Thermalright TRUE Spirit CPU Air Cooler Review

The Cogage True Spirit CPU cooler was an instant hit with those wanting maximum degrees per dollar when looking at CPU air cooling a couple short years ago. The True Spirit is back, sans the Cogage branding, now in flying its flag under the beloved Thermalright banner that so many of us are very familiar with.

Introduction

The last time we heard the words TRUE Spirit around here was over two years ago. It was this tiny little tower cooler from an unknown company collaborating with engineers from Thermalright. No one expected much from this scrawny little knock-off. Yet, when the dust settled the TRUE Spirit became legendary for its performance and value. It didn't take the top spot for its performance but then, it didn't have to. It was sold at less than half of what the other coolers went for and was only a few degrees warmer in our temps. This made it a one of a kind cooler. Solid performance at a great price. As a matter of fact it received the Editor's Choice Gold Award and here is my quote from that review:

The ‘spiritual’ winner of today’s roundup goes to the TRUE spirit. As the most inexpensive cooler it is easy on your wallet all the while giving you exceptional performance without interfering with your motherboard components. This is one cooler everyone should consider for the next build and one I am certainly going to be using in my personal rig. There is a lot to like about this cooler and hopefully this is a sign of things to come from the crew at COGAGE.

Things have changed a lot since then. Coolers have gotten a lot more expensive and we have seen the proliferation of water cooling kits in place of air coolers. The TRUE Spirit now belongs to Thermalright and they are back again to send a message of value to the enthusiast community. We have the TRUE Spirit 120 & TRUE Spirit 140 on the test bench today and similar to the HR-02 MACHO, are being sold for $29.95 and $39.95 respectively. I love the way Thermalright has been pricing their coolers lately. Let's get to the good stuff and see if these new coolers can live up to the legend of the original.

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System Setup

Today's testing takes place on our [H]ard platform. The test bed consists of the GIGABYTE X58-Extreme motherboard, six gigabytes of Corsair DDR3 RAM and the Intel Core i7 920.

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Test Methods

CPU

In keeping with the spirit of the [H] we continue to perform hardware testing of all heat sinks. This means milling a very small path into an expensive CPU to place our thermocouple into. This is by far the best way to test coolers and the only way here at the [H]ardOCP.

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Temperatures for the CPU will be measured using our Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer.

GPU

For this article the GPU will be kept at stock speed to keep any excess heat away from the CPU that could impact the results. In 2D mode the 9500 GT generates very little heat and to further isolate it from the rest of the system we will install it in the secondary PCIE slot.

Thermal Paste

Noctua's NT-H1 thermal paste was selected as the paste of choice for a few key reasons. The thermal paste has been shown to provide excellent thermal conductivity allowing the heat sinks to better do their job. There is no observed curing time. That is, performance does not get any better over time. Any curing time could have introduced variables into the equation causing at best dubious results and at worst unreliable ones. Our channel milled CPU also requires a compound that is more viscous so the mating compound will not seep into the channel and run off.

Temperatures

Ambient temperature will be kept at 25C for the duration of the tests and measured with a MicroTemp EXP non-contact infrared thermometer and cross referenced with the Sperry Digital 4 Point thermometer. Any variance greater then 0.2C will halt the testing until temperatures return within spec for fifteen minutes.

Since we are dealing with water cooling we will allow extra time for each test to give the water in the loop enough time to reach equilibrium.

Idle

Idle temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of inactivity. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Load

Load temperatures will be recorded after a fifteen minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v25.3 set to blend mode. In this way we can heat up the CPU as well as the memory controller which is now integrated into the die. Any fluctuation during the last sixty seconds will reset the timer for an additional five minutes.

Sound

Sound levels will be measured with a Reliability Direct AR824 sound meter from a distance of four feet away. With everything turned off and the room completely silent the meter registered a sound level of 38dB(A). This is a very quiet room where a simple pin drop could be heard. All sound measurements are recorded in the very late evening to further reduce any ambient noise.