Date: March 29, 2006
Author(s): Will Pope
When you want to stick to AIR cooling, you have an intense decision to make. There is far too much choice! We are taking a look at three great coolers from Zalman and pit them against each other to see which one comes out on top.
Unless you just flew in from Alpha Centauri you have probably heard of Zalman which is a name long associated with air cooling in a wide range of products. Of course they make more than just coolers including PSU’s, Cases, H2o systems and more. Air cooling is the most affordable way for most folks to keep their system temps under control and there are as many designs as there are manufacturers. Zalman has been innovative in their designs and material choices for as long as I can remember.
As listed above the three combatants are the VF900-Cu, the Fata1ty FS-V7, and the older of the three the ZM80C-HP with the optional ZM-OP1 fan. Now if you’re wondering about why the ZM80C is included here it’s for two reasons. First I happen to have it on my 9800 at the time of this review and second, I was curious as to how well it will hold up against it’s newer competition. So let’s get on with it, shall we?
The test platform is an ATI 9800 overclocked to an XT on an Intel system. The mobo is the Abit IC-7 Max 3 With a P-4 Northwood 2.66 @ stock settings for this review. 1 GB’s of DDR pc 3200. I used Aqua Mark3 and 3D Mark 06 to obtain the results. The conditions for all three tests were the same within .5 degrees as far as the ambient room temperature was concerned which was 21.1 celsius or 70 degrees fahrenheit for those of us in the U.S of A. Because I had a better thermal paste than what came with the ZM80C originally, I felt I should do the same for the other two cards. I had used Arctic Silver 3 on the ZM80-C. Unfortunately I only had Arctic Silver 5 to use on the other two cards.
Let’s take a look at the older of the three and see what it can do. Remember this came out in the latter part of 2002. This thing is heavy by today’s standards, weighing in at a hefty 325 grams and another 75 grams for the optional fan kit making a grand total of 400 grams. Here’s what Zalman had to say about it.
Man there were parts and more parts. I remember when I installed it originally I thought it was a bit complicated. And the application of the thermal paste on the heat pipes was different at the time for sure.
Let’s look at the results:
Well I can’t really give you a review quality conclusion here because I did not do an original review of this cooler but we are doing a comparison between the three to help gauge how far VGA coolers have come to date.
Basically what you see is what you get.
This was a snap to install and was not as complicated as the ZM80C was. Zalman was thoughtful enough to include spare parts such as screws and those tiny rubber "O" rings. I am always dismayed when a manufacturer includes exactly the number of screws and washers needed. I seem to drop one of the important pieces and it invariably rolls under my desk or finds it’s way to the floor vent. A philips screwdriver was the only tool needed. RTM or go to the site and view the installation movie. It’s important to tighten the screws as directed. A turn on one then a turn on the other until tight.
One of the things I found interesting was the design of the thing. The fins and the base are made out of one piece of copper. Take a close look at the base (See the pictures below) and you will see what I mean.
Now I’m no expert on conductivity or heat transfer but it certainly makes sense to me that because the base and fins are made out of one piece that it would be more efficient than a base with the fins attached to it. Did I fail to mention the sweet red LED in the fan? Also I want to point out that there are two speeds for the fan but because it is a Fatal1ty and in keeping with the performance aspect of the shootout we ran it wide open.
Now to the numbers:
I have seen lower idle temps out there but I couldn’t get mine lower. The thing that impressed me was the slight rise in temps at load.
This thing rocks. The temperatures were below what I had expected and it just looks sweet especially with that swank red LED. Although it was easier to install than the older ZM80C it still had more parts to deal with. This had no effect on performance I just like fewer parts to keep up with. I like the way the fins and base are one piece and the way they expanded the fins on the one side to make up for the short side gives you the same surface area for heat dissipation as a round cooler.
So all that said I give it a solid 9.
What I got.
The base on this is really smooth and in my opinion it doesn’t need lapping.
Man what a breeze this was to install. I thought the Fatal1ty was easy but this was so simple. I like simple. On my card it used only two mounting holes. As cautioned in the manual hand tighten only. Use no tools. I love tool less installations.You can see how to mount it to your specific card at Zalman. Once again Zalman was nice enough to include spare parts. Now that it’s installed let’s fire it up and see what it can do.
This cooler is a good example of a nearly silent air cooling solution for you folks who like less noise without sacrificing performance. Heat pipe technology that really works. If I were in the market for a VGA cooler this would be on top of my list.
So all that being said I give it a 10 And I give this beauty an Editor’s Choice Award.
Well we see that the newer technology kicks butt over the older design which was to be expected. The changes in those designs allow for easier installation, lower temperatures and less noise. Three things I like in an air cooler. As far as price is concerned I have heard some grumbling that it’s too much. I don’t think it’s too high at all. You get what you pay for. Quality costs more and it’s well worth it. I’m not slapping a cheap cooler on my expensive card. As far as an out and out winner of the shootout the differences between the VF900-Cu and the Fatal1ty were very slight. The VF900 had a lower idle temp by a degree and the Fatal1ty had a lower load temp on Aqua Mark3 by one degree. The VF900 is lighter but the Fatal1ty has a cool look and a red LED. So either way you decide to go you have a winner.
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