Zalman CNPS9900 NT CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on November 27, 2009


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 1: Box.

Inside the box we found the cooler, manual, installation hardware and a gray thermal coumpound syringe.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 2: Box contents.

In the next pages we will see Zalman CNPS9900 NT in details.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 3: Front view.

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 4: Side view.

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 5: Rear view.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT (Cont'd)

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 6: Top view.

In Figure 7 we can see the base of the cooler, with a perfect mirrored finishing.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 7: Base.
In Figure 8 we can see the ZM-STG2 thermal compound syringe that comes with the cooler, as well as an adapter that reduces the voltage received by the fan, which makes it spin at a lower speed and thus reducing its noise level.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 8: Accessories.

Installation

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).

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 9: AMD CPUs and socket LGA1366 clips.

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 10: Sockets 775 and 1156 hardware.

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.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 11: Installed on our motherboard.

In Figure 12 we can see the cooler installed in our case.

Zalman CNPS9900 NT
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Figure 12: Installed inside 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 and Megahalems Rev. B 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

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

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

Zalman CNPS9900 NT 

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 Specifications

Zalman CNPS9900 NT main features are:

* Researched on www.newegg.com on the day this review was published.

Conclusions

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.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Zalman-CNPS9900-NT-CPU-Cooler-Review/872


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