Zalman VF3000A VGA Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on July 9, 2010
We tested the Zalman VF3000A VGA cooler, which consists of a huge heatsink with five heatpipes and two 92-mm fans with blue LEDs. Check out its performance!
In Figure 1, you can see the VF3000A box, which has a transparent window that allows you to see part of the cooler. There is also a string handle at the top of the box.
In Figure 2, you can see the accessories that come with the cooler: manuals, memory heatsinks, VRM transistor heatsink, thermal compound bag, installation hardware, and the Fan Mate 2 fan controller.
In Figure 3, you can check the cooler itself. It consists of a large heatsink with aluminum fins, five heatpipes, and two 92-mm fans with blue LEDs. There is a red anodized aluminum frame that covers the cooler, giving it a nice look.
In Figure 4, you can see the top of the cooler.
As you can see in Figure 5, the cooler is quite tall, actually occupying not one, but two adjacent slots.
In Figure 6, you can see the side of the cooler.
In Figure 7, you see the bottom of the cooler. Note the shape of the five heatpipes: two carry the heat to one side of the cooler and three to the other side.
In Figure 8, you can see the base of the cooler, with a very well polished, mirror-like surface. There are three possible positions where you can install the screws that hold the cooler on the video card.
In order to test the VF3000A, we installed it on our Zotac GeForce GTS 250, which you can check in Figures 9 and 10.
In Figure 11, you can see the base of the VF3000A with the screws installed in the holes that are compatible with our VGA. Now you just need to apply thermal compound on the GPU, put the cooler in place, and fasten four thumbnuts to hold the cooler in place.
In Figure 12, you can see the Zalman VF3000A installed on our VGA. We didn't install the heatsinks on the memory chips. Unfortunately, the VRM transistor heatsink did not fit our card, because it needed a specific three-hole perforation. Actually, the VF3000A is designed for ATI cards; the VF3000N is the model for NVIDIA cards.
In Figure 13, you can see the solder side of the video card, with the thumbnuts. Each thumbnut has a small spring in order to firmly hold the cooler in place. There are also four plastic washers that you must use if your VGA does not have the metalized areas around the holes.
In Figures 14, 15, 16, and 17, you have a general view of the VF3000A installed on our GeForce GTS 250. Note that it occupies the two slots next to the one used by the video card.
We ran some simple tests to check the performance of the Zalman VF3000A, measuring the GPU core temperature with the aid of the SpeedFan software, and sound pressure level (SPL) with a digital noise meter set 4" (10 cm) from the video card, with the GPU at full load running the folding@Home GPU client. For this measurement, we turned off the CPU cooler, so its noise wouldn't interfere. Please keep in mind that sound pressure level measurement is just for comparative purposes, because a precise measurement would have to be done in an acoustically insulated environment, which we don't have.
We compared the results from the VF3000A at minimum and maximum speeds with the Zalman VF1000 LED, the Scythe Musashi (also at minimum and maximum speeds), and the VGA stock cooler. You can check the results in the table below.
|Product||Noise||Room Temp.||Core Temp.||Temp. Diff.||Speed|
|Stock Cooler||61 dBA||16 °C||73 °C||57 °C||-|
|VF1000 LED (min.)||44 dBA||16 °C||74 °C||58 °C||1400 rpm|
|VF1000 LED (max.)||51 dBA||16 °C||61 °C||45 °C||2600 rpm|
|Scythe Musashi (min.)||40 dBA||16 °C||65 °C||49 °C||850 rpm|
|Scythe Musashi (max.)||47 dBA||16 °C||58 °C||42 °C||1950 rpm|
|VF3000A (min)||47 dBA||19 °C||52 °C||33 °C||1500 rpm|
|VF3000A (máx)||57 dBA||19 °C||49 °C||30 °C||2800 rpm|
In the graph below, you can compare the temperature differences between the GPU core and the room. Remember that the lower the value, the better performance is.
The measured results are impressive. The VF3000A cooled our VGA better than the other coolers we have tested so far, even at minimum speed.
The Zalman VF3000A main features are:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
The Zalman VF3000A has a good price tag, being actually cheaper than the Zalman VF1000 LED. Its installation is also very simple and its looks great. The set of memory and VRM transistor heatsinks is not as complete as the one we found with the Scythe Musashi, but does the job cooling them, because the fans push air into the board.
However, besides not removing the hot air from the case, it has some other drawbacks. First, it is not as quiet as the Scythe Musashi and the Zalman VF1000 LED. At minimum speed it is somewhat noisy, and at maximum speed it is even annoying. The second problem is its weight. It is big and heavy, and the video card may bend with the weight. Zalman recommends to removing the cooler any time you must transport the computer; otherwise it can damage something. The third problem is that it makes your VGA use three slots, which can be a problem if you want to use SLI or CrossFireX arrays using two of them, and practically makes the use of three video cards with a VF3000A at each one, impossible.
The main point is that the Zalman VF3000A has impressive cooling performance, even with its fans running at minimum speed. Because of this extreme cooling performance, the Zalman VF3000A VGA cooler receives the Hardware Secrets Golden Award.