Nathan Edwards Nov 12, 2012

Zalman CNPS12X Review

At A Glance


Beautiful looks; quiet fans.


Frustrating install; lousy retention mechanism.

The latest Zalman heatsink looks cooler than it is

THE CNPS12X MIGHT be Zalman’s most eye-catching cooler, with two arrays of black-nickel-coated cooling fins and three 12cm fans to push air through them. And it is massive. It’s 6.1 inches tall, 5.25 deep, and more than 6 inches wide, and weighs two pounds, four ounces. It’s so big it overhangs the inner four RAM slots on our Asus P9X79 Deluxe test motherboard, requiring the use of RAM without tall heat spreaders. The six direct-contact heat pipes rise into two sets of cooling fins, with the front and rear fans nestled into their respective fins, and the middle fan in between the two sets. All three fans are controlled via a single 3-pin power connector.

Installation of the CNPS12X is a pain. Zalman has adopted the common mounting system of two parallel mounting bars with a perpendicular crossbar that bolts to each mounting bar and keeps the cooler in place. Alas, Zalman’s system is flimsy and uses the same skinny hex bolts we complained about in our 9900MAX review, which require a special (included) hex wrench. The bolts are hard to access thanks to their position directly below the center fan, and don’t seem to be able to apply much pressure to the heatsink

Whether because of this or simply the nickel finish on the entire heat exchanger, the CNPS12X performed poorly on our overclocked system, getting the CPU to just below 78 C. Lest we base the score on an isolated incident, we installed the cooler several times over several days and got the same performance.

Without the included resistor cable, the CNPS12X is quiet. It’s very quiet with the resistor cable, and so if you’re not overclocking, the CNPS12X is an appealing and beautiful cooler. But given the flimsiness and frustration of the install process, we can’t recommend it for overclocked LGA2011 cooling.

Dimensions HxDxW (inches, with fans)
Weight2 lbs 3.8 oz
Heat Pipes 6 direct-contact
Stock Fans
3x 12cm, 1x 3-pin connector
Add’l Fan SupportNo


CM Hyper 212 Evo
Xigmatek Gaia
NZXT Havik 120
Noctua DH-14 Zalman CNPS12X Intel RTS2011LC Corsair H100
Ambient Air
23.8 25.1 25 25.2 24.2 25 25
                   Idle Temperature 36.2 35.5 34.8 34.1   
35.2 35.2 33.2
Burn Temperature 74 75.7 73.7 72.3 77.8 77.8 69.2

All temperatures in degrees Celsius. Best scores bolded. All tests performed using an Intel Core i7-3960 at 4.2GHz, on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with 16GB DDR3/1600, in a Thermaltake Level 10 GT with stock fans set to High.


Zalman CNPS12X

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