Zalman CNPS8700 LED CPU Cooler: Update of a Classic

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COMPARABLES

For a thorough comparison, we decided to put up the CNPS8700 against its bigger, vertically-oriented kin, the CNPS9700, and two of the relatively smaller coolers we've tested in the past: Thermalright SI-128 and Scythe Ninja Mini. Only the Thermalright is a blow-down design.

Note: All the Sound Pressure Level readings are in decibels with A-weighting at 1m distance.

Fan Voltage
Zalman CNPS9700
Zalman CNPS8700 LED
SPL
°C Rise
°C/W
SPL
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
40 dBA
13
0.17
40 dBA
16
0.21
9V
34 dBA
14
0.18
33 dBA
17
0.22
7V
30 dBA
17
0.22
28 dBA
19
0.24
5V
23 dBA
19
0.24
24 dBA
23
0.29

The CNPS9700, which weighs about 60% more than CNPS8700, performed only a few degrees better at each fan voltage level, while generating approximately the same amount noise. It's somewhat surprising that all that extra weight and dissipation area gains so little.

Thermalright SI-128
(Reference 120mm Fan)
Scythe Ninja Mini
(Stock Scythe 80mm Fan)
Zalman CNPS8700 LED
SPL
°C Rise
°C/W
SPL
°C Rise
°C/W
SPL
°C Rise
°C/W
n/a
n/a
n/a
28 dBA
19
0.24
28 dBA
19
0.24
22 dBA
21
0.27
22 dBA
21
0.27
24 dBA
23
0.29
19 dBA
26
0.33
19 dBA
24
0.31
n/a
n/a
n/a

Both the SI-128 and the Ninja Mini cool better with lower fan speeds and noise levels compared to the CNPS8700. With stock fans generating noise in the 28 dBA range, the Zalman matched the Mini's level of performance. It seems the CNPS8700 is a clear loser here, but when you take into account that its competitors are both almost two inches taller, you can't help but appreciate the effort given by the underdog. It's not the best performing heatsink, but for its size it's definitely an overachiever.

CONCLUSIONS

Taking into consideration its height and weight, the CNPS8700 is an excellent cooler, achieving better results than expected. It can't quite compete with larger, taller heatsinks, but isn't left in the dust either. It's relatively compact, beautiful to look at and provides very good cooling not just for the CPU but for the components around it. The lack of such cooling is a bit of a concern on many tower heatsinks with fans that don't blow down toward the motherboard but, rather, across it. This is especially true when such heatsinks are combined with very slow fans that blow little air (as so many PC silencers are apt to do).

The mounting system is perfectly secure for a heatsink of its weight. Compatibility is excellent; there aren't many situations where the CNPS8700 can't be used, unless the socket is very close to the edge of the board and there is minimal distance between the board and power supply.

The integrated fan, as with previous Zalman coolers, is unacceptably noisy except at the lowest speeds. Unless run at 6V or less, it can't even be considered close to quiet by anyone with healthy hearing. Why Zalman continues to utilize these fans is baffling. The 8700 has a great design with much potential, yet as with previous products, Zalman seem to treat fan selection as an afterthought. At least the Fanmate2 speed controller is provided so that the fan noise can be reduced. For hands-on readers, we suggest replacing the stock fan with something quieter. As mentioned earlier, the procedure should be much like that we employed to swap out the fan on the 9500.

Its 100% copper design also makes it fairly expensive; at $60, it's priced like an elite, high-end heatsink, but doesn't quite match the top performers at this price range. If you have the room, there are better quiet high performance cooler choices out there, but if you're tight for space we have no qualms recommending it. For a low-profile case, the Zalman CNPS8700 LED is probably one of the best option for CPU cooling.

Pros

* Good performance for its size
* Low profile and relatively light
* Excellent compatibility
* Easy to install
Cons

* Loud stock fan
* Expensive

Our thanks to Zalman Tech Co. for the CNPS8700 LED review sample.

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Articles of Related Interest:

Recommended Heatsinks
SPCR's unique heatsink testing methodology
SPCR's standard fan testing methodology
Scythe Ninja Mini
Thermalright SI-128
Zalman 9500

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