When we think of Zalman coolers we perhaps first call to mind the horizontal cylinder types, often respledant in their natural copper, or perhaps the smaller "top down" rose style coolers. But that's not to say that Zalman don't do the "Big twin stack" type cooler, or for that matter sealed unit water coolers. With the CNPS we see Zalman mount a very quiet 140mm fan centrally between two large heat-sink fin stacks, with six copper pipes feeding the heat up from the polished copper base plate and away from your toasty CPU. Although quite large the CNPS 14X has a relatively simple design with little in the way of bling. We thinks Zalman may be going for substance over style.
Intel LGA2011/1155/1156/1366/775 and AMD FM1/AM3+/AM3/AM2+/AM2
Intel and AMD - backplate, requires motherboard removal
140(L) x 126(W) x 159.3(H)mm
Pure Copper and aluminium
Long Life Bearing
950 ~ 1350rpm ±10%
17 ~ 21dBA ±10%
Up Close: Packaging and Contents
The CNPS 14X comes packaged in a mature looking Blue and Black card box. The exterior gives details of specification along with outlining a few of the key features of the cooler within. Inside the cooler itself rests on an expanded polystyrene base and supported by several interleaving thick card shelves.
Along with the cooler itself there's quite a lot inside the box. A large multi function back plate and a set of brackets combined with the usual bag of screws, caters for every single one of the many sockets to which the 14X can be fitted. Additional spring clips are also provided should you wish to append additional 140mm fans to the cooler, although none are supplied. An angled spanner is also included to help with fitting, along with a generous sized sachet of TIM and a rather nice Blue case badge. Zalman also include a small multi language instruction booklet
Up Close: The Cooler
As you can see from the images below, the 14X is a bit of a beast. Measuring 140x126x159mm (L,W,H) you'll need quite a bit of space in your case to fit it, although as it's height comes in just under 160mm it should fit fine in most Mid-towers. The cooler is of the twin stack design, with each of the stacks being approximately 50mm think and having 45 aerodynamically formed Aluminium fins.
A centrally mounted 140mm low rpm fan attached to a wire frame mount sucks air in over one of the stacks, and blows it out over the other.
Six heatpipes pass up evenly through the fin stack terminating equally saced just proud of the uppermost fin. This uppermost fin has detail embossing along with the Zalman name. A small plastic cap is affixed to the very top of the cooler to add just that little bit of extra style
Flipping the 14X over we can see that Zalman have opted to enclose the 5 heat pipes between two copper plates. The heat-pipes are tightly packed together and so should hopefully help transfer the heat evenly up and in to the fin stack. The finish of the contact plate is good, and although the review sample did have some blemishes on the copper these were felt to be purely cosmetic as the surface itself remained mirror smooth.
With such a universal mount it was suspected from the outset that fitting the 14X might be a bit of a fiddle. We weren't wrong. As is the case with a great many large coolers, and especially the twin stackers the body of the cooler over hangs the holes in the Motherboard through which the retaining screws to the back plate must pass through. Fitting the 14X to a motherboard that is still in a PC case is a complete non starter, even in the spacious Cooler Master "Test Trooper" that we use for all our heat sink testing, as there simply isn't enough room in the upper corners to get a tool onto the retaining screws. Fitting the cooler out of the case is still by no means a simple task, as the large overhangs again make it difficult to engage and tighten the screws that lie adjacent to the VRMs and heat-sinks which surround most modern CPUs. After a great deal of time and much swearing we did finally manage to get the cooler on, only to find that we now had the problem of getting a screwdriver into the upper left corner of the case to screw down the Motherboard and an even bigger problem getting our hand in to the very small space to attach the 12 pin CPU power cable. As we mentioned in the review of the Zaman Z11 Plus, that particular case comes with a short extension for the 12 pin cable and we have to say that if you're going to fit this cooler into any case you invest in something similar.
Zalman warn that the cooler body is likely to encroach on any RAM taller than 40mm. That said, when we tried the review sample with some particularly tall Patriot RAM, although things were quite close we were still able to use all our RAM slots. Should you choose to strap an additional 140mm fan to the front of the cooler you will almost certainly lose the first slot, and depending on the lay out of your Motherboard, perhaps the second also.
To provide continuity the test set up is as always
Gigabyte UD3R V2
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz 1.25v & 1.35v
Mushkin Radioactive 2000MHz
Cooler Master Storm Trooper
For the first test we set our i7-950 overclocked to 200x20 @ 1.25v for a clock speed of 4.0GHz. We allow the system to idle for 30 minutes and then run Prime95 'maximum heat maximum stress' setting for a further 30 minutes
After 30 minutes we note the temperatures of all cores and the ambient temperature of the room. An average of all cores is taken, then the ambient temperature is removed from this figure and this gives us the delta temperature. Delta is the temperature difference above ambient which is a truer reflection of the heat-sink performance rather than mere maximum figures. Testing in an Igloo or the Sahara would give vastly different maximum temperatures, yet the Delta could be the same.
The second test follows all steps from above but with a 200x21 @ 1.35v for 4.2GHz overclock, the extra voltage in this test allows us to see if the heat-sink can cope when extreme loads and overclocks are applied. As we saw quite high temps in the 4.0GHz test we weren't entirely surprised to see the 14X breach the 90 degree barrier and as such fail the 4.2GHz test.
If you've read any of our cooler reviews before you'll know that we often refer to what we call the "Holly Trinity". By this we imply that a cooler has 3 jobs to do. Be quiet, look good and of course keep things cool.
The Zalman CNPS 14X is certainly a quiet cooler. With a 4 pin PWM controlled fan it emits no more than 21dB at full tatt and a mere 17dB when the demands on it are rather less. In real terms, even at it's full speed of 1350 RPM the noise coming from the fan is barely noticeable, and when idling at a mere 950 RPM you could almost refer to it as silent. Hardly surprising then that it wears the Computer Noise Prevention System moniker.
With regards to looks, the 14X is eschews a great deal of the bling and glitz often associated with coolers these days, opting instead for a more classic and simple look. The twin sculpted fin stacks are penetrated vertically by six equally spaced heat pipes. There's no fancy plastic shrouds, or stylish bolt type heat pipe terminations here, just good honest basic engineering. Heck there's not even an LED fan. With only a small black plastic cap covering the central portion of the heat-sink we can at least be assured that the cost of manufacture appears to have gone on engineering and not design frippery. We also can't help thinking that leaving out a lot of the plastic has in no small part enabled Zalman to bring the 14X to Market at the price they have.
It does have to be said that the 14x doesn't perhaps perform quite as well as we were expecting it too. With our roasty toasty i7 set up things got fairly hot at 4.0GHz and too hot at 4.2GHz. As the temps were in fact much higher than we expected we actually re mounted the cooler three times and re-ran the tests, each time with a similar set of scores. It's hardly surprising though that the temps weren't exactly sub zero, as the low RPM low noise fan can hardly be expected to shift the air over the fins in the volume that would be required to keep the CPU as cool as we might like. Further evidence of this was gained by simply placing a hand on the upper part of the fin stack and heat pipe terminations. Their being warm to the touch indicated that the heat was getting away from the contact plate an up into the stack, but just wasn't being effectively dispersed by the fan. It's very probable that attaching a set of additional 140mm fans with the clips provided would remedy this situation, but then that ups the price and most likely the noise output.
We've said that the cooler has a simple design, but by no means is it simple to fit. Actually verging on impossible without removing the Motherboard, and still difficult with the mobo out of the case. This isn't a problem isolated to the 14X though, as there are other large coolers out there that have similar problems, that said, there are also some rather elegant solutions out there that see large coolers considerably easier to fit than this one. However, unlike us, you most likely don't change coolers as often as you change your under-ware so if you can put up with a bit of a fiddle, once it's in it's in as they say.
Having summed up the positive and negative aspects of the 14X ist's important that we add a sense of perspective. So it doesn't perform as well as some of the other big coolers on our graphs, but then neither does it cost anything like as much, orfor that matter make nearly as much noise while doing so. At £34.99 the CNPS 14X is really well priced for those on a budget but might be looking for the big cooler looks, and while it might not be able to handle a hefty overclock on the toasty i7 1366 platform it should be more than capable of keeping sandy Bridge Processor such as the ever popular 2500K cool even with a modest overclock. Should you want a bit more performance, well you can always strap on another pair of 140mm fans, but its at this point we would advise taking that extra money you would have to spend and looking at a different cooler.
Thanks to Quiet PC for the sample on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.