Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Review

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The Thermalright Macho 120 SBM is the latest evolution of their Macho heatsink. It began its life as a passively cooled mass of fins. Then TR put a 140 mm fan in front of it. With the SBM heatsink, the Macho fin stack has shrunk a little bit, to 130 mm, and it uses a 120 mm fan to push air through its fins. Does the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM cool well? Is it all posturing, or can it keep your CPU cool? There is only one way to find out. Let’s do it!

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The Thermalright Macho 120 SBM we are reviewing today was provided by Thermalright.

Introduction to Thermalright

Thermalright has been with us a long time, in computer years. Here is what they say on their About Us page:

Since the establishment of the brand in 2001, Thermalright has been dedicated to engineering professional computer cooling solutions for more than a decade. We have set many standards in the cooling industry which are still widely implemented today, and have been the leading brand that others tend to follow and imitate. Quality and performance are the very goals Thermalright pursues. By improving product details and consumer experiences, we provide products that stand out in both quality and performance to our users. Look at what Thermalright achieved in the past 15 years; are you familiar with
all our achievements?

The page goes on to give you a guided tour of some of their products. They even include the ancestor of the present heatsink, the HR02.

Features of the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

Thermalright tells us more on the Macho 120 SBM product page:

  • Thermalright signature through holes on fins for efficient ventilation.
  • 120mm fan cooler that fits a mini-ITX platform with least RAM or VGA compatibility issues.
  • Including one Thermalright high efficiency 120mm TY-127 SV 300~1300RPM PWM-Fan (55.81CFM MAX).
  • Convex copper base design, to ensure the highest thermal conducting thermal efficiency between the cpu and the heatsink.
  • Multiple support bracket system For Intel and AMD platform.

On the side of the box they list more features:

  • Directed Airflow
  • VGA Card Clearance
  • Tall Memory Clearance
  • Mosfet Clearance
  • PWM-Fan
  • Easy mounting
  • Fits all sockets

Specifications of the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

Thermalright tells us this (again from the Macho 120 SBM product page):

Heatsink Specifications

Macho 120 SBM

Dimension:

L:130mm x W:86mm x H:150mm

Weight:

560g

Heat pipes:

6mm heatpipe*5 units

Copper Base:

C1100 Pure copper nickel plated

Fan Spec:

TY-127

Dimension:

L:130 mm x W:120 mm x H:25mm

Weight:

130g

Rated Speed:

300 – 1300 RPM

Noise Level:

21 – 33 dBA

Air Flow:

12.88 – 55.81 CFM

Connector:

4 Pin (PWM Fan connector)

Thermal design power:

200 watts

On the same page, Thermalright shows us:

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Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Packaging

The Thermalright Macho 120 SBM comes in recyclable packaging. The outside of the box lists all of those features we described above. It also lists the fact that you get some TIM and a screwdriver inside.

The back lists the specs of the heatsink.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Box Front

Box Front

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Box Back

Box Back

When you open it up, the Macho 120 SBM gives you a cornucopia of stuff. The is inside the box with padded with soft foam, far better than Styrofoam.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Box Contents

Box Contents

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM – Some Details

Let’s dig out that fan. I’ve got to show you something. You may notice that this looks like a large fan. In fact, it looks a lot like its bigger brother, the 140 mm TY-147A, as you can see in the first photo. That must be intentional. When you look at the TY-127 by itself, as in the second photo, you can see some of the ramifications of the round frame. Yes, this is not a standard 120 mm fan. The screw-holes are indeed 105 mm from top to bottom like a standard 120 mm fan. But side to side, those screw-holes are 87 mm apart, which is a non-standard size. So, when ordering a second fan for this heatsink, be sure to specify a TY-127 fan.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM TY-127 and TY-147A

TY-127 and TY-147A

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM TY-127

TY-127

The next four photos show the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM fin stack. The first photo shows a view from the front.

The second picture is a top view. As you can see, the front heatpipes are closer together than the back heatpipes. Also fairly shocking is that there are only five heatpipes here. You can also see through a hole in the fin stack that extends all the way to the bottom. As you will see later, this is an access hole that allows you to reach one of the mounting screws with your screwdriver. Finally — you can see the flip-up vanes in the fins. These give us the “directed airflow” TR promised on the box.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Fin Stack

Macho 120 SBM Fin Stack

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Top View

Top View

On the bottom oblique view, you can see that the heatsink comes with a protective layer over the contact plate. Again you can see the flip-up vanes that produce the “directed airflow” mentioned on the box. Finally, you can see the bottom of the through-hole that will give your screwdriver access to the mount.

The photo on the right gives a side view of the fin stack. You can see that the flip-up vanes are present on all the fins.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Bottom View

Bottom View

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Side View

Side View

Here you can see that the small parts (I don’t think of them as accessories) come in plastic envelopes that bring some order to chaos.

The second photo was provided by Thermalright. Here we can see the small parts all nicely lined up. First comes the manual. You will find a better manual — and more up to date — here. It is a pdf file, so it can expand. It has nice, clear diagrams in it, as well as mounting instructions for LGA 1150, LGA 2011-3, and AMD in English, German and traditional Chinese.

Following the manual we have the back plate with its Mylar overlay, anchoring mount, and the mounting plate in the upper line. In the lower line we have two fan clips (from the previous picture, you can see that Thermalright supplies not two but four fan clips with the Macho 120 SBM), four screw nuts (spacers), and some screws. In the lowest level you will find the package of TIM, the magnetic-tipped screwdriver and eight rubber tubes that act
as vibration isolators.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Small Parts

Small Parts

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Small Parts (picture by TR)

Small Parts (photo by TR)

Here is a close-up of a pair of fan clips. The second photo shows the magnet-tipped Phillips #2 screwdriver that Thermalright packs in with the Macho 120 SBM. Two things you should know about this particular screwdriver. First, it fits snugly into the screw heads, allowing you to mount the screw on the screwdriver and then stick the screw anywhere you want. The second thing is that the shaft is six inches long. It allows you access to almost everything that is shorter than 6″.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Fan Clips

Fan Clips

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Magnet Tipped Six-inch Shaft Phillips #2 Screwdriver

Magnet Tipped Long Shaft Screwdriver

Mounting the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

Thermalright uses the same mount for all their heatsinks, with only the mounting plate changing. First we will look at a backplate. Then, on the backplate we will lay on the Mylar cover. This makes sure the backplate doesn’t short anything out.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Back Plate

Thermalright Back Plate

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Back Plate with Mylar Overlay

Back Plate with Mylar Overlay

Next come the Intel washers. The AMD washers are a little bigger.

We will later see that the screws stick up through your motherboard. On top of that we have spacers – what Thermalright calls “screw nuts.”

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Back Plate with Mylar Overlay

Intel Mount Washers

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Spacers (Screw Nuts) Added

Spacers (Screw Nuts) Added

On top of that we have the anchoring mount, a hollow rectangle of metal. Finally, the mounting plate – it sits on top of the base of your heatsink. It screws down on the anchoring plate. What I do not see here is any springiness.

Everywhere something screws to something else – backplate, anchoring plate, mounting plate – we see simple hex-headed Phillips #2 screws. You are offered a choice between using a wrench or the screwdriver. Since the screwdriver holds those screws firmly, I recommend using it.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Anchoring Plate

Anchoring Plate

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Mounting Plate

Mounting Plate

Now we move to mounting the heatsink on an actual motherboard. Here we see the screws from the backplate protruding up. You can see that each spacer/screw nut has an attached washer. The instructions tell you to put it washer end down. BTW – this may be one reason Thermalright tells you to consult the newest instruction manual on PDF, and you will read the warning in larger print there.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Mount On Motherboard. Screw Nut Washer End Down

On Motherboard. Screw Nut Washer End Down

Thermalright includes an “LGA1151 Spacer” with the heatsink along with paper installation instructions. Why was the spacer included? No clue. The spacer is not included in the online installation manual. Nor is there any mention on the website. Nor is anything in the box. Is this a response to a recent finding that Intel’s Skylake and Broadwell-E PCBs being thinner and can bend? Who knows.

I have asked Thermalright and have not gotten an answer (…yet). So we will try installing it here.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM LGA1151 Spacer

Thermalright LGA1151 Spacer

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM LGA1151 Spacer In Place

TR LGA1151 Spacer In Place

You might have to loosen and re-tighten the Torx bolt at the end of your socket for the clip to fit back on. That’s what I had to do. But you will have to do this only if you use the spacer. We will revisit the subject of spacers in the Results section.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM -- Socket Bracket Initially Wouldn't Fit

Initially Wouldn’t Fit

This is the anchoring plate mounted. The “heatsink body” (the contact plate of the Macho 120 SBM) fits in the middle. The mounting plate goes over it, spanning the width of the anchoring plate.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Anchoring Plate on Motherboard

Anchoring Plate on Motherboard

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Mounting Plate on Motherboard

Mounting Plate on Motherboard

The contact surface has a mirror finish. But in the direction of the airflow the surface appears to lack the convexity mentioned in the features of the Macho 120 SBM.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Mirror Contact Surface

Mirror Contact Surface

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Flat In Line with Airflow

Flat In Line with Airflow

A side-to-side view of the contact surface appears to show some convexity. In these pictures, the airflow comes toward the camera.

In order to see the extent of the convexity, the blade was moved to the right side of the contact surface. That is not a trivial amount of convexity. Because of this, I ran tests on a known heatsink before and after mounting the Macho 120 SBM.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Convex Side To Side

Convex (Click to Enlarge)

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Blade on Side to Emphasize Convexity

Blade on Side to Emphasize Convexity

Here is a picture you can find in the online PDF of the installation manual. It shows you how it all goes together.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Exploded View

Here you see the long-shafted screwdriver reaching down to tighten the back screw of the mounted heatsink. A practice tip: don’t waste your time putting the screw down and letting the screwdriver find it. Instead, use the magnetic tip of the screwdriver to load the screw on the screwdriver. Then, using the screwdriver as a handle, aim the screw at its destination. That works well.

In the second picture you can see the mounted heatsink with the screw tightened all the way. The anchoring plate is curving now, indicating some springiness there. The curving is slight, but you can see it.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Screwdriver's Reach

Screwdriver’s Reach

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Note the Mounting Plate is Now Curved

Note the Mounting Plate is Now Curved

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM on a Motherboard

Let us first examine a side view of the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM mounted on a motherboard. The front of the board is to the left in the photo, so that it shows the proper orientation of the heatsink.

A front view clearly shows four rubber tubes. Those will act as vibration isolators for the fan. Squeeze them flat, and insert them edgewise into the slots. They will expand to fit.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Mounted

Macho 120 SBM Mounted

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Face On

Macho 120 SBM Face On

This photo shows that the fan has slots or vents instead of a solid sidewall. The fan sits behind four slots populated with medium tall RAM. If you have tall RAM, this heatsink will not interfere with it. In mounting the fan, you will find it much easier to mount it with the motherboard vertical. Once you have put the top fan clip in the fin stack slot you will be able to put each leg into the appropriate screw hole. Then you can let it go: gravity will hold the TY-127 fan in place and allow you to work on the other side. It was actually harder to install the fan with the motherboard horizontal, as it is here. Truly, gravity is your friend.

A front view of the finished Thermalright Macho 120 SBM. You can see that the upper and lower edges of the fan clear the top and bottom of the fin stack, assuring the maximal ventilation of the stack.

RAM Clearance

RAM Clearance

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

Testing Setup for the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

CPU

Intel i7 4790K @4.5 GHz

Vcore

Set to 1.23 volts, read up to 1.248 volts

Vrin

Set to 1.8 volts, read down to 1.740 volts

GPU

Intel HD Graphics 4600, integrated into the i7 4790k

Motherboard

Gigabyte Z97X Gaming-7

RAM

Crucial Ballistix Sport Ultra Low Profile; 2×4 GB – 8 GB total

SSD

Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB + 1 TB

PSU

Seasonic SS-460FL 460W Fanless

Heat Stress Software

Linpack with AVX2 – LinX 0.6.5 user interface

Operating System

Windows 10, 64-bit

Core Temp Log

Real Temp

Ambient Temp Log

Digital TEMPer USB Thermometer, with logging software

Sound Pressure Meter

Tenma 72-942 with SPL measured at 1m

The TIM was allowed time to spread and, after a day, the heatsink was tested with Linpack running AVX2 extensions. Linpack is the software Intel engineers use to maximize the heat produced by their CPU’s. Thus it is the best software to test overclocking. But Linpack runs in surges. When the temperature is graphed, you see ragged plateaus. In looking for cooling solutions, you want to know how well a heatsink cools those plateaus – you won’t care about the valleys. So the temps under 70 °C (the valleys) were ignored in analyzing core temps.

Each test run was 30 minutes in duration. The last 20 minutes of each run was measured, and the core temperature logs were analyzed in Open Office spreadsheets. An Intel chip reports its temps in one degree increments, so for best accuracy these reports should be averaged in aggregate. Here the core temps were measured once a second, resulting in 1200-line spreadsheets.

The digital thermometer measuring air temperature was placed about 2″ (5 cm) from the fan intake. It reported its measurements in increments of 0.1 °C. The ambient temperature was measured every five seconds, resulting in 240-line spreadsheets. The mean ambient temp was subtracted from the mean core temps, resulting in a net temp for each run. Finally, the several net temps were averaged.

The Sound Pressure Level of each cooler was measured at one meter. The ambient noise was then subtracted to report a net value. The ambient noise for this testing was 31 dBA. So the net SPL is the sound pressure level measured at one meter, less 31 dBA.

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Results

The first results were with the plastic spacer. The heatsink ran too hot. I gradually backed off the overclock of the system to 4.3 GHz and a Vcore of 1.11 volts. The core temps peaked at 95 °C with a net (average plateau temp less ambient) of 67.3 °C. Not good, but I figured the plastic spacer might be the culprit.

I removed the heatsink and removed the spacer. Then I reinstalled the heatsink without the spacer (it’s a good thing there was enough Thermalright Chill Factor for a second installation, there might have been quite a wait otherwise). With the plastic spacer no longer present, the Macho 120 SBM did much better. Now at an overclock of 4.3 GHz and a Vcore of 1.11 volts the peak core temp was 70 °C. The net was 43.9 °C.

Back at our standard overclock of 4.5 GHz and Vcore of 1.23 volts, results of testing continued the improvement we saw earlier. Testing showed the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM less than half a degree behind a famous heatsink, and less than a degree behind another famous heatsink (the numbers have been rounded). These results are all within the margin of error for the tests.

Macho120SBM

You might also want to know how fast the fan spins under PWM control, so we tested it while it was mounted on the Macho 120 SBM:

RPMvPWM

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Conclusions

If you will look at this heatsink’s neighbors, you can see that it basically matches two renowned heatsinks. But those use twin 140 mm fans, and this one sports a single 120 mm fan. And don’t forget that this heatsink is doing this with only five heatpipes.

The Thermalright Macho 120 SBM is a lot quieter than its neighbors on that chart. This makes me wonder what kind of results you will get with two TY-127 fans. They would be able to run slower, and thus run more quietly.

Since the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM is only 130 mm wide, it will clear any card in the first slot of your motherboard. That means that if you must put your graphics card in the top slot, this heatsink won’t get in the way. Also, with the fin stack set back from the RAM, the fan doesn’t interfere with tall RAM heatsinks.

One drawback is the fan clips. Normally, Thermalright uses the best fan clips in the industry, the “gate-style” clips. Why they didn’t use them here I don’t know. The fin stack already has holes for fan clips. Since they made custom fan clips for this heatsink, they could have made custom gate-style fan clips.

The convexity of the heatsink’s contact plate seems to be one-dimensional, with the curvature running side to side, but it was straight in the direction aligned with the airflow. It was a substantial convexity, but it did not damage the testing system. Further, tests with a known heatsink run before and after the Macho 120 SBM showed that it did not change the test system’s thermal properties. Thus, Thermalright’s Macho 120 SBM mounting system looks like it will be safe to use.

Questions arise about the spacer. What’s it for? On my 4790K system, it ran 23.4 °C hotter with the spacer rather than without, and that was on a system where the overclock was backed off until the testing system essentially was not overclocked any more. Maybe it is supposed to be used on an i7 6700 system or something.

Finally the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM includes a screwdriver with a six-inch shaft and a magnetic Phillips #2 tip. This is a fine screwdriver. Including a long-shafted Phillips screwdriver with a heatsink is unusual. Having a long-shafted Phillips screwdriver with a magnetic tip is heaven. You will find many uses for this tool.

Availability of the Thermalright Macho 120 SBM

The Thermalright Macho 120 SBM is available from Amazon for $48. It is available from Newegg for $56.

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Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Pros

  • Without the spacer this heatsink performed very well
  • Very quiet
  • Room for tall RAM
  • Room for graphics cards in first motherboard slot
  • Clearance for all MOSFET’s
  • PWM control
  • Fine long-shafted magnetic-tipped Phillips screwdriver included

Thermalright Macho 120 SBM Cons

  • On my system, that spacer crippled this heatsink
  • Fan clips are OK, but this company has industry-leading fan clips

Thermalright Macho120 SBM ApprovedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

– Ed Hume (ehume)

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Discussion
  1. Anybody happen to know how this compares to the thermalright spirit 140 power? I like the cooling of the sp140p but it blocks the side 140mm fan of my case with my new motherboards lower socket and I have to use a 120mm.

    EDIT: Sorry never mind. it says thermal design power 200w for the macho and 360w for the sp140p