Zalman CNPS9900 MAX & CNPS5X CPU Coolers

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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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Articles of Related Interest
Thermalright Silver Arrow Dual 14cm Fan Cooler
Noctua NH-C14 Dual Fan Top-down CPU Cooler
Thermalright Shaman 140mm Fan GPU Cooler
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C & AC Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
Scythe Ninja 3 & Scythe Yasya CPU Heatsinks
SPCR's 2010 CPU Heatsink Test Platform [Updates: 10 April & 31 May]

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