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Zalman ZM80A-HP VGA Heatpipe Cooler Review



For most people, the hardest thing in installing a VGA heat sink is the first step. Removing the old heat sink. Luckily for me, the VisionTek GF4 card that I use has a heat sink that is clipped in, and removes very easily.

After you have your old heat sink removed, it's time to clean off the old thermal paste. Some people may be able to remove the paste with a cloth, while others like me, may have to use a razor blade.. I also used rubbing alcohol to help remove the group. Some people don't like to do this, so do whatever you feel comfortable with. Just be careful so you don't damage your GPU.

After you've removed the old heat sink and thermal compound, it's time to begin installing the ZM80A-HP. And that begins by reapplying some new thermal compound. :) Zalman provides thermal grease with the ZM80A-HP; however, I decided to use Artic Silver 3 instead.

Zalman has a note in the manual that states, "Most GPU's on the video card are concave the curvature of which is directed toward the center. Thus, more thermal grease is required at the center. Also, in the case of the ATI Radeon 9700 Pro, the protruding graphics core is surrounded by a protective frame, which is higher than the core itself thus generous amounts of thermal grease must be applied to the core." You could do this, or you could lap your GPU and make it flat. :)

If you are unsure if your GPU is flat or not, you can apply the thermal grease, place the heat sink on it, and then remove the heat sink. If the compound is even on the heat sink, the compound was applied properly.

After applying the compound, the front and rear base assemblies must be attached. Two sets of assemblies are included with the ZM80A-HP. One large set for cards based on the GF4 Ti where the mounting holes are far apart, and the other set for cards where the holes are closer together.

The base assemblies are labeled "front" or "back" to indicate which side of the card they are attached to, and are mounted with the arrow pointing toward the AGP slot of the card.

More thermal compound is applied now. This time, to the grove that runs the length of the mounting base assemblies, and to the base that will make contact to the large heat sinks.

Now the heat pipe is installed. It fits in the grove where we just applied the thermal compound, like so.

As you see, the heatpipe is angled slightly.

Just when you thought you we finished applying compound, we get to apply some more. This time, to the back of the heat sinks, which we will mount to the base assemblies.

The heat sinks mount to the base assemblies via four screws. And with that, the heat sink is installed.

You may have already guessed it. The ZM80A-HP does take up the PC slot next to your AGP port. Not a problem for most people, unless you are one of those weirdo's with 6 PCI devices. :P

How a Heatpipe Works
Before I actually move into the testing, I'm going to explain the heat pipe, so that those who don't know what one is will (hopefully) have a better understanding of it, and why it is used.

Zalman uses a heat pipe design, that consist of a vacuum tight copper tube, a wick (woven fabric, fiber, or other material, that looks like a braid), and a fluid (trying to find out exactly what Zalman uses, most people use a mix of water and cooling solvent). As the front heat sink gets warmer, the heat pipe under the front plate gets warmer as well. This turns the liquid into a high pressure vapor that moves toward the cooler side of the heat pipe, as the vapor reaches the cooler plate, it condenses and releases the heat to the rear plate. The wick then helps move the condensed liquid back to the other end of the heat pipe where it can repeat the process.

Here you can see a cut away of the heat pipe, which exposes the wick. Also, in the picture below, you can see a larger portion of the wick. This is probably one of the more important pieces of the heatpipe.

  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Installation
  3. Testing & Conclusion
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