Zalman VF1000 LED Graphics Card Cooler

Cooling
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C. Comparative: Zalman VF900 CU


Zalman VF900-CU installed on the X1950XTX.


Zalman VF900-CU Test Results
State
Fan Speed
GPU Temp
VGA Ambient
CPU Temp
AC Power
System Noise @ 1m
ATI Tool
12V
97°C
59°C
48°C
249W
30 dBA
ATI Tool
9V
99°C
61°C
48°C
248W
28 dBA
ATI Tool
7V
100°C
62°C
48°C
248W
24 dBA
ATI Tool
5V
101°C
62°C
48°C
249W
21 dBA
Idle
5V
47°C
41°C
27°C
123W
21 dBA
Note: the included Zalman memory heatsinks were used.

Wow, a bit of a surprise here — the VF900-CU seemed inadequate to cool the X1950XTX! Not only did the GPU temperature break the 100°C level at lower fan voltages, the heat radiating off the back of the card rose and increased the CPU temperature as well. We were on the edge of our seats half expecting to see smoke billowing out of the case but ATI Tool continued to plug away without any artifacts or instability noted. Still, we did not feel comfortable with such a GPU high temperature. It may have be paranoia on our part, but we were relieved when testing was over.

ATI Tool: VF1000 LED vs. VF900-CU Comparison
Fan Speed
Zalman VF1000 LED
Zalman VF900-CU
System Noise @1m
GPU Temp
VGA Ambient
GPU Temp
VGA Ambient
12V
73°C
54°C
97°C
59°C
30 dBA
9V
76°C
56°C
99°C
61°C
28 dBA
7V
78°C
57°C
100°C
62°C
24 dBA
5V
79°C
58°C
101°C
62°C
21 dBA

Compared side-by-side with the VF1000, it's clear that the VF900 is not in the same league — we're not even sure they're playing the same sport. Even at 5V, the VF1000 walks all over its predecessor at 12V by a staggering 18°C. At all speeds, the respective fans were very similar to each other, and our sound meter corroborated our opinion. There's not much else to discuss here as the numbers say it all.

NOISE RECORDINGS IN MP3 FORMAT

These recording starts with a short stretch of "silence" to let you hear the ambient sound of the room, followed by a stretch of the test product noise at a specified fan speed, voltage or setting. There's a few seconds of "silence" inserted between stretch of noise to help you remember the reference ambient.

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, 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. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound 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. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. 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 one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

From a design standpoint, there is only one flaw in the Zalman VF1000 LED graphics card cooler, and that is the stock fan. It is fairly loud at full speed, but this is mitigated by the fact that it does undervolt well. By including a Fan Mate 2 manual fan speed controller, users can adjust the noise output to their own level of tolerance — we recommend 5V.

Compatibility is good — the VF1000 will fit on almost any modern desktop graphics card with a few notable exceptions: The ATI HD2900 series and nVidia Geforce 8800 series (the Geforce 8800GTS/GTX/Ultra is compatible if you use the VF1000 in conjunction with Zalman's ZM-RHS88 heatsink package). These cards have additional components (mostly VRMs) on the PCB which require separate heatsinks for cooling. You can of course use your own memory or MOSFET heatsinks to cool these components.

Lastly and most importantly, the VF1000 is the best graphics card cooler we've ever tested. It absolutely dominated the VF900-CU and the X1950XTX stock cooler with ease. The design is simple and beautiful as are so many of Zalman's products, and it doesn't use up a lot of real estate. The price is high, but if you want quiet, superb VGA cooling without taking up a massive amount of space, put the VF1000 LED at the top of your list.

Pros

* Top notch performance
(even with the fan running at 5V)
* Fan undervolts well
* Incredibly easy to install
* Good compatibility
* Only takes up one extra slot

Cons

* Stock fan loud at full speed
* Somewhat expensive

* Lacks extra heatsinks necessary for some cards

Thanks to Zalman Tech Co. for the VF1000 LED sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Sytrin KuFormula VF1 Plus graphics card cooler
VGA Cooler Roundup: A Thermalright, two Zalmans, and an Arctic Cooling

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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.



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