Zalman CNPS9900 NT CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on November 27, 2009
Today we are testing another cooler from Zalman, CNPS9900 NT. Its design is curious, with two circular heatsinks with heatpipes shaped like the Greek letter Ω (omega) with a 120 mm fan between them. But what about performance? Let's check it out in this review.
The box resembles the one used by CNPS9700 NT (also from Zalman), with shades of green and a window where we can see part of the cooler.
Inside the box we found the cooler, manual, installation hardware and a gray thermal coumpound syringe.
In the next pages we will see Zalman CNPS9900 NT in details.
CNPS9900 NT is amazing. From a front view (Figure 3) it looks like CNPS9700 NT, which also has the round-shaped heatsink with heatpipes inside the fins, made of nickel-plated copper, giving both durability and a nice dark looks.
In a side view, however, the difference between those two coolers is clear: on the other model there is only one heatsink, while on the CNPS9900 family there are two independent heatsinks, one in front and another behind the fan.
The front heatsink has only one heatpipe (with both tips connected to the base from the cooler), but the rear heatsink (shown in Figure 5) has two heatpipes. This, and the fact this heatsink is bigger and receives the direct airflow from the fan, made this heatsink responsible for the most of the heat exchange, and we can say that the front heatsink is an auxiliary one.
In Figure 6 we can see CNPS 9900 NT from above and notice a good distance between the heatsinks. The fan is transparent and glows green when working.
CNPS9900 NT supports sockets AM3, AM2+, AM2, 939 and 754 AMD processors and sockets 775, 1156 and 1366 Intel CPUs. In Figure 9 we see the AMD clip (left) and the Intel socket LGA1366 retention system (right).
In Figure 10 we can see the installation hardware for sockets 775 and 1156. With socket LGA775 you must use the black backplate on the left and the frame on the right. With socket LGA1156, however, the backplate is not used and the frame is attached to the motherboard using the black nuts shown at the bottom of Figure 10. In both cases you must have access to the solder side of the motherboard.
In Figure 11 we can see CNPS9900 NT installed on our motherboard. Despite of its size, it did not interfere with any motherboard component, staying away from the memory modules and heatsink from the chipset.
In Figure 12 we can see the cooler installed in our case.
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.
We adopted a 2 oC error margin, i.e., temperature differences below 2 oC are considered irrelevant.
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 and Megahalems Rev. B were tested at minimum speed on idle test and at maximum speed on full load test.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Fan Speed||Base Temp.||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock||14 °C||44 dBA||1000 rpm||31 °C||42 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (min)||17 °C||47 dBA||880 rpm||29 °C||36 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (max)||17 °C||59 dBA||1500 rpm||26 °C||34 °C|
|Akasa Nero||18 °C||41 dBA||500 rpm||26 °C||35 °C|
|Cooler Master V10||14 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||21 °C||26 °C|
|TMG IA1 (max)||16 °C||47 dBA||1500 rpm||22 °C||30 °C|
|TMG IA1 (min)||16 °C||57 dBA||2250 rpm||21 °C||30 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||16 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||21 °C||29 °C|
|Thermaltake ISGC-100||18 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||35 °C||49 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P (low)||15 °C||42 dBA||1000 rpm||20 °C||30 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P||15 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||20 °C||28 °C|
|Noctua NH-C12P||17 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||23 °C||28 °C|
|Thermaltake ISGC-200||21 °C||43 dBA||1100 rpm||31 °C||35 °C|
|Schythe Kabuto||22 °C||42 dBA||800 rpm||29 °C||34 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro||20 °C||43 dBA||1500 rpm||32 °C||39 °C|
|ISGC-300 (min)||18 °C||42 dBA||800 rpm||26 °C||30 °C|
|ISGC-300 (max)||18 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||24 °C||26 °C|
|SilverStone NT06-E||21 °C||66 dBA||2600 rpm||30 °C||41 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9700 NT||22 °C||48 dBA||1700 rpm||28 °C||35 °C|
|Scythe Mugen-2||17 °C||41 dBA||700 rpm||25 °C||30 °C|
|ISGC-400 (min)||17 °C||44 dBA||850 rpm||24 °C||30 °C|
|Cooler Master Vortex 752||20 °C||48 dBA||1700 rpm||32 °C||44 °C|
|iCEAGE Prima Boss (min)||22 °C||42 dBA||1000 rpm||29 °C||36 °C|
|Evercool Buffalo||17 °C||51 dBA||1850 rpm||22 °C||29 °C|
|Scythe Big Shuriken||20 °C||42 dBA||900 rpm||31 °C||39 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||21 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||30 °C||39 °C|
|Titan Skalli||20 °C||43 dBA||1200 rpm||27 °C||34 °C|
|Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B||21 °C||40 dBA||800 rpm||28 °C||32 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 NT||23 °C||45 dBA||900 rpm||30 °C||34 °C|
CPU Fully Loaded
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Fan Speed||Base Temp.||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock||14 °C||48 dBA||1740 rpm||42 °C||100 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (min)||17 °C||47 dBA||880 rpm||43 °C||77 °C|
|BigTyp 14Pro (max)||17 °C||59 dBA||1500 rpm||35 °C||70 °C|
|Akasa Nero||18 °C||48 dBA||1500 rpm||34 °C||68 °C|
|Cooler Master V10||14 °C||54 dBA||1900 rpm||24 °C||52 °C|
|TMG IA1 (max)||16 °C||47 dBA||1500 rpm||27 °C||63 °C|
|TMG IA1 (min)||16 °C||57 dBA||2250 rpm||25 °C||60 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||16 °C||51 dBA||1900 rpm||24 °C||50 °C|
|Thermaltake ISG-100||18 °C||50 dBA||1800 rpm||58 °C||93 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P (low)||15 °C||42 dBA||1000 rpm||28 °C||59 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P||15 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||25 °C||54 °C|
|Noctua NH-C12P||17 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||37 °C||76 °C|
|Thermaltake ISGC-200||21 °C||48 dBA||1900 rpm||42 °C||68 °C|
|Scythe Kabuto||22 °C||47 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||63 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Alpine 11 Pro||20 °C||51 dBA||2300 rpm||49 °C||85 °C|
|ISGC-300 (min)||18 °C||42 dBA||800 rpm||36 °C||64 °C|
|ISGC-300 (max)||18 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||31 °C||56 °C|
|SilverStone NT06-E||21 °C||66 dBA||2600 rpm||39 °C||96 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9700 NT||22 °C||56 dBA||2600 rpm||34 °C||63 °C|
|Scythe Mugen-2||17 °C||46 dBA||1300 rpm||28 °C||54 °C|
|ISGC-400 (max)||17 °C||47 dBA||1400 rpm||36 °C||69 °C|
|Cooler Master Vortex 752||20 °C||55 dBA||2300 rpm||48 °C||92 °C|
|iCEAGE Prima Boss (max)||22 °C||53 dBA||2000 rpm||35 °C||59 °C|
|Evercool Buffalo||17 °C||51 dBA||1850 rpm||32 °C||67 °C|
|Scythe Big Shuriken||20 °C||50 dBA||1500 rpm||51 °C||85 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||21 °C||53 dBA||2700 rpm||39 °C||66 °C|
|Titan Skalli||20 °C||47 dBA||1550 rpm||37 °C||69 °C|
|Prolimatech Megahalems Rev. B||21 °C||61 dBA||2600 rpm||30 °C||51 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 NT||23 °C||56 dBA||2000 rpm||34 °C||54 °C|
The next graph shows how many degrees Celsius the CPU core was hotter than room temperature during our idle tests.
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 CNPS9900 NT main features are:
* Researched on www.newegg.com on the day this review was published.
Zalman CNPS9900 NT has done very well in our tests. Its performance was on the same level as the best coolers we reviewed to date.
An intriguing detail was the fact that its fan has PWM control, but it did not work, and the fan was forever spinning at its minimum speed. So when we tested it with our CPU fully loaded we decided to connect it to another fan connector on the motherboard with no PWM pin. This way during this test the fan worked at its full speed. This may have given a little advantage to CNPS9900 NT compared to other coolers where the fan did not reached its maximum speed. We didn't discover the cause of the problem, if it was a problem with our motherboard or if the reviewed sample was defective.
Anyway, besides its great performance, CNPS9900 NT has a great looks, differing from the sameness of the coolers based on the tower design. It will surely claim for attention at LAN parties if you install it on a computer with a transparent side window. The green glow of the fan is weak but is also a plus.
Installation was tricky, but not too difficult. It demands you to remove the motherboard from the case, even if the motherboard tray has a hole to give up access to the solder side of the motherboard, because you need to hold the cooler in place while you screw the frame to the motherboard and this task can be very hard to do with the motherboard installed inside the case.
Zalman CNPS9900 NT is not inexpensive, but its price is compatible with other top-shelf coolers.
For all those characteristics, Zalman CNPS9900 NT deserves the Hardware Secrets Golden Award.