Zalman CNPS10X Flex CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on February 19, 2010


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Silver Award

Some months ago we tested an excellent cooler from Zalman, CNPS10X Extreme. Today we are going to review another cooler from the same family, CNPS10X Flex. Will it perform like its brother? Let's see.

The name "Flex" stands for "Flexibility", meaning that the cooler doesn't come with a fan, allowing the user to choose the fan that best fits his or her needs.

The box is simple, with dark and blue shades.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 1: Box.

Inside the box we found the cooler, installation hardware, manual and a syringe of thermal compound.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 2: Box contents.

In Figure 3 we can see the cooler. An amazing detail is that it supports one or two fans. Also, if your CPU hasn't a high TDP and you have a well-ventilated case, you can use this cooler without adding any fan on it.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 3: CNPS10X Flex.

In the next pages we will see the cooler in details.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex

In Figure 4 we have a front view of CNPS10X Flex. The design is similar to CNPS10X Extreme, but with the heatpipes and fins showing their natural colors, except for the middle find, which are painted in black.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 4: Front view.

In Figure 5 we can see the rear of the cooler. You can install one or two fans (one at each side of the heatsink, improving the airflow).

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 5: Rear view.

In Figure 6 we have a side view, where you can notice the five heatpipes.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 6: Side view.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex (Cont'd)

In Figure 7 we can see the cooler top, with a black plastic cap, giving it a very nice looks.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 7: Top view.
In Figure 8 we see the base of the cooler. Finishing is so good that the surface reflects like a mirror.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 8: Base.
As CNPS10X Flex does not come with a fan, we had to pick one for our benchmarking. We chose SilverStone FM123, the same we used on our SilverStone NT06-E and Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B reviews. But note that the performance of this cooler will depend on the fan you pick.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 9: Fan installed.

Installation

CNPS10X Flex is compatible, according to the manufacturer's webpage, with socket LGA775, 1156, AM3, AM2+, AM2, 939 and 754 CPUs, but our sample didn't come with the clip for use it with sockets 939 and 754. But, frankly speaking, no one will buy a cooler like this to install on such obsolete CPU.

The clips that come with the cooler are simple and follow the same design. There is a pair of clips for Intel CPUs and another for AMD processors. In Figure 10 we can see the cooler with the Intel clips attached the base.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 10: Intel CPUs clips installed.

In Figure 11 we see the metallic backplate, which makes installation more stable and avoids the motherboard from bending due to the applied pressure. There is only one backplate used for all sockets, and all you have to do is to put the nuts in the correct place. An excellent system with plastic holders keeps the nuts in place during installation. So, the installation is very simple, even though you have to remove the motherboard from the case (unless it offers access to the solder side of the motherboard).

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 11: Backplate.

In Figure 12 we can see CNPS10X Flex installed on our motherboard, still without the fan. Note the thin black strips on the heatsink: they are strips of self-adhesive rubber that helps  absorbing noise and vibration from the fan.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 12: Installed on our motherboard.

In Figure 13, you can see the cooler installed inside our case, with the fan in place.

Zalman CNPS10X Flex
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Figure 13: Installed in our case.

How We Tested

We are adopting the following methodology for our CPU cooler reviews.

First, we chose the CPU with the highest TDP (Thermal Design Power) we had available, a Core 2 Extreme QX6850, which has a 130 W TDP. The choice for a CPU with a high TDP is obvious. To measure the efficiency of the tested cooler, we need a processor that gets very hot. This CPU works by default at 3.0 GHz, but we overclocked it to 3.33 GHz, in order to heat it as much as possible.

We took noise and temperature measurements with the CPU idle and under full load. In order to achieve 100% CPU load on the four processing cores we ran Prime95 with the "In-place Large FFTs" option, and three instances of the StressCPU program, all at the same time.

We also compared the reviewed cooler to the Intel stock cooler (with copper base), which comes with the processor we used, and also with some other coolers we have tested using the same methodology.

Temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer, with the sensor touching the base of the cooler, and also with the core temperature reading (given by the CPU thermal sensor) from the from the SpeedFan program, using an arithmetic average of the four core temperature readings.

The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed 4" (10 cm) from the fan. We turned off the video board cooler so it wouldn't interfere with the results, but this measurement is only for comparative purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which is not the case here.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 2 °C error margin, i.e., temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.

Our Tests

On the tables below you can see our results. We ran the same tests with the coolers shown on below tables. Each test ran with the CPU idle and the with the CPU fully loaded. On BigTyp 14Pro, TMG IA1, NH-U12P and ISGC-300 the tests were done with the fan at full speed and at minimum speed. The other coolers were connected directly to the motherboard and it controls the fan speed based on CPU load level and temperature on PWM models. ISGC-400, iCEAGE Prima Boss, Megahalems Rev. B, Thermaltake SpinQ VT and Zalman CNPS10X Flex were tested at minimum speed on idle test and at maximum speed on full load test.

CPU Idle

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseFan SpeedBase Temp.Core Temp.
Intel stock14 °C44 dBA1000 rpm31 °C42 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (min)17 °C47 dBA880 rpm29 °C36 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max)17 °C59 dBA1500 rpm26 °C34 °C
Akasa Nero18 °C41 dBA500 rpm26 °C35 °C
Cooler Master V1014 °C44 dBA1200 rpm21 °C26 °C
TMG IA1 (max)16 °C47 dBA1500 rpm22 °C30 °C
TMG IA1 (min)16 °C57 dBA2250 rpm21 °C30 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme16 °C44 dBA1200 rpm21 °C29 °C
Thermaltake ISGC-10018 °C44 dBA1450 rpm35 °C49 °C
Noctua NH-U12P (low)15 °C42 dBA1000 rpm20 °C30 °C
Noctua NH-U12P15 °C46 dBA1400 rpm20 °C28 °C
Noctua NH-C12P17 °C46 dBA1400 rpm23 °C28 °C
Thermaltake ISGC-20021 °C43 dBA1100 rpm31 °C35 °C
Schythe Kabuto22 °C42 dBA800 rpm29 °C34 °C
Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro20 °C43 dBA1500 rpm32 °C39 °C
ISGC-300 (min)18 °C42 dBA800 rpm26 °C30 °C
ISGC-300 (max)18 °C46 dBA1400 rpm24 °C26 °C
SilverStone NT06-E21 °C66 dBA2600 rpm30 °C41 °C
Zalman CNPS9700 NT22 °C48 dBA1700 rpm28 °C35 °C
Scythe Mugen-2 17 °C41 dBA 700 rpm25 °C30 °C
ISGC-400 (min)17 °C44 dBA850 rpm24 °C30 °C
Cooler Master Vortex 75220 °C48 dBA1700 rpm32 °C44 °C
iCEAGE Prima Boss (min)22 °C42 dBA1000 rpm29 °C36 °C
Evercool Buffalo17 °C51 dBA1850 rpm22 °C29 °C
Scythe Big Shuriken20 °C42 dBA900 rpm31 °C39 °C
Cooler Master Hyper TX321 °C44 dBA1700 rpm30 °C39 °C
Titan Skalli20 °C43 dBA1200 rpm27 °C34 °C
Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B21 °C40 dBA800 rpm28 °C32 °C
Zalman CNPS9900 NT23 °C45 dBA900 rpm30 °C34 °C
Cooler Master Hyper N62021 °C44 dBA1200 rpm28 °C34 °C
Nexus LOW-7000 R223 °C46 dBA1400 rpm33 °C42 °C
Evercool HPK-10025EA20 °C54 dBA1900 rpm27 °C34 °C
Evercool HPH-9525EA23 °C50 dBA1900 rpm38 °C49 °C
iCEAGE Prima Boss II23 °C42 dBA1000 rpm29 °C35 °C
Thermaltake SpinQ VT24 °C45 dBA950 rpm32 °C39 °C
Titan Fenrir21 °C42 dBA950 rpm29 °C35 °C
Zalman CNPS 10 Flex23 °C40 dBA800 rpm32 °C39 °C

CPU Fully Loaded

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseFan SpeedBase Temp.Core Temp.
Intel stock14 °C48 dBA1740 rpm42 °C100 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (min)17 °C47 dBA880 rpm43 °C77 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max)17 °C59 dBA1500 rpm35 °C70 °C
Akasa Nero18 °C48 dBA1500 rpm34 °C68 °C
Cooler Master V1014 °C54 dBA1900 rpm24 °C52 °C
TMG IA1 (max)16 °C47 dBA1500 rpm27 °C63 °C
TMG IA1 (min)16 °C57 dBA2250 rpm25 °C60 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme16 °C51 dBA1900 rpm24 °C50 °C
Thermaltake ISG-10018 °C50 dBA1800 rpm58 °C93 °C
Noctua NH-U12P (low)15 °C42 dBA1000 rpm28 °C59 °C
Noctua NH-U12P15 °C46 dBA1400 rpm25 °C54 °C
Noctua NH-C12P17 °C46 dBA1400 rpm37 °C76 °C
Thermaltake ISGC-20021 °C48 dBA1900 rpm42 °C68 °C
Scythe Kabuto22 °C47 dBA1200 rpm38 °C63 °C
Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro20 °C51 dBA2300 rpm49 °C85 °C
ISGC-300 (min)18 °C42 dBA800 rpm36 °C64 °C
ISGC-300 (max)18 °C46 dBA1400 rpm31 °C56 °C
SilverStone NT06-E21 °C66 dBA2600 rpm39 °C96 °C
Zalman CNPS9700 NT22 °C56 dBA2600 rpm34 °C63 °C
Scythe Mugen-2 17 °C46 dBA 1300 rpm 28 °C54 °C
ISGC-400 (max)17 °C47 dBA1400 rpm36 °C69 °C
Cooler Master Vortex 75220 °C55 dBA2300 rpm48 °C92 °C
iCEAGE Prima Boss (max)22 °C53 dBA2000 rpm35 °C59 °C
Evercool Buffalo17 °C51 dBA1850 rpm32 °C67 °C
Scythe Big Shuriken20 °C50 dBA1500 rpm51 °C85 °C
Cooler Master Hyper TX321 °C53 dBA2700 rpm39 °C66 °C
Titan Skalli20 °C47 dBA1550 rpm37 °C69 °C
Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B21 °C61 dBA2600 rpm30 °C51 °C
Zalman CNPS9900 NT23 °C56 dBA2000 rpm34 °C54 °C
Cooler Master Hyper N62021 °C50 dBA1650 rpm32 °C56 °C
Nexus LOW-7000 R223 °C53 dBA1900 rpm45 °C74 °C
Evercool HPK-10025EA20 °C54 dBA1900 rpm39 °C69 °C
Evercool HPH-9525EA23 °C50 dBA1900 rpm58 °C100 °C
iCEAGE Prima Boss II23 °C56 dBA2100 rpm32 °C56 °C
Thermaltake SpinQ VT24 °C52 dBA1500 rpm40 °C68 °C
Titan Fenrir21 °C50 dBA1600 rpm33 °C58 °C
Zalman CNPS 10 Flex23 °C61 dBA2600 rpm33 °C59 °C

The next graph shows how many degrees Celsius the CPU core was hotter than room temperature during our idle tests.

 Zalman CNPS10X Flex

The next graph gives you an idea on how many degrees Celsius the CPU core was hotter than room temperature during our full load tests.

 Zalman CNPS10X Flex

Main Specifications

Zalman CNPS10X Flex main features are:

* Researched at newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

When we tested CNPS10X Extreme a few months ago we were very impressed by its rock-solid aspect and by its performance. Today testing its "little brother" we also liked the results. Although CNPS10X Flex is not as beautiful as its most expensive brother - at least in our opinion, but taste is a very personal matter -, it performed practically the same as the other model.

You must keep in mind, however, that even being less expensive than CNPS10X Extreme, you still need to buy a good fan (or even two) in order to use it. At the end, it is not an inexpensive solution.

How the cooler will look inside your case will depend on the fan you pick, from a classic black one to a multicolor LED fan. So, this product has a reason for the "Flex" on its name, fitting the taste of the user.

Being a nice-looking cooler, with an easy and dependable holding system, versatile and with an excellent performance, Zalman CNPS10X Flex deserves the Hardware Secrets Silver Award.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Zalman-CNPS10X-Flex-CPU-Cooler-Review/928


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