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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Today we are testing the top-shelf CPU air cooler from Zalman, the CNPS9900 MAX, which has two circular heatsinks, three heatpipes and a 135 mm LED fan. Let’s check if its performance.

The box of the CNPS9900 MAX is made of card paper, with a transparent window that allow you to see part of the cooler, as you can see in Figure 1.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 1: Package

In Figure 2, you can check the accessories that come with the cooler: installation parts, manual, case sticker, thermal compound, power adapter, and an Allen wrench.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 2: Accessories

In Figure 3, you can see the CNPS9900 MAX.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 3: The CNPS9900 MAX

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

[nextpage title=”The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX”]

In Figure 4, you see the front of the cooler. The front heatsink is shaped like the Greek letter Omega "Ω", and both ends are connected to the base of the cooler.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 4: Front view

In Figure 5, you have a side view of the cooler. Here it is clear that there are two independet heatsinks, one smaller at the front side and another one, bigger, at the rear side. The fan is attached to the base by a metal holder. The fins are made of nickel-plated copper.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 5: Side view

In Figure 6, you check the rear side of the cooler. The rear heatsink has two nickel-plated copper heatpipes. Each heatpipe has both ends connected to the base. We also can see the four-pin fan connector, which means the fan has PWM automatic speed control.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 6: Rear view

In Figure ,7 you see the cooler viewed from the top.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 7: Top view

The base of the CNPS9900 MAX is also made of nickel-plated copper, with a perfect mirror-like finishing.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 8: Base

[nextpage title=”Installation”]

The installatin of the CNPS9900 MAX is simple. First, you need to attach the clips that correspond to the socket of your CPU. In Figure 9, you can see the Intel clips in place.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 9: Intel clips installed

After that, put the backplate on the solder side of the motherboard, the cooler over the CPU, and then fasten the four available screws.

Zalman CNPS9900 MaxFigure 10: The CNPS9900 MAX installed in our case

[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 (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 850/1150 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

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 CNPS9900 Max

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main features of the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX CPU cooler include:

  • Application: Socket LGA775, 1155, 1156, 1366, AM3, AM2+ and AM2 processors
  • Fins: Nickel-plated copper
  • Base: Nickel-plated copper
  • Heat-pipes: Three nickel-plated copper heatpipes
  • Fan: 135 mm
  • Nominal fan speed: 1,700 rpm
  • Fan air flow: NA
  • Maximum power consumption: 4.8 W
  • Nominal noise level: 30 dBA
  • Weight: 1.66 lbs (755 g)
  • More information: https://www.zalman.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 70.00

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

The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX is a very beautiful cooler, moving apart from the ubiquitous "tower" design, giving your computer a unique looks. Its fan has discrete red LEDs (it can also come with blue LEDs), which you can barely see during day time, but it doesn’t glow too much in dark enviroments.

Besides being a very nice-looking CPU cooler, its strong point is its performance, on the same level of the best air coolers we tested to date. And, better than that, the CNPS9900 MAX was less noisy than competing products.

The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX is beautiful, relatively quiet, and has an impressive performance, deserving the Hardware Secrets Golden Award.