It is probably not an exaggeration to say that enthusiasts nowadays are spoiled for choices when it comes to cooling their hardware. Formerly expensive and exotic methods like water-cooling have gone mainstream as vendors introduced versions with simplified installation. No longer the exclusive domain of hackers and their homemade coolers, water-cooling is now more viable than ever. Meanwhile, the usual air-cooled solutions have also risen to the challenge with increasingly quiet and efficient coolers. As a specialist in this arena, Zalman has chalked up its fair share of successes and today, we have its latest product, the CNPS9500 LED Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler.
Bad Hair Day?
Zalman's unique, multi-finned designs are found in almost all of its best-selling coolers. It involves a multitude of fins spread out and aided by the slow spinning fan in the center, it does an impressive job of thermal dissipation. For the CNPS9500 LED, there are many such ultra slim copper fins - each stamped with Zalman's logo - extending out in a halo such that from afar, it resembles a redheaded Afro. Unlike some heatsinks, the fins have thankfully been smoothed so there are no sharp edges that could cut into careless fingers. With its pure copper fins, heat pipes and base, this 530g Zalman cooler is not the lightest around, though its height of 125mm should not pose any problems for even an average mini tower.
Loopy Heat Pipes
Suitable for most existing AMD and Intel processors, the CNPS9500 LED promises extremely quiet operation, with its noise output rated between 18 to 27.5dB. The reason for this is its large 92mm fan, which only has a maximum speed of 2600rpm. In its Silent mode, this can be as low as 1350rpm and equivalent to a whisper. Such a slow moving fan is only possible due to a combination of the well-ventilated finned design and the seemingly numerous heat pipes channeling the heat from the processor to the fins.
A closer examination reveals that there are only three heat pipes, though Zalman has made it such that they resemble twice the number by twisting them in a figure eight arrangement. This creates greater surface area for the thermal transfer between the fins and the pipes, allowing Zalman to fit more fins. The central location of the fan also helps to create a mini 'wind tunnel' through the fins and heat pipes, pulling in cool air and pushing out the warm.
Adjustable Fan Speed
The small rectangular plastic Fan Mate 2 is Zalman's proprietary fan speed controller. A knob at the top allows users to adjust the desired fan speed, while turning it to the two extremes will activate the Silent or Normal mode. The Fan Mate 2 can be left inside your casing or mounted on the outside with the double-sided tape provided in the package. Of course, leaving it outside gives you more control over the speed but from our experience, most people will just leave it alone after the initial thrill.
Zalman has done a great job showing the installation process of the CNPS9500 LED in some detail. There is an eight-page instruction manual with clear diagrams for installing the cooler for both AMD and Intel processors. A more concise Flash-based walkthrough can also be found on its website if you need any more handholding. Based on its specifications, the CNPS9500 LED Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler is as good as its name and should appeal to a broad spectrum of users. The cool blue LEDs on the fan will attract the flashy users while those who prefer their coolers discreet will certainly find the normal CNPS9500 to their liking. At a fairly competitive price of around US$65, it is certainly an air-cooling solution worth considering for the serious enthusiast as well as those who seek to be unique in showcasing their hardware.