Zalman CNPS11X Extreme CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on May 9, 2011


Hardware Secrets Bronze Award

This time we are testing the Zalman CNPS11X Extreme CPU cooler. It has a V-shaped heatsink, one 120 mm fan and five heatpipes. Let's check its performance.

The CNPS11X Extreme box is relatively small, in black shades, as you see in Figure 1.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 1: Package

Figure 2 shows what comes with the cooler: thermal grease, manual, and installation hardware.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 2: Accessories

In Figure 3, you can see the Zalman CNPS11X Extreme.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 3: The CNPS11X Extreme

This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.

The CNPS11X Extreme

Figure 4 displays the cooler from the front side, where there is the 120 mm fan with blue LEDs.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 4: Front view

Figure 5 shows the side of the heatsink. Here you can see the five U-shaped heatpipes.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 5: Side view

Figure 6 illustrates the back side of the cooler. At the center, there is a plastic piece that seems to split the heatsink in two.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 6: Rear view

The CNPS11X Extreme (Cont’d)

Figure 7 presents the top of the cooler, where there is a plastic cap with the name of the product.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 7: Top view

Removing that cap and the fan, you can see that actually there are two independent heatsinks. Each one is small and is connected to all five heatpipes. The fan pushes the air into the empty space between the heatsinks.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 8: Without the cap

Figure 9 reveals the base of the CNPS11X Extreme. Like other Zalman coolers, this base is made of nickel-plated copper and has a perfectly mirrored surface.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 9: Base


In Figure 10, you can view the Intel clips installed on the base of the cooler. The clips for AMD systems are rather similar.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 10: Mounting clips for Intel CPUs

In Figure 11, you can observe the backplate that goes on the solder side of the motherboard, with the nuts already installed.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 11: Backplate with nuts

At the first time, we installed the CNPS11X Extreme on the position shown in Figure 12. But when we ran the tests, the performance was so poor that we removed the cooler to check installation. We detected that, on this position, one heatpipe was touching the heatsink of the chipset, avoiding contact between the CPU and the cooler with proper pressure.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 12: Installed in our system (bad performance)

So, we remounted the cooler on the position shown in Figure 13. This way, the cooler was properly mounted, and we could make the performance tests.

Zalman CNPS11X Extreme
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Figure 13: Installed in our system (good performance)

How We Tested

We tested the cooler with a Core i7-860 CPU (quad-core, 2.8 GHz), which is a socket LGA1156 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 3.3 GHz (150 MHz base clock and 22x multiplier), keeping the standard core voltage (Vcore), which was the maximum stable overclock we could make with the stock cooler. Keep in mind that we could have raised the CPU clock more, but to include the stock cooler in our comparison, we needed to use this moderate overclock.

We measured noise and temperature with the CPU idle and under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all threads, we ran Prime 95 25.11 with the "In-place Large FFTs" option. (In this version, the software uses all available threads.)

We compared the tested cooler to the Intel stock cooler with a copper base (included with the CPU), as well as with other coolers. Note that in the past, we tested coolers with a socket LGA775 CPU, and we retested some "old" coolers with this new methodology. This means you can find different values in older reviews than the values you will read in the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that accompanies it.

Room temperature measurements were taken with a digital thermometer. The core temperature was read with the SpeedFan program (available from the CPU thermal sensors), using an arithmetic average of the core temperature readings. During the tests, the left panel of the case was open.

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 case and video board cooler fans so they wouldn't interfere with the results. This measurement is only for comparison purposes, because a precise SPL measurement needs to be made inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, which isn't the case here.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

Software Used

Error Margin

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

Our Tests

The table below presents the results of our measurements. We repeated the same test on all coolers listed below. Each measurement was taken with the CPU at idle and at full load. In the models with a fan supporting PWM, the motherboard controlled the fan speed according to core load and temperature. On coolers with an integrated fan controller, the fan was set at the minimum speed on the idle test and at full speed on the full load test.


Idle Processor

Processor at Full Load

CoolerRoom Temp.NoiseSpeedCore Temp.NoiseSpeedCore Temp.
Intel stock (socket LGA1156)14 °C44 dBA1700 rpm46 °C54 dBA2500 rpm90 °C
Cooler Master Hyper TX3 G114 °C47 dBA2050 rpm33 °C56 dBA2900 rpm62 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme14 °C45 dBA1400 rpm27 °C53 dBA1950 rpm51 °C
Thermaltake Silent 115614 °C44 dBA1200 rpm38 °C49 dBA1750 rpm69 °C
Noctua NH-D1414 °C49 dBA1250 rpm27 °C49 dBA 1250 rpm53 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Performa14 °C46 dBA1500 rpm28 °C52 dBA1950 rpm54 °C
Prolimatech Megahalems14 °C40 dBA750 rpm27 °C60 dBA2550 rpm50 °C
Thermaltake Frio14 °C46 dBA1450 rpm27 °C60 dBA2500 rpm50 °C
Prolimatech Samuel 1714 °C40 dBA750 rpm40 °C60 dBA2550 rpm63 °C
Zalman CNPS8000A18 °C43 dBA1400 rpm39 °C54 dBA2500 rpm70 °C
Spire TherMax Eclipse II14 °C55 dBA2200 rpm28 °C55 dBA2200 rpm53 °C
Scythe Ninja317 °C39 dBA700 rpm32 °C55 dBA1800 rpm57 °C
Corsair A5018 °C52 dBA1900 rpm33 °C52 dBA1900 rpm60 °C
Thermaltake Jing18 °C44 dBA850 rpm34 °C49 dBA1300 rpm60 °C
GlacialTech Alaska18 °C43 dBA1150 rpm36 °C51 dBA1600 rpm60 °C
Deepcool Gamer Storm18 °C43 dBA1100 rpm35 °C48 dBA1600 rpm62 °C
Corsair A7026 °C56 dBA1900 rpm40 °C56 dBA1900 rpm65 °C
Deepcool Ice Blade Pro23 °C45 dBA1200 rpm38 °C52 dBA1500 rpm64 °C
AC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 223 °C47 dBA1750 rpm44 °C51 dBA2100 rpm77 °C
Corsair H7027 °C60 dBA1900 rpm37 °C60 dBA1900 rpm61 °C
Zalman CNPS9900 Max27 °C55 dBA1600 rpm38 °C58 dBA1750 rpm63 °C
Arctic Cooling Freezer 11 LP25 °C45 dBA1700 rpm51 °C49 dBA1950 rpm91 °C
CoolIT Vantage26 °C60 dBA2500 rpm37 °C60 dBA2500 rpm62 °C
Deepcool Ice Matrix 60025 °C46 dBA1100 rpm41 °C53 dBA1300 rpm69 °C
Titan Hati26 °C46 dBA1500 rpm40 °C57 dBA2450 rpm68 °C
Arctic Cooling Freezer 1327 °C49 dBA1950 rpm41 °C53 dBA2300 rpm70 °C
Noctua NH-C1426 °C52 dBA1300 rpm37 °C52 dBA1300 rpm61 °C
Intel XTS100H26 °C49 dBA1200 rpm42 °C64 dBA2600 rpm68 °C
Zalman CNPS5X SZ23 °C52 dBA2250 rpm38 °C57 dBA2950 rpm69 °C
Thermaltake SlimX321 °C50 dBA2700 rpm46 °C50 dBA2750 rpm99 °C
Cooler Master Hyper 10121 °C50 dBA2600 rpm38 °C57 dBA3300 rpm71 °C
Antec Kühler H2O 62019 °C52 dBA1400 rpm34 °C55 dBA1400 rpm58 °C
Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Pro20 °C46 dBA1100 rpm36 °C49 dBA1300 rpm62 °C
GlacialTech Siberia22 °C49 dBA1400 rpm34 °C49 dBA1400 rpm61 °C
Evercool Transformer 318 °C46 dBA1800 rpm33 °C51 dBA2250 rpm65 °C
Zalman CNPS11X Extreme20 °C51 dBA1850 rpm34 °C56 dBA2050 rpm61 °C

In the graph below, at full load you can see how many degrees Celsius hotter the CPU core is than the air outside the case. The lower this difference, the better is the performance of the cooler.

 Zalman CNPS11X Extreme

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the Zalman CNPS11X Extreme CPU cooler include:

* Researched at on the day we published this review.


The Zalman CNPS11X Extreme was made to be a lighweight high-end CPU cooler. However, there is a contradiction between those two statements because an air cooler must be heavy to be powerful. So, the CNPS11X Extreme didn't show the same performance level as the huge top-shelf coolers with which we are comparing it.

In general, this cooler is a good one. It looks nice, mainly when turned on, with the blue LEDs in the fan. The installation procedure is sturdy and relatively simple (it uses the same system found on other high-end coolers from Zalman, like the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX). When it comes to noise, the CNPS11X Extreme is not really quiet, but it's not as loud as the real high-end coolers. The price tag is high for the performance it offers.

In short, the Zalman CNPS11X Extreme has more style than performance, thus receiving the Hardware Secrets Bronze Award.

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