ZEROtherm CoolMaxx 2000 GPU Cooler

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These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 10 seconds of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product's noise at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again.



The ZEROtherm CoolMaxx 2000 is an excellent single fan GPU cooler, especially when you consider its size. Whether by coincidence or not, the entire package mirrors the Zalman VF1000 in several ways. The main design is almost the same with the exception of the fan location and the use of aluminum instead of copper, and both mount very easily and securely. The included fan controller is very Fanmate-like, and the green low profile memory heatsinks are a close analog to Zalman's blue ramsinks. However, the CoolMaxx delivers much stronger performance, and slightly better acoustics (though this is a relative improvement — the fan does not sound particularly good).

Unfortunately, being a single fan heatsink, the CoolMaxx is limited, only suitable for use with video cards that do not require direct VRM cooling like the GeForce 9800 or Radeon HD 4850, at least if any semblance of quiet is desired. It actually cooled our HD 4890's GPU core very well, much better than expected considering the card's power draw, but it didn't provide enough coverage over the rest of the PCB. With its fan dialed down to what we consider a quiet level (7V), the CoolMaxx brought the voltage regulators on our HD 4890 within 5~10°C of overheating, and that's simply far too close for comfort. By comparison, the Scythe Musashi, a dual fan cooler, provides far superior VRM cooling (in the range of 20°C), has superlative acoustics, and can be found for only $40 compared to the CoolMaxx's $55 price-tag.

Its cost is an anomaly given its performance, light weight and small size. The previously mentioned VF1000 weighs 65% more and is composed almost entirely of expensive copper, yet the CoolMaxx carries a $15 price premium over it. In addition, the cards it is suited for are in the $100 range or lower, making a $55 upgrade for a good, not great GPU cooler, seem like a very poor value.

ZEROtherm CoolMaxx 2000

* Good GPU core cooling
* Easy, secure installation
* Small, light
* Fan controller included

* Poor VRM cooling
* No extra VRM heatsinks
* Subpar acoustics
* Too expensive

Our thanks to ZEROtherm for the CoolMaxx 2000 sample used in this review.

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Arctic Cooling Accelero S2 VGA Cooler + Turbo Module
Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 VGA Cooler

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