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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

This time we tested Zalman CNPS10X Extreme CPU cooler, which is based on the now traditional "tower" design, with five U-shape heatpipes connecting the base to the heatsink. The main feature from this cooler is its speed controller, nicely designed. But will its performance be better than the one from its competitors? Check it out!

CNPS stands for "Computer Noise Prevention System". This means that this cooler targets silence. Altought, according to Zalman, it has the incredible TDP of 340 W.

The black box does not show how the cooler looks; the front window let us see only the semi-transparent 120 mm fan.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 1: Box.

Inside the box, besides the cooler, there is a user manual, installation hardware, a tube with ZM-STG2 thermal compound and an extension wire that allows you to instal "PWM Mate" controller outside the case.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 2: Accessories.

Removing CNPS10X from the box we were really impressed with its robustness, as well as the fact it is entirely black, from the plastic parts down to the heatpipes and base, which are nickel-plated in order to achieve a black metal looks. Even the fan power cable is black.

The only "non-black" part is the 120 mm fan, which is made in translucid plastic. At its center blue LEDs glow when the fan is working.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 3: Zalman CNPS10X Extreme.
CNPS10X Extreme tough aspect is in part due to the thick heatsink fins. Because of this, the cooler is pretty heavy: 2 lbs (920 g). Anyway, it is a very impressive piece of hardware.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 4: Side view.

[nextpage title=”Introduction (Cont’d)”]

The top part from CNPS10X Extreme is covered by a (black, of course) plastic cap with a simple logo showing the cooler model. At the center we can see the "PWM Mate", the fan rotation speed controller. This controller has two LEDs, one push-button and a potentiometer.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 5: Top view.

An amazing feature of this controller is that it can be removed from the cooler, as you can see in Figure 6. The cooler comes with an extension wire and a double-sided adhesive tape that allows you to put PWM Mate wherever you want, inside or outside your case.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 6: Rear view with PWM Mate removed.

In Figure 7, you can see PWM Mate. It works very easily: pressing the push button, the cooler changes the working mode between manual or three auto modes. The LEDs show which is the current mode. In manual mode, a green LED lights and the fan speed is controlled by the potentiometer found on controller edge. In auto mode, the other LED lights in blue, purple or red, indicating low, medium or high mode, respectively.

On the automatic modes, the motherboard controls the speed of the fan, but you can limit the maximum rotation in order to find the best balance between performance and noise according to your personal taste or needs. On the three automatic modes the fan spins at a minumum of 1,000 rpm, with a maximum of 1,500 rpm on low mode, 1,950 rpm on medium mode and 2,150 rpm on high mode. The best part is that you can do all this very easily and intuitively.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 7: PWM Mate.
The cooler base and the five heatpipes are made of nickel-plated copper, with a beautiful dark metallic luster. In Figure 8, you can see a screw reflected on the cooler base.
Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 8: Nickel-plated base.

[nextpage title=”Installation”]

CNPS10X Extreme can be installed on AMD sockets AM3, AM2+, AM2, 939, 940 or 754 processors. With these CPUs you just need to put the cooler in place and then attach the clip that comes with it.

It is also compatible with Intel sockets 775, 1366 and 1156 processors. To install the cooler on one of these CPUs, first you need to attach a frame on your motherboard. This frame, which can be seen in Figure 9, is attached to the motherboard through four pegs. You can also choose to use a plate on the botton side of the motherboard for improved resistence. This installation is not on the user manual, but on a spare paper sheet; it looks like Zalman included this plate on newer models of this cooler. If your case has no back window that allows you to reach the back side of the motherboard you will need them to remove the motherboard from the chassis to install this plate.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 9: Socket LGA775 frame.

After installing the frame you just need to put the respective metal piece on the cooler base, put the cooler in place an then screw it to the frame. All this procedure is easy to be done, after you understand how to do it, because the user manual is not very clear about it.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 10: Instaled in the case.

Blue LEDs glow inside the fan, with a pretty nice effect, as you can see in Figure 11.

Zalman CNPS10X ExtremeFigure 11: Fan LEDs glowing.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

We are adopting the following metodology on 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: as we want to measure how efficient is 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 at the same time Prime95 in "In-place Large FFTs" option and three instances of StressCPU program.

We also compared the reviewed cooler to 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 SpeedFan program. For this measurement we used 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 done inside an acoustically insulated room with no other noise sources, what we do not have.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows XP Professional installed on FAT32 partition
  • Service Pack 3
  • Intel Inf driver version:
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 182.08

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 2 °C error margin, i.e., temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.

[nextpage title=”Our Tests”]

On the tables below you can see our results. We ran the same tests with Intel stock cooler, Thermaltake BigTyp 14Pro, Akasa Nero, Cooler Master V10, Thermaltake TMG IA1 and Zalman CNPS10X Extreme. Each test was made with the CPU idle and the with the CPU fully loaded. On BigTyp 14Pro and TMG IA1, the tests were done with fan at full speed and at minimum speed. With Intel stock cooler, Akasa Nero and V10 the motherboard controls the fan speed based on CPU load level and temperature. On CNPS10X Extreme we tested it with its fan at the "high" auto mode, which allows the fan to adjust speed between its minimum and maximum rotation.

CPU Idle

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. speed) 17 °C 47 dBA 880 rpm 29 °C 36 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed) 17 °C 59 dBA 1500 rpm 26 °C 34 °C
Akasa Nero 18 °C 41 dBA 500 rpm 26 °C 35 oC
Cooler Master V10 14 °C 44 dBA 1200 rpm 21 °C 26 °C
TMG IA1 (max. speed) 16 °C 47 dBA 1500 rpm 22 °C 30 °C
TMG IA1 (min. speed) 16 °C 57 dBA 2250 rpm 21 °C 30 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme 16 °C 44 dBA 1200 rpm 21
29 °C

CPU Fully Loaded

Cooler Room Temp.


Fan Speed Base Temp. Core Temp.
Intel stock 14 °C 48 dBA 1740 rpm 42 °C 100 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (min. speed) 17 °C 47 dBA 880 rpm 43 °C 77 °C
BigTyp 14Pro (max. speed) 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. speed) 16 °C 47 dBA 1500 rpm 27 °C 63 °C
TMG IA1 (min. speed) 16 °C 57 dBA 2250 rpm 25 °C 60 °C
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme 16 °C 51 dBA 1900 rpm 24 °C 50 °C

On the graph below you can see the temperature difference between the cooler base and the room temperature with the CPU idle and fully loaded. Values shown are in Celsius degrees. Remember that the lower the number the better is cooling performance.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

On the next graph you can have an idea on how many Celsius degrees was CPU core hotter than room temperature during the tests.

 Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme main features are:

  • Application: Socket LGA1366, 1156, 775, AM3, AM2+, AM2 and 939 processors.
  • Fins: Aluminum.
  • Base: Nickel-plated Copper.
  • Heat-pipes: Five U-shape copper heat-pipes.
  • Fan: 120 mm.
  • Fan speed: from 1,000 to 2,150 rpm.
  • Fan air flow: not specified.
  • Maximum power consumption: not specified.
  • Nominal noise level: above 20 dBA.
  • Weight: 2,0 lbs (920 g).
  • More information: https://www.zalman.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 75.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Zalman has been a very well known brand for high-performance coolers for a long time. But most of their famous coolers use a round design with the heatsink fins squeezed in the center. CNPS10X Extreme, however, uses a different design: it has a tower shape with heatpipes, and its black looks gives an excellent impression. In other words, this cooler is simply beautiful!

"PWM Mate" fan controller is fantastic, we have never seen something so practical. It allows CNPS10X Extreme to be very quiet when no extreme cooling power is required, and also allows that you choose between sacrificing silence for a better cooling or better cooling over silence.

But what made us to be amazed was its performance. It not only faced Cooler Master V10 – which had the best performance until now – as an equal, but it kept our CPU four degrees Celsius colder! And without a TEC plate to help with the job.

After all, we have no other expression to describe this product: Wow, what a cooler!

If you are looking for a great performer and great-looking CPU cooler with a fair price (not cheap, however), Zalman CNPS10X Extreme is a nice choice.