IntroductionIt has been two years now since ZEROtherm broke from a small startup supplying heatsinks to the OEMs and Samsung for printers. At that time, the company received a multi-million dollar investment from Intel Capitol and the company took off like a rocket expanding in every way. The company opened new offices, expanded their manufacturing capabilities but stayed true to their original plan; rigorous research and development. With a dedicated R&D team the company immediately started looking to manufacture some of the best enthusiast class heatsinks on the market, and it has enjoyed great success. Over the last year I have tested or played with three different coolers from ZEROtherm and have been very impressed with each product. On the surface, ZEROtherm products don't look all that exceptional. It is clear that the coolers are made of high quality components, but on the surface nothing stands out as innovative in the design. It's only when you begin to use the products and start testing before you realize that ZEROtherm is making really good heatsinks.Today we will be looking at the APACK ZEROtherm ZEN FZ 120; the latest CPU heatsink and fan combination from the company. Once again, from the outside the cooler looks like many others' designs that have taken over the enthusiast market for the last few years. Let's have a look and see if the ZEN FZ 120 can surprise us like the Hurricane HC92 Cu8800 VGA cooler did in our MEGA 9-Way VGA Roundup back in April when it took home the coveted Tweaktown Editors Choice Award.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The ZEROtherm ZEN FZ 120 features a copper base and heatpipe that extends to aluminum heat dissipation fins that stand just a tad over 6 inches tall. The specifications claim that the cooler is capable of cooling up to 150 watts, making the FZ 120 an enthusiast class cooler built for overclocking or cooling Intel and AMD's flagship processors. The task of dispersing that much heat is given to the ZEN FZ 120's 120mm fan that is capable of reaching 59.48 CFM when running full tilt on the motherboards supplied 4-pin PWM power connector. The specifications for the fan claim that at full speed it produces 31.4 dBA; so not only is the ZEN a powerhouse for cooling performance, but it does it quietly as well. The FZ 120 is scheduled to be available at the large US e-tail locations on May 26; this coming Monday in fact. ZEROtherm is holding the official MSRP close to their chests, but I was told that after a rebate the ZEN FZ 120 will cost right around 39.99 US Dollars. With such a low cost we had better get to testing to determine if the ZEN will be an enthusiast or mainstream cooler.
On the front we can see the fan and a glimpse of the cooler in the background. For the most part all of the marketing buzzwords are located here in the form of graphics running along the top of the window.
The side has a list of the compatible processors; all of the modern setups are listed but for some reason the AMD Phenom is only listed up to the 9600. I can only assume that when the box was printed AMD hadn't released information on the 9x50 parts and the 9600 was the flagship. Another point of interest is that it appears some of the ZEN FZ 120 coolers will be shipping as Intel only variants without the bracket to fit AMD motherboards. Please check with your e-tailer to confirm you are getting the AMD option before placing your order if you need the bracket.
The back side of the package shows several images of the cooler, fan and dimensions of the setup so you can guesstimate any obstacles posed by motherboard makers that seem to be making it difficult to place larger heatsinks on their enthusiast motherboards because of their need to overcool by looking cool.
This side shows the specifications like we listed on the previous page.
The 120mm fan is held on using the wire hanger method and is void of LEDs as we have come to expect from clear fans. For the adventitious, the fan does have holes on the side where LEDs can be installed; you will need to sort the wiring but with a small amount of soldering skill it would not be difficult to make a truly custom fan like the way it was done before LED fans were the norm.
From the side you can see at the top the 5mm hole that can hold an LED. There are four of these, one on each side. You can also see the four double heatpipes that make the traditional U shape. These pick up heat at the base and run it up to the fins.
The back of the fan allows us to see the wave pattern that adds surface area to the fins. Visually this is just about the only thing that differentiates the ZEN FZ 120 from other similar coolers on the market.
From this side without the fan installed we see that the heatpipes are mounted closer to the fan side of the cooler, taking advantage of the initial rush of incoming air.
ZEROtherm likes to use the "butterfly" design and it has worked well for them in the past. Here you can see the cut in the aluminium fins that aid in creating turbulence to the passing air, making the cooler more efficient.
Up until this point, everything has been perfect with the cooler but the copper base leaves us wondering why the base is not nickel coated or at least polished. As you can see, the base has small machine marks that we are used to seeing removed from the factory on enthusiast coolers.
Accessories and Documentation
Accessories and Documentation
The accessory package for the ZEN FZ 120 has all of the required titbits including a tube of ZEROtherm's high quality thermalpaste. The Intel mounting hardware is shown at the top; you will need to remove the motherboard to install the cooler on a pre-existing system. AMD used get to avoid this hassle if their motherboard bracket is already installed.
The manual of the cooler is presented in a systematic format; every step needed to install the cooler is laid out in an easily to follow method.
Test ResultsTweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.
This was a first for me, and the results were tested multiple times with the results being the same each time. On our TECC test system the ZEROtherm cools the CPU better at full load than idle! The reason why will become apparent further down when we see what the fan is actually doing. The idle temperatures are average for enthusiast coolers we've tested previously, but the load temps are top notch. This is actually the second lowest load temp we have seen so far; the only cooler that has produced a better load number is the Sunbeam Core-Contact Freezer.
The acoustic test shows us why the load and idle temperatures are so far from "normal". At 7 volts, a typical PWM voltage for the idle state, the fan produces only 41 dB, but when simulating a load environment with 12 volts the fan climes to 59 dB. At the high 50's, low 60's mark the cooler is still quiet, but not HTPC quiet. In a traditional enthusiast system or even one built for a semi-quiet, computer room environment, the ZEROtherm ZEN FZ 120 will not produce noticeable noise over other components or the background environment.
Final ThoughtsClearly, things are happening in the ZEROtherm R&D department that other companies have yet to discover. Maybe the engineers are eating their Wheaties formulated for advanced engineering skill; to be honest I am not really sure. The only thing I do know is that all of the ZEROtherm products I have tested all work remarkably well without any outside visual indication of being top performers. They just work really REALLY good. The ZEROtherm ZEN FZ 120 follows the path of the NV120 Premium and Hurricane HC92 CU 8800 and delivers great performance that is comparable to other class leading CPU coolers. If you run a flagship or overclocked processor, the FZ 120 will be a great choice to keep your temperatures and noise levels down. The only cooler that gave us better results is the innovative Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer that we have yet been able to find for sale at retail or e-tail. The real shocker for the ZEN FZ 120 is the price. As stated previously, the official MSRP was not available at the time of writing but the street value was disclosed to us. At 39.99 after rebate, it is safe to say that you can't go wrong by purchasing the ZEN FZ 120. Many of the coolers that are targeted for enthusiast use start at the 60 US Dollar mark and go up from there. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the ZEN FZ 120 will come with either a 10 or 20 US Dollar rebate, making the initial purchase price either 50 or 60 Dollars. At 50, the cooler is great value; much better than anything we have seen previously. At 60, the competition becomes a little crowded, but our testing has shown that the ZEROtherm ZEN FZ 120 is still the best performer in this price range.
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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.
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