While looking for a Zalman ZM80D for my Radeon 9700, I ran across the Fanless VGA Cooler from Thermaltake. As the Zalmans seemed to be out of stock for at least a month, I decided to take a shot at it.
Click on the images for larger versions
The box contains one LARGE front heatsink that also stretches over the top, one backside heatsink, two heatsink blocks, one to go on the GPU, the other to go on the backside, brackets that go over the blocks with movable screw arms for univeral mounting, two copper heatpipes, misc. screws, bolts, washers, a fat tube of white goop and a surprisingly small but complete installation manual.
The heatsink has lots of surface area and has a nice feeling to it - not like some of the stock aluminium heatsinks that come on cards like Leadtek.
The big GPU block has clearence for the ATI shims. The black thing, according to the manual is sticky tape and should not be removed. However, it felt much like some sort of hard polymer and certainly wasn't sticky. I got the feeling that the sticky tape was somehow forgotten during assembly/packaging.
The underside of the GPU block is certainly not pretty. Unfortunately I had no lapping kit and had to install it as it was.
The box states "all ATI and nVidia cards". Of course, mounting holes are a requirement.
The installation process was much easier than I expected. As easy or slightly better than installing a VGA Silencer.
First the GPU block goes on the GPU. I used a nice thin but adequate layer of Arctic Silver 5. One of the brackets (the two are identical) goes over the block. The thin arms can stretch out so you can position them as necessary to align with the mounting holes on your card. In my case, the holes lined up "nearly" perfectly with the slits on the bracket itself. I say nearly because when I tightened the screws I noticed a slight bend to both the screws and the bracket. As I tightened by taking slow turns at the screws, I clamped down as much as I dared - fearful all the time of cracking the GPU die. As you can see, at the end, the bracket is bent a lot.
On the reverse side goes the other block. The manual states that this block should press down on the backside of the GPU. Unfortunately this was impossible for two reasons. 1) on my Radeon 9700, there are a lot of components right behind the GPU, 2) when the bracket is screwed onto the block, it "raises" the block further. I see no possible way that block can clamp down on the backside - even on another card. The provided bolts are just too thick for that.
As can be seen from the above photo (click for a high-res version), the back plate rides on two standoffs that mount to the ends of the screws that pass through the PCB from the front. It literally rides on these standoffs and does not touch the PCB back or any components there.
The heatpipes are next. As provided they are a snug fit on both sides of the card. The manual instructs to install the heatpipes on the front block and the front heatsink and then install the backside. I tried to follow directions and ended up slightly twisting the heatpipes while trying to apply TIM to the backside. It would have been a better idea to install the heatpipes on both blocks and THEN install the heatsinks.
The heatpipe tunnels on the heatsinks form a lot of terratory and I was scared of running out of AS5 so I decided to give the Thermaltake goop a try. It was a mistake. The white substance is more like molding clay, extremely sticky and slightly smelly. Due to the stickiness it was impossible to apply a nice clean thin layer. Luckily a piece of discarded melamine foam wiped all goop away in one pass. That melamine stuff is incredible - cleaned the heatsink very well and left no lint. I pulled out an old AS3 tube that still had some inside and applied a nice thin layer to the tunnels on the blocks and the heatsinks. The heatsinks screwed onto the blocks and it was finished. Warning! The screws that mount the heatsinks to the blocks are TINY. I had a bit of a problem getting them in and applying enough torque with the small jewelers screwdriver.
The front and back heatsinks have a slight overlap. If I had planned beforehand, I could have achieved good contact between them with some Arctic Silver (surface tension would have held the sinks together).
Here's a shot of the completed assembly inside a 3700AMB:
Now for results.
The Radeon 9700 is essentially a Radeon 9700 Pro (which is a VERY hot card) but at a lower core & memory clock. The card I have (a Powercolor model) has slow RAMs and therefore limited overclock capability. The copper heatsinks on the RAMs are Thermaltake sinks installed last year but they didn't help any. Previously, when it had a VGA Silencer on it, I had been able to overclock the core to 315MHz (up from default of 276). I fired up ATITool and started overclocking the core. I went all the way up to 350MHz where I stopped manually (too much folding time lost
Next I fired up FarCry which I know to load the CPU AND the GPU very hard and at the same time. I maxed out all settings (1280x1024, trilinear filtering, very high details on everything, etc) and set out to play. The core was still at 350 and the RAM at 300MHz (up from the default of 270). I played hard for about one hour with no stability issues.
At the end of one hour, CPU and case temps had gone up 5C but were still within very safe margins.
I also did a 3DMark 2005
run with the overclocked settings. I got 2291 gruntmarks
. This is a pretty good score - in fact one of the best scores for a Radeon 9700 and almost up there in 9700 Pro league. All this with a passive cooler.
As this is an old Radeon 9700, I cannot provide any temperature comparisons. Before the Thermaltake, this was cooled with an Arctic Cooling VGA Silencer rev.2. Judging by the overclock I could manage, I'd say this cooler is about as good as the ACVS on low. As the heat is not exhausted out the case like the ACVS, there is an increase in internal temps.
The Radeon 9700 doesn't go into idle mode much. So even on casual browsing or simple desktop idling, the heatsink is hot - as hot as, say, a northbridge chipset on an nForce2 Ultra. On extended gaming, the sink gets even hotter to the point that it starts to hurt slightly if you touch it any more than 5 sec. Not hot enough to produce an "ouch" though. Sorry, not a very scientific measurement but without proper tools, this is the best explanation I can manage.
I have to say I'm quite pleased with this cooler. When I bought this, I was actually thinking of buying the Zalman and try and setup a way to turn on the -according to Zalman - required slim 80mm fan only when gaming. Instead I got a cooler that works under heavy overclock & gaming without a fan. AND it performs better than the VGA Silencer v2 that it replaced. As the Radeon 9700 series do not have thermistors, I have no idea of the difference in GPU temps. But, it works so it's enough.[/img]