Zalman CNPS9900DF Dual Fan Flower Heatsink

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Heatsink Comparison Tables

CPU Coolers (ref. 120mm fan): °C Rise Comparison
Heatsink
Fan voltage / SPL @1m*
12V
9V
7V
15~17 dBA
12~13 dBA
11~12 dBA
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme Rev.C
38
40
43
Thermalright Venomous X
38
41
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
Noctua NH-C14
39
42
48
Scythe Yasya
41
43
47
Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme
40
43
48
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
41
44
48
Thermalright Archon SB-E
42
43
49
Thermalright Ultra-120
42
45
49
Titan Fenrir
43
46
50
Scythe Ninja 3
44
47
49
Enermax ETS-T40
44
46
50
Noctua NH-C12P
43
47
51
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme
43
47
53
Swiftech Polaris 120
46
49
54
GELID GX-7 Rev.2
47
50
52
Zalman CNPS10X Flex
45
50
54
be quiet! Dark Rock 2
48
50
52
Cooler Master V8
46
50
54
GELID Tranquillo Rev.2
48
50
53
Reeven Kelveros
47
51
55
Scythe Grand Kama Cross
45
52
57
Zalman CNPS9900DF
(stock fans)
50
53
N/A
17 dBA
14 dBA
Antec Kühler H20 620
(pump at 7V, almost inaudible)
52
52
53
Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme Rev.2
49
52
58
Scythe Kabuto
51
53
60
*Note: there are minor differences in measured SPL due to the variety of fan orientations and mounting methods offered by the compared coolers.

Though it has two fans, given its size, we decided not to throw the CNPS9900DF against top-tier dual fan towers like the recently reviewed Phanteks PH-TC14PE. Instead, we mercifully placed in our single 120 mm fan cooler chart. Even with this lesser field of competition, it came out near the bottom at similar noise levels to heatsinks paired with our reference Nexus 120 mm 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

Zalman's signature flower design has gone through a lengthy period of evolution, upwards of a decade. Compared to its immediate predecessor, the CNPS9900 MAX, the main difference is that the CNPS9900DF is larger and armed with an extra fan. We weren't impressed with the MAX, and unfortunately, in the the DF, none of the issues we pointed out in the earlier model were addressed.

Our samples of the CNPS9900 MAX and LED models both had flat bases. The 9900DF sample, in comparison, has a slightly concave surface that doesn't make enough contact with our CPU heatspreader. Concavity in a HS base is an elementary no-no. This critical error is exacerbated by the lack of pressure supplied by the mounting system. We did not like it on the MAX, finding it both insufficient and inconvenient,. This time around, we had severe, hair-pulling difficulty with it. Upon reflection, it might be one of the worst mounting systems ever devised. The mounting clips are thin and bend easily, and the use of tiny hex screws that are so difficult to reach boggles the mind.

The DF is larger than the MAX with more surface area to take advantage of the added airflow from the second fan but the two fans are different, in size, speed, and acoustic character — they don't even use the same connectors! The fans sound different enough that they don't drown out each others' unpleasant characteristics. Instead they mix together into a muddy symphony of undesirable tones. Some reprieve can be found at very low fan speeds but at the sacrifice of any appreciable cooling performance. Being frameless, propped up precariously on two thin metal legs with no support on the sides doesn't help the fans at all. (In Zalman's defense it might have seemed like a good idea, as it is the same engineering principle used successfully for decades by real estate agencies and political campaigns to put up lawn signs.)

We can understand Zalman's reluctance to abandon the core radial fin design, and admittedly, they have one of the most attractive lines of heatsinks ever produced. But the execution has to be so much better than shown by our 9900DF sample for any chance of competitive success. Each successive flower heatsink version has used iterative improvements — more surface area, nickel-plating, a larger fan, a second fan — to improve performance, but without a sensible execution ensuring all the basic details are well covered, there's no way this historic series can compete. For US$90 MSRP, a CPU heatsink must provide top performance... and if our sample is representatively, the 9900DF doesn't even get close.

Our thanks to Zalman for the CNPS9900DF CPU cooler sample.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

SilverStone Heligon HE02: Monster Fanless CPU Cooler
Prolimatech Panther CPU Cooler
Phanteks PH-TC14PE Dual Fan CPU Heatsink
GELID GX-7 & Tranquillo Rev.2 CPU Coolers
be quiet! Dark Rock 2 Tower Heatsink
Enermax ETS-T40: Direct-Touch Heatpipe Cooler

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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.



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