Zalman CNPS9900DF CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Coelho on October 26, 2012
Today we are testing the Zalman CNPS9900DF CPU cooler, which has two fans (one 120 mm and one 140 mm) and three heatpipes. We already tested two other members of the CNPS9900 family, the CNPS9900 NT and the CNPS9900 Max, each of them having only one fan. Actually, the “DF” in the name of the cooler stands for “dual fan.” Let’s see if that translates into higher performance.
The CNPS9900DF box has a front window that allows you to see the front of the cooler, as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: the cooler itself, a tube of thermal compound, manual, power Y harness, a case sticker, and installation hardware.
Figure 3 displays the Zalman CNPS9900DF.
This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
Figure 4 illustrates the front of the heatsink, where you can see the frontal 120 mm fan (1,000 rpm) with blue LEDs. You can also get a glimpse of the tips of two heatpipes at the base of the cooler.
Figure 5 reveals the side of the cooler, where you can see the second fan, which is a 140 mm (1,400 rpm) one, also with blue LEDs.
In Figure 6, you can see the top of the cooler.
The rear of the cooler is shown in Figure 7. You can also see the fan connectors; the front fan has a three-pin connector, while the middle one has a four-pin connector. This means that only the middle fan is PWM-compatible.
Figure 8 illustrates the bottom of the cooler. Notice that one heatpipe goes to the front heatsink (with both tips inserted into the base), while two heatpipes are inside the rear heatsink.
Figure 9 shows the base of the cooler, perfectly mirrored.
To install the Zalman CNPS9900DF, first prepare the backplate. You must install the four nuts in the holes that match your CPU socket, attaching it to the solder side of the motherboard. Figure 10 shows the backplate with the nuts installed in the socket LGA1155 position.
You also must screw the two metal clips on the base of the cooler, as shown in Figure 11.
Put the cooler in, holding it with four screws. Figure 12 shows the cooler installed.
Figure 13 shows the CNPS9900DF working, with the blue LEDs lit.
We tested the cooler with a Core i5-2500K CPU (quad-core, 3.3 GHz), which is a socket LGA1155 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 4.0 GHz (100 MHz base clock and x40 multiplier), with 1.3 V core voltage (Vcore). This CPU was able to reach 4.8 GHz with its default core voltage, but at this setting, the processor enters thermal throttling when using mainstream coolers, reducing the clock and thus the thermal dissipation. This could interfere with the temperature readings, so we chose to maintain a moderate overclocking.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all cores, 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 other coolers we already tested, and to the stock cooler that comes with the Core i5-2500K CPU. Note that the results cannot be compared to measures taken on a different hardware configuration, so 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 on the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that comes with 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 panels of the computer case were closed. The front and rear case fans were spinning at minimum speed in order to simulate the “normal” cooler use on a well-ventilated case. We assume that is the common setup used by a cooling enthusiast or overclocker.
The sound pressure level (SPL) was measured with a digital noise meter, with its sensor placed near the top opening of the case. 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.
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 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 full speed.
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Temp. Diff.|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3||18 °C||50 dBA||2850 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Corsair A70||23 °C||51 dBA||2000 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Corsair H100||26 °C||62 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||38 °C|
|EVGA Superclock||26 °C||57 dBA||2550 rpm||67 °C||41 °C|
|NZXT HAVIK 140||20 °C||46 dBA||1250 rpm||65 °C||45 °C|
|Thermalright True Spirit 120||26 °C||42 dBA||1500 rpm||82 °C||56 °C|
|Zalman CNPS12X||26 °C||43 dBA||1200 rpm||71 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||20 °C||51 dBA||1700 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Titan Fenrir Siberia Edition||22 °C||50 dBA||2400 rpm||65 °C||43 °C|
|SilenX EFZ-120HA5||18 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||70 °C||52 °C|
|Noctua NH-L12||20 °C||44 dBA||1450 rpm||70 °C||50 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8900 Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||2550 rpm||71 °C||50 °C|
|Gamer Storm Assassin||15 °C||48 dBA||1450 rpm||58 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 400||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||60 °C||45 °C|
|Cooler Master TPC 812||23 °C||51 dBA||2350 rpm||66 °C||43 °C|
|Deepcool Gammaxx 300||18 °C||43 dBA||1650 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Intel stock cooler||18 °C||41 dBA||2000 rpm||97 °C||79 °C|
|Xigmatek Praeton||19 °C||52 dBA||2900 rpm||83 °C||64 °C|
|Noctua NH-U12P SE2||18 °C||42 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C||51 °C|
|Deepcool Frostwin||24 °C||46 dBA||1650 rpm||78 °C||54 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Advanced||13 °C||56 dBA||2000 rpm||62 °C||49 °C|
|Xigmatek Dark Knight Night Hawk Edition||9 °C||48 dBA||2100 rpm||53 °C||44 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio Extreme||21 °C||53 dBA||1750 rpm||59 °C||38 °C|
|Noctua NH-U9B SE2||12 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||64 °C||52 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro||15 °C||54 dBA||2000 rpm||52 °C||37 °C|
|Deepcool Fiend Shark||18 °C||45 dBA||1500 rpm||74 °C||56 °C|
|Arctic Freezer i30||13 °C||42 dBA||1350 rpm||63 °C||50 °C|
|Spire TME III||8 °C||46 dBA||1700 rpm||70 °C||62 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Performer||11 °C||54 dBA||2000 rpm||49 °C||38 °C|
|Arctic Alpine 11 PLUS||11 °C||45 dBA||2000 rpm||82 °C||71 °C|
|be quiet! Dark Rock 2||10 °C||41 dBA||1300 rpm||58 °C||48 °C|
|Phanteks PH-TC14CS||16 °C||47 dBA||1300 rpm||58 °C||42 °C|
|Phanteks PH-TC14PE||16 °C||48 dBA||1300 rpm||57 °C||41 °C|
|SilverStone HE01 (Q)||19 °C||44 dBA||1150 rpm||63 °C||44 °C|
|SilverStone HE01 (P)||20 °C||57 dBA||2050 rpm||62 °C||42 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Extreme (S)||17 °C||44 dBA||1250 rpm||52 °C||35 °C|
|Thermaltake WATER2.0 Extreme (E)||17 °C||53 dBA||1900 rpm||50 °C||33 °C|
|Deepcool Neptwin||11 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||56 °C||45 °C|
|SilverStone HE02||19 °C||49 dBA||2000 rpm||64 °C||45 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900DF||23 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||68 °C||45 °C|
In the graph below, 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.
In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.
The main specifications for the Zalman CNPS9900DF CPU cooler include:
The Zalman CNPS9900DF is a great looking, quiet, very well-made, good performance CPU cooler, keeping the good name of the CNPS family.
The only flaw is the fact that it didn’t perform as well as its “older brother,” the CNPS9900 Max. With two fans, one would expect a better performance, but it didn’t happen. However, the difference was very small, and one can say that both coolers have almost the same performance level.
For all the qualities shown, the Zalman CNPS9900DF receives our Silver Award.