Zalman CNPS9900 Max Reviewairman - December 30, 2010
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The CNPS9900 MAX has a total of three heatpipes. Each one loops through each set of fins, and back into the base. Two heatpipes extend from the rear side and through a wider set of fins, while there is only one heatpipe looping through the front side. The fan reminds me of an average fan with the shroud removed, and a metal stand coming from the rear that attaches to the base. Each set of fins has a metal ring around them to secure them in place and to prevent them from twisting out of place. The CNPS9900 MAX label is placed on the front side of the fan. There is a nub on the top side of the base that I couldn't find a use for, as it's just in the cast portion of the top plate where the fan attaches. I've provided a closer look of it in the next set of pictures, after the following.
There are two screws that secure the fan and the fan stand to the base. In the casting of this base cover are the words "MADE IN KOREA", which makes sense since that is where Zalman is headquartered. The nub on the casting that I mentioned above can be seen here more clearly. The fins' structure and geometry can be seen a little more clearly below. One neat thing that I noticed about these fins is that they look to be polished to a mirror finish. This can be seen on the fully exposed one where the reflection of the heatpipe can be seen. The three heatpipes are sandwiched between the base and the top plate where the fan is secured. You can see how two of the heatpipes are on one side, and only one on the other.
The plate to which the fan attaches is removed by taking out the four screws that can be seen from the base. Underneath this plate, the heatpipes themselves are exposed. These heatpipes are soldered to the base, so this is as much as the cooler can be disassembled. Taking a closer look at the fan will show its design, though there's not much to it. It uses a 4-pin PWM connector and the fan operates with 12V and pulls 0.40A. It is a clear, 135mm fan and has a red LED inside of it. I don't expect it to be very bright since the LEDs in fans are typically in the shroud, which are pointed at and illuminate the blades. The fan blades on the CNPS9900 MAX are slightly "frosted", which should help the brightness a little bit.
The base of the CNPS9900 MAX is one of the most impressive bases I have seen. It is polished to a mirror finish and there is no doubt about that. Not a single machining mark can be seen! Hopefully, the thickness of the plating here is hardly measurable. The rate of conduction is based off the thermal conductivity coefficient and the thickness of the material. The thicker the material, the lower the conduction rate. Since the thermal conductivity of nickel is less than one-fourth of that of copper, this will add thermal resistance. Typically, metal plating is on the order of a few micro inches thick, so this shouldn't cause much of a problem, but we can assume that it does slightly hinder its performance. Regardless of this, the quality of the finish on the base certainly makes up for it.
Installation of the CNPS9900 MAX is relatively straight forward and simple. The instructions found in the manual are clear, and I had no issues following them. First, the appropriate set of clips are clamped between the base and the top, with the removable plate that I showed earlier. Then, the nuts are placed into the appropriate holes in the back plate and then secured into place with the supplied plastic caps. The only difficulty I came across was the in-case installation. The supplied hex key used to tighten the screws into the back plate was a little too short since the 90 degree bend was unable to easily clear the heatsink while turning it. Luckily, the end of the wrench is rounded so tightening the screws at an angle wasn't much of a problem.
To put the brightness of the cooler into perspective, the fan is powered and the light is illuminated in the final picture with the cooler installed. Of course, it is washed out from the brightness of the bounce flash, but the LEDs on the motherboard easily outpower it to the naked eye. It can't even be noticed in this picture. This is far from the appearance depicted on the box, but it doesn't affect my preference of it either way. So far, my thoughts of this cooler are positive. It is good looking, has a promising design, the base is perfect, and wasn't a terrible pain to install, though the shorter hex key made it difficult to do so inside the case - I had to remove the video card to fasten the bottom screws. Soon, we'll find out how it performs!