Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 1

 Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

Introduction

Zalman have been in the cooler business for quite some time now and have established a name for themselves in the production of more esoteric coolers and external reserator systems. Going a bit more mainstream (if we can call sealed system liquid cooling systems mainstream) Zalman have released a stand alone maintenance free system. Combining a integral pump and head with a radiator and fan. The CNPS moniker indicates that this is badged as a "Computer Noise Prevention System" and as such we should expect low noise as well as low temperatures.  Lets take a look at the vital statistics shall we.

 

Technical Specification.

Dimensions (Radiator)

153(L) x 120(W) x 38(H)mm

Weight (Waterblock)

195g

Materials

Fins: Aluminum / Base: Copper

Fan

PWM 120mm Fan

Fan Dimensions

120(L) x 120(W) x 25(H)mm

Fan RPM

900 ~ 2,000 ± 10%

Noise Level

17 ~ 36 dBA ± 10%

Fan Bearing

Long life bearing

PWM Duty Cycle

30 ~ 100 ± 5%

Connector

4-Pin(Fan), 3-Pin(Pump)

Rated Voltage

12V

 

 

Intel

2011

Core i7 Extreme

Supports all speeds

Core i7

1155/1156

Core i7

Supports all speeds

Core i5

Core i3

Pentium

Celeron

1366

Core i7 Extreme

Supports all speeds

Core i7

AMD

FM1

LIano

Supports all speeds

AM3+

FX

Supports all speeds

AM3

Phenom II

Supports all speeds

Athlon II

Opteron

AM2+

Phenom II

Supports all speeds

Phenom

Athlon FX

Athlon X2

Opteron

Athlon

Sempron

AM2

Athlon FX

Supports all speeds

Athlon X2

Athlon

Opteron

Sempron

 

 



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 2

Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Up Close:  Packaging and contents

The Zalman CNPS 20LQ, hereafter known as the 20LQ because there's no way on Gods green earth I'm typing the full name every time, comes packaged in a rather classy looking black box with moody dark images of the unit counterpointed by the shining copper of the contact plate.  The box also gives details of CPU compatibility, fan and unit specifications as well as a short multi language section relating to key features. 

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

In something of a break from the traditional expanded foam and polystyrene used by most manufacturers, Zalman have packaged the 20LQ in what can best be described as a giant recycled cardboard egg carton.  At first I thought this bit cheap but then after thinking about it I realised if this stuff keeps eggs from breaking and it's good for old mother earth then it ticks the right boxes.  It certainly seems to have done the job as the unit was perfectly well protected and presented.  The pump and faceplate come pre plumbed to the radiator, with the 120mm fan unattached

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

Also included in the box are the necessary fittings for the sockets listed on page 1 in addition to some of the clearest instructions I've seen in quite a while.  Nice big diagrams go a long way (not that I use instructions of course, because as we know real men don't read the instructions) 

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 3

Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Up Close:  The radiator, fan and tubing.

The 20LQfollows the same recipe as other sealed systems on the market, having a copper water block linked to a 120.1 Radiator via two flexible rubber hoses.  The hoses themselves are 30cm long which should be plenty to reach from most CPUs to either the rear or convenient roof fan mount.  The hoses are flexiblewithout feeling that they're about to kink and reduce flow.  The small diameter hoses are secured at both ends by plastic barbs.  I gave all the tubes a bit of a test tug before fitting into the case just to check things out as I don't naturally trust a fitting.  I can however report that they are well secured.  Subsequent fitting and used gave no leaks at all

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

The body of the radiator, as with the rest of the 20LQ and included fan is finished in simple black.  Royal Blue capping's are added to opposing sides of the radiator body, bearing the Zalman name and adding a bit of colour.  The fan is a custom 120mm unit which is minus one side of the outer square cowling giving the appearance of a circular fan mounted onto a square frame.  The fan is rated at 900-2000 rpm and interestingly although marketed as a CNPS product the noise rating is given as between 17 and 36dBA.  Mmmm 36dBA, that doesn't sound good.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.  It is however PWM so perhaps all is not lost.

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ 

  



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 4

 Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Up Close:  The Water Block

I'm always a bit of a sucker for a nice bit of engineering and especially over engineering.  With no less than 14 bolts holding the pump head together, and an additional 10 bolts securing the faceplate to the pump housing the 20LQ certainly gives the impression of being well engineered and well put together.  Now if only highly reflective polished copper was easier to photograph.

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

The water Block face plate comes with it's own little plastic clip on cover which serves to protect the contact surface as well as preserving the pre applied coating of TIM.  The pump is powered by means of a 3 pin fan plug which can be attached to your mobo or straight out the 12 supply from your PSU via a molex adapter.

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 5

Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Assembly and fitting.

Some of the clearest instructions I've ever come across make the firring of the 20LQ a much easier process than it would otherwise be.  The method used is much the same as for other sealed system coolers and is a multi stage affair.  A back plate is attached to the rear of the mother board via two adhesive pads.  Small internally threaded grommets are then plugged through the holes in the back plate which coincide with those in your motherboard (a single back plate is used with a selection of holes depending on your socket).  Turning to the water block 2 thin steel rings are secured around the water block, which is then secured to the back plate via threaded knurled thumb bolts.  This was about the only bit that's a fiddle as there didn't seem quite enough initial length on the threads to get them to engage easily with the threaded grommets.  A few swearies were uttered which is never a good sign.

Unfortunately the woe didn't end there.  As what should have been the simple act of attaching the fan and radiator threw me a few more curve balls.  The instructions say that the Radiator should be attached to the rear of the case and secured in place with screws from the outside, much as you would attach a case fan.  The fan is then attached to the inner aspect of the radiator pulling air from inside the case and exhausting it through the rad to provide the cooling.  Unfortunately in one of the cases I fitted the 20LQ to there was not enough clearance around the rear 120 fan mount to allow the radiator to be placed, necessitating a bit of lateral thinking.  The result was the fan mounted on the case and the radiator attached the to fan internally as seen in the pictures below.  In this set up the fan pulls air in from outside the case and passes it through the radiator to the inside of the case.  As I was concerned that this may have an effect on temps and thus performance readout I tested the system in both configurations and it made as near as makes no difference (0.5 of a degree if you're interested).  The final part of the process is to attach the power.  The fan is fitted with a PWM plug so rpm can be controlled via the motherboard or suitable fan controller.  The pump is powered by means of a 3 pin fan plug from any Motherboard header.

Zalman CNPS 20LQ     Zalman CNPS 20LQ  

 

 



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 6

Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Performance

To provide continuity the test set up is as always 

Gigabyte UD3R V2
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz 1.25v & 1.35v
Mushkin Radioactive 2000MHz
HIS 6850
Cooler Master Storm Trooper
Corsair AX750w

 

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 10 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. As this unit is supplied with 2 fans I have tested in both single and dual fan configuration.  All testing is done with the fans powered of a 12volt supply from the PSU to ensure that the fans are run at full speed.  As the 2000rpm fan fitted to the 20LQ proved to be more than a bit noisy at full tatt I also undertook some testing at a more respectable 9volts to see what effect it would have on cooling at a fan speed that was more tolerable.

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 with 4.0GHz the Heatsink was tested in both single and dual fan configuration.  Again we tested at high and low fan speeds.

 

 

The last test is at 4.4GHz, 200x22 @ 1.45v and is an extreme test that only extreme coolers will ever pass. Any cooler in this graph is a one of the elite few that has the cooling ability to dissipate the heat created during this grueling test.  On low fans the cooler failed with the one of the cores exceeding the limit of 90 degrees required for a pass in this test.  At high fans however it remained under the 90 degree limit.


 



Zalman CNPS 20LQ Review Page: 7

Zalman CNPS 20LQ

 

Conclusion

Before getting into the meat of the Conclusion the first thing I need to do is go back to my comment about the noise level of the 20LQ at 12Volts.  At the full 2000rpm this fan puts out an ear bleeding 36dBA.  That might not sound much but it is.  Remember for every increase of 10dBA there's a perceived doubling of the noise output.  Now I appreciate the assessment of noise without silent rooms and calibrated measurement equipment is always going to be a subjective affair so let me put it this way.  When I was conducting the tests, which remember take at least 30 mins per overclock setting, The high loud high pitched whine of the fan was that irritating that I once I was happy the temps weren't going to fry my CPU I actually left the room and let the tests run in my absence.  Seriously that irritating.  Which of course is a shame because at full tatt the 20LQ performs pretty well, with temps at 4GHz that only the super tower coolers and other water cooling systems on test are beating.  The story is much the same at 4.2GHz although the 20LQ has slipped a bit further down the pack.  Although the 20LQ does make it into the 4.4GHz club it does so by the skin of it's teeth with one core getting very close to the fail point of 90 degrees.  That said at 4.4GHz it does beat the remaining tower air coolers (NH-D14, Havik 140 and Phanteks PH-TC14PE), being beaten only by the watercooling units in the chart, all of which are bigger units sporting twin or triple rads.

At lower rpms the 20LQ becomes a much more realistic solution.  Stopping the voltage down to 9volts pretty much silences the fan and still enables the cooler to provide reasonable cooling at both 4.0GHz and 4.2GHz.  Using the PWM functionality of the fan or perhaps attaching it to a temperature controlled fan controller is perhaps the best way to use this cooler.  If it's gaming that's pushing the temps up then your system can respond by upping the revs.  As the noise of your gaming increases you maybe won't so much notice the noise of the fan as it steps up it's revs to cope with the heat.

The build quality of the 20LQ is good, particularly the engineering seen in the face plate and water block.  A couple of slightly out of place fins on the radiator, but that's nothing uncommon with most radiators you buy.  The Blue end caps sporting the Zalman name add a degree of colour to the all black affair, but a little bit of me thinks the blue is a bit of an odd choice.  There is ample length available in both the fan cable and the pump power cables and the rubber tubing is flexible without the feeling it's going to kink, and although the fan might be noisy at full tatt the pump is a thing of peace and tranquility.

Fitting is a bit of a fiddle, but not the worst I've ever come across and is made easier by some of the clearest instructions Ive seen.  The inclusion of pre applied TIM with the protective cap is a nice touch, and if you fancy using something different then you can always wipe it off and apply your own.  I did encounter a few clearance issues when mounting to the rear case fan area, but this is more a fault of the case than the 20LQ as all 120.1 sealed system radiators are essentially the same size.  The problem was easily rectified and made no discernible difference to the temps.

In summing up I'd say the 20LQ is a good piece of kit, let down to some degree by the choice of fan.  There are certainly quieter fans out there around the 2000rpm mark (the Scythe GT1850 springs to mind).  At 2000rpm the unit is just not a practical option, it really is too loud to live with which is a shame.  At lower rpms the noise drops to tolerable levels, but then the performance also drops to the point where some mid sized air coolers are getting the better of it.  The solution of curse is in the PWM function of the fan or the use of a fan controller which will automatically up the fan speed as temperature dictates.  You just have to hope that it doesn't need to take up all the way or you're going to be sorting yourself out a new set of eardrums.

So good, but not great, and of course the biggest shame of all is that for the want of a decent fan it could have been so much better, and for Zalman to badge the 20LQ as a CNPS system is a bit of a mystery to me 

It gets a silver purely because of the cooling it offers.  If Zalman can sort the noise out then it'll edge further up.

 

  

Thanks to Quiet PC for the Zalman on test today, you can discuss this review in our forums.