Articles: Cooling

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Design and Functionality

With rather average dimensions as today's super-coolers go (154x80x135 millimeters), the CNPS11X Extreme weighs only 600 grams. The weight is lower compared to the best air coolers from competitors as well as from Zalman's own CNPS10X series. As you will see today, weight is not an indispensable prerequisite of high cooling performance.

The new cooler has a rather original and appealing exterior thanks to its V-shaped heatsink.



The two heatsink sections placed at 90 degrees to each other, the heat pipes and the base are all nickel-plated to resemble the color of black pearls. The CNPS11X Extreme shimmers in light. Coupled with the translucent matte fan, we've got a very beautiful and elegant cooler here.

It is also surprisingly compact: only 80 millimeters wide and 154 millimeters tall.


The heatsink sections and the end of the heat pipes are covered from above with a plastic cap that bears the cooler’s name and logo.


The bottom of the heatsink is covered with another cap that has no labels or logos. The two caps are fastened with self-tipping screws to the stub between the heatsink sections. Thus, the heatsink is enveloped into plastic except for the side from where the fan takes air.

The fan is fastened to a frame attached to the top and bottom caps:

The four spokes and the round piece in the center of that frame ensure the necessary rigidity but do not impede the air flow because they match the fan's own spokes and motor.

We can examine the heatsink after stripping the cooler of all of its plastic details.

There are two identical heatsink sections placed at an angle of 90 degrees. They are built around five copper heat pipes, 6 millimeters in diameter. Like the CNPS9900 MAX, the CNPS11X Extreme features new composite heat pipes which are 50% more effective than ordinary ones, according to Zalman’s data.

Each heatsink section consists of 84 aluminum fins which are a mere 0.3 millimeters thick and no more than 1 millimeter apart from each other. The fins are 83 millimeters long and 21 to 24 millimeters wide. With such a width as they have, the heatsinks would not permit to place the heat pipes in any way other than linear.

Despite the compact size of the heatsink, Zalman claims it to have a total area of 7600 sq. centimeters (although I can’t arrive at a number higher than 5450 sq. centimeters in my own calculations). Moreover, the peak TDP of the CNPS11X Extreme is specified to be as high as 350 watts whereas, for example, the CNPS10X Extreme with a total heatsink area of 8500 sq. centimeters has a specified TDP of 300 watts. Is it due to the wondrous heat pipes or clever design? We tested such heat pipes in our Zalman CNPS9900 MAX review (which is also specified to cope with 300 watts, by the way) and didn’t find anything special about them. That cooler's heatsink has an even smaller surface area and only three rather than five heat pipes, though. There is also a cooler with a similar shape of the heatsink. It is the Scythe Kama Angle and I don’t remember it to have been very efficient, either. Perhaps Zalman's implementation is better. We'll see shortly.

It’s hard to tell how the heatsink fins contact with the heat pipes because there are no traces of thermal glue or soldering. The fins may have been just press-fitted onto the pipes.

The pipes are soldered to the grooves of the copper base:

The base is at least 2 millimeters thick beneath the pipes. It is finished perfectly as is typical of Zalman products.

The cooler’s sole is flat as is indicated by the thermal grease imprint:


The Zalman CNPS11X Extreme is equipped with a ZP1225BLM fan that runs on a sleeve bearing. Its speed is controlled by means of pulse-width modulation.

The speed is varied automatically within a range of 1000 to 1950 RPM at 17 to 33 dBA of noise. If used together with the included resistor, the top speed limit is going to be 1450 RPM at 25 dBA of noise. The air flow and static pressure of the fan are not specified. The bearing’s service life is declared to be 50,000 hours or 5.5 years of continuous operation. The peak power consumption of the fan is 2.4 watts. The fan proved to consume up to 2.96 watts and have a start-up voltage of 4.8 volts in my tests.

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