Maximum PC Staff Aug 07, 2009

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme-775 RT

At A Glance


Best air cooler we've tested. Includes quiet 12cm fan, but you can swap in your favorite.


Tricky install; heavy.

Big, heavy, simple, and powerful

The last Thermalright cooler we reviewed, the IFX-14 (November 2008), actually bested our then-champion Thermaltake DuOrb in performance, but its enormous size cost it the crown. The slimmer Ultra-120 eXtreme, while still a skyscraper of finny goodness, is much skinnier than the IFX-14, and (happily) includes one 12cm clip-on fan—the older model supported two fans, but included none.

Five nickel-plated copper heat pipes rise from opposite sides of the base through a large stack of heat-dissipating fins, cooled by a 12cm fluid-dynamic bearing fan. The included fan connects to the motherboard fan socket with a 3-pin connector, so there’s no onboard fan-speed control.

It's not the lightest nor newest air cooler out there, but it's quiet and brutally effective.

The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme rises 6.3 inches from the CPU socket and looks like nothing more than a large apartment building, at two inches deep and 5.2 inches wide (not including the fan). At two and a half pounds, it’s as heavy as the Cooler Master V10 (reviewed in April 2009), but not nearly as cumbersome, and unlike the V10 its bulk is directed upwards—it doesn’t overhang the RAM or stand in the way of crucial components.

Installation of the Ultra-120 on an LGA 775 or 1366 socket motherboard is trickier than we’d like—even if your case has a removable motherboard tray with a cutout for the backplane, you’ll find the cooler much easier to install if you take the motherboard out first. The folding retainer bracket is a pain in the arse to keep in place, but once you’ve fastened the spring-loaded screws into the backplane, everything becomes much easier.

The good news is that once the cooler is installed and the 12cm fan is clipped to its front, the Ultra-120 easily outperforms our current champion air cooler, the Zalman CNPS 9900. Thermalright’s cooler decreased idle temps by two degrees more than the Zalman, and nearly eight degrees at full burn. For that matter, the Ultra-120 outperformed our stock Intel cooler by a shocking 25 degrees at full burn.

The Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme isn’t the newest air-cooler out there—it came out in early 2007, but we missed it the first time around. Now that we’ve finally put it through its paces, we’re glad we caught it. It’s the new (old?) air cooler to beat.


Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme Zalman CNPS 9900
Stock Cooler
Idle (C) 29
31.25 46.5
100% Burn (C) 43.5 51 67
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour's worth of CPU Burn-in (four instances). Test system consists of a stock-clock Q6700 processor on an EVGA 680i motherboard inside a Cooler Master ATCS 840 case with stock fans.

Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme-775 RT

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