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Thermalright XP120 HSF

Having followed the evolution of Thermalright's heatsinks the past several years, when I first saw the gigantic XP-120 HSF I knew I had to try one out. Fortunately for us since I had just hammered my piggy bank to buy a new retail AMD 64 3200+ CPU as a birthday present to myself CrazyPC was able to provide us one, as well as a 120mm Sunon fan for testing. Yes, I said a 120mm fan, because if you hadn't already heard, the Thermalright XP-120 uses a 120mm fan natively, in fact 120mm is the only size fan the XP-120 HSF is slotted for.

XP120 Stuff     XP120 Side

Packaging/Contents The Thermalright XP-120 arrived in the same plain industrial cardboard box that Thermalright has successfully used for years. After at least eight Thermalright HSF I have personally received through mail order with this packaging none of them have been damaged. Opening the box you may notice that the internal cardboard insert that the HSF used to rest in has been replaced by a two-piece Styrofoam one. Again, this doesn't seem to affect the hardiness of the packaging. New is the printed instruction sheet. This sheet is much more convenient than the online only version available when I reviewed the SLK-900.

Thermalright Box     Thermalright Box Open

Even though the XP-120 is both K8/P4 compatible, there is notably less miscellaneous hardware here than with previous Thermalright models. One minor gripe that remains, though, is that the XP-120 still comes with generic thermal paste. IMO a name brand HSF should come with a name brand thermal paste.

XP12 HSF Bundle

Technical Specs:


L110 x W125 x H63 (mm) Fin only


370g (heat sink only)


Customized K8 RM
120mm Recommended fan for maximum cooling capability
Multiple heat pipes for well spread heat around aluminum fins
Soldered fins to copper base (nickel plated) to make effective contact
Light weight and easy installation
Compatibility across multiple platforms (socket 478/754/939/940)


Since the XP-120 is made mostly of aluminum [with a nickel plated copper base], the finish appears more polished and professional looking. The surface should also be less prone over time to oxidation and discoloring. The base itself passes the old, not very scientific fingernail flatness test. The nickel plating also would seem to discourage lapping of the base unless it is your intent to sand off the nickel plating.

XP120 HSF Bottom


As mentioned earlier the XP-120 offers cross platform compatibility, but because of its enormous size that compatibility is somewhat limited. My personal suggestion here would be to make sure your motherboard is on either the AMD or Intel approved list before you buy one. If you don't see your board on the list it can't hurt to drop Thermalright a line and ask.

Another compatibility issue you should be aware of surrounding the XP-120 is fan design. Unlike earlier Thermalright designs, the XP-120 wire clips that attach the fan to the HSF fasten at the bottom of the fan. While this design allows flexibility in allowing you to use fans of various heights, this also means that you will need a fan with edges that are flared at both the top and bottom of the fan, either that or some madz skillz with a Dremel.

HSF Installation

Like most HSF that are both AMD and Intel compatible, the XP-120's installation method differs depending on the platform used. Since I was using an AMD setup I began the installation by removing the stock retention mechanism which is held in by two screws and replacing it with the one provided by Thermalright, which is also secured by two screws. This replacement retention mechanism is supposed to allow you to use any Socket 478 HSF that mounts using a standard clip. I say "supposed to" because I don't have any suitable HSF to verify this.

Mounting the HSF itself and attaching the four HSF clips to the retention mechanism was very awkward since the clips themselves are actually under the fins of the HSF. I personally found attaching the clips easier and safer to do with my fingers, than to risk damaging a motherboard trace with a screwdriver held at an awkward angle. The XP-120 is not a HSF that I would want to install if I was in a hurry.

Next, attach the thin blue rubber strips to the HSF next to the slots, directly beneath where the edges of the fan will sit. Since the XP-120 uses a 120mm which generally runs at a lower RPM than smaller size fans I question how much of a fan dampening effect you are really going to get here with the strips. Still, their use can't hurt anything.

The final step was to attach the two deceptively strong thin wire clips, one end to the base of the HSF and the other end to the bottom corners of the fan, plug in the fan, re-check all your work one last time, fire up your PC and join me in sharing a Mountain Dew.

XP120 HSF Mounted

Test System Specs:

AMD A64 3200+ O/C 2.31GHZ (210X11) 1.5v
ASUS K8N-E Deluxe
1024MB Kingston Hyper-X PC4000
Western Digital 160 GB SATA HDD
MSI Geforce 5900 XT (429,770)
Retail AMD HSF, Thermalright XP-120
Enenermax 460W PS
WIN XP Home - SP2
DirectX 9
Det 61.77

Testing Procedure

For the CPU loaded test I boot to Windows and run SETI 2 for 20 minutes at 100% stated CPU usage, temperature measurement is taken using ASUS PC Probe. Ambient room temperature for all tests was 22 C. Both HSF use their accompanying generic thermal material for a more fair comparison, since I doubt many people who are using a stock AMD HSF are using premium thermal paste, and it certainly wasn't fair to use it on one HSF and not the other. The Stock AMD HSF uses its stock fan which I would guess pushes about ~ 30 cfm, the XP-120 uses the Sunon KD1212PMB3 120mm fan which is rated at 83 cfm @ 35 dba.

XP120 HSF Fan





AMD Retail HSF stock fan

22 C

47 C

XP-120 Sunon 83 cfm fan

22 C

39 C


With the release of ever hotter processors I never would have thought we would see another performance aluminum CPU cooler, but the innovative large five heat pipe design of the XP-120 has proved me wrong, and is still light enough that I don't fear packing my case to the next LAN without removing the HSF. Kudos to Thermalright for going backward so to speak, so HSF design could again move forward. The downside here is that due to compatibility issues not all users will be able to use this HSF.

I would like to thank CrazyPC again for providing the Thermalright XP-120 and the Sunon 120 mm fan for review, as well as their continued support of MHW over the years. This item can be purchased for $47.99 at CrazyPC.


  • Great performance
  • Light weight
  • Low noise solution


  • Compatibility issues
  • Generic thermal paste

Crazy PC

Added: September 18th 2004
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 9  
Related Link: Thermalright
Hits: 31739
Language: english


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