First Look at Zalman CNPS9500 LED: the Power of Air, the Efficiency of Water

We would like to introduce to you a real masterpiece of the air cooling art designed by Zalman. This new baby, which was first showcased at the Computex 2005 has now reached our lab and simply impressed us with its cooling potential. We couldn’t wait to share the results of our first look at this solution.

by Doors4ever
08/19/2005 | 12:34 PM

There is a widely spread opinion that it is rally simple to design the most efficient and powerful cooling systems in the world. The “secret” behind the most powerful cooler is actually quite simple: make a few changes to the heatsink design, add more copper to it, install a faster and bigger fan on top, and here you go: the monster is ready. It will cope with the cooling of any CPU, but it will generate so much noise, that you will never be happy about using it. With the help of the same principle – “faster and bigger” – you can also design a powerful cooling system for the graphics card or a liquid-cooling system. But Zalman, doesn’t offer “record-breakers” like this. They are smarter.

 

Another great way of earning some money is to copy somebody else’s idea. It usually works like this: someone came up with a great idea, we will slightly modify it and start production. But not Zalman. This company never falls down to imitating somebody else’s inventions, they create their own highly technological solutions boasting unique set of features. They are fairer competitors.

There are a lot of cooling systems in the market right now: there are more efficient ones, quieter ones, fancier ones, lighter ones, smaller or bigger ones, better packaged ones, etc. However, Zalman has always been great in providing their products with a combination of features, which would seem absolutely incompatible at first glance. And this is how a real product is born, Product with the capital letter. That is why it wouldn’t be correct to say that Zalman designs the most powerful cooling solutions. They design THE BEST ones.

After a number of failed attempts, the cooler makers have learned to design efficient solutions based on heatpipe technology. There is the whole lot of more or less similar models in the market today, which ensure efficient cooling performance and at the same time offer quite acceptable level of noise. Almost every single week another Zalman 7700 killer is officially announced. To tell the truth, I don’t think it is fair to compare the newcomers against the previous generation coolers. Zalman 7000 cooler family used to be among the world’s best cooling solutions back in the days: universal design, efficient performance, quite operation – a true dream. Zalman 7700 solution is the result of extensive family development, a response to new processors on hot Prescott core. It got heavier, but other than that it remained the same. The launch of this cooler was as important for the industry as the release of a new software patch or game add-on, even a little bit more important than that.

Today we would like to introduce to you a new generation of Zalman coolers. I am very proud that you will first learn about a new heat-pipe based Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler from X-bit labs.

Closer Look

Even the cooler box looks original. The info on the sides of the box tells about the cooler specifications and peculiarities.

  

All the details are thoroughly considered. All the components are optimized to ensure the lowest level of noise, the lowest weight, the largest effective cooling surface and the best heat conductivity.

  

Ultra-thin heatsink fins are only 0.2mm thick, so that they guarantee the lowest airflow resistance, when they are cooled down by the stream of air generated by a 92-mm fan equipped with a blue LED. This design peculiarity allows dissipating heat efficiently even though the heatsink weights not too much.

  

Three enhanced bended heat-pipes are as efficient as six due to original curved construction.

  

The ends of these heat-pipes are soldered hermetically and are stuck between the two plates.

  

The cooler sole is very thoroughly processed, although it is not polished off to mirror shine, and you can still notice slight tracks left by the milling cutter.

The top plate of the cooler foot has a round-shaped bump. The cooler retention clip catches to this bump when you install the cooler and fasten it to the mainboard.

Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler is compatible with all contemporary sockets and can be used to cool any CPUs, including the dual-core ones. The package contains everything you might need to install this cooler onto any mainboard and CPU.

Let me list everything we get with this cooler:

Installation Tips

The cooler is fastened onto LGA775 the same way as Zalman 7700: you have to use a backplate on the reverse side and screw a clip to a frame. The installation onto Socket 478 also remained the same: there are two aluminum brackets that catch to the existing frame, and then the clip is fastened to these brackets with the two black screws shown above. The screws have hexagon-shaped heads that is why there is an L-shaped hex-nut wrench included with the package.

The remarkable changes have only been made to the way the cooler should be fastened onto K8 processors. Now this procedure has become much simpler. From now on you don’t have to take the mainboard out of the system case and remove the default retention frame. The clip can be fastened to this particular frame with the same screws that are used to fasten the frame to the backplate.

Some mainboards designed for AMD processors are equipped with a frame that is not screwed to the backplate, but is fastened to it with special plastic clips. In this case, you will need to remove the clip and use a block included with the cooler. This block is fastened with the screws at the bottom, and then the clip is screwed onto it.

The manufacturer recommends placing the Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler in such a way that its fan is on the right-hand side and blew the warm air towards the case fans. It is very easy to do if you have an LGA775 processor: there are four fastening holes on the bracket, so you can turn the cooler in any direction. If the fastening holes are horizontal, the cooler will sit the right way on Socket 478 and K8 processors, as well. If the fastening holes are placed vertically, then you will have to move the clip in-between the heatpipes to fasten the cooler the right way.

Unfortunately, this was the only thing I couldn’t do. The clip is flat and is shaped unusually, so that you could allegedly insert it between the heatpipes sideways and then turn to the proper position. I could insert it between the heatpipes, but I failed to turn it the right way: the clip would catch to the heatpipes or to the bump in the middle of the top plate. Maybe I should have applied more effort, but it didn’t feel right keeping in mind the smart cooler construction and Zalman’s special attention to all smallest details.

By the way, I didn’t really understand why they included two clips, because they are of the same shape and size, except for the fact that one is slightly longer than the other and has a few additional holes. According to Zalman, the longer clip (L-type) is needed for socket 939 mounting. But we are going to double-check that.

Technical Specifications

Winding up the description of the cooler design I would like to list its technical specifications according to the manufacturer.

Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler is surprisingly small and light for a solution like that. It is much smaller than Zalman CNPS7700Cu due to smaller fan diameter. Our hero will compete against the CNPS7700Cu in our today’s tests.

Although, I have to point out that the newcomer is taller than the 7700Cu model:

Testbed and Methods

Our open testbed was configured as follows:

First of all I would like to draw your attention to the Intel Pentium 4 521 processor that can work at 4.2GHz core clock rate if we increase the Vcore to 1.425V. Without changing the Vcore it runs at 4.06GHz. During our first test session with this processor, the weather was really hot and the Zalman CNPS7700Cu cooler we used failed to ensure proper cooling efficiency: the temperature rose to 75.5oC, throttling started and the CPU frequency dropped. At that time we had to use Gigabyte 3D Galaxy liquid cooling system to complete our CPU tests (read more about it in our article called "Out of This World" Liquid-Cooling System: Gigabyte 3D Galaxy Review).

Well, today, the weather is much cooler. Does it mean we might be luckier?

Yes, this time Zalman CNPS7700Cu cooler managed to get through the S&M 1.7.2 program cycle successfully. In the Normal mode under 100% workload it let the CPU temperature rise only to 69.5oC. Unfortunately, the cooler still failed to ensure proper Prescott based CPU temperature once we raised its core frequency to 4.2GHz.

Now we are installing the Zalman CNPS9500 LED onto our ASUS P5WD2 Premium mainboard.

  

As you see, everything is very simple and accurate.

  

Performance

Without the Fan Mate 2 fan rotation speed manager, the fan works at 2600-2700rpm generating not very loud but pretty distinct sound. Once Fan Mate 2 is connected the fan rotation speed starts to vary between 1350 and 2400rpm. Moreover, when the fan rotation speed is maximum, you don’t hear it at all, as it vanishes behind the noise from the graphics card and PSU fan. We decided to run our tests in this particular operation mode.

The results turned out really impressive. The CPU running at 4.06GHz warmed only up to 56.5o C! 13o C difference compared with what Zalman CNPS7700Cu showed working at the maximum 2,000rpm fan speed, while our hero worked at the reduced speed of 2,400rpm. The cooler managed to cope with the overclocked CPU without any problems: the temperature didn’t go beyond 62.5o C.

This is an indisputable victory of the new cooler over its old buddy. However, Zalman’s slogan claims that with CNPS9500 LED you get "Air-Cooled CPU Cooler with Water-Cooling Performance". Is this true? To prove this point we installed Gigabyte 3D Galaxy liquid cooling system and ran the same benchmarks again. The results are summed up in the table below:

Cooling system

Zalman CNPS7700Cu

Gigabyte 3D Galaxy

Zalman CNPS9500 LED

Fan diameter and rotation speed

120mm / 2000rpm

120mm / 1800rpm

92mm / 2400rpm

Intel Pentium 4
4.06GHz, 1.35V

69.5°C

57.5°C

56.6°C

Intel Pentium 4
4.2GHz, 1.425V

-

64.7°C

62.5°C

As you see, the Zalman CNPS9500 LED cooler based on heat-pipe technology is really as efficient as a liquid cooling system. However, I will follow in Zalman’s footsteps and will not state with 100% certainty, that their new offspring is 100% better than a liquid cooling solution. During our tests all three systems generated about the same level of noise. However, at this point Zalman CNPS7700Cu worked at the top of its capacity, and hence the new Zalman CNPS9500 LED really does outperform the predecessor at all extents.

We cannot say the same about the Gigabyte 3D Galaxy cooling system. It is a very good solution, with thoroughly considered details, and it hasn’t yet exhausted its potential. The fan rotation speed can be increased, so that the system will catch up with Zalman CNPS9500 LED and even outperform it, although the level of noise it will generate in that case won’t be close to something acceptable. According to my subjective opinion, Gigabyte 3D Galaxy working at 1,800rpm is louder than Zalman CNPS9500 LED working at 2,400rpm. Besides the fan on top of the heatsink, you also hear the pump working and the fan cooling down processor voltage regulator components.

Conclusion

So, since the cooling abilities of the Zalman CNPS9500 LED and a liquid cooling system are about the same, it is different things that start to matter more. For example, Gigabyte 3D Galaxy leads the heat outside the system case, and allows upgrading the graphics card cooling system to water cooling later on. This is an indisputable advantage. As for the advantages our Zalman CNPS9500 LED can boast, we should definitely mention simple installation, compact size and affordable price. The new cooler won’t be cheap, of course, but it will cost at least 2-3 times less than a liquid cooling system of about the same efficiency. According to Zalman, the cooler will be available in US by the end of September and it will be retailed around $80.

Zalman once again proved up to our expectations and designed a true masterpiece of the cooling art. Creativity and skills of Zalman engineers is really impressive and right now we can hardly believe that someone out there will be able to outpace them here. Maybe only they themselves can one day offer something even better. The entire history of Zalman Company indicates that they surely have something up their sleeve to surprise us later on.

In conclusion to our today’s test session I would like to say the following. I really liked Gigabyte 3D Galaxy cooling system when we first tested it, and I was even thinking of getting one for myself. But now it looks like I’d better wait for Zalman CNPS9500 LED to hit the shelves. :)