Flying V: Great guitar. Gimmicky hockey maneuver. Underwhelming cooling configuration
Just five months ago, we reviewed Zalman’s superb CNPS9900Max, which marked a return to the circle-of-fins look that has marked the big Z’s best-performing CPU coolers of the past half-decade or so. The CNPS9900Max resuscitated our faith in Zalman’s heatsinks, which had dwindled in the wake of skyscraper-style coolers and Zalman’s disappointing CNPS10X Extreme, a cooler that was larger and more expensive than its more effective competitors. Now Zalman gives us the CNPS11X, with yet another new cooling-fin configuration.
The CNPS11X is a skyscraper-style cooler, 6.3 inches high by 5.25 inches wide by 3.75 inches deep, with five nickel-plated heat pipes rising into two sets of aluminum heat-dissipation fins. The fin stacks are arranged in a V formation, with a 12cm blue LED fan across the top of the V, forming a triangle with the fan as the hypotenuse. The top and bottom of the fin stacks are covered with black plastic covers, to keep air flowing from the fan through the fins. The result is a cooler that takes up a lot of room but also has a lot of wasted space in the center that could otherwise contain cooling fins.
Sometimes looks matter more than performance. Not in a CPU cooler, however.
Zalman continues to use the universal backplate design it’s been using since at least the CNPS9900Max—the one that requires four nuts (either silver-colored or gold-colored, depending on socket), four sliding plastic retainers, and a special angled 2.5mm hex wrench. You can use a standard 2.5mm head, but the tool Zalman includes can be used from an angle—necessary, given the placement of the fan. The CNPS11X also ships with a resistor cable to slow the 12cm fan and reduce noise.
On our test bed, with an ambient lab temperature of 22.8 C (73 F), the CNPS11X cooled our overclocked Core i5-750 to 65.75 C at full burn. This is better than our baseline cooler, the $30 Cooler Master Hyper 212+, but 5 C hotter than the Prolimatech Armageddon, our favorite air cooler. Zalman’s CNPS9900Max, by contrast, performs slightly better than the Armageddon. (We prefer the Armageddon’s installation process, which is why it’s still our favorite.) The CNPS11X is also noticeably louder than either the Armageddon or CNPS990Max. Using the included resistor cable drops the noise to tolerable levels but raises CPU temperatures a degree or two.
The CNPS11X is not a bad cooler, but it’s not a great cooler, either. The CNPS11X retails for $90. For $4 more, you can get a Prolimatech Armageddon with two 14cm fans, which has an easier install, a more robust mounting bracket, and better performance. Or, for $10 less, you can get the Zalman CNPS9900Max, which kicks as much ass as the Armageddon, costs less, and has that radial-fan look that Zalman does so well. Maybe you dig the V-shaped fin stacks and don’t mind that this is a louder, more expensive, and less effective cooler than the CNPS9900Max. But if the design doesn’t speak to you, the performance won’t hook you either.
Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour running Intel’s internal Lynnfield thermal testing utility at 100 percent load. Test system consists of Intel Core i5-750 overclocked to 3.2GHz on an Asus P7P55D Premium board in a Corsair 800D case with stock fans. Temperatures taken with HWMonitor.