There appears to be a lot of debate over which Zalman video cooling solution really is the optimal for higher-end cards. The ZM80A-HP
is Zalman's reccomendation (and the most commonly sold of their video cooler products these days, it seems) but comments are less than optimal. From pictures alone the thing is a beast, and the SPCR Review
of the product notes that it's a pain to install -- in an SPCR Forum thread
, cliche says he (my apologies to cliche if he's a she; gender-neutral handles are tricky) killed a 4600 trying to put one on.
Furthermore, the oddness in putting one on has caused MikeC to comment (also noted in the review) that many systems integrators he's spoken to aren't big fans of the cooler. The SPCR review reccomends mounting a fan using a Zalman bracket above the cooler, which to me seems like it's a pretty bad solution to a supposedly passive cooling solution. Why spend $25-30 on that monstrous heatpipe cooler if it means adding another fan anyway? In this thread
, MikeC says he's been told by systems integrators that the ZM17
cooler is plenty good on a GF4 with an L1A mounted above it. While the ZM17 is a little harder to find than the ZM80A, it's also half the price and clearly not as difficult to install.
I've also read reports of people mounting heatsinks and undervolted Panaflos directly on to their cards. As long as this isn't too heavy -- and I'm not sure it could be much heavier than the ZM80A -- it seems like it might also be a good solution.
It also appears that Zalman has a new VGA cooler
(with a fan attached!) coming out. Who knows how long this will be, but it may be a sign that Zalman has listened to the mixed feedback about that monstrous ZM80A.
I myself am buying a Radeon 9700 Pro by week's end, and while I was originally planning on getting the ZM80A, I'm thinking I may hold off on ripping out the stock cooling. The card is the most expensive component in my system, and I don't want to chance anything happening to it (I'm a newbie at all this quieting stuff). I'm eliciting feedback from people who've tried one or two various quieting solutions for cards like this -- I'm interested to know if anyone has used the ZM80A completely passively in a low-airflow case with a higher-end graphics card. I'm interested to hear from people who've had to mount fans above the ZM80A, people who've tried ZM17 with a Panaflo fan and people who've rigged up their own solutions. Maybe we can try and consolidate all the knowledge out there (there have been similar threads out there, but the knowledge is kind of scattered about).
If I had a spare graphics card I'd get both coolers and play around and give you all the scoop, but I don't and I'm not dropping ~$300 in the name of science, I'm sorry to say.
Oh, one final question: what are the differences between Zalman's FB-123 and 165 brackets? The SPCR review of the ZM80A suggests using a 165 instead of the 123, but just from looking at Zalman's page it's hard to tell the exact differences.