Zalman’s solution is both an elegant and very flexible design that’s compatible with a broad range of videocards. In essence they simply rely on natural convection, either by the natural flow of air over the heatsink, or the dissipation of heat over a much larger surface area than was available with the original heatsink. In order to create as much surface area as possible the Zalman design uses two heatsinks, one attached to the front and one attached to the back of the videocard which are thermally coupled by using a heatpipe.
A closer look at the rear heatsink and the back plate that holds it into place.
A heatpipe uses a concept that we’ve grown accustomed to from our fridge, it uses evaporation and condensation to extract and dissipate heat from one end of the heatpipe to the other, effectively providing the thermal coupling that’s needed to pump heat from the front mounted heatsink to the one mounted on the back of the videocard. This also means that the room available on the back of the card is not wasted, if Zalman had just used a large heatsink on the front we’d lose more than just the first PCI-slot, we’d probably end up losing two or more. The Zalman ZM80A-HP is compatible with all recent ATI and Nvidia videocards, but to be sure do check their website for compatibility with your videocard.
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