Zalman CNPS9900 LED: The End of the Nines

Cooling
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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 10 second segments of room ambience, 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.

Reference Comparatives

FINAL THOUGHTS

The CNPS9900 LED is Zalman's best performing heatsink to date. It is the most successful of the many adaptations of the original flower heatsink design, but it's still a long way from the best heatsinks unless the fan is cranked all the way up. It's a big, lumbering giant, that pound for pound and dollar for dollar, just does not keep up with the competition.

The CNPS9900 fan, like others from Zalmans, is poor acoustically and spins far too fast for our liking. The placement of the fan in the center of the cooler is dubious — we've never found such designs to be very good. The large gap between the fan and the rest of the heatsink only exacerbates problem. The plastic shroud also ruins the CNPS9900's aesthetics — it looks like it's going for a frivolous whiplash lawsuit.

Continuing to recycle the same heatsink with various tweaks and tricks can only garner so much improvement. And while Zalman continues to modify the CNPS9000 series, heatsinks from Thermalright, Noctua, and Xigmatek are handing them their lunch. Yes, Zalman, your CNPS coolers were revolutionary — classic products on the cutting edge of silent computing. For that, we thank you from the bottom of our silent hearts. But the way you've dragged the design through time with various disguises makes us think of Weekend At Bernie's. Time to move on.

Zalman CNPS9900 LED
PROS

* Secure mounting systems
* Good high airflow performance
CONS

* Fan too loud
* Poor low airflow performance
* Expensive

Our thanks to Zalman Tech Co. for the CNPS9900 LED heatsink sample.

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POSTSCRIPT, Jan 9, 2009: Zalman CNPS9900 LED, Unshrouded (overleaf, on page 8)

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