Thermaltake Frio Extreme Cooler Review

The battle for the high end cooling throne has reached fever pitch this year. The Noctua NH D14 ruled supreme for a long time, although it recently had to make way for a new king, the Phanteks PH-TC14PE. Today we are looking at the latest flagship cooler from Thermaltake, The Frio Extreme. Is this a serious challenger for the top spot?
Thermaltake have released a plethora of high end coolers in the last couple of years, including the original FRIO, the Frio OCK, Frio Advanced and the latest Frio Extreme which we are reviewing today.
The Thermaltake Frio Extreme uses the high end construction of combining two tower heatsinks with a dual fan cooling system.
The Frio Extreme highlights that Thermaltake are pulling out all the stops. They are using two large 140mm fans which can be adjusted with the supplied fan controller.
Additionally they have finally ditched the plastic shroud, opting for a naked dual tower heatsink methodology.
We will compare today against the class leading Noctua NH D14 and the Phanteks PH-TC14PE in a heavily overclocked state.
Ultimate Over-clocking Design Structure, supports up to 250W
  • Dual tower heat-sink with 0.4mm aluminum fins provide large surface for heat dissipation.
  • 6 x Ø6 mm-U-shape copper heat pipes accelerate heat conductivity.
  • Mirror-finished copper base, provide perfect contact with CPU.
  • Premium thermal grease maximizes heat transfer from the CPU onto the copper base for faster dissipation.
The Combination of VR and PWM Fan Control
  • Dual 14cm high performance blue blade designed fans, spins from 1,200 to 1,800RPM.
  • Combination of VR and PWM functions, switchable upon user’s preferences.
  • Tool-less and Easy installation design for quicker disassemble and assemble the fan module.
Universal Socket Compatibility & Accessory Package
  • All-in-one back-plate design, support all Intel and AMD platform
  • Universal socket support :
    Intel: LGA 2011, 1366, 1155, 1156, 775
    AMD: FM1, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2
The Thermaltake Frio Extreme ships in a large box with a picture of the cooler on the front. There are some details here, such as support for LGA2011 and the included fan controller. Thermaltake rate the cooler as capable of handling 250W of heat output.
The cooler and fans ship protected inside thick, soft foam. Installation instructions are placed on top of the foam.
The fans are stored in a separate section of the padding, alongside a little box containing some components required for installation.
The little fan controller can accept two fans, built for the Frio Extreme. There is a fan controller knob and a switch to allow for direct, or PWM control.
The accessory package contains all the necessary items for installation on Intel and AMD platforms. There is a backplate, screws, thermal paste and a various screws and bolts. We will look at this in more detail later in the review.
The Frio Extreme Cooler ships with two large 140mm fans. These are coloured blue and are rated to spin between 1,200 rpm and 1,800 rpm. No noise emission information is detailed, but we will look at these shortly.
The Thermaltake Frio Extreme is the first of the Frio coolers to ditch the plastic surround. I feel it is a good move.
The cooler ships with a protective cover on the base.
The engineering quality is exceptionally high, every fin on the dual tower heatsink is perfectly straight.
The Frio Extreme Cooler is based around two individual racks of aluminium fins which are connected via six heatpipes, 6mm in diameter. Other coolers may use four or five heatpipes, but sometimes these can be 8mm in diameter.
The six heatpipes run along the full length of each heatsink and emerge at the top. The above image shows the physical mass of the heatsink, when seated next to the £20 Arctic Cooling Freezer 13.
Thermaltake are using a nickel plated copper core base which is manufactured to a perfect shine. Thermaltake have really enhanced their engineering quality with this cooler, it is a significant improvement on the previous coolers in this range.
Intel recently released their third generation of Core processors, so we decided to use a Gigabyte Z77 LGA1155 motherboard to highlight the installation procedure.
We installed an Intel Core i7 3770k into the Gigabyte Z77 UD5H motherboard.
Thermaltake include a backplate for the Intel platform. Four screws are pushed through from the rear as shown above.
The four screws are held in place with plastic stoppers. Thankfully these are screwed tightly by hand into place meaning that the backplate no longer has to be held in position. The top part of each screw will be visible above the plastic stopper.
Two supporting brackets are then positioned over the screws, as shown above.
Four metal flat heads are then screwed into place to hold the supporting brackets firmly.
The cooler without fans is then positioned roughly into place.
A thick metal rod is then installed across the base of the cooler, into the two supporting brackets on either side of the processor. These are screwed into place.
The cooler is just as big as the Noctua NH D14 and will cause problems for memory with oversized heatspreaders in the nearest slot.
The long standing ‘Frio’ plastic shroud is gone now and Thermaltake have opted for a fiddly fan mounting procedure, which involves four metal clips. The only real downside of the new design.
Due to the physical size of the 140mm fans, we experienced a few, minor, installation issues. The fan nearest the rear had to be raised a little as the motherboard heatsink was in the way. Obviously, one of the fans could be mounted on the other side of the cooler, but this would interfere further with the memory slots. It is a lesser of two evils.
Both fans can be hooked to the Thermaltake controller module, which can be seen above. This controller in turn can be attached to a single header on the motherboard for either PWM or manual control.
The whole process only took around 10 minutes the first time, but would be slightly quicker for subsequent installations.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.
In this review we are overclocking the Core i7 3770k to 4.8ghz with voltage set at 1.31V. This is a hot running processor when the voltage is cranked to 1.3, so it is a good test of the ultimate performance of the coolers on test today. As a reference point, all coolers maintained sub 45c load temperatures of the 3770k at reference speeds and voltages.
Test System:
Processor: Intel Core i7 3770k
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H
Memory: G.Skill Trident 8GB
Graphics Card: AMD HD7870
Power Supply: ADATA 1200W.
Optical Drive: Asus BluRay Drive.
Chassis: Cooler Master Cosmos 2.
Monitors: Dell U3011.
Boot Drive: Kingston SSDNow V+200 90GB.
Storage Drive: Patriot 240GB Wildfire.
Comparison Coolers:
Noctua NH D14
Phanteks PH-TC14PE
To test the performance of the coolers, we loaded the system in a loop of CineBench R11.5 64 bit and recorded the maximum temperature from a diode we attached to the CPU core. Processor idle temperatures were measured after 30 minutes with no active programs running in the operating system. All heatsink fan speeds were set on maximum.
Room temperature was measured at 20c throughout the duration of the test phase. We used the same high grade Arctic Cooling thermal paste on all coolers to ensure this wasn’t a variable.
It proved very difficult to separate the cooler performance as shown above. The Frio Extreme and Phanteks PH-TC14PE delivered almost identical results.
We therefore pushed things a step further and increased core voltage to 1.35v, a fairly dangerous level we won’t recommend at home for this processor unless you are using liquid cooling. The purpose of this test however is to see if we can measure any increased variable between coolers at these settings.
Almost a degree of difference between the Frio Extreme and the Phanteks PH-TC14PE at these crazy settings. Interesting to see the Noctua NH D14 suffering a little at these settings.
Today to test this cooler we have set our Digital Sound Level Noise Decibel Meter Style 2 one meter away from our case. The room rates as 25dBa before powering on the system.
We then removed the discrete graphics card, and temporarily turned all other case fans off. This leaves us with only the CPU cooler fans and very little noise from the power supply fan.
As this can be a little confusing for people, here are various dBa ratings in with real world situations to help describe the various levels.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum
We used the Thermaltake fan controller and measured the fan rotation speeds via software. Our software measured 1,900 rpm at full controller settings, although the Thermaltake site claims a 1,800 rpm maximum speed from these fans. Regardless of the accuracy of the speeds below, the results do indicate noise parameters.
The 140mm fans are not the quietest we have tested in the last year, although they are an improvement when compared to those supplied with previous Thermaltake coolers … the original FRIO was painful at anything above the lowest setting.
At a mid way point these fans are audible, although the volume is unobtrusive. At full speed they are clearly noticeable and may offend a portion of the enthusiast audience.
Thermaltake are clearly going after the enthusiast performance crown with the release of their latest Frio Extreme cooler.
We noticed that this cooler managed to perform a little better than the Phanteks PH-TC14PE although the variables were so minor that we needed a diode to measure it accurately. Within a single degree Celsius was the final outcome. Technically however, on paper they have claimed the top spot.
I have previously mentioned some concerns with the Frio range of coolers, primarily some minor, yet sloppy engineering issues. Thermaltake have rectified this with the Extreme, it is actually one of the highest quality crafted heatsinks on the market. They haven’t compromised in any regard and the mirror shine of the nickel plated copper base is an indication that they aren’t messing around.
The Phanteks PH-TC14PE has already bested the Noctua NH D14, however the fans are much louder which ruined the experience a little for me. The Thermaltake Frio Extreme suffers from the same syndrome, especially when the fan controller is used to crank the fans to the limit. The Noctua NH D14 by comparison is always fairly quiet. The previous class leader can not be ignored in this regard.
Playing devils advocate, we aren’t sure that the audience considering one of these coolers will be that concerned with a little extra fan noise, especially when the fans can be slowed down to compensate. Performance will obviously suffer a little, especially if running at the highest overclocked speeds is a prerequisite.
Pricing in the United Kingdom is around £75 inc vat, with Amazon weighing in with the best price, at £72.99 inc vat. This is around £2 more expensive than the Phanteks PH-TC14PE and £5 more expensive than the Noctua NH D14 from Amazon. It is expensive, but if you want the best aircooler on the market we doubt you will be disappointed.
  • One of the best air coolers on the market.
  • Fantastic build quality.
  • Dual fans supplied.
  • dual fan controller supplied.
  • thermal paste included.
  • It isn’t cheap.
  • Stiff competition at this price.
  • Fans aren’t the quietest.
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