Zalman as most of you know is a company which is devoted to quiet cooling solutions. They make heatsinks, northbridge chipsets, power supplies, and video cards. The video card section of their operation will be the focus of this review. Video cards, like everything else in the computer industry, are getting faster and faster and in most cases are putting out more heat than they have in the past. Because video cards are getting faster and hotter they are also getting louder due to the fact that they need to cool them down. Most of the time the noise put out by video cards is not very significant, however in some cases they can be pretty loud. Depending on how much noise you are willing to put up will help you decide whether or not you want to make it quieter.
The box for the Zalman ZM17CU is very plain; it basically looks like an OEM white box. The box has a set of instructions and the thermal epoxy which looks to be the same stuff that you get with the Zalman NB32 I will know for sure later when I actually use it because of the smell. The instructions come in both English and Korean and are pretty easy to read and understand.
The ZM17CU has 14 copper fins and the rest of the heatsink is made up of aluminum. The fins are pretty long and will have problems fitting on some video cards so be sure that your video card will be able to handle this cooler before you buy it. From the side view you can see that the fins go into the base of the unit and that’s how the heat is transferred out of it.
I will be using a Geforce 2 GTS 64MB because I did not want to put this cooler on my Geforce 3 and had no other video card to test it with. The video card comes stock with a little heatsink fan unit that does make a little noise which will be eliminated by installing the ZM17CU. I went ahead and removed the stock heatsink and cleaned the core of the GPU off with rubbing alcohol on a paper towel so that the ZM17CU would hold well.
I emptied both tubes of the epoxy onto a paper towel and mixed them together, right away I could tell it was the same horrible smelling compound as before. This compound smells just like nail polish remover till it dries which isn’t the greatest smell in the world. Anyways I went ahead and mixed up the two parts with the syringes and applied it to the core. I stuck the ZM17CU on and made sure that it was really on there good, and I made sure that there were no air pockets trapped underneath. The heatsink is almost as big as the card and if the card has RAMsinks on it then the ZM17CU would not fit. Make sure that this will be able to fit on your card before you go out and order it to save yourself time and energy.
To get the idle temps for the stock heatsink and the ZM17CU I booted into windows and let it idle for 15 minutes. After I got the idle temperatures I loaded up Unreal Tournament 2003 and played that for 15 minutes. I played a real game instead of running a synthetic benchmark because I feel that real world testing is much better than synthetic, also UT 2003 is fun and I needed a break. As you can see from the graphs below the stock cooling does better in both the idle and load temperatures. Zalman recommends using a fan with higher end video cards but I wanted to run it without one because I wanted to see how it would perform while actually being silent which is what Zalman is built to do.
Well the stock heatsink did better than the Zalman ZM17CU in both idle and load temperatures. I know this is probably because I did not use the bracket and fan but it wasn’t included. Also I don’t see the point in changing out a video card heatsink unless it is going to either be silent or be much better cooling-wise so that it can help me overclock more.
This setup did not come with the fan and bracket which means that if you want the added cooling you are going to have to buy it. Considering all this I don’t really care for this product, it is a good idea however it does not include what you need so that it will work how it should. Not many people are using a Geforce 256 or slower which means they will need the bracket and fan that Zalman suggests and the fact that it does not come with these things is a big negative aspect.
Zalman has come out with a new video card cooling solution which uses heat pipe technology and is better suited for newer video cards which I would really recommend over this ZM17CU. The new video card coolers are the HP-50 and HP-80, I will have one of these to review soon and we will see what it can do compared to this ZM17CU. Until then my stance is the same on this product, it does its job making your video card silent however the temperatures that it produces are not that great.
If you are going to upgrade the cooling on your video card and want it to be silent get the new one from Zalman. Overall I am going to give this product a 5/10, I would like to thank ZalmanUSA for giving me this product to review. You can buy this product and all other Zalman produts, including the new HP-50 and HP-80 from Sharka Corp