Zalman CNPS10X Flex CPU Cooler

Cooling
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Dual Fan Performance

°C rise Comparison: i7-965 @ 3.6GHz, 1.40V
Heatsink
Nexus 120mm fan voltage /
SPL @1m
12V
9V
7V
16 dBA
13 dBA
12 dBA
Noctua NH-D14
(two fans)
44
46
49
19 dBA
14 dBA
12 dBA
Noctua NH-D14
45
52
57
Prolimatech Megahalems
50
53
59
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
(two fans)
51
55
59
20 dBA
14 dBA
12 dBA
Thermalright U120 eXtreme
51
56
63
Noctua NH-U12P
53
56
60
Scythe Mugen-2
53
56
62
Thermalright U120
56
60
67
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
56
65
71

Adding a second Nexus 120mm fan to the Flex improved its cooling capacity dramatically, especially at the 9V and 7V levels, with an increase in performance of 10°C+. At 7V, it goes from being close to thermal failure to a top 3 contender. However, it's sad that with a second fan and of course higher noise levels, the Flex still fails short of the Megahalems with a single fan.

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Zalman CNPS10X Flex has some inherent advantages over the more extravagant CNPS10X Extreme. It sports a lower price-tag thanks to its lack of the Extreme's nickel coating, fan controller and loud stock fan. In addition, the mounting system has gone through a much needed overhaul. The Extreme ships with a several sets of mounting hardware to accommodate the different CPU sockets, lacks a backplate for LGA1366, and points the fan upward on AMD boards. The Flex on the other hand has a single backplate with a clever design that supports every modern socket, and on AMD platforms, the fan blows toward the side.

Despite the improved mounting scheme, the Flex failed to best the Extreme when it came to thermal performance. It was slightly less effective cooling our i7 processor at stock settings and just edged it out when we heated it up through overclocking/overvolting; in essence, the battle ended in a draw. Compared to the majority of tower heatsinks we've tested previously, they both delivered middling performance with our low airflow fan at full speed. When the fan was slowed down, things got ugly, with the Flex narrowly avoiding the CPU throttling experienced by the Extreme. With the heatsink being fairly deep and its fins so tightly spaced, a second fan or a single, higher speed fan is required to get the Flex to outshine top tier heatsinks.

That being said, the Flex is far from a terrible CPU cooler, after all it only trailed the best tower heatsinks by about 7°C when tasked with cooling a 130W Core i7. It is easily capable of adequately cooling all modern desktop processors at stock speeds, even quietly with the right fan. Also, it can be found online for as low as $45, cheaper than most of the high-end coolers on the market.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
PROS

* Simple and secure multi-socket mounting system
* AMD mounts in the "proper" orientation
* Good high airflow performance
CONS

* Poor low airflow performance

Our thanks to Zalman for the Zalman CNPS10X Flex heatsink sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

Noctua NH-D14 flagship dual-fan CPU cooler
SPCR's 2010 CPU Heatsink Test Platform
Scythe Top-Down Coolers: Kabuto vs. Zipang 2
Scythe Mugen-2 CPU Cooler
CNPS10X Extreme: Zalman's Extreme Makeover
Prolima Megahalems: A Mega Nehalem Cooler

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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