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Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU Cooler E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cooling
Written by Servando Silva   
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU Cooler
Closer Look: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
CNPS9900 Heatsink Details
CPU-Cooler Preparations
Heatsink Test Methodology
Testing and Results
CPU Cooler Final Thoughts
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX Conclusion

Testing and Results

I used the following heat sinks in this comparison: Prolimatech Megashadow, Noctua NH-D14, Cogage Arrow (basically, it's the same as the Thermalright Silver Arrow) and of course, the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX. Many high-end heatsinks don't include a fan these days, so you need to pick up your favorite fans depending on your desired configuration. Since Zalman is using a 1500-1700 rpm fan, which at 1500rpm is quiet enough to be "silent", and 1700rpm is enough to be considered as high-output fan, I decided to use a pair of Noctua NF-P12 (rated at 54CFM) fans for comparison with the rest of the heatsinks. It's really difficult to compare 135mm fans, as many heatsinks don't even support that size, and while there are some heatsinks supporting 140mm fans, 120mm is still the standard. For these tests, I over-volted the Intel Core i7-860 processor to 1.350 volts, and overclocked it to 3.8GHz. RAM was running at 2400MHz all the time with a BCLK of 200MHz and 1.2 QPI voltage. The charts below report the thermal difference (processor temperature vs. ambient temperature) as well as the difference in degrees Celsius from the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX, in order of performance, with the best results listed first (lower is better).

Heatsink Performance Tests (Noctua NF-P12)

Heat Sink
Thermal Difference
(degrees Celsius)
Difference from
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX
Noctua NH-D14 - 2 Fan
Prolimatech Megashadow - 2 Fan
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX -Normal Op.
Cogage Arrow - 2 Fan
Zalman CNPS9900 MAX - Quiet Op.
Noctua NH-D14 - 1 Fan
48 +3.0
Cogage Arrow - 1 Fan


Prolimatech Megahalems - 1 Fan
51.5 +6.5

The CNPS9900 MAX did perform much better than I expected. I had to re-test 3 times in order to see if there wasn't a bug or a bad installation involved, but the results are OK. Against Noctua NF-P12 fans (silent setup), the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX performs very similar to the Prolimatech Megashadow with a dual fan configuration. It also surpasses the Cogage Arrow and any single heatsink setup, but it can't reach the Noctua NH-D14 with a dual fan configuration. Remember the CNPS9900 MAX is a semi-quiet heatsink working with a single 135mm fan, and for the price tag and Zalman's promises, you're receiving a very decent product.

Before all you start yelling at me, let me get this straight: The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX is a very decent cooler, and it performs very similar to other high-end heatsinks when used with quiet fans. That means if you're looking for a silent and smaller solution, and supposing you're not too extreme to change/add high-output noisy fans, then you should consider the CNPS9900 MAX as an option. This CPU cooler is NOT better than the rest of the coolers I tested for overclocking at "extreme" conditions, and the reasons are:

  1. You can't install a second fan to improve airflow.
  2. You can't change the fan for a high-output one.
  3. It can't compete with higher TDP setups because of the reduced mass against other tower/dual-tower coolers.
Let me add that the 135mm fan can be uninstalled for the CPU heatsink and Zalman offers a new replacement if your fan stops working inside the warranty period, but since it uses an especial mounting method, you can only replace it with the same model, and not with any fan of your desire.

Just to satisfy any person who will ask the conditions where the CNPS9900 MAX could be obliterated against the rest of the heatsinks tested today, I can say those conditions are pretty much anytime unless using stock fans or silent fans with moderated CPU load. Even if Zalman says this cooler supports up to 300w TDP, I'm sure the rest of the heatsinks will out-perform it thanks to their bigger mass. Also, you have the chance to add high-output fans and even install a second or a third (NH-D14 and Cogage Arrow) fan, improving performance in high-load tests. In conclusion, if you want a silent cooler for your moderated overclock setup, and you don't have a lot of space to install super-giant coolers with multiple fans, then choose the CNPS900 MAX. Otherwise, you should really try other options.



# RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerDoug 2010-11-15 23:01
Interesting offering. At least Zalman is trying things instead of sitting back. I haven't seen anything really revolutionary since the Cogage True Spirit, and then only in price to performance ratio.

I still think the Cooler Master v10 got a bad rap since reviewers were unwilling to match it to its performance level--which is 80C or higher temps when OCing Core i7s. The v10 is just another cooler until you turn on it's Peltier system.

Then again, if you want to keep your box relatively cool with moderate OCing, the V10 is overkill, and you'd be better going cheaper for the same performance at lower temps.
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# RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerTony 2010-11-16 03:59
I'm glad that in the conclusion it was restated that during the installation other components were left in place adding to less than ideal clearance of the wrench. If I had to guess I'd say that Zalman, and most other manufacturers, are figuring that those purchasing a cooler are doing so for a new build and wouldn't be installing the cooler into an already built system. I'd further be willing to guess they also aren't planning on folk swapping out coolers for benchmark tests. With that said, I wouldn't count the mounting system as a con, but more as a "be aware" type of note. Up until my current Xigmatech, I've been using Zalman CPU coolers for a very long time and I look forward to a time when they combine their composite technology with HDT all in the Omega layout. Good stuff BMR, keep up the good work.
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# RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerServando Silva 2010-11-16 05:20
You're probably right about building a new system, but as I've said, even in those conditions installing the CPU cooler with the wrench takes more time than with a screw-driver. Also, you've got 3 tapes for installing it, no more.
And the reason I considered it like a con, is because nowadays many PC cases come with a back-door for CPU installation without removing the motherboard, and doing it gets really difficult, especially without removing your RAM and PCI-e cards.
Thanks for the heads up.
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# RE: RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerTony 2010-11-16 05:48
No worries, I was looking at it from a new build perspective versus a benchmarking/testing perspective where it's one and done for the install. A "backdoor for CPU installation" meaning a slide out motherboard tray (like the Lian Li PC65B my favorite and current case)? Or something more dedicated to just a CPU swap? Sorry, didn't mean to half-hijack the purpose of the thread/review here in comments :)
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerServando Silva 2010-11-16 07:27
Sorry, I meant "CPU-Cooler Backplate Installation", not CPU installation. This way I'm referring to a hole in the motherboard's tray so that you can install CPU cooler's backplates without removing the motherboard. Many PC cases have it nowadays, including the Obsidian 700D used in my review.
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# RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerDavid Ramsey 2010-11-16 09:13
FWIW, you can't always install two fans on some coolers that allegedly accept them. For example, I'm running a Megahalems on my ASUS Rampage III Extreme mobo, and it's so close to the RAM sockets that if you install RAM in the socket nearest the cooler, a standard 25mm thick fan will not fit. A 12mm "slim" fan will, but Prolimatech's included fan clips only work with 25mm fans. This forces me to run a single fan on the rear of the cooler.
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# RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerDoug 2010-11-16 13:50
Use thin copper wire and push it through the top and bottom fins, and through the fan holes. Use a strip of the silicon that comes with fans to deaden any vibration sound. I hated the mounting wires on my Cogage True Spirit that I literally ripped them off in frustration and used copper wire to attache it to the tower. It's a tighter fit too.
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# i7 980XShakey 2010-11-16 17:07
I'm shying away from the Mega and Ven-X because I'll be running at stock for most of the time so the super-coolers are a bit overkill, but when I do clock up for rendering and encoding, I'll be running 65+ CPU load at 4.2GHz

So, the direct question: running over 4GHz on 980X for a few hours - yes or no to this cooler?
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# RE: i7 980XOlin Coles 2010-11-16 17:14
Will you be using standard voltage, or adding voltage with overclock? If you keep the standard voltage, this cooler is more than enough to tame temperatures. Still, I think the Scythe Mugen 2 offers the very best bang for the buck.
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# RE: RE: i7 980XShakey 2010-11-16 17:22
Undervolting as far as possible at stock (estimating 1.1v), and if my past few i7 920s and 930s are anything to go by the 4.2GHz OC shouldn't need for than 1.27v on Extreme Edition silicon, but I reckon 1.3v upper limit is realistic.
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# RE: RE: RE: i7 980XServando Silva 2010-11-16 17:28
Since your CPUs don't use high voltages fores the frequency desired, this cooler should be enough. I would skip this and get a dual-tower cooler for your CPU if you're planning to going above 1.4 volts.
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# RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerDoug 2010-11-16 17:29
If you're going for the 4Ghz OC you will need a better cooler for any type of sustained computing. Just get the Cooler Master V10, install it, and call it a done deal. It's there when you need it.
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# Rear plateTom 2011-02-18 01:27
I have an ASUS P8P67 PRO, and it has a huge plate on the back of the motherboard to hold the CPU. Will this cause a problem when mounting this cooler?
I am thinking of buying it, and need an answer to this.

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# RE: Rear plateServando Silva 2011-02-18 12:22
You shouldn't have a problem. Why do you say the P8P67 Pro has a huge back plate? All 1155 socket motherboards have it like that.
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# RE: RE: Rear plateTom 2011-02-19 02:00
Oh, do they? I didn't know. I just upgraded from a 755 which does not have anything on the back/under the CPU spot.
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# RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerAnders 2011-02-18 04:34
On the Zalman website there is no mention of tape. Nore is tape displayed in the "How to Install" demo video.

And I downloaded the manual, and no tape was shown.

I guess they have improved the model since this review.
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# RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerServando Silva 2011-02-18 12:18
Open this:
In the second step where they're preparing the heatsink backplate they put an squared sticky tape (color=yellow).
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# RE: RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerTom 2011-02-22 23:40
I contacted Zalman support about the stickers, and this is what they said:

Thank you for using our product.

The Double-Sided Tape is for user convenience only. It helps the Loading Block assembled Backplate to be attached to be backside of motherboard while installing the cooler. If you do not use it, you will just be burdensome while screwing in the bolts due to lack of it.

If you need such kind for easy installation, you may make it with commonly used electrically non-conductive double-sided tape by yourself.


Tech Support/ZALMAN

So it's not really a necessity. Getting mad a Zalman as you did in the review was clearly not valid.

Anyways, I just put in my order.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerTom 2011-02-22 23:42
Oh, and by the way. My Noctua 755 cpu cooler also had this sticker thing. As do many others.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Zalman CNPS9900 MAX 135mm CPU CoolerServando Silva 2011-02-28 00:17
You'll need it if you're installing it inside a PC case, but if you get another pair of hands to help then you're already at the other side of the fence. I guess that's good news.
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# mr.mike alaska 2011-04-03 01:46
my son installed this in our first build , no problems.
a week later i realized i had used to much zalman grease, so i pulled it cleaned ,one small pea and put it right back in .
No Problems what so ever , easy very easy !

so how can i do this with no experience, yet the rest whine about it ????????? oh it works great!

Asus-M4A89GTD pro, OS win7-64
Phenom llx4,955be Deneb 3.2GHz
2x2Gb Crucial 256Mx64 DDR3
XFX Radeon HD5770A-ZNFC 1Gb
XFX Radeon 650W psu
zalman cnps9900 max
zalman z9 plus case
seagate barracuda 7200 1TB, asus dvd
samsung SyncMaster 2494HM
OC.Tools:prime95, cpu-z ,coretemp, 3dmark06
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