At A Glance
Powerful performance, slightly easier install. Includes Socket 1366 bracket.
Intel install still requires mobo removal; fins
may draw blood from careless users.
When Zalman told us its new CNPS9900 LED was the best CPU air cooler ever, we took the news with a grain of salt. For more than a year, the company’s CNPS9700 LED had been our top air cooler, until Thermaltake’s DuOrb usurped Zalman’s place at the top of the heap in our July 2008 issue. Can the CNPS9900 retake the cooling throne for Zalman?
In a word, yes. This copper-finned monster outperforms the Thermaltake DuOrb across the board, keeping our test bed’s CPU an average of three degrees cooler than the DuOrb was able to at both idle and full burn, making it the best CPU air cooler we’ve ever tested.
Each of Zalman’s CNPS9000 series coolers has been larger than the last, and the CNPS9900 is no exception—at 3.7”x5.5”x6.24”, it’s about half an inch wider than the 9700 and almost three-quarters of an inch taller. That’s big, all right, but still not the largest air cooler we’ve tested—not by a long shot. The CNPS9900 is instantly recognizable as kin to the rest of the CNPS9000 series, although this time its trademark copper radial-finned heatsinks are on either side of the 120mm blue LED fan, with two in the front and one in the rear. A plastic shroud surrounds the fan and gives your fingers a safe place to grasp, but it can be removed for better performance, though doing so increases the risk of chopping up errant cables or fingers. The CNPS9900 is slightly louder than the CNPS9700 at full bore, but certainly not deafening.
Installation is easier than it was with the CNPS9700, although if you’re on a Socket 775 or 1366 board you’ll still have to remove your motherboard to install the back plate.
Be warned, however: Like its predecessors, the CNPS9900’s fins are apt to draw blood from the careless installer. But given this cooler’s performance, we figure maybe the CNPS9900 simply requires a blood sacrifice to kick-start whatever unholy deal it made in exchange for ultimate cooling power. And we’re OK with spilling a little blood to get top-notch performance.