It seems like heat is also taken off the back side of the GPU, but that’s not quite right. The platform there only carries the backside heatsink and has a groove for the thermal pipe. The memory chips are cooled down by small aluminum heatsinks that have nothing to do with the main cooling system. It seems they are too small to perform their function, but that fan from Zalman helps here.
A special thin fan from Zalman, the ZM-OP1 model, is installed on the butt-end of the upper heatsink so that the airflow it generates goes to the two heatsinks cooling down the GPU and to the heatsinks on the memory chips.
The fan is connected via a standard 3-pin connector, so you can plug it right into the mainboard. However, you will hardly like the noise it produces. Zalman, an experienced maker of noiseless cooling solutions, offers a solution to the problem. They include a special adapter with the fan that allows connecting it to 12V or 5V power supply. In the first case, it works at its full speed (about 3,000rpm), in the second – at half of it (1,500rpm). When working at half of its speed, the fan makes no noise, but remains quite efficient at cooling.
The biggest disadvantage of the described cooling system is its enormous bulky size: the PCI slot next to the AGP will certainly be occupied. There is an advantage to it, though. The height of the fan is twice the height of the cooling system, so it can cool the graphics card and the PCI card below. The assembled system looks massive and it is such: the card feels heavy in the hand as it weighs about 700grams (only the heatsinks of the cooling system weight 325grams). That’s quite natural for a Zalman product, as some of the company’s coolers are as heavy as 750grams and more.
I won’t discuss the PCB design, since it doesn’t differ from the reference design (you can refer to our previous reviews for details, namely to the article called NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra against ATI RADEON 9800 XT: Shader Wars). Otherwise, this card differs slightly from other products featuring the RADEON 9800 XT VPU. The frequencies for the core and the memory are 412MHz and 365MHz (730MHz DDR), respectively.
The Overdrive technology works smoothly, unlike in some other cards I worked with, but you shouldn’t rely on it much. When it is enabled, the VPU works at 418MHz most of the time. The bonus of 6MHz is ridiculous.
“Manual” overclocking produced more tangible results: the core worked at 445MHz and the memory at 395MHz (790MHz DDR). This RADEON 9800 XT provided good 2D image, just like other cards on this VPU, in resolutions up to 1600x1200@85Hz.
The inherent disadvantage of this card is its clumsy cooling system. If you have many PCI cards in your system, you may encounter certain difficulties during installation of the Sapphire RADEON 9800 XT Ultimate Edition as the fan of the cooling solution will press against large expansion cards. Moreover, as I have said above, you should keep the first PCI slot free. There are exceptions like the ABIT NF7-S 2.0 mainboard, which we used in our testbed. The PCI slots on this mainboard are moved one position away from the AGP, as you remember.