Thermalright True Spirit 120M CPU Air Cooler Review

Thermalright holds the crown when it comes to our favorite CPU air cooler companies over the years. It has engineered some gems over the last decade that we have reviewed its products. Today we have its new, and very small, True Spirit 120M processor cooler that if works well, will be a great value for Ivy Bridge cooling.

Introduction

Today we are reviewing the new Thermalright True Spirit 120M. It's easy to get excited when a package arrives from Thermalright around here. Thermalright has a long tradition of producing great coolers as evidenced by the Silver Arrow, the HR-02 Macho, and the original True Spirit 120 from 2011. Many of you will remember the SLK-800 from back in 2002. So you can understand how intriguing it was to see the new True Spirit 120M sitting on my desk.

The True Spirit line of coolers is legendary and for good reason. Its lineage goes back all the way to the 2009 when a group of engineers in collaboration with Thermalright produced the original True Spirit. Here's what I had to say back then of the original:

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.

Two things would happen after that review was posted that would change the landscape forever. First, Thermalright would go on to buy out the COGAGE company. A smart move considering the performance of its first product. Secondly, the idea that a cooler could perform as good (if not better) than the high end heat sinks while only costing a fraction of the price would begin to take hold. Suddenly, paying $100 USD for a high end cooler just didn't make sense anymore. I think this page here sums it up perfectly. For every degree of better performance it would cost you half to use the True Spirit than it would its nearest competitor.

Today we are going to find out if this new True Spirit 120M will line up with its heritage.

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Test Methods

CPU

The biggest change you will notice is the removal of hardware testing. In recent years, Intel has shifted its methods of testing to software based and so we find it acceptable to do the same.

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GPU

For the first time, we have an integrated GPU in our processor which alleviates the need for a discrete one. With the removal of a discrete GPU comes the advantage of not having an additional variable to account for.

The iGPU will not create any anomalies in our testing as long as we practice consistent testing methods.

Case

Corsair was kind enough to provide us with its Carbide series chassis. It provides excellent airflow and interior space and is a good reflection on current case design.

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 its 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.

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.

If 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 twenty-five 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 twenty-five minute period of 100% load. To obtain this load we will be using Prime95 v27.7 set to in-place large FFTs mode. In this way we can place a 100% load on CPU. 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. 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.