In any high-performance computer system, proper cooling of heat-producing components is of critical importance. This isnâ€™t news at all â€“ CPUs since the 486 have required the use of some auxiliary cooling solution, and with todayâ€™s hottest processors kicking out in excess of 130W of thermal power, the heat dissipation requirements in modern PCs border on the ridiculous. The cooling needs of overclocked processors have left some enthusiasts resorting to complicated liquid cooling systems for their rigs, though for most applications direct air-cooling remains the simplest and most elegant solution for getting rid of the heat produced by CPUs, GPUs, motherboard chipsets, and memory.
A growing concern in the minds of PC consumers is the noise produced by the fans employed in system cooling. Extraneous noise sources impair concentration and increase stress, which can also lead to other physiological problems. Ideally, cooling solutions for heat-producing hardware components should be capable of keeping those components at a reasonably low temperature, while generating as little operating noise as possible.
Ostensibly, Thermaltakeâ€™s new Thermal Maximum Grade (TMG) line of products is one way to achieve that ideal. Thermaltakeâ€™s slogan for the TMG line reads, â€œQuality Life Begins With Silence.â€ The product line employs specific design practices intended to decrease noise output without sacrificing airflow. Thermaltakeâ€™s TMG line incorporates optimized fan blade and blower wheel designs, as well as â€œEnterâ€ bearing technology, which is a variation on the traditional sleeve bearing that includes internal spaces which contain additional lubricating oil.
The TMG line is comprised of fourteen models â€“ three coolers for AMD CPUs (A1, A2, A3), two coolers for Intel CPUs (i1, i2), two coolers for ATI GPUs (AT1, AT2), three coolers for NVIDIA GPUs (ND1, ND2, ND5), a waterblock cooler for ATI GPUs (AT3), two waterblock coolers for NVIDIA GPUs (ND3, ND4), and a slot blower (SL1). Overall, itâ€™s a comprehensive lineup. The VGA waterblocks include a ducted fan, but no heatsink â€“ in my opinion, some extra copper fins should have been added to the waterblocks if Thermaltake went to the trouble of including fans. However, as with all TMG products, Thermaltake assures us that the fans are quiet.
In this review, Thermaltakeâ€™s claims of low noise will be the primary focus, since this is the major selling benefit of the TMG line. The frameless 92mm fans used on the CPU coolers bear striking similarity to those used by Arctic Cooling on their popular low-noise thermal solutions â€“ itâ€™s obviously Thermaltakeâ€™s intention to produce a similar, competing product line. This double-header review will deal specifically with the Thermaltake TMG A2 CPU cooler, and the TMG AT2 GPU cooler. Will the TMG series deliver effective cooling with low enough noise levels to satisfy noise-conscious enthusiasts?
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