Zalman 9300AT: Not me too, but me again

Cooling
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TEST RESULTS

Stock Fan Testing

The stock fan was tested briefly for its noise characteristics. The results were not surprising.

Voltage
Noise
RPM
12V
37 dBA@1m
2380 RPM
9V
30 dBA@1m
1790 RPM
7V
25 dBA@1m
1050 RPM
5V
21 dBA@1m
790 RPM
5V*
18 dBA@1m
790 RPM
*Test platform placed on soft foam

The CNPS9300 AT fan is very loud, especially at high speeds — an unfortunate trademark of Zalman fans. The CNPS9300 is subjectively poorer than its predecessors due to the vibrations transmitted by the fan — far more noticeable on this particular model than any of Zalman's previous coolers. When we placed the test board on foam, SPL dropped by 3 dBA at 5V. In addition, though the Zalman has finally gone with a PWM fan, reducing the fan voltage did not result in drastic reductions in fan speed as we typically see with PWM fans.

Cooling Results

Zalman CNPS9300 AT
Fan Voltage
SPL @1m
Temp
°C Rise
°C/W
12V
37 dBA
37°C
14
0.18
9V
30 dBA
40°C
17
0.22
7V
25 dBA
41°C
18
0.23
5V
21 dBA
46°C
23
0.29
Load Temp: CPUBurn for ~10 mins.
°C Rise: Temperature rise above ambient (23°C) at load.
°C/W: based on the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU (measured 78W); lower is better.

Fan @ 12V: Performance was excellent at 14°C above ambient temperature. This is only two degrees higher than the best load temperature we've ever recorded. Of course at 12V the fan was just plain loud. Very growly and aggressive. The vibration noise was somewhat masked by turbulence.

Fan @ 9V: The CPU temperature increased 3°C. The fan sounded less harsh, and more tonal, whiny.

Fan @ 7V: Thermal rise was an additional one degree. The fan exhibited chuffing and the vibrations became more noticeable.

Fan @ 5V: Cooling suffered another 5°C — it would seem the cooler's sweet spot is between 9V and 7V (roughly 1000~1800 RPM). The fan chuffed and clicked up close. The vibration though dominated the noise signature — it was very conspicuous, as if the fan were not secured properly.

Comparables

Though the noise measurements we took of the CNPS9300 AT were taken in our new anechoic chamber, items generating over 20 dBA@1m measure roughly the same in both our old and new testing facilities. Since all our measurements are over 20 dBA@1m, the results can be compared to those taken previously.

Zalman CNPS9300 AT: Comparables
Thermaltake V1
Zalman
CNPS9700
Zalman
CNPS9300 AT
SPL @1m
°C Rise
SPL @1m
°C Rise
SPL @1m
°C Rise
30 dBA
16
30 dBA
16
30 dBA
17
24 dBA
18
23 dBA
19
25 dBA
18
21 dBA
22
20 dBA
24
21 dBA
23

The performance of the CNPS9300 AT is eerily similar to two other loud heatsinks we've tested previously. There was very little measurable difference between the CNPS9300, CNPS9700 and another loud CPU cooler, the Thermaltake V1, at equivalent noise levels. Surprisingly, despite having only two heatpipes and a greatly reduced width and surface area, the CNPS9300 performs almost exactly the same as the CNPS9700. As the mounting system is the same, and fan is actually smaller, this suggests that the 9700 may have been bigger than it needed to be. (Editor's Note: On the other hand, with a significantly hotter CPU, you might see an advantage in the 9700. However, not many current CPUs run hotter than our test platform's Pentium D950, which has a TDP of 130W.)



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