There is really two completely different ways to approach what I am about to tell you. The first direction I want to go is the way the cooler ships out of the box. For around $50 you are in fact getting a silent cooling solution that is sort of a pain to install. Nevertheless, this twin tower design of the CNPS14X Ultra Quiet cooler is exactly that. The performance is what took the hit and almost got bested by the low profile and much smaller Noctua NH-L12. Even with the higher price of the Noctua fresh in your mind, it's almost the same performance for both sound and temperatures, but the mounting and space used in the case gives the overall edge to Noctua in this battle. Shame really for such a big cooler, I had higher expectations. Out of the box the CNPS14X makes me want to look elsewhere to cool my CPUs.
There is a flip side to all of that stock let down of the cooler and that is when I strapped on the additional fans. Using three 135mm fans to cool the towers brings the performance levels up and made for a six degree gap over the out of the box testing. While we are getting much better results, there are a few downsides here as well.The cooler may be tough to install in some cases, it overtakes the top half of the motherboard and will likely cause issues with most memory and I had to come up with a way to power three fans from the same header or I have wires running all over and that just looks tacky. The cooler is a bit tougher to install in this configuration and even with the wrench to give access to any sort of twisting of the bolts, it takes way too long to mount this cooler. On top of that, to get the performance we expect from a dual tower cooler, you will have to shell out another $20 - $30 for the additional fans raising the price of this cooler considerably and as I mentioned, there are much easier coolers to use that will deliver the same performance. It's really too bad too, because the CNPX14X does look damn good.
As a silent cooling solution, at stock levels this cooler does great, but I write for extremists and we overclock. Out of the box, the Zalman CNPS14X is lacking in headroom for such a large cooler. If you don't mind the installation process, the amount of room you lose and you have either naked sticks, low profile ones or minimal height to the heat spreaders, you are going to have issues, even more on LGA2011 with the memory on both sides. I would much rather they had included just a push fan and gave both fans more RPM and / or static pressure, so that it didn't have to be this enormous to perform that well.
Zalman's CNPS14X is certainly affordable and stylish, but as with most coolers something has to go and bottom line; out of the box, I just think there are better solutions to put your money into.
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