[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

This time we are benchmarking the Zalman CNPS5X SZ, a mainstream CPU cooler with a vertical heatsink, three U-shaped heatpipes and a 92 mm fan. Check it out!

Pay attention because Zalman offers two coolers with similar names, the CNPS5X and the CNPS5X SZ. The main difference is that the "SZ" model is sold only in the US and its fan uses a hydraulic bearing, while the other model is distributed in other countries and uses an "enter bearing".

The CNPS5X SZ is a tower cooler that resembles the Zalman CNPS8000A CPU cooler, which we already reviewed. Their heatsinks and fans are almost the same, but the CNPS8000A is a horizontal, low-profile cooler, while on the CNPS5X SZ the heatsink is vertical.

The CNPS5X SZ box is small, as you can see in Figure 1.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 1: Package

In Figure 2, you can see what comes inside the box: the cooler itself, a motherboard frame for Intel CPUs, thermal compound, and a manual.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 2: Accessories

In Figure 3, you can see the CNPS5X SZ.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 3: The Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU cooler

In the next pages, you will see this cooler in detail.

[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS5X SZ”]

In Figure 4, you see the front of the cooler. The black 92-mm fan has a plastic frame on the upper and lower parts. The metallic clip for fastening the cooler is longer than the cooler, and this may cause trouble during installation.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 4: Front view

In Figure 5, you can see the side of the cooler.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 5: Front view

In Figure 6, you check the cooler rear side. Here you notice the three "near U-shaped" heatpipes.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 6: Rear view

In Figure 7, you can see the cooler from the top. The top fins are smaller than the middle ones.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 7: Top view

[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS5X SZ (Cont’d)”]In Figure 8, you see the base of the cooler. It is made of copper, smooth but with no mirrored aspect.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 8: Base

In Figure 9, you see the cooler without the fan.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 9: Heatsink

The 92-mm fan has a four-pin connector, which means it supports PWM speed control.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 10: Fan

[nextpage title=”Installation”]Installing the CNPS5X SZ on AMD CPUs is a breeze: you just need to hook it to the existing motherboard frame, fastening the screws to hold it in place. For Intel socket LGA775 or 1155/1156 CPUs, however, you will need to install the plastic frame shown in Figure 11 on your motherboard, using the existing holes. In Figure 12, we show this frame installed on our motherboard.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 11: Intel frame

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 12: Frame installed

In Figure 13, you can see our first try to install the CNPS5X SZ in our system; the position is the one shown in the product manual. However, when we turned the computer on, it didn’t even finish loading the operating system and shut down. We’ve removed the cooler and noted that it was barely touching the CPU, because one of the screws was blocked by the chipset heatsink. So we had to re-install the cooler, this time using it on a different orientation.

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 13: Installed according to the manual

In Figure 13, you see the position we managed to install the CNPS5X SZ. Note the scratch at the chipset heatsink, made the first time we installed the cooler (Figure 12).

Zalman CNPS5XFigure 13: Correctly installed

[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 ord
er to get 100% CPU usage in all threads, we ran Prime 95 25.11 (in this version, the software uses all available threads) with the "In-place Large FFTs" option.

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 is not the case here.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit

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

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 CNPS5X

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main features of the Zalman CNPS5X SZ CPU cooler include:

  • Application: Socket LGA775, 1155, 1156, AM2, AM2+, AM3, 939, and 754 processors
  • Fins: Aluminum
  • Base: Copper
  • Heat-pipes: Three 6-mm copper heatpipes
  • Fan: 92 mm
  • Nominal fan speed: 2,800 rpm
  • Fan air flow: NA
  • Maximum power consumption: NA
  • Nominal noise level: 32 dBA
  • Weight: 11.3 oz (320 g)
  • More information: https://www.zalman.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 30.00

* Reseached at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

At first, we weren’t expecting the Zalman CNPS5X SZ to provide good performance. First, because it is smaller and lighter than most good-performance coolers we are used to test. Second, because its heatsink is very similar to the one we saw with the CNPS8000A, which wasn’t a good performer. However, the CNPS5X SZ surprised us, performing nearly as well as some big, heavy coolers.

It is also relatively quiet and inexpensive. Its main problem is the compatibility issue: the piece that holds the screws is too long and can be blocked by the chipset heatsink or other motherboard parts, and you can even damage your motherboard if you aren’t aware of this problem.

In any case, the Zalman CNPS5X SZ is a good-performance cooler, with a great cost/benefit ratio, so it receives the Hardware Secrets Bronze Award.