The first thing on Zotac’s GeForce 8600 GT ZONE that grabs you is the massive fanless heatsink that almost covers the whole card. Before we get to that though, let’s make some more general observations about the card’s appearance.
Being a passively-cooled graphics card, it’s no surprise that Zotac has chosen to leave the card running at Nvidia’s reference clock speeds of 540MHz core, 1180MHz on the shader and 700MHz (1400MHz effective) for the memory. After all, the ZONE series is not designed with performance at the helm; instead cards in the family are designed for silence and their home theatre capabilities.
Above the heatsink on the top edge of the card, there is the SLI connector and also a small white socket that looks like a fan header. This is, in actual fact, the S/PDIF header that allows you to pass audio through the DVI port when you use the DVI-to-HDMI converter supplied in the box.
The PCB has been dyed a blue-green colour that’s strikingly similar to the colour used on BFGTech’s GeForce 8600 GTS OC2 ThermoIntelligence
, which we looked at not so long ago. Interestingly, the card uses 100 percent solid state aluminium capped capacitors. This is somewhat strange for a mid-range graphics card but a good sign of quality, as they help to deliver cleaner power.
Click to enlarge
Moving onto the card’s PCI blanking bracket, there are two DVI ports and an HDTV-out DIN socket. The two DVI ports are both dual-link capable and support HDCP at resolutions of up to 2560x1600. Having said that though, it’s questionable whether you’re really going to want to scale HD content (regardless of resolution) to 2560x1600, because you’re going to ruin the crispness that is one of the benefits of HD video – it just doesn’t look as good when you’re not mapping pixels 1:1.
Being a member of Zotac’s ZONE series, the heatsink is a completely passive design. It uses heatpipe technology to move the heat away from the GPU core into the large array of aluminium fins. Looking under the heatsink reveals that it doesn’t come into contact with the four GDDR3 memory chips on the board. It’d be stating the obvious to say they’re passively cooled because, given the design, that would be the case even if the heatsink came into contact with them!
Instead, Zotac has used rubber spacers to make sure that the cooler is installed properly and also to ensure that it won’t come into contact with any of the surface-mounted components. Coming into contact with components mounted on the PCB could result in a short circuit, which wouldn’t be particularly good for the card’s health prospects.
Click to enlarge
The portion of the heatsink that comes into direct contact with the GPU core is not surprisingly manufactured from 2mm thick copper (it’s almost the norm in this day and age) and this is screwed directly into the back of the large aluminium plate directly above it. Zotac has used two heatpipes in its design to help dissipate heat from the GPU core into cooler areas where convection can take over. They both come into contact with the copper plate and are both flattened at that end.
At the other end of the heatpipes though, the situation is slightly different. The one that runs under the array of aluminium fins is completely flattened, while there’s no evidence to suggest the other has also been under the hammer.
Zotac currently offers a two-year warranty that covers parts and labour on all of its products. In Europe, this is handled by PC Partner’s European service centre and is a fairly standard warranty in the region. We’d like to see something a little longer and that’s something we’ve certainly been passing back to Zotac. Despite hearing rumours that the warranty period would be extended when we reviewed Zotac’s GeForce 8800 GTX AMP! Edition in July, nothing has materialised yet.
However, we can say that the wheels are in motion for the company to start offering a longer warranty period than two years, but the details are no more concrete than they were when the information was originally leaked to us in July. There’s no confirmed timeframe for this to happen, but it still seems fairly safe to assume that Zotac will honour and extend existing warranties if the warranty period is extended in the future.