ZEROtherm Zen FZ120

Review

posted 6/25/2008 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
Platforms: PC
ZEROtherm coolers have been pretty good performers from what we've seen here as they offer good performance at a good sound level. Their latest is the Zen FZ120 which is optimized for Intel Core 2 processors. Today we take a closer look at ZEROtherm's latest CPU cooler.

Designed similarly to the past coolers we've reviewed, the Zen FZ120 is a tall CPU cooler made of up a honeycomb design of aluminum fins. The fins dissipate the heat carried from four heat pipes that run through it. More surface area has been exposed in the Zen FZ120 over the Nirvana cooler. The four heatpipes connect to the base and bend back up the other side essentially giving you eight channels where the heat travel through. Gone is the butterfly design of its earlier products but you can almost see some aspect of it left if you look at the cooler from the top. The height of the cooler should not interfere with most cases. I was able to put it in a desktop cause with just enough clearance for the cover to be put on.

Cooler

The base is made of copper and like the previous ZEROtherm coolers it had a mirror finish. For those that want a nice smooth finish to the base, the Zen FZ120 delivers well in this category. The base is made of copper for maximum heat conductivity. As with the Nirvana, the Zen's base is completely flat and should offer a good contact with the CPU when installed.

Something that I didn't enjoy about the NV120 was the fan got in the way of reaching two screws that attach to the fan to the motherboard. The Zen FZ120 fixes this issue by having the fan be detachable. With the 120MM fan off the cooler, it's easy to reach the two screws that are obstructed on the NV120 making installation a lot easier. The 120MM fan is attached to the Zen FZ120 cooler via two metal clips that hold the fan in place with pressure on the corner fan holes. There are some vibration dampening strips that help cushion the connection between the fan and the cooler. In all honesty, I didn't think they were needed as I didn't hear any noise with the fan running that sounded like it was causes from being in contact with the cooler. Nevertheless, the strips are available in case you need it. The Zen FZ120 doesn't come with a dial to set the speed of the fan though so any adjustment made will need to go through the motherboard. With the fan running though, I was happy to see it being held onto the cooler pretty well with the metal clips. Easy to install, easy to remove, the metal clips are a simple and elegant solution for fan installation.

The Zen FZ120 comes complete with all you'll need to attach the cooler to an Intel or AMD CPU. Intel sockets supported include Socket 478, 771, 603, 604 while the AMD list consists of Socket 754, Socket F or Socket A. A complaint I had in the past was ZEROtherm wouldn't give you enough thermal paste to cover the area needed. I'd always have to supplement was was provided with my own. Thankfully, ZEROtherm has included a large tube of thermal paste with the Zen FZ120 so you'll have plenty of thermal paste this time around for your cooling needs.

Underside

Attaching the cooler to the motherboard was easy and followed the same procedure as the NV120. First you'll need to attach the right locking plate to the cooler. You secure the plate with four screws from the bottom. If you are attaching the cooler to an Intel CPU, there's a backplate you'll have to use on the underside of the motherboard. For those that already have the motherboard on the case, you'll need to remove it in order to get the backplate on. You'll need a Philips head screwdriver to attach the cooler to the backplate on the Intel setup. Each screw has a spring that helps put pressure down when you screw it in enabling a good contact with the CPU. For AMD CPUs, the tension clip is used to keep the cooler on the CPU.

For my test setup, I have an Intel E6400 Core 2 Duo on an ECS nForce 680i SLI motherboard running Windows XP. To test the setup, I used SpeedFan to gather the temperature data while I ran Orthos to stress both cores. First I took a reading while the system was idle and then I stressed the CPU for 10 minutes with Orthos. The results are as follows:

  Idle Load
Intel Stock 41C  / 46C 54C  /  58C
NV120 Fan Low 28C  /  30C 34C  /  36C
NV120 Fan High 28C  /  30C 33C  /  34C
Zen FZ120 28C  /  29C 35C /  37C

While it didn't perform as well as the NV120, the temperatures that the Zen FZ120 still held up pretty well. Under load it did a respectable 37 and 35 degrees Celsius on the two cores and it kept it that way long after the ten minute mark. What the Zen does do well though is make installation easier along with the ability to use another fan if need be. I don't know if I would run the setup fanless for a silent cooler but it is possible. ZEROtherm has addressed a few issues I had with the previous offerings of not enough thermal paste and the accessibility problems of two screws in the NV120 and turned out a pretty good cooler. The fan didn't have a manual adjustment control so you'll have to rely on the motherboard to control the fan. Overall, the fan's noise level was quiet and certainly wasn't a distraction while doing a good job in cooling the heatsink.

We've gone through a few ZEROtherm coolers here at Gaming Nexus and the Zen FZ120 continues the tradition of a solid performer from the company. While performance was slightly less than the NV120i in our testing situation, it still performed a lot better than stock and definitely took less time to install. For a good solid CPU cooler, the Zen FZ120 is a good pickup and will offer a reliable cooling solution as well as ease of installation provided you don't need to remove the motherboard to install a backplate on Intel systems.


A-
The issues from the previous cooler I looked at has been addressed here with an easier access to the support screws as well as including a generous portion of thermal paste this time around. I've always had good success with ZEROtherm coolers and the Zen FZ120 is no exception. Quiet and effective, the Zen FZ120 is a great good CPU cooler at a good price.



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