There is a lot about the CNPS2X that I really do like. Even though small, the packaging should be able to grab your attention on a store shelf, and the interior packaging is perfect for a cooler so tiny and delicate. The looks of the bright new shiny copper is stunning out of the packaging, and with around 100 fins in the design, it makes you really ponder what a pain in the butt it must be to assemble these. Everything from laying out the S-pipe taking the heat to an outer circle where it is soldered into the fins, and while the base is not perfect, is in no way a limiting factor to this design. The 80mm fan really spins its heart out to try to cool my CPU, and I really am a fan of its silence.
So, the CNPS wins on looks, design and noise levels, but there are still two things yet to consider. While the CNPS moniker on this cooler really means you can have a near silent system, the performance was just too lackluster. Think about it this way - I have the air conditioning on to keep solid ambient and humidity levels and my whole office uses a large fan to circulate the air. I have one fan in the front of the D-frame when I tested this, and I still hit 77 degrees. Considering I am giving this cooler the best chance it is going to have performance wise, creeping up to the middle 80's would be my guess as to where my processor would run in super compact mini-ITX chassis where room is the limiting factor for CPU cooler choices. For what it is worth to me, I would just keep my stock cooler, or opt for the Noctua or Prolimatech solutions in these instances.
At this point the count is one to one, as we move into the third aspect; cost. Here Zalman makes this very easy for me. With a price of $29.99 at Newegg, currently as I type this, of course this cooler is super affordable. But is that enough? To me, being reasonably priced and silent are indeed good qualities to have, but the performance is just too lackluster for me to recommend actually using this cooler as it is intended. Considering the cooler that comes with most processors will indeed fit in almost all Mini-ITX cases, I would say stick with that, because while much nicer to look at, what good is looks going to do with a solid side panel or a PSU covering the cooler? Very little, that's what.
I get why Zalman went this way with this cooler design, but I think it needs some work. Maybe less, but thicker fins, and maybe a better fan with more CFM, even if it does raise the noise levels a bit. The only way I could see myself going to this cooler is if I really had no other choice, but it does make a cool cooler to mod for other things, much like we used to do back in the old days of overclocking.