Zalman FX100 CPU Cooler Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on March 20, 2013


Introduction

The Zalman FX100 is a fanless CPU cooler with a huge cube heatsink and 10 heatpipes. Let’s test it with no fan, and also with one optional 92 mm fan, and see if it can cool our CPU. Check it out!

Although being advertised as a truly fanless CPU cooler, Zalman says that the use of an optional 92 mm fan is required when used with a socket LGA1366 or socket LGA2011 CPU. Actually, the product documentation says that it supports CPUs with a TDP up to 130 W when a fan is used, but there is no information about how many watts the FX100 supports in fanless operation.

Figure 1 shows the huge box of the FX100.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Package

Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: the cooler, a small bag of thermal compound, a manual, and installation hardware. This cooler does not come with any fan.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Accessories

Figure 3 displays the front of the cooler.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Front view

This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.

The Zalman FX100

Figure 4 illustrates the side of the Zalman FX100. Here you can see the curves of the heatpipes.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Side view

Figure 5 reveals the rear of the cooler. Notice that there are actually four heatpipes going through the base.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Rear view

Figure 6 shows a top view of the cooler, which is closed by a removable meshed plate.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Top view

Figure 7 unveils the bottom of the cooler. Two heatpipes go for the corners of the heatsink and two enter in the middle, where there are two independent heatsinks.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Bottom view

The Zalman FX100 (Cont’d)

Figure 8 shows the base of the cooler. It is a nickel-plated copper plate with mirrored finishing.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 8: Base

Removing the top cap, you can obtain a better idea of how the FX100 is made; there are four heatsinks at the sides, and two smaller heatsinks at the center. The optional fan goes between the inner heatsinks.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 9: Cover removed

Figure 10 unveils the FX100 without the plastic corners. Here you can see the six heatpipes that surround the cooler. Those heatpipes are soldered to the heatpipes that come from the base.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 10: Corners removed

Installation

Figure 11 shows the backplate for use with AMD and Intel processors, except for socket LGA2011 CPUs, with the nuts installed.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 11: Backplate

Install the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, and then the four spacers on the component side. Then place the two metal bars shown in Figure 12, holding them with four thumbnuts.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 12: Metal bars installed

The next step is a little tricky: you need to remove the cover from the cooler, put the heatsink over the CPU, and hold it in place with a third bar, fastening two screws at the first bars. But this bar and those screws are loose, and you need a very long Phillips screwdriver to fasten them, taking extra care so they do not fall from the holes.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 13: Heatsink installed

Installation (Cont’d)

After installing the heatsink, put the cover back in place. At the end of the process, it was one of the most annoying mounting systems we ever saw.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 14: Cover back in place

We tested the FX100 without any fan, and also with a 92 mm fan, which we removed from a Cooler Master Hyper TX3 cooler we had on hand. This fan has 2,800 rpm nominal speed, airflow of 54.8 cfm, 35 dBA of noise level, and 3.12 W power consumption. Figure 15 shows the cooler with the fan installed.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 15: Fan installed

We detected a little mounting problem with the Zalman FX100: as shown in Figure 16, the transversal bar is too long and touched the heatsinks of the motherboard. The cooler was firmly installed, but it may have lost a little pressure because of this problem.

Zalman FX100
click to enlarge
Figure 16: Mounting problem

How we tested

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.

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 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 ºC 51 °C
Corsair A70 23 °C 51 dBA 2000 rpm 66 ºC 43 °C
Corsair H100 26 °C 62 dBA 2000 rpm 64 ºC 38 °C
EVGA Superclock 26 °C 57 dBA 2550 rpm 67 ºC 41 °C
NZXT HAVIK 140 20 °C 46 dBA 1250 rpm 65 ºC 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
Deepcool ICE BLADE PRO V2.0 22 °C 43 dBA 1500 rpm 67 °C 45 °C
Phanteks PH-TC90LS 24 °C 47 dBA 2600 rpm 95 °C 71 °C
Rosewill AIOLOS 20 °C 40 dBA 1600 rpm 94 °C 74 °C
Corsair H60 20 °C 49 dBA 2000 rpm 64 °C 44 °C
Zalman LQ310 27 °C 51 dBA 2050 rpm 65 °C 38 °C
Noctua NH-L9i 24 °C 44 dBA 2500 rpm 95 °C 71 °C
NZXT Respire T40 20 °C 45 dBA 1850 rpm 76 °C 56 °C
NZXT Respire T20 21 °C 45 dBA 1900 rpm 77 °C 56 °C
Zalman LQ315 20 °C 52 dBA 1950 rpm 57 °C 37 °C
Corsair H80i (Quiet) 19 °C 44 dBA 1100 rpm 61 °C 42 °C
Corsair H80i (Maximum) 19 °C 57 dBA 2500 rpm 55 °C 36 °C
NZXT Kraken X40 (Silent) 25 °C 44 dBA 1050 rpm 66 °C 41 °C
NZXT Kraken X40 (Extreme) 25 °C 53 dBA 1650 rpm 62 °C 37 °C
Zalman LQ320 20 °C 52 dBA 2100 rpm 57 °C 37 °C
Corsair H100i (Quiet) 22 °C 45 dBA 1150 rpm 58 °C 36 °C
Corsair H100i (Maximum) 22 °C 61 dBA 2500 rpm 54 °C 32 °C
NZXT Kraken X60 (Silent) 26 °C 46 dBA 1000 rpm 62 °C 36 °C
NZXT Kraken X60 (Extreme) 26 °C 60 dBA 1650 rpm 60 °C 34 °C
Prolimatech Genesis Black Series 25 °C 46 dBA 1150 rpm 69 °C 44 °C
Phanteks PH-TC12DX 25 °C 51 dBA 1850 rpm 74 °C 49 °C
Corsair H90 23 °C 51 dBA 1550 rpm 61 °C 38 °C
Corsair H110 27 °C 58 dBA 1500 rpm 60 °C 33 °C
Evercool Venti 23 °C 49 dBA 2250 rpm 72 °C 49 °C
Thermalright Archon SB-E X2 22 °C 45 dBA 1400 rpm 68 °C 46 °C
Scythe Kabuto II 20 °C 41 dBA 1450 rpm 67 °C 47 °C
Prolimatech Megahalems Red Series 20 °C 51 dBA 1500 rpm 63 °C 43 °C
Zalman FX100 (fanless) 18 °C NA NA 98 °C 80 °C
Zalman FX100 (92 mm fan) 18 °C 50 DBA 2850 rpm 69 °C 51 °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.

Zalman FX100

In the graph below, you can see how many decibels of noise each cooler makes.

Zalman FX100

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the Zalman FX100 CPU cooler include:

Conclusions

After testing the Zalman FX100, one thing seems to be clear to us: there is no fanless cooler capable of cooling a high-end CPU, especially if it is overclocked. Even with all its size, the FX100 showed a barely reasonable cooling performance with a noisy fan installed.

Mounted with no fan, the FX100 didn’t handle our CPU, even considering it has a very light overclocking and that there was a case exhaust fan at the rear panel, very close to the cooler. The CPU reached the temperature limit and throttled down the clock. Maybe it can cool a low-TDP processor, but it seems pointless to install such a huge cooler if even the stock cooler cools the CPU better, with a very low noise level.

The Zalman FX100 was a complete disappointment. It may have a stunning look, but the installation system and the cooling performance have much to be improved.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Zalman-FX100-CPU-Cooler-Review/1749


© 2004-14, Hardware Secrets, LLC. 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.