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FrostyTech typically eschews real world testing for synthetic thermal test platforms; repeatability is more controllable, and parameters like thermal load can be specified from the start by selecting appropriate resistive heater components.
However, when it comes to videocard heatsinks it has proven a challenge to design a suitable platform which will accommodate the wide variety of mounting styles, GPU core dimensions, and VGA heatsinks out there.... Videocard heatsinks react strongly to the internal case environments, and when front/back thermal solutions start to be considered the equation gets rather complicated.
Thus for the time being, FrostyTech will be conducting its VGA heatsink tests with an actual videocard. Temperatures will be recorded with the computer system at idle on the desktop, and when stressed with 3DMark06 where the peak temperature will be noted. The parameters of equipment set up and instrumentation are noted below. The reference heatsink is a stock Albatron FX5900 copper GPU cooler which is pictured at left (no model numbers are available).
there are not a lot of vga heatsinks in this comparison, but what we've tested thus far gives a good indication of where the Zalman VF900-Cu stands. The VF900-Cu heatsink posts a 3DMark06 system stressed maximum rise above ambient temperature of 12.0°C, with 42 dBA noise (fan speed 2400RPM). With the VF900-Cu's 80mm fan spinning at full speed we see an idle temperature of about 4°C above ambient - idle being when the videocard is just displaying the WindowsXP desktop.
For quieter operation the Zalman Fan Mate 2 is used to reduce the fan speed of the VF900-Cu to about 1350RPM, thus dropping noise levels to at best 33.5 dBA. In this situation the recorded temperature from the back of the graphics card increases to 15.2°C above ambient under the 3Dmark06 stressed parameter. At idle, the temperature hovers around 9°C above ambient.
Comparatively, the Zalman VF700-AlCu videocard heatsink posts a best result of about 15.5°C above ambient at full fan speed (3DMark06 stressed). The stock FX5900 GPU heatsink does no better than 25.7°C above ambient, with 48 dBA noise, under the same conditions.
The Zalman VF900-Cu videocard heatsink takes a unit approach to GPU cooling, both in materials and thermal design. From our real-world test results it's clear the VF900-Cu provides significantly better temperature and acoustic results than the stock FX5900 videocard heatsink will. Given the concise set of data we have to draw conclusions from, I think we can safely say that the Zalman VF900-Cu heatpipe-based videocard GPU heatsink certainly bests Zalman's previous graphics cooling solutions.
For more reviews on the latest heatsinks and cooling solutions, rely on FrostyTech's inventory of 350+ heatsink reviews. Here are a few other articles that you might enjoy as well...
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