Zalman’s VF700 GPU coolers

Manufacturer Zalman
Model VF700
Price (VF700-Cu)
Price (VF700-AlCu)
Availability Now
ENTHUSIASTS HAVE ALWAYS sought to improve performance. Traditionally, we’ve measured these improvements in terms of computational power, pixel pushing prowess, and the like, but noise levels are becoming an increasingly important performance metric. As PCs become “fast enough,” there’s an increasing desire to make them less obtrusive, especially as we move systems out of the office and into our living rooms, kitchens, and cramped dorm rooms where they sit just feet from our beds.

Zalman has been quick to cater to the needs of noise-conscious enthusiasts. The company offers a wide range of quiet cooling products, from audacious Reserator and monster CNPS7700 CPU coolers to passive GPU coolers like the ZM80. The latest addition to Zalman’s cooling lineup is the VF700 GPU cooler, which promises nearly silent noise levels and adequate cooling, even for GeForce 6800 Ultra-class graphics cards. Read on as we put Zalman’s new cooler through the wringer.


Zalman’s VF700-Cu (left) and VF700-AlCu (right)

The cooler
Zalman offers the VF700 in two flavors: the all-copper VF700-Cu and the copper/aluminum hybrid VF700-AlCu. Apart from the materials used in their construction, the coolers are essentially identical. However, there is a weight difference between the two—the 270g VF700-Cu weighs 50% more than the 180g VF700-AlCu.

The VF700’s fan-like design borrows heavily from Zalman’s recent processor coolers, although concessions have been made to squeeze the cooler onto a graphics card. At 91mm x 126mm x 30mm, the VF700 is definitely a double-wide design. Despite its size, the VF700 is compatible with a wide range of graphics cards. Zalman also maintains a list of incompatible cards.

Zalman uses a 75mm fan with dual ball bearings to cool the VF700. The fan comes with a three-pin power connector, so it won’t plug directly into a graphics card. Instead, Zalman supplies a four-pin Molex adapter that offers Silent and Normal fan speed settings. The Silent plug uses 5V power and spins the fan at 1,350 RPM, while the Normal setting uses 12V power and cranks the fan up to 2,650 RPM.

Flipping the VF700 reveals an impeccably smooth base. On the VF700-Cu, the entire heat sink is copper, including the base. On the VF700-AlCu, which is pictured above, the majority of the cooler is aluminum. The cooler’s copper component is a strip that runs down the middle of the cooler to make contact with a graphics chip.

The VF700 is more than just a graphics chip cooler, though. Zalman also claims that the fan’s design improves circulation and cools the entire graphics card, including its memory chips. A set of eight BGA memory chip heat sinks is even bundled with the cooler.

In addition to memory chip heat sinks, the VF700 also comes with all the mounting hardware you’ll need to secure it to a graphics card. The bundle also includes a tube of thermal compound, the Molex fan speed connector, and a case badge. Zalman even throws in a couple of extra screws and rubber grommets, just in case.

Installing the beast
Although the VF700’s array of bundled screws, grommets, and brackets looks a little daunting, mounting the cooler is actually quite easy. Installation requires a screwdriver, but for a cooler of this size and weight, I’d prefer to use real metal screws rather than flaky plastic push pins anyway.


The VF700-AlCu installed on a GeForce 6600 GT


The VF700s’ rear mounting bracket

Depending on the graphics card, you may need a little extra clearance at the top of the card for the VF700’s cooling fins. Because of the way GeForce 6600 GT AGP cards are laid out, 30mm of clearance is required above the top of the graphics card.

Once again, keep in mind that the VF700 is most definitely a double-wide design. In fact, it may even obscure a second PCI slot, depending on the motherboard layout. At the very least, PCI cards shouldn’t be put right up next to the fan where they could obstruct air flow.

Fortunately, the VF700’s back bracket is short enough to avoid clearance issues on the other side of the card. That makes the VF700 much easier to accommodate than Zalman’s passive ZM80 GPU cooler, which slaps massive heat sinks on both sides of the graphics card.

The VF700 is only held in place by two contact points, which allows the heat sink to rotate slightly when installed. Still, the bracket is quite secure; you’d need to really torque the graphics card—likely damaging the board in the process—to break the cooler’s contact with the GPU. Rubber grommets prevent the mounting nipples from making direct contact with the PCB, and all screws are exactly the right length to prevent over-tightening.

Installing the VF700’s memory heat sinks is also a snap. The heat sinks come with double-sided tape, so you can just peel and stick. Be sure to clean the surface of the graphics card’s memory chips before installation, though.

Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition Athlon 64 FX-51 2.2GHz
System bus 800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped) HT 16-bit/800MHz downstream
HT 16-bit/800MHz upstream
Motherboard DFI LANParty 925X-T2 MSI K8T Master2
North bridge Intel 925X MCH VIA K8T800
South bridge Intel ICH6R VIA VT8237
Chipset drivers Intel 6.3.0.1007 Hyperion 4.55
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Micron DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz Corsair CM72SD512RLP-3200/S Registered PC3200 DDR SDRAM
CAS latency (CL) 3 3
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 3 3
RAS precharge (tRP) 3 3
Cycle time (tRAS) 8 8
Graphics XFX GeForce 6600 GT with ForceWare 71.84 drivers eVGA GeForce 6800 Ultra with ForceWare 71.84 drivers
Hard drives Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 NCQ 160GB SATA Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 160GB SATA
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2, DirectX 9.0C

We’ve put together a couple of test systems for the VF700s. The first is built around a GeForce 6600 GT graphics card with factory overclocked memory running on an open test bed. The second system is equipped with a GeForce 6800 Ultra and running in an Antec Sonata enclosure. For each card, we tested with the stock cooler and the VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu with their Silent and Normal fan speed settings.

Our test systems were powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor’s Choice winners in our latest PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests. Game tests were run with high quality detail levels at 1024×768 with 4x antialiasing and 8x anisotropic filtering.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Noise levels
Noise levels were measured with an Extech 407727 Digital Sound Level Meter placed one inch from the graphics card and out of the path of direct air flow. For this test, we also included a passively-cooled graphics card to illustrate the system’s base noise levels. Since none of the cards feature load-dependent GPU fans, tests were conducted idle.

The VF700s’ Silent fan speed setting is nearly that, producing system noise levels less than one decibel higher than with our passively-cooled graphics cards. With both graphics cards, the Silent and even Normal fan speed settings offer significantly lower noise levels than stock cooling.

Temperature levels
So the VF700s are quiet, but can they adequately cool our graphics cards? To find out, we used the temperature monitoring function within NVIDIA’s ForceWare graphics drivers to track GPU temperatures at idle and after several runs through our trhaze DOOM 3 demo at 1024×768 with 4x antialiasing and 8x anisotropic filtering. The ForceWare drivers also report ambient results that measure temperatures around the graphics card. Tests were conducted with DOOM 3 running in a window to ensure that temperature readings were collected when the card was under full load. Temperatures stabilized after three to four runs through the timedemo, although we did six full runs with each configuration, just to be sure.

With the GeForce 6600 GT, the VF700s have no problem delivering lower GPU and ambient temperatures than the stock cooler. The VF700-Cu has a slight edge over the AlCu, but the results are very close.

The VF700s don’t fare quite as well with our GeForce 6800 Ultra. In Silent mode, both coolers produce higher GPU temperatures at idle and under load, although only by a few degrees. In Normal mode, only the VF700-Cu produces lower GPU temperatures than the stock cooler under load.

Looking at ambient temperatures, the VF700s do marginally better than the stock cooler with their Normal fan speed settings, but not in Silent mode.

Overclocking
For kicks, we also tested whether the VF700s had any impact on the overclockability of our GeForce 6600 GT and GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics cards. We used the “Coolbits” registry tweak to unlock the ForceWare drivers’ built-in auto overclocking tool and determine the highest stable GPU and memory clock speed for each card. By default, our GeForce 6600 GT runs at 500MHz core and 1200MHz memory (normal GeForce 6600 GTs run their memory at 1000MHz, but our card is factory overclocked), while the GeForce 6800 Ultra runs at 425MHz core and 1100MHz memory.

Unless you’re the type to get excited about an extra 10MHz, our memory overclocking results don’t show much advantage for the VF700s.

The VF700s don’t yield significantly higher GPU core overclocks, either.

Conclusions
The VF700s certainly deliver on their promise of lower noise levels. In Silent mode, they’re barely louder than passive cooling, an impressive feat for a fan spinning at over 1,000 RPM. The Normal fan speed makes a little more noise, but it’s still much quieter than both of the stock coolers we tested.

Of course, noise levels aren’t the only performance metric for GPU coolers; temperature levels are also important. With our GeForce 6600 GT, the VF700s easily managed much lower temperatures than the stock cooler. Our GeForce 6800 Ultra results aren’t as stellar, though. Only the VF700-Cu managed lower GPU temperatures than the stock cooler under load, and then only with the Normal fan speed setting. Still, even the worst VF700 performance only produced GPU temperatures 10% higher than the stock cooler. I can certainly live with that given the coolers’ relative silence.

The VF700-AlCu and VF700-Cu sell for $27 and $31, respectively. If you’re into quiet computing, that’s pretty affordable, especially since the coolers could conceivably last through a graphics card upgrade or two. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the VF700-Cu. The VF700-AlCu is certainly competent, especially with a GeForce 6600 GT, but for only $4 more, the VF700-Cu offers an all-copper design that improves performance just enough to justify the price gap.

Comments closed
    • antx182
    • 15 years ago

    Thank you for another great article.
    I was considering purchasing one of these two exact products. Now I’m no longer on the fence about it.
    I have a BFG 6800 GT and the two tiny fans seem to rub against the top plate covering them.
    I pulled it out, cleaned the fans, pushed and pulled, and it worked . . . for a few days.
    So I think I’m going to go with the All-Copper variety although the weight does worry me a bit.

      • jodiuh
      • 15 years ago

      I also own the BFG 6800 GT and have removed those 2 little fans. I put an Arctic Silencer on it, but the fan started rubbin’/rattlin’ against the housing after a few months. I was gonna switch the fan out, but then saw the 700 on crazy pc and decided to grab that. It should be at home waiting for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

      ps. While I was awaiting the arrival of my new toy, I stuck a 60 to 80mm fan adaptor on the stock sink. Then I put a speeze/masscool 80mm fan on top. It’s tall and doesn’t have enough metal for me, but it got the job done…quietly, haha!

      Jod

    • indeego
    • 15 years ago

    Wish I could get this… My shuttle just can’t handle it thoughg{<.<}g

      • 5150
      • 15 years ago

      You know what they say about men with small cases…

    • The Mad Duke
    • 15 years ago

    Works fine on my BFG 6600GT AGP. You can’t use the Ram Sinks, but the main cooler fits quite well. I run mine from a 7 volt adapter (use +5 and +12 volts together) and it runs cool and quiet.
    -The Mad Duke

      • totoro
      • 15 years ago

      It comes with a 7v adapter (silent mode);
      are you using that one, or did you make your own?

        • The Mad Duke
        • 15 years ago

        Actually the included adapter is only 5 volts or 12 volts so I made a 7 volt.
        -The Mad Duke

    • Corrado
    • 15 years ago

    I just installed one of these last night on my GeForce 6600GT. Along with a Zalman 400W p/s. I already had zalman fans and the CNPS-7700AlCu on my A64 3200+ 939. My box makes a dell box seem loud. You have to TRY to hear it. I <3 Zalman. Been using their stuff for years since the first flower heatsinks came out and I will never use anything but Zalman stuff as long as I can help it.

      • FireGryphon
      • 15 years ago

      what case?

        • Corrado
        • 15 years ago

        The cheap quiet antec ๐Ÿ˜› i dunno what model number it is. 1 120mm fan in the back and 1 80mm fan in the front, both in ‘silent’ mode.

      • Wulvor
      • 15 years ago

      Yeah I just put one of these on my MSI 6600GT card, in an Antec Sonata case with a A643200+ in it, it scared me how silent the machine was when I first put it in my office.

    • jpmills
    • 15 years ago

    I have the all copper version on my FX 5700. It works really well.

    • flip-mode
    • 15 years ago

    Zalman, in my opinion, is easily the most inovative company out there in terms of cooling products. Everytime they come out with something new its a pleasant suprise, and usually worth every cent. I was however, disappointed with the zm-80hp silent gpu cooler. Didn’t cool for spit, but what could I expect for a fanless, albeit giant, chuck of metal that weighed as much as a computer case.

    Thanks for another great review. Although the move to a laptop is something I don’t regret, I sure do miss tinkering with the desktop and trying out products such as this one.

    Oh, yeah, I would think that the only real competition for these beauties would be Arctic Cooling’s products. I put one of those on the ol’ 9800 pro and it worked superbly.

      • jodiuh
      • 15 years ago

      had an arctic on my 9800 pro too…good stuff, but they don’t look as sexy as a zalman ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Jod

      • d0g_p00p
      • 15 years ago

      Thermalright? Way better cooling than Zalman. Also I agree on AC NV5. It’s what is slapped on my card

    • d0g_p00p
    • 15 years ago

    OK, I am reading conflicting reports on the GeForce 6800 Ultra. What is the core speed? It’s 400Mhz right? I keep seeing that it’s 425Mhz. That I know is wrong. Care to clue me in?

    Also, to keep nagging. When are you going to review that Maxtor Maxline III?

      • Dissonance
      • 15 years ago

      Based on what I’ve seen, Ultras seem to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The eVGA card in this review is clocked at 425MHz core out of the box.

      As for the Maxline, just as soon as I get my hands on one.

        • d0g_p00p
        • 15 years ago

        almost all of the reviews use the Maxtor drive.

          • Dissonance
          • 15 years ago

          If you’re referring to Scott’s reviews, that drive is a pre-production model, as I understand it. That’s fine for chipset/processor/etc… testing, but for a hard drive review, we prefer to use production drives.

      • Ryszard
      • 15 years ago

      425MHz is the PCI Express SKU core clock. Might still be 400MHz for AGP, I’m not sure. Probably clock parity though.

      • Forge
      • 15 years ago

      The official Nvidia reference 6800U AGP clocks are 400MHz core and 1.1GHz ram, both 2D and 3D.

      Many OEMs have shipped all of their 6800Us at 400/425MHz core (400 2D, 425 3D) and 1.1GHz, but found that there are occasional stability problems at the moment of clock speed change. In order to releive this problem, they simply shipped at 425MHz for both 2D and 3D.

    • sluggo
    • 15 years ago

    Nice review, and one I’ve been hoping to see for a while. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for noise reduction. The stock heatsink on my MSI 6600GT is a sand-cast copper-plated disaster. The thing is so badly made that it only makes contact with half the ram chips. Also, the contact pads have a minimum of surface finishing on them – they’re almost as rough as the as-cast surface of the heatsink itself. After a bit of time on the buffing wheel I got an 10C improvement in load temps, but it’s still noisy and still doesnt make contact with all the ram.

    This looks like a nice upgrade.

    • SpotTheCat
    • 15 years ago

    you should compare it to the NV silencer 5, which would be its main competition.

      • mongoosesRawesome
      • 15 years ago

      I agree.

      I use an arctic cooling nv silencer 5 which I believe might be better for overclocking. I use the nv silencer to keep my 6800 NU cool with all 16 pipelines and all 6 vertex units unlocked. It’s not dead silent, but it is much quiter than stock cooling on my BFG card.

        • jodiuh
        • 15 years ago

        The only thing that bothered me about the nv silencer were the damn memory feet or pads. In order to get them all in contact, I had to fiddle with the thing, repeatedly pulling it on and off to make sure there was contact with the as5. The zalman should be much nicer to put on as I don’t have to worry about 5 distinct points of contact.

      • Corrado
      • 15 years ago

      I have an nv silcencer on my 5950Ultra and While it was ncie and quiet, the one post broke off after minor tightening. Just twisted and broke off. It wasn’t detrimental to performance, but its still noteworthy.

    • FireGryphon
    • 15 years ago

    Excellent review.

    Is the weight of the heatsink a problem? Could you transport a system with it on without worries?

      • Dissonance
      • 15 years ago

      Transport, sure, just as long as the card is screwed down and you’re gentle. Shaking the case violently probably isn’t a good idea, though.

        • FireGryphon
        • 15 years ago

        ok, just curious because of the weight issues surrounding some older (and newer?) AMD heatsinks.

        • indeego
        • 15 years ago

        Forget it then. Where else to take my rage than unplugging all the cords from my box and violently throttling the thingg{?}g

      • RickB
      • 15 years ago

      I haven’t had a problem with transport–I’m using the ZM80A-HP on my 9800 Pro in a NF-7 mobo.

      ยง[<https://techreport.com/reviews/2003q1/zalman-zm80/index.x?pg=1<]ยง It weighs "nearly 400 grams" compared to the 270 grams of the VF700-Cu and I lug my box to a friend's place every couple of months and I haven't had any problems yet. -Rick

    • Krogoth
    • 15 years ago

    Excellent Review, you were chip amd memory limited with your overclocking attempt. 6600GT doesn’t have that much headroom anyway.

      • FireGryphon
      • 15 years ago

      Just for kicks, I’d like to see one of these things put on an old Trident VGA card for overclocking purposes. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 15 years ago

    darn, won’t work with my 6600gt, AGP

    good write-up though

    EDIT:I take that back, I guess it will work on my card….hmm

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 15 years ago

      and I just bought it 8)

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