning behind this is that a cooler system would be quieter, as the fan did not spin as fast. The reality was, most systems wouldn't run hot enough (case temperature) for the fan to spin full throttle.

There were ways around this. One way was to move the probe closer to the heatsink. A warmer heatsink would spin the fan faster, but it wouldn't always meet up with the base of the heatsink, especially if your heatsink design is large. Another method would be simply modding the sensor "inactive", which defeats the whole purpose of getting a temperature controlled fan in the first place.

The Smart Case Fan 2 is indeed a lot "smarter" now. You have access to a jumper this time, and you can do one of three things:

1) Leave the jumper as is. By doing so, the fan will spin at full speed, 75.7 CFM at 4800 rpm. At 48db, this isn't quiet by any stretch, but noise gets the job done.

2) Remove the jumper, and insert the dial instead. You now have control over how fast the fan should spin, though like the Volcano 7+, access to the dial will not be easy as it'll be inside the case.

3) Remove the jumper, and insert the thermal probe. This is the method most people modded to acheive the ideal working conditions of the original Volcano 7. The probe is the same as the ones in the various Hardcanos. It's thin enough to shimmy between the CPU pins, and long enough that you shouldn't have any problems doing this.

Performance

AMD Athlon XP 1700+, with
MSI KT3 Ultra-ARU
Lian-Li PC65U Auminum Case
Prime95 is run for 20 minutes, or about 30 tests
Room temperature is maintained at ~23C/74F

Tests will be done with the Smart Fan 2 at full speed. We'll also be testing with the temperature probe, but I'm not going to bother with any low speed tests (via the dial) as I doubt many of our readers will go that route. For the record, I noticed 4C to 5C increases over full speed when using the "low" settings on the Volcano 9. You can do the math on the others.

Like I said earlier, the Volcano 9 is pretty similar to Volcano 7 in appearance. That being said, notice the temperatures. The same. So much for improving with age.

What has improved however, is the Smart Fan. In order to get the original Smart Fan to spin full speed, I simply shorted out the probe (this was done after the temperature probe tests, as this mod is permanent). The Smart Fan 2 does spin faster, and push more air, but we didn't get the huge temperature drops we had hoped for. Still, I'll take the extra degree Celcius drop. Keep in mind that this setup is loud. As for the temperature probe tests, the Smart Fan 2 just barely edges out the original.

Here's a Fahrenheit chart for our friends south of the border...

Final Words

The results are somewhat of a mixed bag. As a complete package, we were dissapointed with the Volcano 9. The heatsink left a bitter taste in our mouths, as there was absolutely no improvement in heatsink performance, when compared with the Volcano 7, other than the improved clip. Granted, if you've snapped off a retaining, um, nub, this clip design would be exactly what you need, unless you go with a screw-in heatsink design.

The Smart Fan 2 was a bit too loud for my liking at full speed, and still hums noticably with the probe, but it works quite well. The Smart Fan 2 is sold as a separate product, and we're using it now in place of an 80mm Delta on one of my other systems.

Truth is, if Thermaltake went with a Volcano 7+ style heatsink, and pair it with the Smart Fan 2, I think we'd have a pretty impressive product. Although the fan was a step forward, the heatsink was a step back.

Pros: Smart Fan 2, lots of fan options. Clip is well done.

Cons: Heatsink was a step back engineering-wise, and probably hindered performance.

Bottom Line: A decent product overall, but power users should opt for the Smart Fan 2 only if seeking a temperature controlled 80mm fan.

If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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