Introduction to the Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct

Thermalright is a company that has been around for more than a decade, and they’ve been dedicated to making high quality performance cooling products for the enthusiast.  While we haven’t had a chance to review a Thermalright product in several years, we’re happy to have another one on the bench to check out.  Today we’re going to take a look at a variation of the TRUE Spirit series. What makes the TRUE Spirit 140 Direct unique over the others in its series is the fact that it utilizes direct touch heatpipes – five 6mm heatpipes to be exact.  Utilizing direct contact heatpipes allows for superior cooling versus having to touch a copper base and then dissipate into the heatpipe.  Another unique feature of the TRUE Spirit 140 Direct is the reduced installation height.  Because of the direct touch heatpipe system, this cooler is 4mm lower than the TRUE Spirit 140 Rev. A and a whopping 9mm lower than the TRUE Spirit 140 Power.  This reduced height will allow users to install this cooler into even more compact cases. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Included with the cooler is a single TY-140 Black (140mm) PWM fan, designed to be near silent.  How silent?  It’s rated to run between 15 – 21 dBA with a max speed of only 1300 RPM.  This fan is also capable of pushing roughly 73.6 CFM (125 m³/h), though no static pressure information is listed. This cooler was released late 2016 and can currently be had for $46.95 shipped on Amazon.  Thermalright didn't have any warranty information listed on the product or their website, but we reached out to them and they informed us the cooling unit itself has a 2-year warranty. Compatibility wise, the TRUE Spirit 140 Direct is compatible with any current Intel or AMD socket, including sockets as old as the Intel LGA775 or AMD AM2.  Also, great news for new Ryzen owners is that this cooler is also compatible with the new AM4 socket! TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Specifications
Length 152 mm
Width 77 mm
Height 161 mm
Weight 760 g
Fan Dimensions 152 x 140 x 26,5 mm
Material Hybrid
Fan Speed 300 - 1.300 U/min
Air Flow 28,7 - 125 m³/h
Noise 15 - 21 dB(A)
Connector 4-Pin PWM
Heatpipe 5 x 6 mm
Max. TDP 200 Watt
Manufacturer Number True Spirit 140 Direct
EAN Code 814256001267
This cooler looks pretty nice initially and is stated on the packaging to be simple to install, but we will find that out in later sections.  First, let’s take a look at how this cooler is packaged and take a quick look at it.

TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Packaging & Quick Look

Thermalright’s presentation of the TRUE Spirit 140 Direct is actually quite pleasant.  On the front and left side we find a picture of the cooler itself.  On the right are a couple key elements that make this cooler unique.  Finally, on the rear are the technical specifications, all of which you saw on the previous page. [gallery link="file" ids="191878,191879,191880"] Opening up the box, we find that everything is nicely secured in place.  Included inside the box is a single Thermalright TY-140 (140 mm) Black fan, the hardware that you’ll need to install this on modern Intel and AMD platforms, and also enough hardware to do a two-fan combo if you have another. [gallery link="file" columns="4" ids="191881,191882,191883,191897"] My initial impressions pulling the cooler out of the box were that the materials used here are quite nice and feel solid.  This kind of puts a higher expectation in my mind for performance, but I do have to keep the cost in mind, too. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Flipping it to a side profile, you will see just how slim this cooler is – a whole 42 mm! Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct There are five heatpipes that run through this cooler and you will see that they’re directly going to contact the CPU’s IHS, hence the name “TRUE Spirit 140 Direct.” Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Peeling off the protective sticker we can see a little more.  One big thing to point out about these heatpipes is the fact that they’re not contacting each other, rather they’re spaced apart.  This unfortunately is lost contact space and will reduce the effectiveness of this cooler.  There is at no point in-between the heatpipes that actually contacts the integrated heatsink, which is very disappointing and we’ll find that these grooves actually suck up extra thermal material.  Maybe Thermalright has a reason for designing it this way? Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Going to the other side of base you don’t find much more than the Thermalright name stamped into the metal and also an authenticity sticker. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Looking at the top of the cooler you find the typical crimped ends of the heatpipes, which do look nice.  The top is capped off with a black colored fin. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct If you pay attention to the corners on the top, you’ll notice a cutout in the tower.  These are the positions for the rubber tubes to be installed.  What are the rubber tubes for, you ask?  They are utilized for anti-vibration / noise dampening and also end up lifting the fan a little bit off of the cooling tower. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct With the rubber tubes installed, this is what it looks like.  Quite frankly, these are not too difficult to install for me, but someone with big hands will absolutely throw a fit trying to install them.  I would have liked to see these omitted and the fan have an anti-vibration system integrated instead. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct - Rubber Tubes I went ahead and installed the fan retention clips afterwards... Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct With the fan installed, this is a very nice looking and basic cooler. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct The fan itself isn’t much thinner than the cooling tower, which is incredible. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct This wraps up the introduction to the cooler and the packaging, so let’s move on and see how easy this cooler is to install!

Installing the Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Cooler

Installing CPU coolers is a task that the end user will want to be relatively simple, with instructions that easy to follow if you’re new to this market.  In this section, we’ll discuss what was easy or what was challenging with this install alongside the how-to. First and foremost, I always start with a CPU and cooler that were cleaned with a high purity alcohol.  This way we can remove as many contaminants as possible. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Prior to me doing the install, I like hooking up the fans to the cooler.  In the case of this particular cooler, I was unable to, as the single fan would get in the way of the install.  So as previously shown, this is what the cooler looks like with the fan installed. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct The instructions that are included with the TRUE Spirit 140 Direct are decently laid out, but they’re very difficult to read, as in, too darn small.  My vision is actually decent and I can read tiny things without any vision correction devices (glasses, magnifying glasses, etc.), but I ended up snapping a photo with my camera to make sense of some of the pictorials.  The verbiage on the page could also be a little clearer, so you don’t have to hunt around for what you need on other pages. [gallery columns="2" link="file" ids="191908,191909"] Now, to install the fan, this is where I actually had to scratch my head a little bit.  At first I was thinking this fan would install similar to how Noctua does it, but it does not.  You need to install a little rubber tube, which acts as an anti-vibration system and also raises the fan off of the cooler just a little bit. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Once you have the tubes installed, you will attach the fan clip to the cooling tower.  These just simply get inserted into a hole on the top and bottom of the tower.  I felt it necessary to mention, but I somehow managed to cut my thumb on the tower while doing this…  You’ll end up leaving the fan off so you can install the cooler, but refer to the second picture on this page to see what it looks like installed. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct With the fan part aside, you need to prep the back plate. The way the instructions are laid out for this are a little confusing, but once you get that “Ah ha” moment, you’ll end up doing a facepalm with how simple it is.  You take the metal back plate, set the Mylar film on top, and slip one of the screws through followed by a plastic washer.  That washer will hold the screw in place, allowing you to put the back plate in place. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Here is a picture of the AMD washer, which is slightly larger than the Intel one.  You just need to make sure you have the skinny part up so it can seat itself into the screw cutout on the motherboard. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Once you’ve got the back plate in place, you will then use a screw nut to hold the back plate in place, which when all four are installed, will provide a surface for the cooler mounting bracket. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Simply screw the mounting bracket in place in the four corners and you’re ready to install the cooler. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Obviously prior to mounting the cooler, we need to put thermal paste down.  I’m using the Noctua NT-H1 paste, which requires zero cure time.  For this particular cooler, I ended up using at least twice as much as normal.  Why?  Because the bottom of the cooler actually has grooves, and these grooves will eat up the paste. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct - Thermal Paste Here is what the paste will look like when using roughly the normal amount for a flat-bottom cooler, which will actually pinch a little extra out the sides.  When I pulled it off, you can totally see how much the grooves suck up. [gallery link="file" ids="191911,191874,191876"] Now I set the cooler in place carefully and positioned it over the two mounting screw points. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Screw these two points in and you’re almost ready to go!  Just a side note, while torqueing the screws down, I did a couple twists on each one, back and forth, to apply even pressure.  Since these are only two screws holding it down, this is critical.  Obviously the last thing you need to do is hook up the fan to your CPU fan header on the motherboard. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Firing up the system, I could not hear the fan at all.  Simply amazing! Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct  

The Test System

Before we take a look at the performance numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used.  All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Professional 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. ALL COOLERS will be using Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound, which requires zero cure time. Intel Z97/LGA1150 Platform Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test these coolers was running the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 motherboard with BIOS version 1.D that came out on 02/17/2016.  We will be sticking with this version of the BIOS between all coolers.  The processor used, the Intel Core i7 4770k, will be using the stock frequency of 3.5GHz with turbo boost enabled, which can boost it up to 3.9GHz.  Low power state is enabled and the CPU frequency and v-core are set to AUTO, just like they were out of the factory. When we do our overclocking, the 4770k will be overclocked to 4.4GHz at 1.1850 volts, which is just a hair over the stock 1.1755 volts read from Core Temp.  This particular 4770k may have a little more in it, but I had difficulties with going above 4.5GHz while retaining reasonable temperatures, so I settled on 4.4GHz.

Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Benchmarking & Overclocking

In the benchmarks that will be run, we used an Intel 4770k clocked at 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost and the low power state enabled.  Turbo Boost allows the 4770k to hit up to 3.9GHz right out of the box.  Stock results will be utilizing auto for the multiplier and v-core, which reads 1.1750v in Core Temp, and overclocking will utilize manually entered multiplier and voltage numbers.  In this case, our Intel Core i-7 4770k was able to obtain a 4.4 GHz overclock at 1.185 volts. To record temperatures, we used Core Temp v1.4 to monitor and record temperatures.  For our idle temperature, we will average the readout across all four cores from Core Temp.  When stress testing, we will use Core Temp’s Max number and average all four cores. Slimming down on the benchmarks from previous reviews, we’ll be strictly using AIDA64 to stress the CPU and no games.  Within AIDA64, we will be running the System Stability Test and choosing the Stress CPU, FPU, Cache, and System Memory tests for thirty minutes.  This will peg all four cores and eight threads to 100%, which will help us to understand exactly how hot this CPU can get with each cooler. Ambient temperature during all testing was 72 degrees Fahrenheit. ALL COOLERS will be using Noctua NT-H1 thermal compound, which requires zero cure time. Reminder:  For the results that you see below, we’re publishing the results based on the fans being connected directly to the motherboard’s fan header and not utilizing the connectors off the pump (where applicable).  

Click the charts below to view it full-sized and easier to read.

  Idle     AIDA64 @ 3.9GHz     AIDA64 @ 4.4GHz     Overall Results:  The Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct did pretty good here.  It’s no water cooler, but it certainly kept up quite well with them.  It even found itself ahead of the Noctua NH-D15, which costs nearly twice as much.

TRUE Spirit 140 Noise Testing

Noise testing was a highly requested item by our readers, and with this new system, we have those numbers for you! To obtain our noise numbers, we’re using an Extech 407750 Sound Lever Meter with the wind screen on.  This meter is placed six inches from the top side of the chassis on a level tripod. It and the PC case are placed in the exact same spot with the side panel off, as to not taint results, because the movement of just one inch can skew results. All noise readouts are obtained at the end of the test (Idle or AIDA64) to allow the system sufficient time to get “settled in.”  Ambient noise readout was gathered from only the system fans running – not any component in the cooler. AMBIENT NOISE:  39.1 dBA  

Click the chart below to view it full-sized and easier to read.

  Overall Results:  This air cooler was whisper quiet at idle – I couldn’t tell the difference between ambient and system powered on.  Looking at the data we find that the noise difference between idle and full load is minimal.

Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct - Final Thoughts and Conclusion

The TRUE Spirit 140 Direct is a very nice looking cooler.  It is well constructed and uses nice materials.  There was a little frustration with the installation of the cooler, but once things are figured out, it’s not terrible. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct As stupid as it sounds, I got a little frustrated with the install of this cooler.  This was supplemented with instructions that were very difficult to read, not because they were worded poorly, but because they’re too darn small.  I’ve installed many coolers before and usually just skim through the instructions, looking for anything important or out of the ordinary.  Most of the time the install is very similar across the board, but this one was a little different.  I actually found myself snapping a picture with my camera to blow it up to make sure I wasn’t missing something in the pictorial.  Once that’s figured out, it basically became a “Duh” moment, but I can see your average Joe getting confused.  In the below picture, I set a CR2032 (very common size) coin cell battery next to the pictures for reference, and you can just tell how small they are. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct There were a couple parts with the install that could have been simplified.  For example, often times the backplate is already assembled or fans could be a little less frustrating for the first-time install – I’m looking at you rubber tubes!  I suppose once you have the tubes installed, the next time will be a piece of cake with the tool-free clip system. Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct When it came to the performance, I was relatively impressed.  For a cooler that costs $46.95 shipped on Amazon, with a 2-year warranty, it kept up with the water coolers quite well in the AIDA64 system stability test.  Heck, this cooler even beat out the Noctua NH-D15, in the stock frequency department, which costs nearly twice as much.  I think overall this cooler could handle the task at hand without the risk of a water cooler.  This cooler is extremely silent at idle and barely ramps up when under load, which is a great thing to have, especially when you can maintain performance.   The only other improvement that I feel this cooler could have is with how the base is designed.  It does utilize a direct contact heat pipe system, however there are gaps between the heat pipes, leaving performance to be had.  With these gaps I found that you had to use a significant amount of extra thermal paste to fill them.  Should you not use enough, it’d just absorb the normal amount used on other coolers – in the cavity – and not provide enough coverage.  Obviously you’d affect your cooling performance if enough paste isn’t used.  In the below picture, I have just a little more than what I normally put on the coolers.  When I pull off the other coolers with a flat base, I find that I even have a hair extra squeezed out on the ends. This cooler is compatible with any current Intel or AMD platform, including the new AM4 Ryzen socket! Thermalright TRUE Spirit 140 Direct Frustrations aside, I think this cooler has a great bang for the buck, all without the risks of a water cooling system. Legit Reviews Value Award Legit Bottom Line:  Thermalright’s TRUE Spirit 140 Direct is a pretty decent cooler as it kept up quite well with the water coolers that we’ve tested thus far, plus it held its ground against the Noctua NH-D15 (stock frequency) which costs nearly twice as much.