For Testing of the Zalman CNPS10X Extreme I am going to put it up against my old reliable Noctua NH-U12P. I will be testing the Zalman at all three of it’s built in settings to see how well the included fan works and how much difference there is between each setting. Again during testing I used the removable Power Mate outside the case using the included extension cable. This way I was able to adjust on the fly if I so wished.
The testing will be done with my E8400 running slightly overclocked at 3.485GHz on my Asus P5Q Deluxe Motherboard. The hardware is all mounted inside a stock HAF 932 Cooler Master case. As indicated in the graph below the ambient temperature in the room is 76F. My Computer room has it’s own temperature controlled Air unit so it is easy to maintain a constant temperature. Testing is all done using Speedfan and Realtemp to monitor system, CPU and the actual core temps ( as per speedfans readouts). I will be testing each cooler at idle and also at load using Prime95. The setting for Prime95 for in place large FFT’s (Maximum heat, power consumption, some RAM tested). Artic Silver 5 paste used as the thermal paste on all coolers.
Looking at the Temps for Idle on the machines it looks at though it’s a pretty even game across the board on the cores. The Zalman does manage to pull a 2 degree drop at idle when set on high which gives it a slight but noticeable lead. The CPU temperatures were a little different and it seems that the Zalman on High and the Noctua cooler actually run about the same at idle. Strangely the Zalman fan set at low to medium made very little difference, both of those scores peaking around 36-37C. The reason the scores were so similar with the Zalman settings is that the Power Mate operates within a defined range. On all three of the setting it does allow the fan to drop down into the “silent” mode when Idle. This explains why when left alone the temperatures pretty much top off around the same temperature. The real test is when a load is applied and the fan Ramps up to full speed allowed by the three settings. Below is a graph explaining the Fan speed settings from the Zalman website.
Moving onto the more relevant data which is how well the coolers can dissipate heat when loaded we see the numbers are staggered quite a bit. The Zalman fan set to the highest speed per setting is of course coolest at the highest speed and hottest at the lowest speed. With the Mid setting of course falling predictable in the middle. All of the scores are of course decent scores but nothing phenomenal. I was actually a bit surprised that the drops in temperatures was so negligible between the three settings. With only a 4C drop between the highest peak on each setting I was really underwhelmed with the Zalman’s idea to even include the Adjustable Power Mate.
Too add insult to injury the Noctua managed to keep up with the Zalman fan at Medium settings and do it with much less noise. Suffice to say the Zalman fan is noticeably loud even at it’s lowest setting in the quiet HAF 932 case. At the highest setting the Zalman fan has a very annoying whine to it. You couldn’t put it up there with the hair dryer sound of the old ATI cooler but it’s definitely noticeable to me. I’m not even a silence fanatic and I found it irritating. Rated at nearly 40 dB(A)’s is just too loud for my taste, and quite frankly not up to snuff for the quiet standard I hold Zalman too. The bottom line is that the Noctua cooler did only slightly worse running only 20 dBa (rated) and spinning at around 1300rpm.
To be fair to Zalman I think this “Extreme” cooler isn’t marketed to be a silent cooler but a performance cooler. The CNPS10x Extreme is in fact more geared towards those who just want their machines to run cool as they push the numbers. For that individual this cooler might not even be noisy at all. In fact noise is such a relative and personal thing that it’s hard to even quantify. I can only tell you from my experience what I think is loud through my tolerance level. It’s also possible that I might have got a bad fan and it exceeded the rated dBA’s. I think that MI might have to invest in a Decibel Meter at some point to raise the level of our reviews just that much more. Decibel levels and noise tolerance aside the performance numbers are certainly there. I think that anyone who is just looking for the lowest temperatures isn’t going to be disappointed with the Zalmans performance.