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Zalman CNPS9900 MAX & CNPS5X CPU Coolers

Two new CPU coolers from Zalman are put to task, the large radial style CNPS9900 MAX, and the CNPS5X, a lanky lightweight tower.

February 27, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
CNPS9900 MAX
CPU Cooler
CNPS5X SZ
CPU Cooler
Manufacturer
Zalman
Street Price
US$65~$70 US$25~$30

Today we look at a pair of Zalman CPU heatsinks, the CNPS9900 MAX, and the CNPS5X SZ. The CNPS9900 MAX is a large expensive performance cooler with a 140 mm fan and a legacy to live up to. It is the latest model to feature a variant of the radial heatsink design that brought Zalman to prominence so many years ago. The smaller CNPS5X arrives with very little fanfare. It’s an affordable light weight heatsink with a simple design lacking in both girth and style.

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX


CNPS9900 MAX package contents.

Zalman has gone through countless iterations of side-blowing radial style coolers, and the CNPS9900 MAX is the latest. We had thought the iconic flower heatsink design was abandoned after the release of the much more conventional CNPS10X tower series of coolers. The MAX is almost unchanged from the CNPS9900 LED except for nickel-plating. Zalman is counting on a larger fan and a revised mounting system to bring better fortune. The question is whether this is enough to make the MAX competitive — the CNPS9900 design is over two years old.

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX: Key Features
(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
Powerful Cooling Performance [Qmax: 300W]
Optimally designed pure copper fins effectively disperse heat away from the CPU via composite heatpipes, while the high capacity 135mm fan quickly cools the heatsink for stable operation of high performance CPUs.
An exaggeration perhaps?
Ultra Quiet 135mm Blue/Red LED Fan
An ultra quiet 135mm fan is incorporated for minimized noise. The Blue / Red LEDs heighten the cool aesthetics.
The larger fan is the main difference between the MAX and the LED version of the CNPS9900. Our sample only had red LEDs though…
Black-Pearl Nickel Plating
The entire copper heatsink of CNPS9900 MAX is ‘Black-Pearl’ Nickel Plated for long-term corrosion resistance, while the deep
‘Black-Pearl’ tone along with the high intensity Blue / Red LEDs reinforce its powerful aesthetics.
Nickel-plating is a standard feature on most high-end coolers.
PWM Fan Speed Control
The PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) Fan automatically adjusts fan speed (RPM) according to the CPU’s temperature, while the included Resistor Cable (RC7P) provides the option of reducing the input voltage for overall reduction of fan speed and noise.
A fan adapter with an inline resistor is included for slowing down the speed.
High Performance Super Thermal Grease ZM-STG2
The included all new high performance thermal grease ZM-STG2 maximizes heat transfer from the CPU to the base of CNPS9900 MAX for intensified cooling performance.
Included with all of Zalman’s latest heatsinks.

 

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Dimensions 94(L) x 131(W) x 152(H)mm
Weight 755g
Materials Pure Copper/Black-Pearl Nickel Plated
Dissipation Area 5,402cm2
Fan Bearing Long life bearing
Fan RPM RC7P Connected: 900 ~ 1,500 rpm ± 10%
RC7P Not Connected: 900 ~ 1,700 rpm ± 10%
Noise RC7P Connected: 18 ~ 27 dBA ± 10%
RC7P Not Connected: 18 ~ 30 dBA ± 10%
Compatible CPUs
Intel Sockets LGA775, LGA1155, LGA1156, LGA1366 (supports all speeds)
AMD Sockets AM2, AM2+, AM3 (supports all speeds)

Zalman CNPS5X SZ


CNPS5X package contents.

The CNPS5X SZ is in an entirely different category, costing just half as much as the CNPS9900 MAX. A mid-range budget tower heatsink, the CNPS5X has just three heatpipes and a 92 mm fan. According to Zalman, the 5X stands just 134 mm tall and weighs only 320 grams, making it one of the lightest aftermarket coolers. It has a lanky appearance that resembles a vertical version of the CNPS8000.

Zalman CNPS5X SZ: Key Features
(from the product
web page
)
Feature & Brief
Our Comment
Powerful Cooling Performance
Three heatpipes and aluminum fins are designed for maximum cooling while cooler setup quickly expels hot air out of the case.
Better than weak cooling performance.
Ultra Quiet 92mm Hydraulic Bearing Fan
An ultra quiet 92mm fan with EBR bearing is incorporated for minimized noise and excellent cooling.
The CNPS5X is different from the US-only SZ in that the former uses a different type of bearing for the fan.
PWM Fan Control
The PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) Fan automatically adjusts fan speed (RPM) according to the CPU’s temperature.
Standard.
Easy Installation
The cooler is designed with tool-less installation clip, making installation convenient.
The fewer parts we need to mess around with, the better.
High Performance Super Thermal Grease ZM-STG2M
The included all new high performance thermal grease
ZM-STG2M maximizes heat transfer from the CPU to the base of CNPS5X for intensified cooling performance.
Included with all of Zalman’s latest heatsinks.

 

Zalman CNPS5X SZ: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Dimensions 127(L) x 64(W) x 134(H)mm
Weight 320g
Materials Pure Copper, Aluminum
Fan RPM 1,400 ~ 2,800rpm ± 10%
Noise 20 ~ 32dBA ± 15%
Fan Bearing Hydraulic Bearing
Input Voltage 12V
Function PWM Control, Auto Restart
Compatible CPUs
Intel Sockets LGA775, LGA1155, LGA1156 (supports all speeds)
AMD Sockets 754, 939, 940, AM2, AM2+, AM3 (supports all speeds)

PHYSICAL DETAILS: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX

The CNPS9900 MAX is composed of a large copper base, six copper heatpipes, and 134 aluminum fins, all of which are nickel-plated. The fins and heatpipes are split into two spiral sections. By our measurements
it weighs approximately 770 grams and stands 151 mm tall.


The CNPS9900 MAX’s fins are very thin, measuring only 0.16 mm thick. The fin spacing is varied, given its radial nature, but the average separation at the center of the fins is a tight 1.59 mm.


The CNPS9900 MAX is essentially the same as the CNPS9900 LED pictured on the left, except it is nickel-plated from head to toe and has a larger fan mounted using a metal stand. The gap between the two fin sections measures 30 mm and the fan blades are only 16 mm thick.


The fan has a diameter of 130 mm, making it equivalent in size to a standard 140 mm box fan.


The fan is attached to a metal frame bolted to the mounting plate. There is a vestigial notch at the center of the plate that was used in previous Zalman designs for an AMD mounting clip.


The mounting plate is held onto the base with four screws.


The CNPS9900 MAX base is a little bit larger than the LED version and is like the rest of the heatsink, nickel-plated. The base is flat and well polished.

INSTALLATION: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. Tight mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally, it should
also be a simple procedure to minimize the potential of user error.


The mounting hardware is the same used in the CNPS10X Flex, except the Philips heads have been replaced with hexagonal screws. A long, thin hex screwdriver is included in the package. The only extra is a 4-pin PWM adapter with an inline resistor to decrease the fan’s speed.


Nuts are inserted in the appropriate socket holes and black plastic braces are slid in to immobilize them. To keep the backplate in place during installation, a piece of double-sided tape is placed at the center.


The mounting plate is loosened slightly so that the mounting clips can be inserted under the base. The screws are then re-tightened.


The nuts on the backplate do not go all the way through the mounting holes and the clips are thin. After mounting, the clips flex downward. This makes the mating tighter at the corners, but our guess is the tension at the center is not great. Also, the hex screwdriver has to be used at angle on the thicker side of the heatsink.


Fully installed on our LGA1366 motherboard (we installed the heatsink improperly — the fan should blow in the opposite direction away from the memory slots). On AMD boards the cooler is oriented in the same East-West direction.

PHYSICAL DETAILS: Zalman CNPS5X SZ

The CNPS5X SZ is composed of a copper base, three copper heatpipes, and a stack of 55 aluminum fins. By our measurements,
it weighs 310 grams and stands 134 mm tall.


The CNPS5X is a light, three heatpipe tower cooler with the equivalent of a 92 mm box fan.


The 4-pin PWM fan is held on with plastic hooks. There is not enough space for a standard 92 mm fan replacement unless the housing is discarded.


On average, the fins are 0.29 mm thick and densely packed with only 1.28 mm of separation. It is relatively thin, measuring only 64 mm across.


The three heatpipes are spread evenly through the heatsink. The fins narrow at the top and bottom where the fan housing clips on.


An AMD style retention mechanism is screwed onto the mounting plate and used for both AMD and Intel installations.


The base has a flat surface but a rough, striated finish.

INSTALLATION: Zalman CNPS5X SZ

The most critical aspect of installation is that the heatsink be securely
mounted. A firm mating results in good contact between the heatsink’s base and
the CPU heatspreader and more efficient heat conduction. Ideally it should
also be a simple procedure with the user having to handle as few pieces of
hardware as possible.


For Intel boards, a plastic retention ring is utilized with Zalman’s own pushpin mounting system. The black pins can be inserted in two orientations, one way for LGA775 and the opposite for LGA1155/1156.


Once the ring is mounted, the retention mechanism hooks onto two tabs, one on each side.


The clips have two positions, one for AMD and the other Intel.


The CNPS5X mounting system is superior to the stock AMD system because the clips can be loosened and gently slipped under the notches with little difficulty before tightening. With the standard AMD lever spring, you often have to struggle against the tension to clip it in place.


Fully installed on our AM3 test board.

TESTING

Before thermal testing, we took some basic physical measurements.

Approximate Physical Measurements
Model CNPS9900 MAX CNPS5X
Weight
770 g 310 g
Height 151 mm 134 mm
Fin count 134 55
Fin thickness
0.16 mm 0.29 mm
Fin spacing
1.59 mm 1.28 mm
Vertical Clearance*
39 mm 37 mm
Horizontal Overhang**
-15 mm -2 mm
* measured from the motherboard PCB to
the bottom fin of the heatsink.
** measured from the far edge of the heatsink to the top edge of the motherboard
PCB.

 

Comparison: Approx. Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Thermalright HR-01 Plus
0.45 mm
3.15 mm
Scythe Ninja 3
0.39 mm
2.64 mm
Noctua NH-U12P
0.44 mm
2.63 mm
Noctua NH-C12P
0.47 mm
2.54 mm
Noctua NH-D14
0.43 mm
2.33 mm
Prolimatech Armageddon
0.51 mm
2.08 mm
Prolimatech Megahalems
0.50 mm
2.00 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
0.40 mm
2.00 mm
Scythe Kabuto & Zipang 2
0.34 mm
1.94 mm
Scythe Mugen-2
0.31 mm
1.89 mm
Noctua NH-C14
0.38 mm
1.79 mm
Scythe Yasya
0.32 mm
1.78 mm
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
0.40 mm
1.70 mm
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
0.30 mm
1.70 mm
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
0.38 mm
1.66 mm
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
0.16 mm
1.59 mm
Thermalright Silver Arrow
0.32 mm
1.57 mm
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
0.43 mm
1.54 mm
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
0.56 mm
1.52 mm
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
0.42 mm
1.50 mm

 

Comparison: Approx. Average Fin Thickness & Spacing
Heatsink
Fin Thickness
Fin Spacing
Scythe Big Shuriken
0.33 mm
1.19 mm
Zalman CNPS5X
0.29 mm
1.28 mm
Gelid Slim Silence
0.57 mm
1.66 mm
Scythe Samurai ZZ
0.33 mm
1.74 mm
Gelid Silent Spirit
0.36 mm
1.77 mm
Xigmatek HDT-SD964
0.38 mm
1.86 mm
Prolimatech Samuel 17
0.56 mm
1.98 mm
Arctic Cooling Alpine 64
0.87 mm
2.11 mm
Scythe Ninja Mini
0.42 mm
3.46 mm

 

Testing on larger heatsinks are done on our
i7-1366 heatsink testing platform
, while smaller coolers tackle our AM3 heatsink testing platform. A summary of the test system
and procedure follows.

Key Components in LGA1366 Heatsink Test Platform:

  • Intel Core i7-965 Extreme
    Nehalem core, LGA1366, 3.2GHz, 45nm, 130W TDP.
  • Asus
    P6X58D Premium
    ATX motherboard. X58 chipset.
  • Asus
    EAH3450 Silent
    graphics card.
  • Intel
    X25-M
    80GB 2.5″ solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 3GB QiMonda
    DDR3 memory. 3 x 1GB DDR3-1066 in triple channel.
  • Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM
    650W ATX power supply. This PSU is semi-passively cooled. At the power levels
    of our test platform, its fan does not spin.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Noctua 140 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 140x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 120 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

Key Components in AM3 Heatsink Test Platform:

  • AMD Athlon II X4 630 AM3,
    2.8GHz, 45nm, 95W TDP.
  • Asus M4A785TD-V EVO ATX motherboard.
    785G chipset.
  • Kingston
    SSDNow V
    30GB 2.5″ solid-state drive. Chosen for silence.
  • 2GB
    Corsair Dominator
    DDR3 memory. 2 x 1GB DDR3-1800 in dual channel.
  • FSP Zen 300W
    ATX power supply. Fanless.
  • Arctic Silver
    Lumière
    : Special fast-curing thermal interface material, designed
    specifically for test labs.
  • Noctua 140 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 140x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 120 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 120x25mm
    fans)
  • Nexus 92 mm fan (used when possible with heatsinks that fit 92x25mm
    fans)

The systems are silent under the test conditions, except for the CPU cooling
fan(s).

Normally, our reference fans are used whenever possible, the measured details
of which are shown below.

Reference Noctua 140mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
28~29 dBA
1250 RPM
9V
21 dBA
990 RPM
7V
15~16 dBA
770 RPM
6V
13 dBA
660 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 120mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1100 RPM
9V
13 dBA
890 RPM
7V
12 dBA
720 RPM

 

Reference Nexus 92 mm fan
Anechoic chamber measurements
Voltage
SPL@1m
Speed
12V
16 dBA
1470 RPM
9V
12 dBA
1150 RPM

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to regulate
    the fan speed during the test.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digital
    audio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
  • Various other tools for testing fans, as documented in our
    standard fan testing methodology
    .
  • SpeedFan,
    used to monitor the on-chip thermal sensors. The sensors are not calibrated,
    so results are not universally applicable. The hottest core reading is used.
  • Prime95,
    used to stress the LGA1366 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    8 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores (with Hyper-threading) are
    stressed.
  • CPU Burn,
    used to stress the AM3 CPU heavily, generating more heat than most real applications.
    4 instances are used to ensure that all 4 cores are
    stressed.
  • CPU-Z,
    used to monitor the CPU speed to determine when overheating occurs.
  • Thermometers to measure the air temperature around the test platform
    and near the intake of the heatsink fan.

Noise measurements are made with the fans powered from the lab’s variable DC
power supply while the rest of the system was off to ensure that system noise
did not skew the measurements.

Load testing was accomplished using Prime95 or CPUBurn to stress the processor, and the
graph function in SpeedFan was used to ensure that the load temperature is stable
for at least ten minutes. The temperature recorded is the highest single core
reading. The stock fans were tested at various voltages to represent a good
cross-section of airflow and noise performance.

The ambient conditions during testing were 10~11 dBA and 21~23°C.

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX Fan Measurements

The CNPS9900 MAX is equipped with an 11-blade, translucent red LED fan with a width equivalent to a frameless 140 mm case fan. It is rated for 1700 RPM and 30 dBA ± 10%.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Avg. Speed
SPL@1m
12V
1600 RPM
32~33 dBA
9V
1260RPM
26~27 dBA
7V
1000 RPM
20 dBA
6V
850 RPM
16 dBA
5V
680 RPM
13 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

At higher speeds the fan was very whiny but at 1000 RPM and below the acoustic profile mellowed out considerably. It had a bit of a hum at 7V but at 5V~6V, all we could hear was turbulence. It was very quiet and pleasantly smooth with almost no tonal elements. Overall, it’s a huge improvement over previous fans from the CNPS7000/8000/9000 series.

The MAX ships with a RC7P fan adapter which lowered the fan speed to only 1420 RPM (the speed reached at ~10.5V). We’re puzzled as to why, as the adapter has almost no practical value.


At 6V, the MAX’s stock fan’s noise output was mainly broadband with little to no tonality.

Zalman CNPS5X SZ Fan Measurements

The CNPS5X is equipped with a 7-blade fan with a width equivalent to a frameless 92 mm case fan. It is rated for 2800 RPM ± 10% and 32 dBA ± 15%.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Avg. Speed
SPL@1m
12V
2700 RPM
34~35 dBA
9V
2150 RPM
29 dBA
7V
1600 RPM
21~22 dBA
6V
1340 RPM
18 dBA
5V
1070 RPM
14 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle from
the center of the heatsink.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA.

Though Zalman claims that the CNPS5X stock fan has fluid bearings, it sounded a lot like ball bearings to us. It was loud and whiny at 12V, and droned at 9V. It did not become quiet until it reached about 6V, and even then there was a low pitched hum being generated. Luckily this was only audible at close proximity, the overall noise character was reasonable at greater distance.


At 6V, the CNPS5X stock fan had some distinct undesirable tonal elements.

COOLING RESULTS: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
32~33 dBA
61°C
41
9V
26~27 dBA
62°C
42
7V
20 dBA
65°C
45
6V
16 dBA
67°C
47
5V
13 dBA
69°C
49
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (20°C)
at load.

The CNPS9900 MAX generated a thermal rise of 49°C to 41°C with the fan at 12V to 5V. While these results aren’t great, the heatsink retained much of its performance as the fan speed was decreased, particularly from 7V down to 5V.

Single Fan CPU Coolers (stock fan): °C Rise Comparison
SPL (dBA@1m)
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Scythe Yasya
40
43
Cogage TRUE Spirit
41
43
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
42
47
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
41
44
49
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
54
Scythe Ninja 3
44
46
Titan Fenrir
45
47
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
47
49
Coolermaster V8
49
56
AC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
55
62

Compared to other large, single fan CPU coolers all using their stock fans, the CNPS9900 MAX fares poorly, placing just two positions above the Coolermaster V8 and the last place Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2. These two heatsinks also use a fan between two banks of fins — it seems to be inherently difficult to make an effective CPU cooler using this approach.

Single Fan CPU Coolers (ref. 120mm fan): °C Rise Comparison
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Prolimatech Megahalems
38
41
44
Noctua NH-U12P
39
42
44
Scythe Mugen-2
39
42
45
Cogage TRUE Spirit 1366
40
42
45
Prolimatech Armageddon
40
42
46
Zalman CNPS10X Quiet
40
43
46
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX (stock fan)
6V
5V
n/a
47
49
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
45
52
57
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
Scythe Kabuto
51
53
60

Pit against heatsinks using our reference Nexus 120 mm fan, it’s more of the same with the MAX surpassed by most reviewed coolers. With the Nexus fan, the V8 draws even with the MAX, while the Freezer Xtreme trails it by only 2°C and 3°C respectively at the 16 and 13 dBA@1m levels. It’s not really a fair fight, as the MAX’s fan cannot be replaced with a better model without significant modification.

COOLING RESULTS: Zalman CNPS5X SZ

Zalman CNPS5X
Fan Voltage
SPL@1m
Temp
°C Rise
12V
34~35 dBA
37°C
17
9V
29 dBA
39°C
19
7V
21~22 dBA
43°C
23
6V
18 dBA
45°C
25
5V
14 dBA
48°C
28
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (20°C)
at load.

The CNPS5X is a loud cooler that does not become quiet until the fan voltage is decreased to about 6V. Fortunately the results at 6V and 5V were very good, with a thermal rise under 30°C on our AM3 heatsink test platform. This makes it one of the better lightweight coolers we’ve tested.

Small CPU Coolers: °C Rise Comparison
SPL (dBA@1m)
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
Scythe Ninja Mini
23
27
Xigmatek HDT-SD964
24
30
Xigmatek HDT-SD964
22
27
34
Scythe Samurai ZZ
25
31
Zalman CNPS5X
25
28
Scythe Samurai ZZ
29
30
32
Gelid Silent Spirit
30
36
Scythe Big Shuriken
30
37
37
Gelid Silent Spirit
35
43
53
Arctic Cooling Alpine 64
34
43
46
Coolers using stock fan in green, reference Nexus 92mm fan in blue.

The CNPS5X comes in second only to the Xigmatek HDT-SD964 in stock fan performance. While it is taller than most of the heatsinks listed above, it is also the lightest at 310 grams which makes its performance impressive. When compared to coolers equipped with our reference Nexus 92 mm fan, the CNPS5X falls to the middle of the pack. Like the CNPS9900 MAX, its stock fan cannot be replaced easily.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
setting again.

  • Zalman CNPS9900 MAX at 1m
    — 5V (13 dBA@1m)
    — 6V (16 dBA@1m)
    — 7V (20 dBA@1m)
    — 9V (26~27 dBA@1m)
    — 12V (32~33 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Zalman CNPS9900 MAX

When Zalman released the CNPS10X line, we expected the long-lived flower heatsink design to walk off into the sunset for a well-deserved retirement. The CNPS9000 series has failed to perform effectively against conventional tower coolers produced by the competition. The CNPS9900 MAX was a surprise in that a new iteration was introduced at all, especially with so little improvement over the last version.

A bigger fan adds some cooling proficiency but in the absence of a housing, it diffuses the airflow, its blades are too thin, and the gaps between the blades and the fin-stacks are too big. This particular fan does have better acoustics, sounding surprisingly smooth compared to most fans on previous heatsinks. However, any improvement in the new fan is counterbalanced by the mounting system borrowed from the CNPS10X Flex (the worst performing of the 10X series). The mounting clips apply too little pressure, bending noticeably at the corners when secured to the backplate. It does not apply enough tension at the center of the base where it is most vital.

The end product fails to achieve parity with even an average 120 mm fan tower cooler. Its price is also high given its performance, US$65~$70 at most online retailers. We can’t recommend it unless there are no alternatives and/or you require a shorter cooler. Its height is 10~15 mm lower than most big tower heatsinks.

Zalman CNPS5X SZ

The Zalman CNPS5X SZ is an impressive lightweight heatsink that holds its own against many of moderately-sized CPU coolers. It weight-to-cooling ratio is one of the best we’ve tested. It fares well against both the Scythe Samurai ZZ and Big Shuriken, though it isn’t quite up to par with direct-touch heatpipe models like the Xigmatek SD-964, or the now discontinued Scythe Ninja Mini. The mounting clip is superior to the stock AMD version, but we wish the fan could be replaced more easily.

Weighing 310 grams and standing 134 mm tall, the CNPS5X is lanky. The height precludes its use in smaller HTPC desktop enclosures, but if you have a small tower and prefer something lightweight, it is a perfect fit. With a street price of US$25~$30, it is on par with most 92 mm fan coolers. However, if you have a larger tower case (wide enough to accommodate a 120 mm fan at the back), we would suggest something bigger like the bargain performance cooler Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus, which can be found for less than US$25 at some retail outlets.


Recommended by SPCR
The Zalman CNPS5X is Recommended by SPCR.

Our thanks to Zalman for the CNPS9900 MAX and CNPS5X heatsinks samples.

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