After going through a series of steps to quiet my system (new Zalman 7700Cu HS, Panaflo 120mm L1A on Fan Mate, HDD in Luxurae enclosure), I found that the loudest component remaining was the fan on my MSI NX6600GT TD128 graphics card.
Which isn't to say that it's loud - it's actually a relatively quiet fan compared to some graphics cards - it's just that you can definitely hear it when everything else is quiet.
I received the Zalman ZM-80D-HP from quietpc.ca on Saturday after ordering it mid-afternoon on Thursday (what a great recommendation from this site's FAQs).
It has the usual environmentally terrible blister pack packaging. The install manual is extensive, and the parts were all in order. Zalman even gives you a small ziplock bag of spare parts in case you lose some of the smaller bits during the installation (some of the bits are really tiny, and not common).
Removing the stock heatsink from the MSI card, I noted that the RAM chips seemed to have a token daub of thermal grease (and I mean daub
- couldn't have been more than 2mm in diameter) on each chip. Hopefully that hadn't resulted in any damage in the week I had been using the stock cooler.
After cleaning the RAM chips, I stuck on the feather-light aluminium RAM heatsinks with the provided thermal tape. They seemed to hold well.
I cleaned the GPU with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs, as well as the heatsink base, and applied Arctic Ceramique instead of the provided Zalman thermal grease. I used the smaller, square heatsink base recommended by the manual, but when I checked the span of the retention arms, I found that they barely stayed in their slots when extented to reach the mounting holes. I switched to the rectangular heatsink base and found this resulted in a much safer hold on the card. The square base fit, but the hold was tenuous, and I was worried about slippage with a heatsink/heat-pipe assembly this large, so I switched to the alternate rectangle base.
Installation from this point was a simple matter of following the instructions. The step-by-step process was very well illustrated - there's even a very clear Flash walk-through at the Zalman site. Although it's a multi-step process, it's not a complicated one. Mostly it involved a lot of careful alignment and application of thermal grease (note to self - buy more thermal grease).
I was worried about the weight of the assembly once inside the case, but it seemed to hold well. Although I bought the optional ZM-OP1 fan at the same time as the card, I decided that since I was going for a silent system, I'd hold off on installing that until I had seen how the heatsink performed without it.
I switched on the computer with a little trepidation. Although I had seen quite a few reviews of completely fanless cooling, I was worried about the potential of damage to a graphics card that cost almost as much as the CPU.
Everything seemed to be working perfectly. I checked the GPU temp through nVidia, and saw that the temp was a slightly higher than usual: 49C. With the stock cooler, it usually hovered between 44 and 47C. I remembered from reading elsewhere in this forum that heat-pipe based cooling performs best at load rather than idle (due to the heat exchange process) so a slightly higher idle temperature didn't bother me.
I booted up 3D Mark 5 and ran it through the paces. No problems, no artifacts. Checking the temp afterwards got me 55C. This seemed a little high, so I watched the temps for a while until it cooled down to 49C again. Well, at least I knew that it wasn't going to "run away" on me.
Satisfied, I tried HL2 for 15 minutes or so. Once again, temperatures got up to around 55-56, but they cooled afterwards.
My wife wanted to play Diablo II for a longer, so I figured that would be a good test of prolonged, low-level operation. Three hours later, GPU temps were around 51C.
All seemed to be well, so I thought I'd try CS: Source online. I got caught up in it, and 2 hours later I remembered I was supposed to be checking temps. Not a single artifact or missed poly anywhere.
I checked the GPU temp. 57C, but falling.
With the Panaflo 120mm case fan exhausting at 12V (yes, I know, I should get a Nexus...) the ZM-80D-HP worked well, only somewhat hotter (2-3C) than the stock cooler at idle. I haven't tried it with the Panaflo at 5V, though I suspect the temps would be correspondingly higher.
At load, the temp profile looked about identical (1-2C variance) to the stock cooler. Several hours of pretty intense action in Counterstrike got me temperatures which I understand are only a few degrees off from what are expected temps for a fairly intensive game, and still well below "yellow-line" 70C.
I'll do some more testing over the next few days - maybe some shader tests or other "burns".
The product quality itself was exceptional, with all parts looking and fitting very well. Performance was about what I expected, and considering I've cut case noise by one (apparently 28-30 dBA) fan, I'm very happy with the result. The price of $41 CDN at quietpc.ca seemed well worth it.
The interior of the FK-333 case. I know the cables look horrible. I'm waiting on some more split loom and some new IDE round cable. I'm a newbie - be gentle...
Angle on the ZM-80D-HP in relation to the CPU and 7700 heatsink. Contrary to appearances, the 7700 flower is NOT touching the underside of the PSU - there is a 1 mm clearance.
Clearance above and below the card. As you can see, the small slot above and the PCI slot below are blocked by the dissipation plates:
Per the input of some other installers below, the install process can take some time - it's easy and step by step, but takes some care. Allow 45-60 minutes for an install if you consider yourself of average manual dexterity, 20-45 if you're nimble, and over an hour if you're a real butterfingers. I think I fall into the middle category, and it took me about 45 minutes, not including pre-reading the manual and install guide (2 minutes)
If you're in a tight vertical clearance computer, the card requires about 15-17mm (5/8") over the top of the card mounting for the heatsinks. As mentioned, the vid card covers up the adjacent PCI-E slot, if you have one, and an adjacent PCI card slot as well, in some situations, depending on the configuration of your board.