Compatibility and installation
Because it ships with two sets of GPU blocks, the ZM80A-HP is compatible with the two different sets of heat sink hole patterns for GeForce4 and Radeon 9x00 cards. Unfortunately, Parhelia owners are out of luck; the ZM80A-HP isn't compatible with Matrox's unique board and chip layout.
We can get away with applying a razor-thin layer of thermal compound between a GeForce4 chip and the ZM80A-HP, but a little extra thermal compound must be used with Radeon 9500 and 9700 chips to ensure complete contact with the ZM80A-HP. ATI's GPU shim is just a hair taller than the actual graphics chip. Incidentally, shim clearance is an issue with any cooler used with ATI's latest Radeons; this problem isn't unique to the ZM80A-HP.
Once a correct amount of thermal compound has been smeared over the GPU, installing the heat sink's GPU blocks takes just minutes. Unlike many cooling solutions which use plastic push-pins, Zalman's ZM80A-HP blocks are secured with a set of metal screws.
At first, I marveled at the ZM80A-HP's slick retention system, but the tiny metal nut used to secure the rear mounting block is really a pain to install. Trying to adequately tighten this diminutive nut is frustrating since fingers must be used; screwdrivers, wrenches, and even needle-nose pliers don't work. In the end, I managed to secure the rear mounting block, but not without almost wearing my fingertips raw. Zalman would do well to key this tiny nut for use with a screwdriver or even pliers to make installation easier.
Once the mounting blocks are installed, one need only slide in the heat pipe and secure the massive heat sinks to the front and rear blocks. Zalman's excellent installation instructions recommend spreading thermal compound between the GPU blocks, heat pipe, and passive heat sinks for more effective cooling. Zalman includes plenty of thermal compound to cover all necessary surfaces.
As you can see, the ZM80A-HP easily overwhelms a Radeon 9700 Pro. As large as the rear passive heat sink looks, it's not actually making any direct contact with the back of the card:
Rather that sandwich the PCB between the cooling system's GPU blocks, Zalman suspends the rear mounting block just millimeters above the PCB. The rear mounting block is held off the board's surface by its mounting bracket and by the assembly's copper heat pipe. Just in case, Zalman provides a clear sticker for the bottom of the mounting block to avoid any potential metal-on-metal contact that could short the graphics card.
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