Zalman VF3000A ReviewRHKCommander959 -
Category: VGA Cooling
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Zalman has been a popular name in aftermarket cooling solutions for over a decade now. Its best known products are aimed at processor cooling, but the company also provides quiet power supplies, water cooling systems, chipset and graphic card cooling solutions. The latter is what we're looking at today with the VF3000A, a heat sink kit for AMD Radeon 5800 series graphics cards. Zalman's products usually aim to reduce noise and/or temperatures, and with the VF3000A, both goals are targeted thanks to manually adjustable fan speeds through a single knob that controls a pair of 92mm fans that sit atop a finned heat pipe structure with five heat pipes. Aftermarket heat sinks such as this are generally bought to reduce video card operational noise or temperatures to a much more comfortable level, and since some manufacturers are now allowing the installation of aftermarket heat sinks, you no longer have to worry about voiding their warranty in those cases.
The box is primarily black, red, grey, and white with a rather mechanical look. The top has a rope handle and the front has a window to show off most of the top of the heat sink. The top of the front shows its purpose and model number - VGA Dual Fan Cooler VF3000A. At the bottom, the compatible graphic cards are listed - AMD Radeon HD 5870/5850/5830. At the bottom right is the website www.zalman.com to get more information. Rotating to the back shows several angles of the heat sink and accompanying parts. The highlighted features include high performance heat pipes with a large dissipation area, quiet design from the flow structure for maximum cooling at the low noise level, peripheral cooling capabilities where the fans can cool items nearby since air is circulated all around the heat sink rather than directed outside of the case, high performance thermal grease ZM-STG2M included, and the Fan Mate 2 speed controller capable of adjusting the noise/cooling performance of both fans at the twist of a knob. Underneath the features is a shorthand list of specifications about the heat sink and fans, and below that is the UPC and RoHS compliance information.
The sides continue the box art and are similar to the front with the VGA Dual Fan Cooler labeling. The top has a black rope handle to make carrying easier, although the package is small enough that it isn't too necessary. The top has the Zalman logo with "Cool Innovations" underneath it. Opening the top reveals the components needed to install the heat sink properly and successfully - two instruction booklets, the Fan Mate 2 fan controller module and wiring, and the numerous memory and other heat sinks and mounting gear sit above the heat sink separated by a cardboard tray.
The Fan Mate 2 is a two-part system where a normal 3-pin fan header plugs into the motherboard for signal while a second 3-pin male connection hooks into the video card fans that are wired together. A 6-pin connection joins the input and output together at the fan controller. The two connections are joined together, but easily peeled apart. When together the length is around two feet. A bag contains all the secondary heat sinks and mounting equipment, along with the thermal grease. One user manual gives a very basic rundown on how to install the kit on an AMD 5830, while a larger manual gives instructions for the 5870/5850s.
The bag contains seven normal memory heat sinks, one combined memory IC and FET heat sink, both of which use double-sided tape to adhere, and another larger FET heat sink for the rear of the cards, which uses two to three pushpins to hold it to the card, depending on which one is chosen. A large piece of double-sided tape is included to mount the Fan Mate 2 onto the system chassis and the same goes for the case badge. Most of the rest of the parts are for installing the main heat sink itself. The heat sink is protected by a two-piece, form-fitted shell that snaps at six locations to keep it clean and safe, while also maintaining visibility through the window on the package.
With everything unpacked, it is time to dissect the heat sink to get a good look at its qualities, then on to reassemble it and install it on an AMD Radeon HD 5870 for testing!