iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Refined Cooling for Video Cards

Part 2. Zalman ZM80D-HP, VF700-AlCu, and VF700-Cu

Part 1. The stock cooler of VPU ATI Radeon X800XT, Arctic Cooling ATI Silencer 4, Cooler Master CoolViva, and GlacialTech NorthPole 1000

Zalman ZM80D-HP and ZM-OP1

At last it's time to focus on products from Zalman, the leading manufacturer of advanced cooling systems. The ZM80D-HP model has been a major figure among VPU coolers for quite a long time, so let's start with it.

The ZM80D-HP has taken much from its predecessor, ZM80C-HP, and it follows the same sandwich system ideology as Cooler Master CoolViva: it comprises a front and back heatsinks (140x74x11mm), heat exchange units (four items, two of them are adapted for GeForce 4 based video cards — best regards to old stagers! :)), and two U-shaped heat pipes, 6 mm in diameter.

Unlike the niggardly Cooler Master, attentive Zalman did not stint the ZM80D-HP bundle; it's really abundant — everything you need and even more: the bundle includes a set of heatsinks for memory chips, three tubes with thermal paste, as well as an extra retention bracket and a screwdriver. The ZM80D-HP can optionally use a special fan module ZM-OP1 — 80x80x15mm 2800rpm fan, installed in the retention bracket, and a power converter with two connectors for 12 V and 5 V (by the way, the tests demonstrated that ZM-OP1 is not an optional component, it's strictly mandatory!).

A rich bundle is a good point. But how does ZM80D-HP fair in terms of usage and technology? Unfortunately it's no better than Cooler Master CoolViva as far as its usability is concerned: the number of screws to fix is fewer, but the installation process is no less "entertaining". You will have to sweat it! And don't you forget about the accuracy and recollection even for a second!

But the ZM80D-HP looks much better in terms of technology. The first positive change is the so called optional ZM-OP1 module. While the fanless modification of the ZM80D-HP demonstrates very weak results, the ZM-OP1 installed improves the situation considerably: thermal efficiency goes up to quite an acceptable level, bringing the cooler closer to the test leaders. The second positive change concerns video memory — special heatsinks mounted on chips noticeably improve thermal conditions of the video memory system. If we compare ZM80D-HP with CoolViva from Cooler Master, the additional heat pipe is obviously not out of place here and contributes to the reduction of the total thermal resistance.

Well, you can see that the "sweet couple" of ZM80D-HP and ZM-OP1 fairs quite well. But still, considering the entire complex of technical properties (especially taking into account the laboursome installation and weak efficiency in a low-noise operating mode), this pair is disappointing rather than inspiring.

Zalman VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu

The other two Zalman models (VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu) are new coolers in the product line of this company. They have an absolutely different design and draw inspiration from the famous CNPS7000 series of CPU coolers.

Indeed, their ideology is consonant with the CNPS7000 in many respects: this cooler demonstrates a similar but slightly modified (adapted to video cards' topography) heatsink configuration in the form of a cup, consisting of sixty two 0.3mm fins, fused together at the base. Despite their compact dimensions (126x91x30mm), the VF700 series heatsinks demonstrate developed heat exchange surface area (about 600 cm2) due to the dense caliciform finning. To all appearances, these little things are not easily frightened!

The AlCu-suffixed model traditionally offers a combined copper-aluminium heatsink, and the Cu-model contains a solid copper one. Both models are equipped with a 80x80x15mm fan with a nominal rotational speed of 2600rpm. They come shipped with a power converter that has two connectors — for 12 V (Normal Mode) and 5 V (Silent Mode, the rotational speed drops down to 1300rpm). The bundle contains mounting metalware and thermal paste as well as a set of heatsinks for video memory chips and detailed technical documentation.

Unlike the ZM80D-HP, the VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu models demonstrate well thought-out ergonomics: their installation process is rather easy, even newbies will have no problems installing it. Besides, the retention mechanism is truly universal here — the VF700 series supports the widest range of video cards based on chips from ATI as well as from nVidia. Compatibility problems, which were typical of their inspirer (CNPS7000), are no more!

The VF700 series coolers prove worthy in action as well. Operating in Normal Mode, both models take advantage of their technical potential — they demonstrate excellent thermal efficiency and provide the most comfortable thermal conditions for video memory chips. The VF700-Cu model achieves the best results — this cooler is an absolute champion in thermal efficiency, outperforming all other contenders. And though the efficiency of VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu turns out not that brilliant in Silent Mode, these coolers are still up to the mark, demonstrating quite decent temperatures and the ergonomic noise level.

Well, let's finish our tour of the VPU coolers' features. It's time to proceed to the "summary of operations" - our test results!

Part 3. Test results, Conclusions


Vitali Crinitsin (vit@ixbt.com)
June 9, 2005.

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