Thermalright MUX-120 Black Heatsink Review

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Once again, I am looking at another high performance heatsink from Thermalright. They have been a consistent manufacturer of high performance air cooling solutions for quite a few years now and still are counted as one of the “go-to” manufacturers when considering the purchase of a high performance cooling solution for your computer’s processor. Today, I will be looking at the MUX-120 Black, which is a mid priced cooling solution that comes standard with a PWM fan and mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel systems. We will see today if this cooler is worth the $55 plus shipping that I paid for it or if there are more cost effective solutions out there in the bang/buck bracket.

Thermalright has been making cooling products since the early years of this century. My first experience with one of their heatsinks was a SLK800 for an AMD socket A system. Since then, they have been on my short list of premium heatsink manufacturers and their engineering expertise has always impressed me, as well as the materials used in their products. They did go through a period where I thought they had a quality control problem on their heatsink base finishes, but every cooler I have gotten in the last few years has been correctly finished on the base, so that seems to be a thing of the past. In the last few years, Thermalright has also branched out and makes heatsinks for video cards, RAM, chipsets, and even has been marketing their own line of fans.

Features and Specifications

(Courtesy of Thermalright)

Features

  • Patented multiple support pressure vault bracket system, allow users adding pressure to the bracket system (40~70 lbs.), and have a more efficient and secure mounting. (1366/1156/775).
  • Heatsink is all Black nickel plated to ensure the best quality and performance and could last for years.
  • Four sintered heatpipe design, all heatpipes are nickel plated to slow the oxidation deterioration to the heatpipe, and to ensure longer usage and performance of the heatsink for the CPU.
  • Include Thermalright X-Silent series 120 mm PWM Fan (600~1300 RPM)
  • Convex copper base design, to ensure the highest thermal conducting thermal efficiency between the CPU and the heatsink.

Specifications

  • Dimensions: L133 x W58 x H160 mm
  • Weight: 590 grams without fan. 670 grams fan included
  • Fan Rated Speed: 600-1300 RPM
  • Noise Level: 17-25 dBA
  • Air Flow: 26.6~57.6 CFM

This cooler looks to be pretty much a direct copy of another heatsink that Thermalright sells under their subsidiary company Cogage, the True Spirit. The overall dimensions are the same, the basic shape and mass are the same, but the MUX-120 is finished a bit differently. Instead of having exposed copper heatpipes and a natural aluminum finish on the fins, the MUX-120 has a nice “black nickel” finish on the heatpipes and fins. It also ships with the same mounting system for Intel as the Venomous X heatsink and also includes their latest AMD AM2/AM3 mounting system too. This is much better than the single last generation LGA1366 mount that is included with the True Spirit and a welcome addition to this product. It is a true “out-of-the-box cooler, with nothing else needed to get your hot running Intel or AMD system overclocked and running.

Packaging

As with most other Thermalright heatsinks, the MUX-120 Black ships in a plain brown colored box with just their name and the model of heatsink printed on the outside. The dimensions of the box are 11 1/16 X 4 1/2 X 6 11/16 inches (277 X 115 X 169 mm). Upon opening the box, you find the heatsink securely packaged in foam plastic and wrapped in a plastic bag. The mounting instructions and fan are packed above the heatsink and the mounting hardware is secure in it’s own separate cardboard box inside. Overall, a very good protection system that Thermalright has engineered to protect the heatsink during shipment from the factory to the end user.

Top of box.

Bottom of box.

Bottom of box.

Front of box.

Front of box.

Sides of box printed the same.

Sides of box printed the same.

Instructions and foam sheet on top of fan.

Instructions and foam sheet on top of fan.

Instructions and foam sheet removed.

Instructions and foam sheet removed.

Everything removed from box.

Everything removed from box.

 

First Look and Installation

Once the MUX-120 Black is removed from the packaging, we see a heatsink with a rather conventional tower layout. The heatsink uses four 6 mm heatpipes bent into a “U” configuration and they run up in both sides of the fin stack and are soldered in place. The base is a typical Thermalright design, with the heatpipes soldered in position inside the base.

Base well protected from shipping damage by plastic peel off.

Base well protected from shipping damage by plastic peel off.

The base finish on this heatsink is well done, as has been usual with Thermalright’s offerings the last few years. It isn’t finished to a mirror shine like with the Venomous X, but that kind of finish isn’t needed for good thermal conduction results either. The base is slightly bowed along the long axis so that it makes best contact with the hottest part of the IHS.

Good base finish on heatsink, nickel plated.

Good base finish on heatsink, nickel plated.

Slightly bowed on long axis.

Slightly bowed on long axis.

Flat finish this way.

Flat finish this way.

The mounting equipment is the same as on Thermalright’s other premium heatsink designs. The Intel mounting system is exactly the same as the one that was shipped with the Venomous X I used to own and uses their patented “pressure vault” mounting system. This consists of a screw assembly in the middle of the crossbar that screws down into a depression in the middle of the base top and lets you vary the mounting pressure from 40-70 pounds. I’ve read some people’s claims that this mount has damaged sockets, but I personally haven’t seen any problems associated with this mount and I don’t think that if it is set up like Thermalright’s instructions show, that it will do any damage to the socket. One thing I do not like about this mount, though, is the fact that once you engage the pressure bolt to the base, and start lifting the crossbar from the top of the heatsink base, it is very easy to twist the heatsink on its axis.  For mounting on AMD systems, they use their present AM2/AM3 Rev. 2 Bolt-Thru kit, which is one of the best mounting kits I’ve used for AMD boards.

Mounting equipment included with heatsink.

Mounting equipment included with heatsink.

Intel mounting equipment used for testing.

Intel mounting equipment used for testing.

The instructions included with the heatsink are detailed enough so that you shouldn’t have any problems mounting your heatsink on either Intel or AMD systems.

Assembly package list.

Assembly package list.

Intel mounting instructions.

Intel mounting instructions.

Intel mounting instructions, continued.

Intel mounting instructions, continued.

AMD mounting instructions.

AMD mounting instructions.

AMD mounting instuctions, continued.

AMD mounting instuctions, continued.

The fan included with this heatsink is a Thermalright branded PWM TR-TY120 model. It has nine blades on the rotor and is pretty conventional in layout. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it would be nice to know the maximum static pressure the fan delivers, which isn’t listed in their specifications on their website. I asked Thermalright about this and they were able to give me the missing numbers. The fan is rated at 1.2-2.4 watts and the maximum static pressure for this fan is 0.0485 inches water.

The heatsink uses wire clips to hold the fan on with and they grab onto the inside edge of the fan flange nearest to the heatsink. That means that the mounting system doesn’t care how thick the fan is that is mounted onto the heatsink, but it does limit you to open corner fans only. It also ships with four fan clips, which are the amount required  to mount two fans in a push pull setup. There are also four rubber strips supplied, which you stick to the edges of the heatsink and which you apply to the edges of the heatsink where the fan contacts it. These absorb vibration and help hold the fan securely to the heatsink. Thermalright has been using these rubber strips on their heatsinks for quite a while now; at least since the original Ultra 120 was introduced. They work well, so why change it. No particular problems were encountered with mounting the MUX-120 Black on either Intel board or the AMD board I tried it on. There was good RAM clearance with the fan on all three boards I mounted it on with the stock fan.

Intel mount installed on LGA775 board.

Intel mount installed on LGA775 board.

Installed on LGA775 board.

Installed on LGA775 board.

Plenty of clearance for ram and NB heatsinks.

Plenty of clearance for ram and NB heatsinks.

Installed on AMD AM2 board.

Installed on AMD AM2 board.

Again, good clearance for ram and NB heatsink.

Again, good clearance for ram and NB heatsink.

The following pictures are with the MUX-120 Black installed in the test system.

Very good clearance with stock fan installed.

Very good clearance with stock fan installed.

Push pull with AP-15 fans still has good clearance.

Push pull with AP-15 fans still has good clearance.

Even 38 mm fans clear the ram slots.

Even 38 mm fans clear the ram slots.

Fan clips mount compound fan securely.

Fan clips mount compound fan securely.

 

Test Setup

The fans used for testing this heatsink are as follows

Fan(s) Size (mm) RPM CFM dBA H2O Static Pressure (in H2O) Wattage Mass (g)
1 X TR-TY120 Fan 120 x 25 600-1300 26.6~57.6 17-25 0.0485 1.2-2.4 123.8
2 X Gentle Typhoon D1225C12B5AP-15 120 x 25 1850 58.0 26.0 0.081 1.0 195.5
2x Scythe S-Flex SFF21G 120 x 25 1900 75.0 35.0 0.15 2.88 182
2 X Sanyo Denki San Ace 109R1212H1011 120 x 38 2600 102.4 39.0 0.26 6.24 243
2 X Delta FFB1212VHE 120 x 38 3200 151.85 53.0 0.445 12.0 403
1 X Sanyo Denki San Ace 9CR1212P0G03 120 x 76 6200/3800(compound) 300.0 70.0 1.93 86.4 753

The testbed system is configured as follows:

  • Case – In Win Dragon Rider. The 220 mm side door fan has been shifted downward to give clearance for tall heatsinks. No other alterations have been made to this case.
  • Motherboard – Asus P6T
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 930, overclocked to 4000 MHz @ 1.304 v.
  • RAM – Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1600
  • Video Card – eVGA 7900GTX
  • Power Supply – HEC Cougar series S700
  • Hard Drive – Western Digital Caviar 250 GB SATA hard drive
  • Optical Drive – Lite On DVD-RW drive
  • OS – Windows Vista Ultimate 64 Service Pack 2
  • Arctic Cooling MX2 thermal paste was used for testing as I have found it to give good consistent results with no appreciable break in and it applies and cleans up easily.
  • All testing was done with the side door fastened in place on the case except for the Sanyo Denki 9CR1212P0G03 compound fan. I left the side door off on that one to keep from trapping air, since that Beast moves so much of it.

Test Methodology

The testing methodology used is the same as I used with my previous reviews:

All energy saving features of the motherboard and processor were turned off to keep it from down clocking the processor speed and vcore. All fan control functions were turned off in bios to keep the fans at maximum speed. For processor temperature monitoring purposes, I am using Real Temp 3.46, with logging enabled at 2 second intervals. For room temperature monitoring, I am using a Fluke Model 52-2 and using a “K” type thermocouple that is inserted into the case front where the front intake fan is mounted. The Fluke records the maximum, minimum and average temps during the run at 1 second intervals.

Temperatures in my computer room were maintained as close as possible to around an 18 °C average during the run, as measured at the lower front intake fan by the Fluke. At the end of the test run, I logged the maximum, minimum and average temperature. The maximum and minimum temps are given as recorded by Real Temp, but the average temperatures have been adjusted to a constant 18 °C as derived from the Fluke average temps.

For loading the CPU, I used Prime95 version 25.8 using in-place large FFT’s and ran it for 30 minutes to stabilize temps. After 30 minutes, I would exit Prime95 and let the CPU idle for at least 10 minutes. The highest recorded temperature from the hottest core for each run was then recorded off of the Real Temp log, the lowest temperature on any core was recorded and the average temperature on the hottest core was calculated during the load portion of each run and adjusted to a constant 18 °C.

Each fan configuration was tested with three remounts of the heatsink, and the lowest average temperature run recorded, to minimize any problems between mount to mount installations.

The Results

The first chart is the results I obtained with the MUX-120 Black and various fan combinations. These range from the stock fan that comes with the MUX-120 Black all the way up to the beastly San Ace compound fan.

As you can see here, the performance of the MUX-120 Black isn’t bad at all. It can easily deal with an overclocked Bloomfield with even the stock fan it’s shipped with. Having recently retested the True Spirit, which looks to be a kissing cousin of the MUX-120, I thought I remembered better performance than this with the True Spirit. After checking back in my revisit to the True Spirit I noticed that it was slightly outperforming the MUX-120. So I made some further runs with the MUX-120 while using the same mount as I used with the True Spirit and basically saw no increase or decrease in performance in the MUX-120 and either mount. All runs were just a little bit hotter than the runs I recorded with the True Spirit. So I put a little chart together here that compares the MUX-120 and True Spirit while using the same fan setups.

As you can see here, the MUX-120 Black trailed my True Spirit in every test when comparing setups using the same fan setups. I don’t know if this is a result of the True Spirit actually being better at heat dissipation than the MUX-120 because of the black nickel finish or sample variation or whatever. The performance difference isn’t very great until you get into the very high cfm, high static pressure fans, but with those it is readily apparent. Here are some pictures I took of both heatsinks side-by-side to let you see how closely the design of both are to each other. Besides the finish, the biggest difference I see between the two of them is that on the True Spirit they installed some nice looking caps on top of the heatpipes and left them bare on the MUX-120 and the MUX-120 has some holes drilled in the fins next to the heatpipes.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

MUX-120 Black on left, True Spirit on right.

Now you have seen them side by side. You can decide whether or not the MUX-120 Black is just a prettyfied version of the True Spirit. I know what I think!

This final chart plots the performance of the MUX-120 Black against the other heatsinks I have tested on my present test platform.

Conclusion

As we can see from the above charts, the MUX-120 Black is a good performer and in the upper third of the heatsinks I have tested on my present test rig. Another big plus for it is the fact that Thermalright packed it with mounting systems for all modern AMD and Intel systems, so you are good to go with whatever platform you are running. They also included a second pair of wire clips for mounting a second fan for a push pull fan arrangement. At least in this case, the performance was actually a little less than what I achieved with an even cheaper offering from Thermalright, the True Spirit. The True Spirit doesn’t come with a plethora of mounting options; just an LGA1366 mounting system. However, any standard Thermalright mount will work with the True Spirit, so that’s not a major problem either, plus the fan included with the True Spirit is slightly more powerful than the one that comes with the MUX-120. So we will now look at the economics between the two. The MUX-120 Black cost me $54.99 at SVC. I bought the  True Spirit for $31.99 from SVC and since I am testing on LGA1366, the True Spirit was a very clear winner on the price/performance scale. But say I had an AMD system with a hot running overclocked hex core and needed a good cooler. If I decided to go with the True Spirit, all I would have to get along with it would be the AM2/AM3 mounting kit for an additional $7.99. If I had an older LGA775 system, all I would need would be a $9.99 LGA775 mount. Now an 1155 or 1156 system is a bit different, in that the Rev. B 1155 mount supply has totally dried up, so you would have to go to another store and order a Venomous X mounting adapter and that brings costs much closer to parity by the time you figure shipping from two different stores. With all that said, the MUX-120 Black is still a very solid performer and if you don’t want to go through the hassles of hunting down and ordering the right mounting system if you aren’t going on a 1366 board with it, the MUX-120 Black is a very nice choice. It offers excellent clearance on the board from interference with ram slots or heatpipe assemblies around the socket. It ships with Thermalright’s premium mounting hardware for both AMD and Intel setups too. It just suffers a little bit in the price/performance category due to the additions of multiple mounting solutions and very slightly less performance than the True Spirit. All in all, the Thermalright MUX-120 Black earns the right to wear the Overclockers Approved label.

One more thing folks; during my correspondence with Thermalright recently when asking questions about the fan for this heatsink, he told me that Thermalright is discontinuing the MUX-120 Black. So when stocks run out in the channel, you probably won’t be able to find them on the market again. So if you want to go with this heatsink, look to buying it sooner rather than later. I will be back soon with some new reviews.

– Jim Gautreaux (muddocktor)

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Discussion
  1. Yeah, it sure does loo like the TS, Matt. :D It's a nice kit and comes with some premium mounts too. For someone looking for a heatsink that won't break the bank and gives good (not fantastic) performance and needs plenty of ram clearance, the puppy will do just fine. It would especially good on AMD boards and any other board that mounts the ram slots close to the socket area.
    BTW, I ended up buying myself another True Spirit after selling you my first one. It's a hell of a performer for the price.
    Yes, I was very happy with it... Getting the right mounts for AMD was a pain for me though, which was nice to see covered in your article. I bought mounts that go with thermalright's venx and a couple coolers like that, but no where was there any documentation stating they would work fine with the True Spirit. I just looked at the pictures and was pretty sure it would work.
    I've advised a couple people to go that route in the forums since then also, who were asking about which mounts to buy - since its not specified by the manufacturer or retailers while other heatsink models are specifically named, people get very iffy as to whether the mounting will work.
    Nice review :thup: Love the pictures you took showing the clearances n all. One thing that is great about it is you show the differences of several heatsinks compared to a 212+ :D I mean if you think about how often the 212+ gets recommended, its great to be able to decide if your hearing is worth a little more cash or if you would want to spend a little more for what could be 200-300mhz.
    Only caveat is I've got watercooling so don't need one anytime soon.
    Thanks guys. :)
    And DumpALump, I still like to have a good, but not too expensive an air cooler as a backup myself. That way if you have problems with your loop, you can still keep your machine running while waiting on a part for the loop, such as replacing a bad pump or a leaking rad. If nothing but a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ or a heatsink from the Classifieds ;). Since for once it looks like Intel is sticking with the same mounting patterns for their future sockets, you won't have to worry about getting a new mount in the future.
    muddocktor
    And DumpALump, I still like to have a good, but not too expensive an air cooler as a backup myself. That way if you have problems with your loop, you can still keep your machine running while waiting on a part for the loop, such as replacing a bad pump or a leaking rad. If nothing but a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ or a heatsink from the Classifieds ;). Since for once it looks like Intel is sticking with the same mounting patterns for their future sockets, you won't have to worry about getting a new mount in the future.

    Well that's why I always keep the stock heatsink :D However, I did win a raffle from Cyberpower PC (it's Thermaltake's company) where I won a Xion HP-9310. I wanted to build a system with it and see where it lined up in temps, but no need for more computers :(
    muddocktor
    heatsink from the Classifieds ;)

    I see what you did there :D
    petteyg359
    I count nine blades, not seven...

    Yup, my bad.:bang head
    Now to get in touch with one of the front page guys to change that.:fight:
    I appreciate that catch. Of course it's 9 blades; I just typed it in wrong.
    EDIT: @ DumpALump, I didn't know Cyberpower PC was affiliated with Thermaltake, but then I don't look at prebuilt desktop systems either. And as for the other quote, well :D is all I can say.:rofl:
    muddocktor
    EDIT: @ DumpALump, I didn't know Cyberpower PC was affiliated with Thermaltake, but then I don't look at prebuilt desktop systems either. And as for the other quote, well :D is all I can say.:rofl:

    Yeah I didn't even know about Cyberpower PC till PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Raffle was actually pretty fun even though a bit hectic. They had some interesting setups, one with a computer built into a motorcycle or moped (why? dunno). Surprisingly like 1min before the last drawing on the last day, one of the workers there said if I liked them on facebook I'd get another raffle ticket, and what do you know? That's the ticket that won :D I was furiously on my phone trying to get to their site before the drawing started.
    Between my gf and I we won 8gb 1866 ram, cpu cooler, TT PWM fan, and some noise canceling ear buds. Obviously they want to get their name out there a little more and I feel bad cause I don't have or need a system to build to send them pics as a sign of thanks. I mean eventually I'll build one, but that might be down the line. Maybe I'll throw it in my current setup and take it for a spin. Definitely not going to sell it cause that wouldn't be right.
    muddocktor
    Yup, my bad.:bang head
    Now to get in touch with one of the front page guys to change that.:fight:
    I appreciate that catch. Of course it's 9 blades; I just typed it in wrong.

    Done :thup:
    It was just in that one spot, right?