The summer might be about over, but the need to keep our graphics cards cool is one that never goes away. To help make sure that our GTX 200 cards are running at their best, Zalman has released the VF3000N cooler. It offers an abundance of fins and copper, a lot of room for airflow, and a surprisingly easy installation process.
When someone is evaluating their options for getting their PC to run cooler, one of the first places they tend to look is at CPU cooler. But today, it seems like that should be one of the last places to look, since today’s CPUs are more power efficient than ever, resulting in temperatures that rarely reach dangerous levels.
Our graphics cards haven’t enjoyed quite the same perk, though. While they’ve continued to experience die shrinks and lower power consumption, the performance is continually beefed up and in many cases, today’s GPU cores can run almost twice as hot as a current CPU under hard stress.
Between AMD and NVIDIA, users of cards from the latter have been on the rough end of the stick, as the company’s GPU dies have been overly large across the past two generations, and while they are powerful, the larger dies result in a lot more heat, and with them fitting into the same form-factors, they’ve proven difficult to keep cool.
As a result, there have been many after-market coolers available for consumers who don’t mind investing in improved cooling, while also seeking lower noise. Let’s face it, today’s NVIDIA cards do have the tendancy to whine at load, and whether it’s whining because it’s dying from the heat, I’m not sure. But it’s still annoying.
To help combat the big bad boss that is heat, Zalman recently released its VF3000 series of GPU coolers. The VF3000N which we’re looking at today is designed for GeForce GTX 200 cards (260 – 285), the VF3000F for GTX 400 (460 – 480) and finally, the VF3000A for HD 5800 (5830 – 5870). We’ll be checking out the VF3000F in the near-future, but for now, its the VF3000N that’s in our sights.
All three of the VF3000 models look identical on the surface, with fins dominating the design, and a thin shroud designed to help tie the aesthetics together. Whether the design appeals to you or not will depend on your tastes, but it’s hardly ugly. I kind of like it. The fact that the entire unit is light (430g) doesn’t hurt, either.
Taking a look at the opposite side of the cooler, it’s easier to get a grasp on its design. Almost in the direct center is the ultra-smooth copper base, which has numerous heatpipes wrapped into the center of the unit and then leading out to each end. The VF3000N is clearly aiming for top-rate heat dissipation.
A better view of the end of the heatpipes and cooler can be seen here:
The cooler’s shroud is held on with four screws – two on each end – and can be easily removed for when the time comes to clean the dust out of the fins – which will surely build up over time.
Here’s the cooler without its shroud:
Because bling is king, the two 92mm fans include a blue LED, and are rated for speeds of 1300~2500RPM and noise levels of 18dBA~32dBA. At the top-end, the fans will be audible, but if your PC is anything like mine, having many internal fans and hard drives, the noise likely isn’t to be too noticeable during heavy gaming.
With our look at the cooler’s design out of the way, we can move right into a look at the installation and performance.