We did not expect this. When we first got our hands on Zalman’s CNPS9300 AT, we assumed the company had pulled a “Honey, I Shrunk the CPU Cooler” on its flagship product, the bulky CNPS9700. That’s certainly true if you consider the tale of the tape: The CNPS9300 is 80 percent smaller than its big brother, and its total thermal dissipation area has been nearly halved, from 5,490cm2 to 2,583cm2.
Logic only dictates that this cooler should perform far worse than the Zalman CNPS9700. But the built-for-silence CNPS9300 AT nearly matches its big brother’s performance—as well as that of our top cooler, Thermaltake’s DuOrb (reviewed July 2008).
Given its small size, we didn’t expect maximum cooling performance from Arctic Cooling’s Alpine 7 Pro. And while the Alpine 7 Pro doesn’t set any performance records, in some situations it does match the capabilities of our cooler of choice, Thermaltake’s DuOrb. Given the sheer size difference between this 9x9x3cm cooler and the, well, monstrous DuOrb, the Alpine 7’s performance was a pleasant surprise.
Zalman’s CNPS9700 has been the Godzilla of coolers and a Best of the Best champion for more than a year. But it’s finally facing its Megalon in Thermaltake’s DuOrb cooler. The extra-wide cooler, shaped in a 20-centimeter-wide figure eight, comes with two 8cm blue and red LED fans tucked inside two rings of copper fins.
Let nobody say that Gigabyte didn’t break the mold with its 3D Rocket II heatsink/fan combination. As the name alludes, the device resembles a rocket ship sitting atop a launch pad. It’s about as well strapped in, too; we applaud the 3D Rocket II for its efforts to sail amongst the heavenly stars of CPU coolers, but its installation process keeps the device strapped firmly to the ground.
It’s hard to find much innovation in the exciting world of air cooling. At some point, cooling potential is defined by a simple equation of heat pipes, fan speeds, and block materials—increase the efficiency of any of the above, and you’ll see lower temperatures.
We’re always suspicious of cooling devices that promote their silent functionality. Quiet devices tend to use less-powerful fans or run normal fans at painfully slow speeds. And while this can do wonders for one’s hearing and general peace of mind, our reasonably noisy stock AMD cooler performs much better than the quieter devices we’ve tested.
It’s hard to look at Thermaltake’s Big Typhoon VX cooler and not think one of two things: the most horrific joke you can make about size mattering and the current market price of the Dremel you’ll need to cut a hole in your case to make room for this Godzilla of a cooler.
We’ve been operating under the assumption that Zalman’s CNPS9700 is the Highlander of CPU coolers—immortal and utterly immune to the benchmarking threats posed by other, lesser devices. That’s until we ran across Thermaltake’s newest V1 cooler. As far as we can tell, the blue-lit device is the guy who brings the chain saw to a swordfight. It looks great, fits great, and outcools our reigning champion ever so slightly.
Around this time last year, we were able to get our hands on the predecessor to Zalman’s CNPS9700 LED CPU cooler—cleverly titled the CNPS9500. The blooming, copper-finned device not only rocked our socks off but also beautifully cooled them as they went sailing through the air. Kick ass, indeed.
This month, memory-maker OCZ wades into the hotly contested CPU cooling arena with its blingy Tempest cooler. Though the Tempest has the signature OCZ flair, we were let down by its midrange performance and loud operation.