Sweet nothings: Zalman CNPS 9900 MAX review

If you’ve been reading our Overclocking 101 guide and have been bitten by the overclocking bug you’re probably in the market for a new heatsink/fan combination. You’ll need something that can tame a CPU roaring along at 4GHz yet won’t sound like a Huey full of Banshees lifting off. This Zalman cooler promises to fulfil those two requirements – does it deliver?

Utilising Zalman’s unique circular design allows this cooler to have quite a large number of cooling fins without encroaching on your valuable motherboard real estate. The fins are lifted off the contact plate by six heatpipes each of which use Zalman’s proprietary composite heatpipe design promising to remove heat 50% more efficiently than traditional heatpipes.

As is standard for high-end coolers this kit includes mounts for all of the popular AMD and Intel CPU sockets. The instructions are very clear and total installation takes just five minutes… provided you can get to the back of your motherboard to install the backing plate. Fan speed control is very rudimentary; either full speed or silent mode with the use of a resistor cable to switch between the two. With the resistor cable in place the cooler is very quiet and will be largely inaudible once tucked away inside a case. However at high speed it’s quite loud so this mode of operation will be unsuitable for most users.

We measured performance on our usual testbench – an i7-870 mounted on a Gigabyte GA-P55A-U – in both silent and high speed modes. At the louder setting it was just one degree hotter than our favourite air cooler the Noctua DH-D14 but it was definitely louder. Dropping to silent mode saw the temperature increase another couple of degrees topping out at 48°C – still very respectable performance given the silent operation.

While the Noctua DH-D14 remains our favourite air cooler not everybody has the room for such a massive slab of cooling. The Zalman offers similar cooling performance in a much smaller package making it easy to recommend for those with space restrictions.

Available from Zalman retailing for $80.
APC rating: 7/10