Review: Silent, but overclockable HDMI card
Zotac's Zone Edition cards are passively cooled ones, i.e. no noise at all, and that is one desirable feature. We have already seen that Zotac was one of the first partners to show off Nvidia HDMI ready cards, with audio as of the signal that goes over the HDMI cable to your HDTV capable screen.
Nvidia's HDMI signal transferring is a bit different then the one implemented on ATI Radeon HD 2000 cards, where audio goes directly over the card, generated inside the GPU itself.
Nvidia cards need an external SPDIF cable to get audio from the motherboard header or the sound card. The required cable is bundled inside Zotac's box, along with the with DVI to HDMI adapter. The bottom line is that it works, and the card is dead silent.
Zone Edition has 8500GT and 8600GT cards, for now at least. For your viewing pleasure we got a Zotac Geforce 8600GT Zone Editon 256MB GDDR3 D/D/VO card, that can also be found as a ZT-86TEQ2P-PSL.
The most noticeable feature is the large heatsink which covers most of the card, but the good thing is that the card is still a single slot solution.
Like any other 8600 GT cards, this one also doesn't need an additional power connector since it gets all the required power from the PCIe slot. Since it is a passively cooled solution, good case airflow is a must.
The heatsink is a clean and simple looking design and it's mostly made out of aluminum. For better heat transfer, it has a copper base. Heat is then transfered and dissipated from the aluminum fins, and you can also see the heat pipe that connects the copper base to the aluminum part. No surprise, the card is a bit heavier then the Nvidia reference cooled card.
If you want to use two of these cards in SLI mode, you will need some very good airflow inside your case, since the temperature easily goes over 100 °C without good airflow. With some decent case cooling fans, the situation is a lot different, even when overclocked the card stays under 80 °C.
Passively cooled cards are mostly meant for those who want a silent computer, so the reference clocks on the Zotac's 8600 GT aren't a very important issue.
The GPU works at 540 MHz, while the memory works at 700MHz. With the proper airflow inside the case you can even get decent overclocking results, since we managed to get the core all the way up to 674MHz, stable of course.
This result gets even better if you place an additional fan near the card. Zotac uses Hynix mHY5RS123235 FP-14, 1.4ns GDDR3 memory which we managed to overclock up to 735MHz. Geforce 8600 GT has a 128-bit memory interface.
The Zotac Zone Edition's other specifications are the same as Nvidia's reference Geforce 8600 GT design. Support for DirectX 10, Shader Model 4.0, and the Shaders that ended up at a reference 1180MHz.
This time Zotac made a small box that isn't too big like every other we came upon. It is small enough, but at the same time big enough to fit a card and the rest of the bundle. The DVI to HDMI adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, S-Video to HDTV cable, and a small cable to get the audio from external source to SPDIF connector on the graphic card. You can also find the short manual and the driver CD.