Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on March 14, 2011


Hardware Secrets Bronze Award

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.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Package

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.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Accessories

In Figure 3, you can see the CNPS5X SZ.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 3: The Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU cooler

In the next pages, you will see this cooler in detail.

The Zalman CNPS5X SZ

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.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Front view

In Figure 5, you can see the side of the cooler.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Front view

In Figure 6, you check the cooler rear side. Here you notice the three "near U-shaped" heatpipes.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Rear view

In Figure 7, you can see the cooler from the top. The top fins are smaller than the middle ones.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Top view

The Zalman CNPS5X SZ (Cont'd)

In Figure 8, you see the base of the cooler. It is made of copper, smooth but with no mirrored aspect.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 8: Base

In Figure 9, you see the cooler without the fan.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 9: Heatsink

The 92-mm fan has a four-pin connector, which means it supports PWM speed control.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 10: Fan


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.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 11: Intel frame

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 12: Frame installed

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.

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 13: Installed according to the manual

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).

Zalman CNPS5X
click to enlarge
Figure 13: Correctly installed

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 (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.

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 is not 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

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 CNPS5X

Main Specifications

The main features of the Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU cooler include:

* Reseached at on the day we published this review.


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.

Originally at

2004-15 Clube do Hardware, all Rights Reserved.

Total or partial reproduction of the contents of this site, as well as that of the texts available for downloading, be this in the electronic media, in print, or any other form of distribution, is expressly forbidden. Those who do not comply with these copyright laws will be indicted and punished according to the International Copyrights Law.

We do not take responsibility for material damage of any kind caused by the use of information contained in Hardware Secrets.