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Thermalright XP-90C Thermalright XP-90C: From Athlons to Pentium 4s, all processors need cooling. We look at one that goes a step further by providing great cooling.
Date: May 25, 2005
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Written By:

You can go to just about any hardware related site on the Internet and ask "what is the best heatsink I can get for X processor?" Without fail will be at the top of the list. It all started with the SLK900, the cooler that redefined air-cooling and became the one to beat. Rather than sit back comfortably in their position at the top Thermalright continued to research cooling techniques and ways to improve a heatsink that some felt couldn't be improved upon. Thermalright's newest cooler is an all copper version of the XP-90 conveniently called the XP-90C.


• All copper design for maximum performance
• Multiple heatpipes for well spread heat around copper fins
• Soldered fins to copper base to make effective contact
• Compatibility across multiple platforms (socket 478/754/775/939/940)
• Enormous wingspan gives extra cooling to MOSFET or NB chipset

Technical Specifications

• L116 x W96 x H75 (mm) Fin only, without fan
• L116 x W96 x H96 (mm) Fin only, with 25mm thick fan

• 690g (heat sink only)

The packaging for the XP-90C is a plain brown box, no flashy graphics, no fancy windows in the box to give you a peek at what's waiting inside. Simply the Thermalright logo on the top, and on the side the name of the heatsink, XP-90C.

What's inside

Inside the box you will find the VERY well packed hardware needed to mount the heatsink as well as the heatsink itself. The hardware included is for mounting the heatsink on socket 478/754/939 and 940 processors, in order to mount the XP-90C on a socket 775 you will need a separate mounting kit. included the kit to mount the XP-90C with this review sample, more on the kit later. Also included is a tube of white thermal compound, two rubber strips to place between the fan and the heatsink to reduce vibration noise, a Thermalright sticker and illustrated instructions.

Being made entirely of copper the XP-90C is a thing of beauty; it's a shame that once you put a fan on top of it, it is almost completely hidden from view.

30 of the 50 copper fins (yes I counted them) are soldered to the base to ensure greater contact and more effective heat transfer. The other 20 fins extend past the base and over your motherboards NB chip, or over the MOSFETs depending on which way the cooler is mounted. The four heatpipes go through the base and extend up to the top of the cooler where they turn back and extend through the 50 copper fins.

I was kind of surprised to see no protective film over the base of the heatsink, but the quality packing does a good job of keeping the heatsink from moving around and scuffing up the base. The base was not polished to a mirror finish, but didn't appear to have any imperfections or high/low spots. Spending a bit of time lapping the base might be beneficial, but I'll be installing it "as is".


I'll be testing the XP-90C on two different systems, so I'll be covering two different installs. The first install was on a socket 478 and the other is socket 775 (with the use of an adapter)

Installation on a socket 478 requires no special tools or additional hardware, it mounts to the factory retention bracket. There is a trick to installing it due to the size, but other than that it couldn't be any easier. Since the fins extend out over the bracket on one side, you don't really have access to them in order to clip them onto the retention bracket. In order to install it, you need to tilt the cooler so that you can clip the hold down clip into the retention bracket, then you simply press the cooler down into place and use a slotted screwdriver or similar tool to press the other clips into place. You can see in the pic below how one clip is covered by the fins extending over the NB. That is the clip you need to attach first.

Installation on the Socket 775 is basically the same once you have the retention bracket installed. Installing the retention bracket requires removing the motherboard in order to install the backplate that holds the retention bracket in place.

Here is what's included in the adapter kit for the Socket 775 motherboards, a backplate, four screws and the actual mounting bracket for the heatsink.

The backplate has a square rubber pad surrounded by an adhesive pad. To install it remove the covering from the adhesive, line pt the holes in the backplate with the holes on the backside of the motherboard and press it into place.

Now using the four supplied screws you can attach the retention bracket to the backplate. At this point you can choose how you want the cooler oriented once installed by simply changing how the retention brackets are mounted (horizontally or vertically).

From this point, installation of the XP-90C is identical to installing it on the socket 478. Here are a few shots of the XP-90C installed on both a socket 478 and a socket 775.


As stated before, I'll be testing this on two different systems both at default speeds and voltages, details of each are as follows.

System 1: ABIT IC7 motherboard, P4 2.4C (socket 478), 1024MB (2 x 512 in dual chan.) PMI Turbo Memory PC3200, 2 x Maxtor 60GB HDD, Lite On DVD burner, Lite On DVD ROM, Zalman CNPS7000B-CU heatsink

System 2: ASUS P5GD1-VM micro ATX motherboard, P4 3.4 (socket 775), 1024MB (2 x 512 in dual chan.) Corsair PC3200 XL, 2 x Western Digital 74GB raptors, Lite On DVD burner, Lite On DVD ROM, Factory Intel heatsink

Since both systems had been running with their respective heatsinks for some time, in order to make a more even comparison both heatsinks were removed the bases cleaned CPU cleaned and new thermal compound applied. Test were done on each system after approx. 24 hours from the time of installation. Testing involved running Folding @ Home and Prime95 simultaneously for 90 minutes. Due to a faulty temp probe temperatures were recorded using Motherboard Monitor 5. Ambient temperature was maintained at 22C/72F (+ or – 1).

In the first graph the Thermalright XP-90C has a slight lead over the Zalman but it does it at the expense of increased noise due to the fan on the XP-90C (5100 RPM) running nearly twice the speed of the Zalman's (2600 RPM) If noise isn't a factor for you the XP-90C is the clear winner, however if you are concerned about noise you could put the 92mm fan on the XP-90 on a fan controller and drop the speeds down, this would probably put it even with the Zalman performance wise.

There's no surprises in the second graph the XP-90 cools more efficiently than the factory Intel cooler by a HUGE margin. What is interesting to note is when comparing the temperatures of the two socket types. At idle the XP-90 keeps the socket 775 (well known to be an extremely hot running CPU) at 34C, one degree warmer then the same heatsink on the cooler running socket 478 processor.

Final Words

I expected a lot from this cooler and wasn't disappointed. From the impressive looks to the ease of installation (even when motherboard removal is required) Thermalright delivers again. This is a great performing heatsink that will fit all current socket types (some may need an adapter)

Three or four degrees difference over the Zalman cooler may not seem like much, but to an enthusiast that may mean the difference in a decent overclock and a great overclock. Naturally when compared to the stock cooler on the 3.4 there is no surprise in the huge temperature difference, but it does give a great example of how much more efficient the XP-90 is.

Price wise the XP-90C comes in at the high end at $49.99 at add to that the cost of a since one isn't included, as well as the if you are installing it on an LGA775 chip and your looking at around $65.

Pros: Performance, Ease of installation, Multiple mounting orientations

Cons: Large size leaves little room for much else, No included fan, may need additional mounting hardware depending on socket type, A little pricey.

Bottom Line: Thermalright has a history of putting out great air cooling solutions and the XP-90 is no exception. If you are looking to squeeze every last drop of power out of your PC and need a excellent air cooling solution the XP-90C is worth a look.

You can buy the Thermalright XP-90C from our friends at . Until the end of June 2005, you can save an additional 5% off this heatsink (as well as most products at CrazyPC) by entering CPCVL063005 at checkout.

If you have any comments or questions on this review, stop by the forums and let us know.


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