Zalman CNPS9500 LED heatsink/fan

Cooling
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NOISE RECORDINGS

Zalman CNPS9500 integrated heatsink/fan:

MP3: Zalman CNPS9500 - 9V - 20 CFM / 33 dBA/1m

MP3: Zalman CNPS9500 - 7V - 16 CFM / 28 dBA/1m

MP3: Zalman CNPS9500 - 5V - 11 CFM / 23 dBA/1m

The 9500 at 12V was not recorded, because at 37 dBA/1m, it's simply too loud; there's no point.

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: Zalman CNPS7000 - 5V - 22 dBA/1m

MP3: Zalman CNPS7700 - 5V - 22 dBA/1m

MP3: Arctic Cooling Super Silent 4 Ultra TC, 22 dBA/1m

MP3: Arctic Cooling Freezer 4 - 7V - 20 dBA/1m

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone was 3" from the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake side of the fan to avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all recordings was 18 dBA or lower. It is best to download the sound files to your computer before listening.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing this Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA/1m) recording and set the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, all tone controls and other effects should be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system playback level to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The Zalman 9500 provides excellent cooling performance, close to the best that we've tested, the Scythe Ninja, and matches the Thermalright XP-120. It provides this performance even when airflow is reduced by undervolting the fan with the included Fanmate, a feature for which we've long applauded Zalman.

However, similar performance could be achieved at a lower noise level with the two heatsinks mentioned above by using a quiet Nexus 120mm fan. By contrast, the fan in the 9500 is a step backwards even from its predecessor, the Zalman 7000, which sounded nicer (if only slightly quieter) at the same voltage.

The performance of the heatsink, especially under low-airflow conditions, makes it an prime candidate for a fan swap. This is a more difficult procedure than a standard fan swap, but the results are likely to be well worth the effort. It's been done with both the Zalman 7000 and the 7700 series.

The wide range of supported platforms is in keeping with most other high-end heatsinks on the market today, and it is a valuable feature. Including installation hardware for all major sockets reduces confusion at the store and makes it easier for the retailer to stock the models you need.

The good airflow to the area around the CPU socket is not to be underestimated, especially for hot running CPUs. Keeping the voltage regulators on the motherboard cool is considered by Intel and AMD to be one of the key roles provided by the CPU heatsink/fan. The 9500 does this well even with low fan speed, despite its parallel-to-motherboard airflow path. Typical HS with this type of airflow have fins parallel to the motherboard that prevent any of the airflow from the fan from reaching the motherboard. The Ninja is a good example of this type of design. It is not conducive to good cooling for the voltage regulators. This is not a big deal for lower power CPUs, but definitely an issue with hotter ones. The price for poorly cooled voltage regulators is high temperatures around the CPU, reduced efficiency, and shortened motherboard life.

Compatibility may be improved over the original 7000 series, since the bulk of the heatsink is now elevated above the socket. However, the large size of the heatsink could still interfere with the power supply if the CPU socket is located near the top of your motherboard. Installation is straightforward as long as you read the directions and use the proper hardware for your motherboard, but it could take a fair amount of effort, especially if you need to remove the motherboard from the case. Slipping the mounting bracket between the heatpipes is also more trouble than it should have been.

All in all, the CNPS9500 is an excellent performing heatsink that rivals the best and will be at home even in the most powerful gaming systems. Although it is more expensive than either the Scythe Ninja or the Thermalright XP-120, keep in mind that neither of these includes either a fan or a fan controller. The CNPS9500 includes both of these, making it more complete and user friendly.

Pros

* Top-notch cooling performance
* Support for all recent CPU platforms
* Excellent low-airflow performance
* Included fan controller
* Low weight for an all-copper design

Cons

* Fan could be quieter
* Pricy
* Too big for some cases
* Complex Installation

Much thanks to Zalman Tech. for the CNPS9500 sample.

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