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Nathan Edwards

Aug 19, 2008

Zalman CNPS9300 AT

At A Glance

V

Amazing performance for its size; fan adjustable through the BIOS.

Hellboy

The installation process needs to be simplified.

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 5,490cm 2 to 2,583cm 2 .


Zalman is keeping the current black-fan version of the CNPS9300 for now but hasn’t ruled out making an
LED-fan version that matches the CNPS9700’s look.

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 ).

Since it eschews the CNPS9700’s fan controller in favor of a four-pin motherboard connection, the CNPS9300 AT’s fan can be controlled through the BIOS or by using a utility such as SpeedFan. We welcome the change, as it’s much easier to adjust the cooler via a software application than by opening your case and turning a knob.

Cranking the CNPS9300 to full throttle elicits a loud whirr, but it allows the device to match the quieter DuOrb degree for degree. Letting the BIOS automatically decide the fan’s speed drops the device’s cooling power by about five degrees; however, it is much quieter when set on auto mode.

The CNPS9300 still relies on a tiresome and frustrating installation mechanism. The backplane requires motherboard removal, perhaps the least irritating part of the process. The cooler’s mounting bracket barely fits atop the voltage regulators of our EVGA 680i motherboard. And the amount of force we applied to the screws on the CNPS9300’s retention bar to affix it to the mounting bracket had us seriously concerned about the welfare of our processor.

Because of the CNPS9300’s installation shortcomings, the DuOrb remains our reigning cooler of choice, despite its gargantuan size. We love the performance Zalman has achieved with its mini-cooler. Attaching it to our CPU is where we start to sweat.

Benchmarks

CNPS9300 AT (SmartFan)
CNPS9300 AT (100%) Thermaltake DuOrb Stock Cooler
Idle (C) 39.5 32.5 
35.0    46.0
100% Burn (C) 56.0   
51.5
51.0 70.0
Best scores are bolded. Idle temperatures were measured after an hour of inactivity; load temperatures were measured after an hour’s worth of CPU Burn-In (four instances). Test system consists of a stock-clock Q6700 processor on an EVGA 680i motherboard.
THE VERDICT

Zalman CNPS9300 AT

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