Summary: So you just bought a Radeon X1900 XT or XTX and you're looking for a high-end cooler that will do a good job of keeping your graphics card cool but will do so while running nearly silently? If so, you may want to check out Zalman's VF900-Cu. This heatsink fan unit is composed entirely of copper and has heatpipes for additional performance. OC guru Lenin22 from the forums takes it out for a spin on the X1900 XTX. See how it fares in today's review!
Zalman: Silence is golden
On paper, the VF900ís specs are quite impressive.
The VF900 was made to be compatible with all video cards. This is good if you have a lower end card, so you can transfer the cooler upon an upgrade. Letís get to installation.
Hereís what you get in the package:
List of parts:
The VF900 weighs 85g less and is 30mm less wide than the VF700. Many aspects are left unchanged though. The fan size is the same, as well as its dual ball bearing design. Zalman also uses the same ZM-RHS1 heatsinks for the RAM (a.k.a. ramsinks) for both series. The installation method and mechanism, which we will discuss later, remains the same as well.
Another important accessory is the Zalman Fan Mate 2 unit. This has been included with most of Zalmanís coolers VGA and CPU coolers. It is a mini fan controller, giving you full control of the fanís speed, not just 12V/5V (full speed/silent) like many others. It is also extremely small, so it can be mounted almost anywhere in your case, as long as cable length permits.
The included thermal paste from Zalman by far isnít the greatest. If you want another 2-3 degrees shaved off, use Arctic Silver 5. On top of that, you have to spread out Zalmanís thermal paste across the core, while with Arctic Silver, all you need is a drop about half a grain of rice size in the center of the core. The extra $5 for better paste is well worth it.
As you could see from the above diagrams, the Zalman VF900 is compatible with most video cards today Ė it can even fit on cards up to 4 years old! (Ti4xx). However because its price tag is about $40, the cooler would be worth more than some older video cards.
The installation of this cooler requires no tools, except for a Phillips head screwdriver to remove screws on the stock cooler. Youíll need a fairly steady hand though and a non-conductive surface to perform this modification.
To install the cooler, flip the X1900 card (applies to X1800 series as well). We see the following:
ATIís solution exhausts hot air out of the case, but has a smaller fan and no heatpipes, unlike the Zalman. A portion of ATIís cooler is also aluminum, while as stated before, the Zalman is all-copper. Weíll see how it performs later in the review. Now letís get back to the installation.
Here we see how smooth the coolerís contact surface is. The smoother the surface, the better cooling will be. Zalmanís surface is well polished. ATIís solution is rougher, and there are some noticeable marks from the milling process.
First we must apply the ramsinks. This is where youíll want to have a steady hand. Remove the protective film off of the ramsink and press it firmly against the RAM chip. Do not press the ramsink down too hard or youíll damage the ram chip as well as the card. Make sure the ramsink is perfectly centered. You should get this when youíre done:
Now attach the nipples to the cooler. Thatís a strange name for these little parts, as these donít look anywhere near what you might imagine them to be. Screw in the nipples to the appropriate holes (refer to the 2nd diagram on the second page). For our purpose (the X1800/X1900 series) we need to install each nipple in the outer holes (#5 on the diagram on second page). Screw in the shorter end to the cooler. Once you have done that carefully attach the black rubber spacers on the other, longer, end of the nipple and align the cooler to the holes near the GPU. You should get something like this:
Now look back to flipped over card. You should see the end of the nipples. Take one PVC washer and put it on the end of nipple. There should still be enough of the nipple to screw on the nut with spring. Make sure you do not over or under tighten and tighten each nut one rotation at a time to ensure even pressure. The end result should be this:
So finally the installed cooler looks like this:
Now we should (optional) connect the supplied Zalman Fan Mate 2 to the cooler. Attach the connector from the VF900 to the extension cable, then the extension cable to the Zalman Fan Mate. Finally attach the extension cable to a 3-pin fan header connector on your motherboard. When installing the Fan Mate, make sure your Fan Mateís controller knob is not in the off position, install the card, attach the power connector, and turn on your PC. Youíre done!
Now on to the testing. I had ATI Tool and Catalyst Control Center open at the same to make sure the temperatures arenít different. My test system:
AMD64 3200+ Winchester @ 2.4GHz
DFI Lanparty nF4 Ultra-D
1GB Geil PC4000
Seagate 160GB EIDE
Enermax EG425P-VE SFMA
This smokiní X1900XTX
The card reached 711MHz with the Zalman, and had a 2C increase over previous load. With the stock ATI cooler, it reached 708MHz, and had a 2C increase over the stock load temps. So the Zalman VF900 didn't drastically affect the overclocking headroom of the card.
Great Cooling Performance: The VF900 brought the temperature down and remained silent. Thatís an amazing feat considering the X1900XTX consumes 120 Watts, versus about 85 Watts for the 7900GTX. Idle temperature doesnít really matter, only the load temperature does, and it was reduced by 9 degrees Celsius.