We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

[nextpage title=”Introduction”]
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.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 1: Package

Figure 2 shows the contents of the box: the cooler itself, thermal compound, a manual, power adapter, a case sticker, and installation hardware.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 2: Accessories

Figure 3 displays the Zalman CNPS12X.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 3: The 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.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 4: Front view

Figure 5 reveals the side of the heatsink, where you can see how large it is. Here we can see the three fans.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 5: Side view

The rear side of the cooler is presented in Figure 6. Here is the fan that pulls the air from the second heatsink.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 6: Rear view

[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS12X (Cont’d)”]
Figure 7 shows the top of the cooler, where you can see the tips of the heatpipes.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 7: Top view

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.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 8: Base

The wires from the three fans are connected to a single three-pin connector, as you see in Figure 9.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 9: Fan wires

[nextpage title=”Installation”]
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.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 10: Backplate

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.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 11: Frame installed

After installing the frame, put the cooler over the CPU and hold it in place, screwing the transversal holder to the frame.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 12: Cooler installed

All three fans present on the CNPS12X have blue LEDs. Figure 13 shows the cooler turned on.

Zalman CNPS12XFigure 13: LEDs glowing

[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.
Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit SP1

Software Used

Error Margin
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.

Idle Processor

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.

Zalman CNPS12X

[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…