Review of the Zalman VF2000 LED Hybrid VGA/CPU Cooler

Summary: Zalman’s first hybrid cooler, the VF2000 LED is an interesting product to say the least, it can cool either a CPU or a GPU. In this review we will take a look at what it can do, both as a VGA and CPU cooler.


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The great competition on the cooler market has greatly benefited consumers. We have seen VGA coolers on the market for quite some time now, but this is the first GPU/CPU hybrid cooler we have seen.



INTRODUCTION

The demands made by today’s powerful GFX cards sometimes require better cooling than what the reference coolers can offer, at least to users who want either a more quiet cooling solution or are looking to reduce heat development. Generally though, today’s reference video card coolers work well enough, but they often don’t dissipate heat as well as coolers from third party manufacturers, particularly those from Zalman. The Zalman VF2000 LED was first conceived as a VGA cooler, but this prestigious Korean manufacturer then sought to revolutionize the market with a new concept: a hybrid cooler, which also cools CPUs. The Zalman VF2000 LED is a low-profile cooler that is ideal for HTPCs, and that can be used with most of today’s graphics cards. It makes this cooler very versatile.


 

It will be interesting to see what effects this versatility has on performance, if any. Before going into details about the Zalman VF2000 LED, let’s take a look at its technical specifications:


Zalman VF2000 LED

Dimensions 128 mm (L) x 110 mm (W) x 45mn (H) =
5.0″ (L) x 4.3″ (W) x 1.8″ (H)
Weight 290 grams = 10.2 ounces
Materials Fins: aluminum; Base and Heatpipes: pure copper
Heatpipes 4
Fan dimensions 92 mm x15 mm = 3.6″ x 0.6″
Bearings Ball bearings
Speed 1400-2350 rpm ( ± 10%)
Noise level 19-29 dBA( ± 10%)




FIRST IMPRESSIONS


The Zalman VF2000 LED comes in a cardboard box that is mostly white on top and on one side. On the back and the other side, the colors are mostly black and blue. At the top, Zalman makes much of the “hybrid cooler” concept, using all caps to emphasize that the product works both for VGA cards and for CPUs. Further down, we can directly see this cooler’s most striking features. A hole in the package shows the fan and the finish of the fins.


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The back of the package has a photo that shows an installation with two Zalman VF2000 LEDs — one for the CPU and the other for the VGA card. The product’s technical features and specs are listed next to the photo, in various languages. The back also has a smaller hole, which shows off Zalman’s good work on the base of the product.


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One side of the package doesn’t say much. It has the same labeling as at the top of the front, but this time it’s displayed vertically. On the other side is a list of the graphics cards and processors with which the VF2000 LED is compatible.


When you open the box, you see the cooler enclosed between two pieces of high-impact plastic. They are held together by a button closure and completely protect the VF2000 LED from any problems that might arise in transport. Along with the cooler, there’s a white cardboard box that contains all the accessories needed to install it. The VF2000 LED comes with some common accessories, and with others that are specific to the task of installing it as either a VGA or CPU cooler. Among the common accessories are small tubes of single-use thermal paste, which keep the paste in perfect condition, and a fan controller called the FAN MATE 2. To install the VF2000 LED on a graphics card, there are memory coolers, plus the fasteners needed for them. There are also anchors for installing the VF2000 LED as a CPU cooler, for both the Intel and AMD platforms.


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Although the compatibility list for the VF2000 LED is very long, you should make sure which graphics cards and processors can use it.


 

ATI

NVIDIA

Compatible Graphics Cards

Radeon HD 4870 Series
Radeon HD 4850 Series
Radeon HD 4830 Series
Radeon HD 3870 Series,
Radeon HD 3850 Series
Radeon HD 2600XT (DDR4) Series
Radeon X1950 Series
Radeon X1900 Series
Radeon X1800 Series

Geforce 9800GT Series
Geforce 9600GT, GSO Series
Geforce 9500GT, 9400GT Series
Geforce 8800GT, GS, GTS(G92) Series
Geforce 8600GT, 8500GT Series
Geforce 7950 Series (except GX2)
Geforce 7900, 7800, 7600 Series
Geforce 6800, 6600 Series
(except 6600 AGP Series)
Quadro FX Series
(except 4600, 4700X2, 5600 Series)


 

Intel Socket 775

Supported Speed

AMD Socket AM2/AM2+

Supported Speed

Compatible CPUs

Core 2 Duo
Core 2 Quad
Pentium D:
-Prescott
-Cedar Mill
Celeron D

All Speeds
All Speeds

Up to 540
Up to 650
All Speeds

Phenom X4
Phenom X3
Athlon 64 X2
Athlon 64 FX
Athlon 64
Sempron

Up to 9850
All Speeds
All Speeds
Up to 53
All Speeds
All Speeds




A DETAILED LOOK AT THE ZALMAN VF2000 LED


The VF2000 LED was originally made as a VGA cooler, which allowed it to benefit from some of the features of that type of cooler. The low profile of the VF2000 LED lets it cool areas around the motherboard, through an airflow that is circulated from low areas to high by the action of the cooler’s built-in fan. But the fact that it was originally designed as a VGA cooler limits its size, producing a unit with less dissipation area than its competitors in the HTPC market. The hybrid concept behind the VF2000 LED may limit its efficiency when it comes to cooling a CPU.


The VF2000 LED has first-class finishing. The fans are made of aluminum with a thickness of 0.3 mm (0.01″). This improves the cooling of the component on which the unit is installed. The VF2000 LED has 4 heatpipes soldered to its base which are made of pure copper.


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Looking at the top of the VF2000 LED, we can see the heatpipes that run across it, and its fan. The fan is 92 mm (3.6″) in diameter and includes a blue LED that adds an elegant modding effect. Unfortunately, those who don’t like the light will have to get used to it – it can’t be deactivated.


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The fan is powered by a 3-pin connector that does not allow regulation of its rotation speed. However, for the VF2000 LED, as for many of its products, Zalman has included the FAN MATE 2. This is a controller that uses a potentiometer to adjust rotation speed as needed. When the adjustment wheel is turned completely counter-clockwise, the fan runs in Quiet Mode, at around 19 dBA. When turned clockwise, it runs in Performance Mode, at around 29 dBA. You can adjust the speed anywhere between these limits, to meet your needs.


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There’s nothing important to mention about the sides of the VF2000 LED. There are two engraved inscriptions that highlight the unit’s versatility and make it clear that it’s a hybrid cooler.


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The care with which the base of the VF2000 LED has been finished shows the high quality on which Zalman prides itself. The base has been polished to achieve an incredible mirror effect. This polishing is among the best we’ve ever seen.


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The unit’s small size, and its use of materials such as aluminum, give it a weight of only 290 grams (10.2 ounces).




INSTALLATION AND TESTING


Installing the VF2000 LED as a VGA cooler is very simple. Place the memory heatsinks included with the accessories over the graphics card’s memory chips. Then, install the Nipples (A) on the unit’s Retention Kit and tighten them from behind with nuts, as shown in the manual (the manual warns you to tighten them only by hand, not with tools). Finally, connect the fan’s cable.


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Follow the same guidelines to install the VF2000 LED on a CPU. Use the appropriate clip (A for Intel or B for AMD). Then install the Nipples (B) as shown in the manual, and tighten them from behind with nuts.


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The last step is connecting the fan. This can be done in two different ways. You can connect it directly to a 3-pin connector on the motherboard (which keeps you from controlling the fan speed). Or you can use the FAN MATE 2. This unit uses a cable with two connectors on one end. One connects to the motherboard, and the other to the VF2000 LED’s fan. The other end of the cable has a 6-pin connector that connects directly to the FAN MATE 2.You can install inside the case, or on the outside, using double-sided tape.


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To test the VF2000 LED’s performance, we used an AMD Phenom II X4 920 with a stock configuration. The Phenom II X4 920 is a 4-core processor that runs at 2.8 GHz. The voltage used in the test was 1.35 V.


Test Setup

Processor AMD Phenom II X4 920
Cooler Zalman VF2000 LED
Motherboard Sapphire PC-AM2RD790 – PURE CrossFireX
Graphics Card Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850
Sound Card Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1
Hard Disk Samsung SP2504C (SATA II, 7200 rpm, 8MB)
Memory Kingston HyperX DDR2 1066 2x2GB T1 Series
Power Supply Nexus RX-8500


To load the processor as much as possible, we used the OCCT 3.0.1 program, which keeps the processor load at around 99% for the 20 minutes that it takes to run the test.


We used the software to measure temperatures without load before starting the test, and without running any other application. We then measured the temperatures under load when the test completed. The results shown below were obtained with an environmental temperature of 22˚C (71.6˚F).


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This test of the VF2000 LED was very demanding, since we were working with one of the most powerful AMD processors on the market. The unit certainly achieved good temperatures without load, but when the processer was working at maximum load, the cooler’s performance suffered. The AMD Phenom II X4 920 registered a maximum working temperature of 62˚C (143.6˚F). This isn’t outstanding at all — quite the contrary. Zalman recommends that the VF2000 LED not be used with processors with over 110 W of TDP (Thermal Design Power). In this case, the processor had 140 W.



To summarize, you should keep in mind that the Zalman VF2000 LED isn’t the best cooler for high-range processors, but if you respect the limits imposed by the TDP, it can be a very interesting cooler for mid-range processors. It goes without saying that this is not an appropriate cooler for extreme overclocking, especially when using high-range processors.


To test the VF2000 LED on cooling a GPU, we used an ATI Radeon HD 4850. We ran various tests with the GPU operating at different speeds. We used the Furmark 1.7 test while running the Xtreme Burning Mode for 30 minutes per testing period. The unit’s fan was running at maximum speed.


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The results of the VGA tests were sensational. They clearly show that the VF2000 LED was designed from the start as a VGA cooler. The temperatures it achieved astonished us, especially since the VGA temperature never surpassed 50˚C (122˚F), even when running at full load. The VF2000 LED left plenty of room for overclocking our graphics card, letting us control the heat generated by the VGA card and therefore prolonging its life.


The fan noise produced in the various tests was minimal. Even when the fan was working at the highest speeds, the noise it generated was perfectly bearable, and not at all bothersome.


These tests showed the cooling efficiency of the Zalman VF2000 LED. As a CPU cooler it’s not among the best, especially with high-range processors. Still, when installed on a graphics card, it has above-average performance.




CONCLUSIONS


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Zalman has continued to pleasantly surprise us by launching a hybrid cooler that can be installed on a CPU and a VGA card. Although this is a very risky concept, Zalman’s quality thinking shows throughout the VF2000 LED. The result is a product with a unique design, well manufactured by this Korean company, and with sensational features. It stands out above all as a VGA cooler. The Zalman VF2000 LED costs about 38 Euros ($55). This is an extraordinary price for one of the most versatile products in the marketplace, one that will please anyone looking for a VGA cooler that can also be installed as a CPU cooler (rather than the reverse).


Strong Points

Weak Points

Great VGA cooling performance Nothing of importance
Materials and finishing
Silent operation
Includes FAN MATE 2
Anchoring system
Price


Packaging

0.5/0.5

Accessories

1/1

Quality and finishing

1.3/1.5

CPU cooling performance

1/1.5

VGA cooling performance

1.5/1.5

Loudness

2.5/3

Price

1/1

Total

8.8/10


The final score is 88 out of 100 owls and we give the “Zalman VF2000 LED Hybrid VGA/CPU Cooler” our Recommended Award.


TestSeek Labs Recommended 2009 Award

Thanks to Zalman for providing the VF2000 LED.


See all expert reviews of the VF2000 LED at TestSeek.com.


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Author: Noel Íñiguez Fernández

Translator: Ed Winograd

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