Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on March 14, 2011
This time we are benchmarking the Zalman CNPS5X SZ, a mainstream CPU cooler with a vertical heatsink, three U-shaped heatpipes and a 92 mm fan. Check it out!
Pay attention because Zalman offers two coolers with similar names, the CNPS5X and the CNPS5X SZ. The main difference is that the "SZ" model is sold only in the US and its fan uses a hydraulic bearing, while the other model is distributed in other countries and uses an "enter bearing".
The CNPS5X SZ is a tower cooler that resembles the Zalman CNPS8000A CPU cooler, which we already reviewed. Their heatsinks and fans are almost the same, but the CNPS8000A is a horizontal, low-profile cooler, while on the CNPS5X SZ the heatsink is vertical.The CNPS5X SZ box is small, as you can see in Figure 1.
In Figure 2, you can see what comes inside the box: the cooler itself, a motherboard frame for Intel CPUs, thermal compound, and a manual.
In Figure 3, you can see the CNPS5X SZ.
In the next pages, you will see this cooler in detail.
In Figure 4, you see the front of the cooler. The black 92-mm fan has a plastic frame on the upper and lower parts. The metallic clip for fastening the cooler is longer than the cooler, and this may cause trouble during installation.
In Figure 5, you can see the side of the cooler.
In Figure 6, you check the cooler rear side. Here you notice the three "near U-shaped" heatpipes.
In Figure 7, you can see the cooler from the top. The top fins are smaller than the middle ones.
In Figure 8, you see the base of the cooler. It is made of copper, smooth but with no mirrored aspect.
The 92-mm fan has a four-pin connector, which means it supports PWM speed control.
Installing the CNPS5X SZ on AMD CPUs is a breeze: you just need to hook it to the existing motherboard frame, fastening the screws to hold it in place. For Intel socket LGA775 or 1155/1156 CPUs, however, you will need to install the plastic frame shown in Figure 11 on your motherboard, using the existing holes. In Figure 12, we show this frame installed on our motherboard.
In Figure 13, you can see our first try to install the CNPS5X SZ in our system; the position is the one shown in the product manual. However, when we turned the computer on, it didn't even finish loading the operating system and shut down. We've removed the cooler and noted that it was barely touching the CPU, because one of the screws was blocked by the chipset heatsink. So we had to re-install the cooler, this time using it on a different orientation.
In Figure 13, you see the position we managed to install the CNPS5X SZ. Note the scratch at the chipset heatsink, made the first time we installed the cooler (Figure 12).
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 (in this version, the software uses all available threads) with the "In-place Large FFTs" option.
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.
Operating System Configuration
We adopted a 2 °C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.
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.
Processor at Full Load
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock (socket LGA1156)||14 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||46 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||90 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3 G1||14 °C||47 dBA||2050 rpm||33 °C||56 dBA||2900 rpm||62 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||14 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||27 °C||53 dBA||1950 rpm||51 °C|
|Thermaltake Silent 1156||14 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||49 dBA||1750 rpm||69 °C|
|Noctua NH-D14||14 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||27 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||53 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Performa||14 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||28 °C||52 dBA||1950 rpm||54 °C|
|Prolimatech Megahalems||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||50 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio||14 °C||46 dBA||1450 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||50 °C|
|Prolimatech Samuel 17||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||40 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||63 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8000A||18 °C||43 dBA||1400 rpm||39 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||70 °C|
|Spire TherMax Eclipse II||14 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||28 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||53 °C|
|Scythe Ninja3||17 °C||39 dBA||700 rpm||32 °C||55 dBA||1800 rpm||57 °C|
|Corsair A50||18 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||33 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||60 °C|
|Thermaltake Jing||18 °C||44 dBA||850 rpm||34 °C||49 dBA||1300 rpm||60 °C|
|GlacialTech Alaska||18 °C||43 dBA||1150 rpm||36 °C||51 dBA||1600 rpm||60 °C|
|Deepcool Gamer Storm||18 °C||43 dBA||1100 rpm||35 °C||48 dBA||1600 rpm||62 °C|
|Corsair A70||26 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||40 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||65 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Blade Pro||23 °C||45 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||52 dBA||1500 rpm||64 °C|
|AC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2||23 °C||47 dBA||1750 rpm||44 °C||51 dBA||2100 rpm||77 °C|
|Corsair H70||27 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||61 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||27 °C||55 dBA||1600 rpm||38 °C||58 dBA||1750 rpm||63 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 11 LP||25 °C||45 dBA||1700 rpm||51 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||91 °C|
|CoolIT Vantage||26 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||62 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Matrix 600||25 °C||46 dBA||1100 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C|
|Titan Hati||26 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||40 °C||57 dBA||2450 rpm||68 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 13||27 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||2300 rpm||70 °C|
|Noctua NH-C14||26 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||37 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||61 °C|
|Intel XTS100H||26 °C||49 dBA||1200 rpm||42 °C||64 dBA||2600 rpm||68 °C|
|Zalman CNPS5X SZ||23 °C||52 dBA||2250 rpm||38 °C||57 dBA||2950 rpm||69 °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.
The main features of the Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU cooler include:
At first, we weren't expecting the Zalman CNPS5X SZ to provide good performance. First, because it is smaller and lighter than most good-performance coolers we are used to test. Second, because its heatsink is very similar to the one we saw with the CNPS8000A, which wasn't a good performer. However, the CNPS5X SZ surprised us, performing nearly as well as some big, heavy coolers.
It is also relatively quiet and inexpensive. Its main problem is the compatibility issue: the piece that holds the screws is too long and can be blocked by the chipset heatsink or other motherboard parts, and you can even damage your motherboard if you aren't aware of this problem.
In any case, the Zalman CNPS5X SZ is a good-performance cooler, with a great cost/benefit ratio, so it receives the Hardware Secrets Bronze Award.