Zalman TNN-300 Fanless PC Enclosure System

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INSTALLING A SYSTEM

An integrated case, cooling and power supply package like this can only be assessed by actually installing a system within it. Which components to use? Our decisions were made on the basis of compatibility and maximum CPU / VGA power dissipation recommendations.

CPU: Despite the claim that the TNN-300 CPU cooling system can transfer up to 150W, Zalman only recommends P4-478 up to 2.8C (Northwood), all Pentium M (479) models, A64-939 up to 3500+ (Winchester/Venice), and Sempron 754 up to 3300+ (Palermo). The highest Thermal Design Power (TDP) of any of these processors is 69W for the P4-2.8 Northwood core, which is probably just about impossible to find on the retail market today, as almost all Intel P4s are in socket 775 and use the hotter Prescott core. The A64-939 3500+ Winchester/Venice is rated for a TDP of 67W. Because of AMD's more conservative way of defining TDP, it is a considerably cooler CPU than the P4 Northwood.

VGA: As with the CPU, Zalman's recommendations are much more modest than the 75W transfer capacity claim for CPU cooling: They recommend no hotter models that the ATI Radeon X700 Pro or the nVidia GF6600, both of which are far shy of 75W power consumption.

Here, then, are components used for the TNN-300 test:

Zalman TNN-300 Test System Components
CPU AMD Athlon 64-3000+ (Venice core), courtesy of NCIX.com 44.1W TDP is well within Zalman's thermal guidelines
Motherboard Asus A8N-VM CSM Micro-ATX, courtesy of NCIX.com On Zalman's compatible MB list. nVidia GF6150 + NF430 chipset provides good integrated performance, including both VGA and DVI outputs.
Memory OCZ 2x512mb PC4000 Dual channel memory
Hard Drive 1) Seagate Momentus 7200.1
2) Samsung Spinpoint 80GB SATA
Quiet 100GB 7,200 RPM Notebook drive;
The "reference" Samsung 80GB 7,200 RPM 3.5" SATA drive was also tried.
Video Card 1) Onboard nVidia 6150;
2) AOpen Aeolus 6800GT DVD256MV VGA card
The 6150 GPU is capable of high-definition (1080p/1080i) MPEG-2 playback.
The 6800GT is a much hotter card than recommended, but it was the only one available at this time.
Optical Drive Samsung SM-352B Combo Drive (CD-RW + DVD-ROM) Pretty quiet.

The ASUS A8N-VM CSM is a socket 939 micro-ATX motherboard based on the nVidia 6150 + NF430 chipset that offers integrated graphics with both VGA and DVI monitor outputs. It offers many features including dual channel memory support and a PCIe 16X video card option. Importantly, it's on Zalman's TNN-300 compatible MB list.


ASUS A8N-VM CSM and A64-3000+, courtesy of NCIX.com, are well-suited to the TNN-300.

The Athlon 64-3000+ thermal specification is a bit lower than the maximum recommended limit, but it was conveniently on hand.


A fairly cool CPU, according to AMD64 TCaseMax.

Zalman provides a well-illustrated manual whose English-language portion is over 30 pages long. Reading through the assembly details before starting the job is strongly recommended. This is not a job for first time PC builders. It is not difficult, but familiarity and previous experience with system assembly is probably necessary unless you are a gifted handy person. An animated Flash installation "movie" is promised at Zalman's pages on the TNN-300, but at time of writing, it wasn't ready.

Assembly began with removal of the six heatpipes and clamps for the CPU from the case. Then the motherboard had to be prepared.


The two HS retention bracket bolts are replaced.


Each bolt head can now accept another threaded bolt.


The back plate also gets replaced.


These aluminum thermal blocks must be positioned on the trace side under hot motherboard components.
Such components include power transistors and north/south bridge chips.
These thermal blocks conduct heat from hot MB components to the outside casing in lieu of forced airflow.

#@!%&<*!?/!#!!!

The task of installing the thermal blocks under the motherboard is incredibly annoying, frustrating and tedious. The thermal interface material on either side of each little block is a film, not an adhesive. This means when you set the motherboard down on the mounting tray, the thermal blocks have a tendency to fall off. It took a great deal of patience, many expletives and in the end, plain dumb luck to get the motherboard on with the thermal blocks between the back of the board and the "tray". This is a big hiccup for Zalman here. They've become quite ergonomic and DIY user-friendly over the years, but this feature needs better thinking through.

If I was to do it again, I would use thermal adhesive to glue the blocks to the underside of the motherboard, and make sure the glue was set before installing the motherboard. This is what I'd recommend to Zalman: Thermal interface adhesive on one side of each block. Having the non-adhesive TIM on the other side of the blocks would be useful because some sliding and fine adjustment is needed to set the motherboard in exactly the right position to bolt it in.



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