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.
It comes as no surprise that the 9700—more than 200… well, somethings… greater than last year’s model—is just as noteworthy a cooling unit.
Installing the device is a breeze. For AMD folk, the 9700 clamps right on to your chip’s stock mounting bracket. Intel lovers have to mess with back plates and clip supports, which will necessitate a motherboard removal, but the installation isn’t any more difficult than it is with similar products. The only potential pitfall is in airflow direction. Make sure that the 2,800rpm blue LED-lit fan is pushing your case’s air in the correct direction and you’ll be OK.
Said fan is moderately loud at its top setting, which is the default speed if you plug the 9700 directly into a motherboard. But Zalman must care about your ears because the company includes a fan-speed-adjuster knob in the box. While the knob will look goofy if you tape it to the side of your case, at least you won’t go deaf.
We cranked the fan to the max during testing, and go figure: The 9700 performed flawlessly, showing a slight improvement over its predecessor’s cooling marks. Even at its lowest setting, the 9700 delivered acceptable cooling on our Athlon FX-60-equipped test bed. Our only, ever-so-slight, hesitation with the 9700 comes from the sheer size of the device; it’s almost twice as heavy as the maximum cooler weight that Intel and AMD specify.
But really, that’s an almost meaningless consideration for someone who just wants a cooler CPU. And in that sense, the 9700 fulfills the prime criteria for a CPU cooler—it’s easy to use and works great, with the added bonus of looking “cool” while doing so. -DAVID MURPHY