To be quite honest with you, the last time I used Zalman products to cool my graphics cards was back when it was the hip thing to turn the mundane X800GTO into the X850XTPE. Back then coolers were much smaller, but even so, Zalman seemed to be ahead of the game as far as what coolers offered the best bang for the buck. This is back when taking a VF700, or for a little more money, you could get the VF900 and really open the cards up in overclocking and overvolting potential. Heck, I even stripped my VF900 off the X800 and moved it over to my X1950PRO and it was more than capable for that card as well.
As you can see, I missed the usage of quite a few of Zalman's coolers since then. Since, they have released coolers like the VFN100 and the VF1000 coolers that likely were the beginnings of this new samples life. Now Zalman has also kept within the same idea as the VF700 and VF900 coolers, and they evolved into coolers like the VF950 and VF2000. As with any manufacturer, they have to start somewhere and build from there. From what I can remember with the coolers that helped make Zalman the company it is today, they were top notch for the money that was required.
If you went and checked the coolers I had just mentioned, you can see that Zalman offers essentially two styles of coolers. There are the round and compact coolers and then there are the long rectangular style. The cooler we are about to get up close and personal with follows the lines of the longer rectangular cooler, but unlike the older versions which came with either one fan or no fan at all, this newer version is actively cooled with a pair of fans. This is why Zalman named this new VGA cooler the "VF3000F Dual Turbine VGA Cooler". Memories are one thing and mine of Zalman are good, but let's snap back to reality and get the VF300F mounted to the GTX 470 so we can see just how well it does!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The VF3000F I am about to test is specifically for the GTX 465 and GTX 470 only. There are versions for other cards. There is the VF3000A or the red version, the N or black version, and then there are two other green coolers like the one we are going to see, for other NVIDIA series GPUs. Be sure you pick up the right model for your specific GPU! - Since I mentioned color, the part I am speaking about is the metal shroud that holds the pair of 92mm fans. While the fans are capable of up to 3000 RPM and 33 DBA of noise at maximum settings, the fans should not only be able to handle the workload, but with the combination of green LEDs in the fans and the etched Zalman logo and green paint that matches the LEDs is always a good looking start. Zalman also includes the Fan Mate 2 for finite control of the fans from a Silent Mode, to the fans running at full speed, or Normal Mode.
That pair of fans has the job of cooling 239mm in length and 98mm in width worth of aluminum fins. The top of all of these fins are flat under the shroud. In fact, they are actually cut in the top to allow for the fan tray to snap in flush; more on that later. These fins are slit up into three groups. There are two wider groups of fins with the most surface area on both sides of a smaller group in the middle that is cut to allow the five 6mm heat pipes to bend out of the copper base and make their way through all these fins. Combined, the fans, shroud and cooler body, the VF3000F weighs in at 430 grams, and once you add the aluminum cooling plate contained in this kit, the weight goes up slightly.
The Zalman VF3000 has been available in its many forms for quite a while now. Taking the time to do a quick Google search, it shows that the VF3000F for the GTX 470 / 465 can be located at fourteen e-tailers right now. Some of these are lesser known, but the pricing is almost too good to be true, so I will go by two more reputable prices I am seeing. The better deal can be had via Amazon.com for $69.99, while the place I always tend to do my shopping has a minor bump in pricing. I am speaking about Newegg.com's listing at $74.99.
Either way you go, and no matter the model, this test on the GTX 470 should show the worst case scenario, and if this cooler can keep my card tamed, it should have no issues doing the same for yours, if not better depending on the heat output of your GPU design.
The VF3000F comes in a really cool looking box. Across the top "dual fan cooler" is splashed above the VF3000F name in lime green just above a cutaway so you can see the cooler inside. For those shopping off the shelf, the box plainly states which cards are supported and this is the GTX 470 / 465 model.
I just thought the way the art wraps around the top and onto the sides looked worthy of an image. Neither side panel offers anything other than this being a dual fan cooler.
On the back is where you will find the features and specifications. The five point feature list and short specs chart may leave you wondering a bit about the cooler. This is why Zalman adds the six hexagonal shaped images, so you can see what they are trying to explain.
When you first open the box, you are greeted with all of the hardware for the VF3000F along with its accessories. I didn't mention the cloth carrying handle until now, but you can see it has beefy reinforcements, so you shouldn't drop this cooler if you want to swing it around a bit.
Under the cardboard that was keeping the hardware and accessories at the top, you find the cooler in a plastic snap together enclosure to give you the best chance at receiving a pristine product.
Separated by the cardboard this cooling plate is sitting on, the black anodized aluminum phase and memory cooling plate ships alongside the cooler. This keeps the finish on the plate nice, and keeps it from trying to dig through that plastic in transit.
The Zalman VF3000F Dual Turbine VGA Cooler
With the plastic out of the way you can see the VF3000F with no interruptions. The brushed finish of the green shroud is very sleek looking and I like the automotive looking, etched name plate, almost like it belongs on a large chrome radiator. The pair of 92mm fans is slightly guarded, but you can still get a finger in the clear blades.
The center of the shroud is contoured in with six "fingers" that give the side its shape. The rest of the shroud continues past the fins a bit and actually locks under a lip of said fins. Also, the center of the fins is cut away more than the outsides on this cooler. This was done to make room for the heat pipes, but I will get a closer look in a bit.
The ends of the unit have what appear to be runs in the finish; I'm not exactly sure what is going on here. Of the five heat pipes of this cooler, you can see that only three exit this end of the cooler. The large screws will allow for the shroud to be removed, and these simply get screwed into holes in the first three or four fins.
On the opposing end, we see more of those "runs" in the finish, the same pair of screws, but this time only two pipes terminate in this end of the cooler. I also notice there is a bit of hot glue on the fin; I will have to investigate that.
The base and mounting system are all made of copper and for this specific model, i found only one of the holes on each corner was threaded. Make sure you follow the instruction to be sure, but that fact was an easy giveaway that I had the right holes.
The base is very flat and level across the bulk of the area. It is so finely polished that I am able to get you an image of Inception. Well, almost! I can see the idea went two layers deep, but I can't quite make out that third level. Anyways, it is like a mirror as you can obviously see.
Even though the mid section of fins is not as wide as those on both ends, certain "grooves" had to be cut from the larger fins to allow for the heat pipes as well. As the heat pipes leave this side of the base, they make a U-turn and terminate out the opposite side of the cooler.
The Zalman VF3000F Dual Turbine VGA Cooler Continued
The two piece base sandwiches the soldered pipes with the three going out the other side being staggered from the two leaving this side. These two pipes are what make the center smaller as the pipes need a way to also make that U-turn, but this time around the other three pipes are already in the middle.
The VF3000F gets power to the fans either via plugging this 3-pin female plug into the motherboard directly, if the BIOS allows control of the fan header. With near nine inches of cable, if the motherboard header is not an option, this can be connected to the Fan Mate 2 that comes included in the kit.
Digging deeper to see what the hot glue was from, I first had to remove the four large screws with Phillip's heads on them, and then gently pry tabs off of one side of the cooler body. Once you get the tabs clear on one side, the shroud will roll off the cooler body.
Under the shroud I found the pair of clear, nine blade fans have special ridges to help scoop and direct the airflow that the fan pulls into the cooler. Both fans are mounted to the black plastic "tray" that is inset into grooves cut into the top of the fins. This simply allows for a bit less height, but this is still a three slot cooler either way.
On this end the "tray" that holds the fans in place is snapped into the rectangular cut-outs in the fins. This side gets clipped in at three fins deep into the cooler. I like that the wiring is tucked close to the fins and out of the way of the fan as it exits the cooler shroud.
There is that hot glue I was looking for! It seems this end of the fans "tray" gets clipped right on the last fin. I assume there is either a rattle issue without it, or they were afraid it would fall off. Either way, it's going to make removal a onetime thing, unless you keep hot glue around to reinstall your coolers fans, and I don't think that is the typical case.
Accessories and Documentation
The hardware we saw earlier in the top of the box is all laid out in front of you. In the bag you get everything you need to install this onto a GTX 470 or GTX 465. There are screws with springs to mount the cooling plate, nuts and springs to mount the cooler, a set of risers and three types of washers. On the far left is the Fan Mate cable to connect to the Fan Mate 2 on the right and to the fan lead. On top of that, you also get a nice sized syringe of ZM-STG2 thermal grease.
As you can see, this cooling plate that covers the phase and memory chips is cut specifically for certain cards. There is an ample amount of fins to allow the fans airflow, once through the cooler a good chance at tunneling through these fins to cool the PCB components. Around the large center square, there are holes that pass through the cooling plate to allow the cooler to be mounted.
Even the side that is going to be making the contact is specialized. There are holes drilled to allow for specific capacitors, chokes and the power plugs. I don't have a true "straight edge" this large, so I opened my calipers and ran it against the edge of that straight edge. This plate is very flat for its length, I honestly expected it to be a bit cupped, but it really is flat.
The instruction guide is very thorough and highly detailed. You first get a full parts list to verify you have what you need before you start. Through the build guide, not only are there great illustrations, the parts are called out by name as to lessen any confusion as to which of the three washers go where, or where the rubber o-rings go. The instructions are written to work with the GTX 480 as well as the GTX 470 and GTX 465. Don't let that confuse you, there is a separate cooler for the 480 - this version will not fit it!
Installation and Finished Product
I skipped right to the chase this time and offer you my naked GTX 470 ready to install the VF3000F and all of its components. For those of you keeping track, you will also notice the G1 from Arctic Cooling came off without a hitch!
First off, you need to install the plate that covers the PCB components. This requires you to place thick rubber washers that are backed with tape to the holes pointed out in the instructions. This will keep the plate, if over tightened, from doing any damage to the PCB near the screw holes.
I took a bit of artistic liberty here. The instructions say to apply the ZM-STG2 to all the components that the plate is going to transfer heat from. Rather than making a mess on my card again, I opted to replace TIM for silicone rubber. Since we are looking mainly at the actual GPU temperature, this should have little effect on that part of this coolers result.
After using the ten screws provided in the kit, I was easily able to apply the plate to the card. Now, you can see how specific this plate is made. Unless you have a reference layout, there is a chance this plate may not work.
All I had to do to get this far was to add four risers to the base of the cooler, slide on the o-rings, slide in the cooler and use the four nuts and springs left out of all the hardware to secure the VF3000F to my GTX 470.
Typically, this is all of the cooler you will ever see during ownership. Even so, the VF3000F is an attractive addition to the card. I like this styling much more than the AXP II we just tested.
There isn't really anything to point out here; I just thought it was a nice angle to look at the VF3000.
This is the last image and I thought that since it has the bright, green LEDs, I should grab a picture of it in operation. Well, here it is in all of its powered glory.
Test System &Testing Results
Test System & Test Results
Testing was done in a spare computer I have in the room. Things were housed in a Corsair 600T SE and the door was on during any testing and reading of the temperatures. The room itself was kept at 25°C for the duration. To test the cards I used EVGA OC tool with a Furmark-like OpenGL 4.0 program to test things. The card is controlled with MSI Afterburner for the overclocking and overvolting parts of the testing.
The testing is run for thirty minutes and temperature information is gathered from Afterburner for all the test results. In order to attain the idle temperatures, things were allowed to cool down and a reset was done and an additional ten minutes was waited to allow for the best possible results.
This is some terminology that will help with the reading of these charts.
Stock: GTX 470 with 608/837/1215 clocks and voltage of 1.00V
Overclocked: GTX 470 with clocks raised to 775/950/1550 and voltage raised to 1.050V for stability.
Silent Mode: For testing I connected the Fan mate 2 and Silent mode refers to this attached and the dial set at its lowest setting.
Normal Mode: Again, this is with the Fan Mate 2 connected. This time the Normal Mode refers to the dial turned to the right as far as it goes to allow the fans to run at full power.
Since the VF3000F can't attach directly to the card, nor was there an adapter provided, there is little sense in doing any fan profile changing in Afterburner as we usually do. With my BIOS limitations on the system fan headers, I had no other choice but to use the Fan Mate 2 to adjust things. So on with the testing we go!
You can see by my results the fans speed can make temperatures plus or minus three degrees. If you want complete silence, the Silent Mode certainly offers silence, but even at idle there is a slight cost to getting that silence. If you can stand a mild hum, turn the fans to full speed. Even at 3000 RPM, these fans really aren't loud enough to be of any real concern.
When I started to run through the testing, I was shocked to see the results I was getting. I realize that the Accelero XP II has a lot more surface area and that the triple fans help, and even that the five pipes going all the way through the cooler can help too, but wow, just wow!
With the fans steaming along, the results aren't all that bad on either the stock clock or the overclocked tests. With the fan in Silent Mode, I was not all that put off by the seventy-one degrees with stock clocks, but the fact that it breaks eighty degrees once overclocked makes me want to keep looking.
I was really rooting for the VF3000F from the start. With great memories of their older generations of cooling technology, I had hoped the tradition had continued. While this is a very attractive addition to a GPU, even much more so than the Xtreme Pro II we just looked at, if I am stuck having to take up three slots to cool my graphics card these days, it better be able to offer me something worth all the hassle of installing the cooler. To put it point blank, being within eleven degrees of the stock cooling solution at the same clock speeds, I just don't see the point here.
Now, I may be hyper critical, but I think I am on to something. While every aspect of the cooler is so well thought out, designed simply to allow us to have a very straight forward installation, and even be the most attractive cooler I have seen yet, it seems while they thought of everything and offered great instructions along with solid components, they sort of over looked the most important thing, the cooling of the cooler! The cooling plate they used for the card on the other hand is one of the best PCB cooling solutions I have yet to test in aftermarket GPU cooling. This plate allowed my phase area of the PCB to register ten to eleven degrees cooler than with any other aftermarket cooling or even the stock plate that comes on the card from the factory! It's such a shame the Fermi architecture of this generation is in my opinion, a little too much for theVF3000F.
Now, I can't beat the VF3000F down to the ground entirely. It is the cheapest solution I have tested. Head to head against the AXP II cooler, it is almost $10 cheaper if you shop well. You can find the VF3000F at Amazon.com for $69.99, it still works out to like $7 a degree to cool your cards. Either way I try to spin it, I honestly think you should keep looking, unless you have a lower powered card than my Fermi, or are just dead set on its looks.