Zalman ZM50-HP VGA Heatpipe Cooler Review
Reviewed by: Bosco
Reviewed on: October 31, 2002
Price: $20 USD
As our trend into system cooling continues, this time I will take a look at the graphics sector. Most individuals already know the importance of overclocking, and keeping the system cool is one of the more important tasks in this day and age, given the powerful devices each contributing to the overall heat buildup in our systems. This time, I will be taking a look at the ZM50-HP VGA Heatpipe Cooler. This cooler works by the use of a heatpipe, which is simply a completely closed pipe that contains a fluid. When this fluid is heated, it evaporates, and proper positioning of the pipe will allow the gas particles to move to the top of the pipe, warming the air around it. In doing so it loses enough heat so that it condenses back into a liquid, ready for the process to repeat itself. The warm air is then expelled by the exhaust fan, so an inherent advantage is that one less fan (meaning less noise) is used, provided that your card originally included a fan.
A very attractive package. Also a very nice blend of colours.
This package comes with two heatsink assemblies (front and rear), and likewise with the heatsinks themselves. There is also a heatpipe, and two bags of installation parts labelled "Assembly Parts" and "Spare Parts". Interesting. The assembly bag contains exactly enough screws and other parts for a perfect installation. If you lose any of the parts, or went haywire on the thermal compound, you'll need to crack open the spare parts bag. In addition to the very detailed manual, they also included a Philips screwdriver! I'm not sure as to why they would go as far as including that in the package, since the product is already aimed at the power user and potential overclocker, and such individuals usually already carry (or have easy access to) screwdrivers and other assembly tools.
As detailed as the manual is, there is no set of instructions (or that I wasn't looking hard enough) that even hint on how to remove the existing heatsink on the video card! However, this step alone already means that you have to be fairly experienced with toying around with computer parts; make one false move and you risk sending your card into computer heaven (or hell for that matter).
Since this is the 50 model instead of the 80 model, I cannot use this card on the high-end video cards such as any non MX card from nVidia, or the ATi Radeon 8500 or higher. Having a lack of choice, due to the collection of GeForce4 MX400 cards being very well hidden somewhere, and having no ATi cards on hand, I decided on the GeForce2 MX400 chipset, which in itself doesn't sound that showy, but after pushing the card far into overclocking mode it's pretty safe to say that the results were very impressive.
To remove the heatsink, first you will need to pop out the clips that hold the heatsink in place. A strong set of pliers should do the trick here. The more difficult step that follows is to pop out the heatsink from the thermal substance that also acts as an adhesive. What I did is I simply placed a covering over the edge of the card where it will act as a fulcrum for the screwdriver. Slide the screwdriver underneath the heatsink, and apply some pressure downward on the handle, like a see-saw. With some effort the heatsink should pop off nicely.
After that, scrape off the remaining excess compound, and then use some rubbing alcohol to clean off the residue, so that it looks like the photo below.
With the chipset cleaned, we can apply a fresh layer of thermal compound to the chipset. I used the compound that was included with the package.
Following the instructions, I ended up with something that looks like this:
One thing I do have to comment about is the installation of the rear heatsink assembly. Because there is nothing to support the assembly directly underneath, I found it difficult to tighten the screws on the unit without first finding some cardboard to support it underneath, otherwise the assembly just tips over to one side, putting it out of alignment. Shown in the photo above, the rear assembly (underneath the card) has a small gap between it and the card. Just a minor thing, and some cardboard (or the instruction manual itself) to serve as a space filler will help to get those screws tightened.
Also, the sheer size of the heatsinks may prevent it from inserting completely in some motherboards that have large capacitors near the AGP slot. I wanted to do the testing in my P4 system initially, but my motherboard's capacitors would've prevented the modified card from inserting all the way. As a result, I used Dave's rig to do all of the testing instead. I'm sure he wouldn't mind.
We ran 3DMark2001 Second Edition using default settings, with the repeat count set to 2.
Looking good here... we can say for sure that the heatpipe works alot better than the stock heatsink that was included! There's not much else I can add, but I am very impressed with the results here! What really shocked me is the results that we got after we did some "experimenting."
Using EnTech's Powerstrip v3.29, we managed to increase the core clock speed to the maximum that the program will allow, and we got the results below. We couldn't increase the memory as high as we wanted, but that's because this product isn't made for memory, it's made for the GPU. The default setting for the GeForce2 MX400 is 175MHz for the core, and 166MHz for the memory.
Amazing! And I think the card could still go on if we could overclock the core even higher! At the highest achieved clock speed, the temperature of the unit was only 37.5°C! We tried for 233/212, but then the rendering started to become distorted at times, so the memory got pushed a little too hard. Still, however, this unit is awesome for those who want to really squeeze the juice out of their GeForce4 MX or ATi 7500 cards!
Zalman has manufactured a very fine product for the video card overclockers out there. Not only do you get the added benefit of a heatpipe, but the solution is also a fanless one, so even more points for the added silence. My only real gripe about it is that the size of the heatsinks prevent it from being used in my system, but that is also the fault of the motherboard manufacturer, for tossing those huge capacitors so close to the AGP slot. When the "budget solutions" of the newer video cards come out, you can transfer this product over to the new card, if the card uses the pins that hold the stock cooler in place. Overall, this is a very good product, and I recommend this product to anyone who has an older card that you want to literally squeeze the core clock out of.