by Rob Williams on August 10, 2011 in Air-Cooling
NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 580 is a beast of a card, able to reach 80°C with minimal effort. So what about those who value high performance along with silence? There are some options, such as Zalman’s VF3000F after-market cooler. But with it requiring three slots in your PC, and $75 from your wallet, can it deem itself worthy?
Zalman’s VF3000F retails for about $75 USD, so does it manage to accomplish enough to warrant its premium price-tag? The answer for most is going to be “no”. Those who will say “yes” will have nothing but noise-levels on the mind, because performance-wise, the VF3000F didn’t live up to our expectations.
When I took a look at Zalman’s similar VF3000N last fall, with the help of our GeForce GTX 285, the temperature differences in the end were somewhat impressive, but not mind-blowing. With that cooler’s lowest fan setting, it managed to drop a staggering 16°C off of the load temp, but given that the GTX 285 peaked at 96°C, the higher gains are likely due to a much less efficient reference cooler. The reference GTX 580 does have a rather good cooler, on the other hand, making it harder for the VF3000F to impress.
Let’s recap. The VF3000F dropped 6°C off the load temperature in our best run compared to the reference cooler, while at a higher fan speed that increased to a 17°C drop. That figure starts off somewhat impressive, but when you can see that the reference cooler with a high fan speed can out-preform it, it doesn’t exactly instill enough confidence for a purchase.
With all of that said, I do have to raise again what I did differently with our sample. Rather than use the included thermal paste for the memory and MOSFETs, I opted to use the easier-to-apply STG1 instead. While it’s also made by Zalman, there’s little doubt in my mind that the included paste would in fact perform a little bit better. The caveat is that it will also be a lot harder to remove.
That in mind, given a perfect configuration, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a 3~5°C load temperature difference from what we saw at each setting.
Even if Zalman’s VF3000F managed to match the reference cooler at its highest speed, that’s still not something to be too impressed by. The reference cooler is without question far louder, but the Zalman is clearly audible as well. Instead of a whine, it produces a quieter and far more natural fan noise on part with chassis or CPU cooler fans.
Is this all worth $75? As far as I’m concerned, no. That again brings me back to the group of people who don’t only care about performance but also cooling power. With the VF3000F, you can use a GTX 570 or GTX 580 and quite literally not hear it – and I mean that. If you have a single fan in your machine, chances are adding this cooler to the mix at its lowest speed won’t even be noticed. With it installed in my personal rig, I can only single it if I put my ear against the top of the chassis (which currently has no fans).
For the reason of silence alone, I could possibly understand the appeal of a cooler like this, but given its price and the fact that it takes up three slots, it’s not for everyone.
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