We saw the Zalman CPNS12X for the first time during the CES 2011, and we were impressed by its size, since it is the world’s first CPU cooler with three fans. The manufacturer has finally released this cooler, and it is time for us to review it.
The CNPS12X’s huge box can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: the cooler itself, thermal compound, a manual, power adapter, a case sticker, and installation hardware.
Figure 3 displays the Zalman CNPS12X.
This cooler is discussed in detail in the following pages.
[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS12X”]
Figure 4 illustrates the front of the cooler. The heatsinks are round-shaped, but the heatpipes are disposed side-by-side inside them.
Figure 5 reveals the side of the heatsink, where you can see how large it is. Here we can see the three fans.
The rear side of the cooler is presented in Figure 6. Here is the fan that pulls the air from the second heatsink.
[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS12X (Cont’d)”]
Figure 7 shows the top of the cooler, where you can see the tips of the heatpipes.
The base of the cooler is seen in Figure 8. Notice that the six nickel-plated copper heatpipes keep direct contact to the CPU. There are no gaps between the heatpipes at the base; gaps occur frequently in the newer direct-touch heatpipes’ coolers.
The wires from the three fans are connected to a single three-pin connector, as you see in Figure 9.
Figure 10 reveals the backplate used to install the CNPS12X on all CPUs except for those with socket LGA2011. You must install the nuts at the backplate in the holes matching the socket used by your CPU.
After putting the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, you need to attach four thumbscrews from the component side, installing two metal pieces over them, as shown in Figure 11.
After installing the frame, put the cooler over the CPU and hold it in place, screwing the transversal holder to the frame.
All three fans present on the CNPS12X have blue LEDs. Figure 13 shows the cooler turned on.
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
We tested the cooler with a Core i7-860 CPU (quad-core, 2.8 GHz), which is a socket LGA1156 processor with a 95 W TDP (Thermal Design Power). In order to get higher thermal dissipation, we overclocked it to 3.3 GHz (150 MHz base clock and 22x multiplier), keeping the standard core voltage (Vcore), which was the maximum stable overclock we could make with the stock cooler. Keep in mind that we could have raised the CPU clock more, but to include the stock cooler in our comparison, we needed to use this moderate overclock.
We measured noise and temperature with the CPU idle and under full load. In order to get 100% CPU usage in all threads, 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 the Intel stock cooler with a copper base (included with the CPU), as well as with other coolers. Note that in the past, we tested coolers with a socket LGA775 CPU, and 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 in the next page. Every cooler was tested with the thermal compound that accompanies 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 left panel of the case was open.
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 case and video board cooler fans so they wouldn’t interfere with the results. 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 isn’t the case here.
- Processor: Core i7-860
- Motherboard: Gigabyte P55A-UD6
- Memory: 2 GB Markvision (DDR3-1333/PC3-10700 with 9-9-9-22 timings), configured at 1,200 MHz
- Hard disk: Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB
- Video card: Zotac GeForce GTS 250
- Video resolution: 1680×1050
- Video monitor: Samsung Syncmaster 2232BW Plus
- Power supply: Seventeam ST-550P-AM
- Case: 3RSystem L-1100 T.REX Cool
Operating System Configuration
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1
We adopted a 2 °C error margin, meaning temperature differences below 2 °C are considered irrelevant.
[nextpage title=”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 idle and 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 minimum speed on the idle test and at full speed on the full load test.
Processor at Full Load
|Cooler||Room Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.||Noise||Speed||Core Temp.|
|Intel stock (socket LGA1156)||14 °C||44 dBA||1700 rpm||46 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||90 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper TX3 G1||14 °C||47 dBA||2050 rpm||33 °C||56 dBA||2900 rpm||62 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Extreme||14 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||27 °C||53 dBA||1950 rpm||51 °C|
|Thermaltake Silent 1156||14 °C||44 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||49 dBA||1750 rpm||69 °C|
|Noctua NH-D14||14 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||27 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||53 °C|
|Zalman CNPS10X Performa||14 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||28 °C||52 dBA||1950 rpm||54 °C|
|Prolimatech Megahalems||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||50 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio||14 °C||46 dBA||1450 rpm||27 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||50 °C|
|Prolimatech Samuel 17||14 °C||40 dBA||750 rpm||40 °C||60 dBA||2550 rpm||63 °C|
|Zalman CNPS8000A||18 °C||43 dBA||1400 rpm||39 °C||54 dBA||2500 rpm||70 °C|
|Spire TherMax Eclipse II||14 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||28 °C||55 dBA||2200 rpm||53 °C|
|Scythe Ninja3||17 °C||39 dBA||700 rpm||32 °C||55 dBA||1800 rpm||57 °C|
|Corsair A50||18 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||33 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||60 °C|
|Thermaltake Jing||18 °C||44 dBA||850 rpm||34 °C||49 dBA||1300 rpm||60 °C|
|GlacialTech Alaska||18 °C||43 dBA||1150 rpm||36 °C||51 dBA||1600 rpm||60 °C|
|Deepcool Gamer Storm||18 °C||43 dBA||1100 rpm||35 °C||48 dBA||1600 rpm||62 °C|
|Corsair A70||26 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||40 °C||56 dBA||1900 rpm||65 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Blade Pro||23 °C||45 dBA||1200 rpm||38 °C||52 dBA||1500 rpm||64 °C|
|AC Freezer 7 Pro Rev. 2||23 °C||47 dBA||1750 rpm||44 °C||51 dBA||2100 rpm||77 °C|
|Corsair H70||27 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||1900 rpm||61 °C|
|Zalman CNPS9900 Max||27 °C||55 dBA||1600 rpm||38 °C||58 dBA||1750 rpm||63 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 11 LP||25 °C||45 dBA||1700 rpm||51 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||91 °C|
|CoolIT Vantage||26 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||37 °C||60 dBA||2500 rpm||62 °C|
|Deepcool Ice Matrix 600||25 °C||46 dBA||1100 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||1300 rpm||69 °C|
|Titan Hati||26 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||40 °C||57 dBA||2450 rpm||68 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 13||27 °C||49 dBA||1950 rpm||41 °C||53 dBA||2300 rpm||70 °C|
|Noctua NH-C14||26 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||37 °C||52 dBA||1300 rpm||61 °C|
|Intel XTS100H||26 °C||49 dBA||1200 rpm||42 °C||64 dBA||2600 rpm||68 °C|
|Zalman CNPS5X SZ||23 °C||52 dBA||2250 rpm||38 °C||57 dBA||2950 rpm||69 °C|
|Thermaltake SlimX3||21 °C||50 dBA||2700 rpm||46 °C||50 dBA||2750 rpm||99 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper 101||21 °C||50 dBA||2600 rpm||38 °C||57 dBA||3300 rpm||71 °C|
|Antec Kühler H2O 620||19 °C||52 dBA||1400 rpm||34 °C||55 dBA||1400 rpm||58 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Pro||20 °C||46 dBA||1100 rpm||36 °C||49 dBA||1300 rpm||62 °C|
|GlacialTech Siberia||22 °C||49 dBA||1400 rpm||34 °C||49 dBA||1400 rpm||61 °C|
|Evercool Transformer 3||18 °C||46 dBA||1800 rpm||33 °C||51 dBA||2250 rpm||65 °C|
|Zalman CNPS11X Extreme||20 °C||51 dBA||1850 rpm||34 °C||56 dBA||2050 rpm||61 °C|
|Thermaltake Frio OCK||15 °C||44 dBA||1000 rpm||27 °C||64 dBA||2200 rpm||51 °C|
|Prolimatech Genesis||18 °C||49 dBA||1050 rpm||30 °C||49 dBA||1050 rpm||54 °C|
|Arctic Cooling Freezer XTREME Rev. 2||15 °C||41 dBA||1050 rpm||32 °C||44 dBA||1400 rpm||60 °C|
|NZXT HAVIK 140||16 °C||48 dBA||1250 rpm||29 °C||49 dBA||1250 rpm||55 °C|
|Antec Kühler H2O 920||18 °C||41 dBA||650 rpm||29 °C||64 dBA||2500 rpm||49 °C|
|Zalman CNP7X LED||18 °C||45 dBA||1950 rpm||33 °C||48 dBA||2150 rpm||58 °C|
|EVGA Superclock||14 °C||43 dBA||1300 rpm||27 °C||58 dBA||2350 rpm||47 °C|
|Evercool Transformer 4||15 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||26 °C||53 dBA||1950 rpm||52 °C|
|Xigmatek Dark Knight||18 °C||47 dBA||1700 rpm||30 °C||53 dBA||2150 rpm||57 °C|
|Xigmatek Aegir||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||27 °C||50 dBA||1950 rpm||52 °C|
|Cooler Master GeminII S524||16 °C||45 dBA||1300 rpm||29 °C||53 dBA||1800 rpm||58 °C|
|Enermax ETS-T40-TA||16 °C||40 dBA||1050 rpm||28 °C||48 dBA||1800 rpm||55 °C|
|Corsair H80||14 °C||42 dBA||2150 rpm||25 °C||52 dBA||2150 rpm||47 °C|
|Akasa Venom Voodoo||13 °C||40 dBA||1000 rpm||26 °C||48 dBA||1500 rpm||51 °C|
|Xigmatek Thor’s Hammer||15 °C||44 dBA||1500 rpm||30 °C||50 dBA||2000 rpm||55 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper 612 PWM||19 °C||45 dBA||1400 rpm||30 °C||52 dBA||1900 rpm||54 °C|
|Xigmatek Loki||17 °C||44 dBA||1850 rpm||34 °C||55 dBA||2750 rpm||60 °C|
|Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO||14 °C||44 dBA||1250 rpm||26 °C||50 dBA||1750 rpm||50 °C|
|Xigmatek Gaia||17 °C||44 dBA||1250 rpm||32 °C||46 dBA||1500 rpm||61 °C|
|Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92||21 °C||48 dBA||2050 rpm||37 °C||54 dBA||2600 rpm||68 °C|
|Thermalright True Spirit 120||16 °C||41 dBA||1000 rpm||30 °C||46 dBA||1400 rpm||55 °C|
|Corsair H100||20 °C||55 dBA||2000 rpm||29 °C||59 dBA||2000 rpm||50 °C|
|Zalman CNPS12X||20 °C||47 dBA||1200 rpm||31 °C||47 dBA||1200 rpm||58 °C|
In the graph below, at full load 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.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler include:
- Application: Sockets 775, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011, AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, and FM1 processors
- Dimensions: 5.2 x 5.8 x 6.1 inches (132 x 151 x 154 mm) (W x L x H)
- Fins: Aluminum
- Base: Nickel-plated copper, direct-touch heatpipes
- Heat-pipes: Six nickel-plated copper heatpipes
- Fan: Three, 120 mm
- Nominal fan speed: 1,200 rpm
- Fan air flow: NA
- Maximum power consumption: NA
- Nominal noise level: 24 dBA
- Weight: 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
- Extra features: Blue LEDs on fans
- More information: https://www.zalman.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 100.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
Based on the characteristics found on the Zalman CNPS12X CPU cooler (large size, three fans, six direct-touch gapless heatpipes, etc.), we thought it would reach outstanding cooling performance. However, it seems like Zalman favored silence over performance. Even with three fans, it is quieter than most high-end coolers, yet it presented only good (not excellent) cooling performance.
The Zalman CNPS12X offers an outstanding look, low noise level, and good cooling performance. Therefore, it is receiving the Hardware Secrets Silver Award.
It would be a good idea if Zalman equipped the CNPS12X with stronger fans with a speed controller, because then the user would be able to choose at any time between silence and extreme performance. Maybe in the next version…