Zalman VF3000A VGA Cooler
Author: Zahn Funk
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 10-21-2010
Provided by: Zalman

The system I'll be installing the VF3000A with is comprised of the following:

AMD Phenom II 1090T X6 BE
Swiftech H20-320 Edge
2x2Gb Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR3-1600
128Gb Crucial C300 RealSSD
Icy Dock 2" Adapter
1Tb WD Caviar Black
ASUS EAH5870 V2 1G
Optiarc 24x DVD+/-RW
OCZ Fatal1ty 750W
Cooler Master HAF 932 AMD Edition

The card I'll be installing the VF3000A on is the ASUS EAH5870v2 I reviewed earlier this year. Although similar to a reference 5870, the "V2" uses an updated stock cooler design and a slightly different board layout. Unfortunately that means that the customized VRM heatsink is not going to fit, a few of the capacitors have been moved and no longer match the positions where the cutout reliefs are on the heatsink. I opted to go ahead with the installation since there were enough ram sinks to cover all the VRMs, although this means that the memory chips will have to go naked. Better to give the hot-running VRMs the extra cooling.

With the VRMs covered, all that remains is to dab a little TIM on the GPU die and thread in the standoffs into the appropriate holes on the base bracket. A rubber washer on each helps act as a spacer and provides a cushion between the metal pins and the PCB. After inserting the pins through the mounting holes on the card, apply a plastic washer on each, followed by a tensioning spring and lastly thread on the plastic caps. Due to the length of the threads it is impossible to overtighten the caps, they simply stop when the proper depth is reached.

Compared to most factory coolers, the VF3000 is not much larger. Placing axial fans on top of the cooling fins, rather than a centrifugal fan at the end of them, means you will lose one additional slot. However given the proper PCI-e spacing, dual-card configurations are certainly still possible. One bad thing about using this configuration however is that hot exhaust from the cooling fins gets recirculated inside the case instead of blown out the vented riser slot at the rear. This could mean that you'll see a slight rise in temperature from other components in your computer, but probably not a significant amount.

Plugging the 3-pin connector into an available motherboard header will result in both fans operating at maximum speed, which at 32dB may be more than what you want to listen to. Zalman includes one of their FanMate 2 controllers to throttle that back some, although finding a place to mount it may pose a problem. Not that it's overly large or that they don't give you enough length of cable, quite the contrary. The problem is that I don't necessarily want a little black box stuck somewhere on the outside of the case, and keeping it inside means having to remove the side panel to make adjustments. In all likelihood most people will probably settle for finding one spot on the knob that they're comfortable with and that meets their cooling requirements, and leave it at that.

Now let's find out if the VF3000A performs as good as it looks.

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