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Reviewed By: Carl 'lowlight' Nelson [10.25.00]
Manufactured by: ThermalTake
Suggested Price: $13


I think this is ThermalTake week at hardCOREware - we reviewed their pretty-well-performing Chrome Orb Socket-A cooler a couple days ago, and we are promised to have a Super Orb within the next few days... You can also add to those a Golden Orb review from a while back... We think ThermalTake makes some pretty decent coolers! 

ThermalTake's CPU line of coolers may not be ultra-hardcore-top-of-the-line, but they really hold their own, especially where price/performance ratio is concerned.  The Golden and Chrome Orbs can be had for just around $15 if you hunt around, and their Super Orb should be just above that in price ANY performance...

So they have the price/performance base covered, and are going for the high performance (the Super Orb will be launched on October 26th).  What else could there be? 

Enter: The Blue Orb

You have to admit, high-end graphics chipset coolers are pretty scarce.  I couldn't guess why - video cards are getting hotter and hotter all the time, and it is #2 on the list of things to overclock for higher performance (according to 99% of the population, anyway...).  I think it might have something to do with the fact that no form-factor has been solidly set... Some card manufacturers use NVidia's reference design for their GeForce and other video cards; those that do will have two well-placed holes for heatsink installation. Many OEMs, like Elsa and Creative still use glue, even if the card has peg-holes, but a lot are making use of them, such as Hercules and Leadtek.

Unfortunately, not everyone uses that design for their boards.  Many Asus GeForce cards have holes placed similarly to the reference ones, but not exact.  Some early Creative DDR boards are like this as well.  I'm not sure about 3dfx cards though, since they are still afraid we will feed a review sample to Geoff, I guess...

Regardless, until video card manufacturers find a standard form for placing heatsink peg-holes, video chipset coolers are going to remain the way they are now - not much to choose from.

ThermalTake is aware of this, and offers an alternative.  They designed their chipset cooler to fit in the most commonly used form factor - NVidia's reference design, and also included some thermal tape for cards that don't use that design.

Other video chipset manufacturers, such as Tennmax, makers of the popular Lasagna Chipset Cooler, make 3 different designs: One for the most commonly used form, one for the lesser-used form (used by Voodoo3 cards and some TNT2's), and one that comes with thermal tape, for those with video cards with no peg-holes at all.  Their new, bigger Lasagna cooler will come in one size only, similar to the Blue Orb (we will have a preview of that cooler soon).

Beyond ThermalTake and Tennmax, there are only a handful of chipset coolers around... None of them are really much better than the stock-HSF unit that comes with the card though.  Chances are, if you are going to replace your heatsink with a high performance unit, it will be either a Tennmax or now, a ThermalTake Blue Orb.

Hey You Look Like Brothers!

Of course, the Blue Orb is designed after the popular CPU coolers of the Orb series.  As I stated in our recent Chrome Orb Review, they perform quite well, though not quite as well as other, more 'hardcore' coolers out there, such as some Alpha and GlobalWin models, and the Copper HedgeHog.  The Golden Orb is a good Intel heatsink, because they don't run quite as hot as the Durons and Athlons.  As it is though, if you are looking to take your AMD CPU all the way, you might want to skip the Chrome Orb.

Anyway, what we're here to find out is, does the Blue Orb perform well as a chipset cooler?

Blue Orb's main competition is probably Tennmax's Lasagna cooler... Before this Orb arrived, I was using the Lasagna to cool my GeForce 2 GTS.  I don't overclock it unless going for manhood-proving high 3dMark scores, but it was better than the glued-on stock heatsink that came with the Gladiac. 

The very first thing I noticed when I opened the Blue Orb was the size of it - MAN this thing is too tall! If you want to use the PCI slot just below your video card, you're going to be SOL with the Blue Orb.  That was actually one thing I really liked about the Tennmax Lasagna - it cooled quite well, but was small enough to allow use of all my PCI slots.

The height might just pay off though, in benchmarks...

First let's discuss some more bad stuff

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