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Design and Functionality

First of all I can’t help mentioning that the cooler looks very beautiful and attractive. Two nickel-plated heatsinks of unusual almost round shape pierced with two straight rows of heatpipes and three fans in-between them with sharp aggressive blades create a well-coordinated piece, which will not let you take your eyes of it that easily:

 

 

Despite pretty large size – 154x151x132 mm - Zalman CNPS12X doesn’t strike you as bulky. This is most likely due to the fact that the side fans are sitting inside the heatsink arrays and the arrays are of semi-circular shape. The new cooler weighs precisely 1000 grams.

Each heatsink array consists of 57 aluminum plates, each 0.4 mm thick that are placed 1.7 mm away from one another. Variable Fin profile technology (V.F.P.) allows the heatsink to use the airflow from all fans with maximum efficiency. The declared effective heatsink surface is 9,635 cm2, which is close to what contemporary super-coolers boast these days.

  

The distance between the heatsink arrays is 30 mm and there is a fan installed in that spot. For additional robustness both heatsink arrays are frames with two pipes, which are locked in two plastic units screwed to the bottom and top of the heatsink:

 

Six copper heatpipes 6 mm in diameter evenly pierce each of the heatsink arrays:

Note that the heatsink is of asymmetrical shape, i.e. it is slightly shifted to the left, if we look at the cooler from the airflow entry side. There is no explanation in the description of Zalman CNPS12X regarding the reasons behind this. We dare assume that Zalman engineers decided to shift the heatsink a little closer towards the chipset and voltage regulator components to ensure their better cooling with the airflow created by the Zalman CNPS12X fans.

The base of the new Zalman cooler is designed with heatpipe direct touch technology. Zalman named it W-DTH (Whole-Direct Touch heatpipes), which means that the heatpipes in the base are placed side by side without any additional aluminum or copper inserts between them:

Nevertheless, there were still a few deadzones, as you can clearly see from the thermal paste imprints left by our test processor on the cooler base:

 

At the same time I wanted to point out that the contact surface of the base is very even, although it could have been finished a little bit better. The contact base surface is 36x37 mm. Of course, the heatpipes are of Zalman’s unique design: they are composite heatpipes with claimed 50% better efficiency than the regular ones.

As for the fans, all of them are nine-blade fans, 113 mm in diameter and with a 42 mm stator. However, the first two fans are identical in terms of airflow direction and rotate at 1200 RPM or at 1100 RPM if you are using the enclosed RC5 resistor, while the third fan has additional fins on the external side of the blades, which lower the vertical disturbance and reduce the generated noise. This fan rotates at 950 RPM or at 850 RPM if you are using the above mentioned resistor. Only the first fan on the airflow entry side allows rotation speed monitoring. The specifications claim that the cooler produces 22 or 24 dBA of noise for the respective configurations with and without the resistor. The three-pin cable is relatively short, only 220 mm, but it will be more than enough to connect the cooler to the mainboard CPU fan connector. Our measurements showed that all three fans consumed no more than 4 W of power. Their startup voltage was registered at 3.8 V.

 
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