Zalman CNPS8000A CPU Cooler Review
Reviewed by: RJR
Reviewed on: November 16, 2010
Today we take a look at the Zalman CNPS8000A CPU cooler. True, OverclockersClub is known for its enthusiast class reviews that can exploit the boundaries of performance hardware available to all who want to push their overclocked computers to the max, but we still have to cater to the needs of the people out there that need specialty coolers for projects like SFF and HTPC case builds. So, for those select people we will take a look at this Zalman CNPS8000A, sitting on top of an i3 540 processor, because you really don't need an overclocked i7 pumping movies to your TV in an HTPC case. Zalman does state this cooler is compatible with the Intel 1156/1366/775 and AMD AM3/AM2+/AM2 series of processors.
Okay, how about a little discussion on air cooling. What do you want an air CPU cooler to do? You want it to remove as much heat as possible, as quickly as possible, from your CPU. Starting at the mating surfaces, you want your cooler and CPU to be as flat and void of imperfections as possible resulting in the greatest metal to metal contact obtainable. Imperfections even down to the microscopic level will affect the transfer of heat between the two surfaces. That is why TIM (thermal interface material) is required when mounting your cooler to fill any imperfections and give you better thermal conductivity between the two surfaces. If no TIM was used, air would be in the voids between the two surfaces and air is a very bad thermal conductor, hence higher temperatures would result.
Just for reference, air has a thermal conductivity of 0.025 W/(m-K) versus copper's thermal conductivity of 401 W/(m-K). Quite a difference between the two, so, the smoother and void-free the cooler's base is, the better the heat transfer between the mating surfaces will be. Now you have the heat generated by the CPU being efficiently transferred to the coolers base and in most cases into a heat-pipe array to be carried away from the base of the cooler.
But what are heat-pipes anyway? Heat-pipes are pipes that contain a liquid that uses evaporation to transfer the heat from the hot CPU to the coolers fins to be removed by the fan attached to the cooler and then condensation returns the liquid back to the CPU, either by gravity or wicking, to be heated again. Heat-pipes are a more efficient thermal transfer means than even solid copper, that's why it's become very common for heat-pipes to be used on all types of coolers today. This is very generalized and a lot of science goes into the design of modern coolers including the exact make-up of the metals used, fin thickness, fin density, fin angles, base thickness, base machining, heat-pipe diameter, etc., so you can see why two coolers that look very similar can produce very different results.
Okay, so back to the review now.
The packaging of the Zalman CNPS8000A is a very attractively painted cardboard box with a clear plastic clamshell enclosing the cooler itself inside. The front states "High Performance Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler" and the compatibility information; Intel 1156/1366/775 and AMD AM3/AM2+/AM2 compatible. The side of the box lists the specifications of the cooler and the back once again shows the compatibility information and goes through the features of the cooler.
The cooler comes with the necessary mounting hardware to work with its compatible sockets and also includes a fan controller so you can adjust the fan speed to your needs of performance and volume. The backing plate provides added insurance so that your motherboard won't flex when installing the Zalman CNPS8000A cooler. You also get Zalman's high performance thermal grease ZM-STG2M included with the cooler, and that is what was used for our testing of this cooler, all other coolers used their default thermal grease.
The Zalman CNPS8000A cooler is a short 66mm tall with a 92mm 1400-2600 RPM fan attached to and actually sitting in the cooler itself. It is of course designed for applications where a shorter stature cooler is needed and you're not going to be doing massive overclocking. The down draft type coolers really help with the air flow around the CPU socket, keeping things like your RAM washed with cool air. The 4 heat-pipe design of this cooler should move the heat from the base to the aluminum fins rapidly enough to do a good job at cooling your CPU, we will see for sure in a couple of pages when we put it to the test against some other coolers.
Here you can see the bare cooler with the fan removed. You can really see in these pictures how the aluminum fins protrude upwards on the sides to increase the surface area of the cooling fins without adding any height to the cooler, since the fan sits down inside these wings. The 4 heat-pipes come up from the base at a pretty sharp angle to minimize the length of the cooler, then go completely through the cooling fins.
The base of the CNPS8000A cooler is perfectly flat in both directions and despite the pictures that look like the surface should feel like sandpaper, is smooth to the touch. Since this is not a cooler you would be doing massive overclocking with, the base finish should be acceptable for its target market of Slim/SFF or HTPC case computers.
The fan snaps on and off of the cooler rather easily, but securely, to reveal a 2 ball-bearing, 12v, 0.23 amp motor capable of fan speeds of 1400-2600 RPM. The inclusion of the Fan-Mate 2 fan controller allows complete access to the fan speed allowing you to customize the RPM to allow for better cooling or reduced fan noise depending on your particular situation.
The mounting of the cooler was fairly easy. The clearance was good, even with three heat-sinks surrounding the CPU socket. There is enough clearance that populating all RAM slots wouldn't be a problem with an 1156 motherboard depending on the orientation of the cooler and the width and height or the surrounding heat-sinks.
108L X 108W X 66H (mm)
Heatsink: Pure Aluminum Base: Pure Copper Heatpipes: Pure Copper
1400-2600 RPM (Fan-Mate 2 controller)
Fan noise level
20-30 dBA +/- 10%
Fan Bearing Type
- Optimized heatsink designed for slim cases
- Ultra Quiet 92mm Fan-Mate 2 controlled Fan
- Quad Heat-pipe for efficient heat dissipation
- Zalman ZM-STG2M high performance thermal compound
- Zalman Fan-Mate 2 fan controller
All information courtesy of Zalman Cooling @ http://www.zalman.com/eng/main.asp
Testing and Setup:
Testing of this cooler will involve a Prime95 run (4 threads) for 4 hours using the Blend setting at stock and a mild 3.61 GHz overclock. The load temperature will be the maximum temperature of any core as recorded by Coretemp. The idle temperature will be recorded as the average temperature after at least 30 minutes of an idle condition. The ambient temperature was maintained at 22c throughout the testing. The stock 3.06 GHz frequency of the i3 540 defaults to 1.212v vcore and a mild 3.61 GHz overclock was run using 1.224v vcore setting. Since this is mainly a slim case/HTPC cooler and not an overclocking cooler these mild settings should be more conducive to the real world application of this heatsink. All coolers are tested with the thermal grease supplied with the cooler.
Also, the testing of this cooler, since it does come with a Fan-Mate 2 fan controller, was performed without the controller installed, hence the fan was running at its maximum RPM (2600 RPM) giving us the high setting and then ran with the fan controller installed at the lowest obtainable speed (1400 RPM), giving us the low fan speed setting.
- CPU: Intel core i3 540 (3.06 stock and 3.61 OC)
- Motherboard: ECS P55H-AK
- Memory: Kingston HyperX blu 4GB DDR3-1600
- Video Card: Gigabyte HD 5870
- Power Supply: Enermax Modu-82+ 625W
- HDD: Seagate 640 GB 7200.11
- Optical Drive: Samsung DVD-R
- OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-bit
The 4 heat-pipe design of the Zalman CNPS8000A CPU cooler (on high fan speed) bettered the stock Intel heatsink by 12c on the stock load and 16c on the overclocked load, so, not too bad for a low-profile cooling solution.
The Zalman CNPS8000A cooler did a respectable job at controlling the heat of the i3 540 at stock speed and a mild 3.61 GHz overclock. Running at 3.61 GHz, the CNPS8000A managed a 56c load temperature versus the stock Intel cooler's 72c. As you can see this cooler with its 4 heat-pipe design could come in very handy in tight spaces or when used with processors that don't produce significant amounts of heat, like the Core i3. The overall fit and finish of this cooler was very good, albeit the base finish not being a perfect reflective, void-free surface, though it was very flat and smooth to the touch. This is the kind of finish you're going to find in a cooler at this price point, hence this will not be viewed as a negative in this review.
The cooler was very quiet, even at the maximum RPM we used when testing. Lowering the fan speed with the included Fan-Mate 2 fan controller can produce a virtually silent CPU fan condition. This can really come in handy if you are using the cooler in an HTPC or just want complete silence from your computer, although you do take a hit in cooling capacity.
- Good cooling capability
- Minimum height
- Quiet operation with fan controller
- Quality manufacture and finish
- Good clearance around CPU
- Cooling capacity with fan controller