Zalman CNPS10X Extreme CPU Cooler

Zalman has released a new tower designed performance cooler they deem to be Extreme. Let's see if it can deliver.

Manufacturer: Zalman
9 minutes & 48 seconds read time


Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

My first retail purchase of an aftermarket CPU cooler was a Zalman CNPS9500, in all its copper glory. The cooler was rated really well at that time and only bested in the Zalman lineup by the 9700 series of coolers. Back then Zalman was banking on a cooler that radiated fins from the center in a "barrel" style. This has seemed to have worked, as Zalman not too awful long ago released the CNPS9900 LED cooler. This was an adaptation of older tech with improvements made to improve efficiency and looks.

This time around Zalman is stepping out of the circle and into a square. What I mean to say is that they are now taking cooling technology they already had and delving into the more squared tower coolers. This tower cooler has a few already seen features, but debuts a new take on the older Fan Mates that used to ship with their products. That with a basic sturdy cooler design hopefully packs quite a punch for their first forte in tower cooling, to my knowledge, ever.

Zalman's new tower design is the CNPS10X Extreme with a unique and innovative fan controller built right into the cooler itself. I know a bunch of coolers have inline fan controls with a "peg" type dial adapted in and usually offer very rough control of the fans speed. Zalman takes all this a large step forward and builds it into an all black nickel plated cooler. The fins, the heatpipes, the base, everything gets plating. This with a striking blue LED in the 120mm accompanying fan puts on quite a show for the eyes. Let's discuss the specs and get to the images and the testing, as I'm sure you are as eager as I to see what the Zalman CNPS10X Extreme is capable of.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

Zalman leaps in to the tower cooler segment with an all black entry. The heatsink itself is fully plated in black nickel, from top to bottom; even the mating surface. The CNPS10X Extreme weighs in at 920g, which is pretty weighty and measures up at 160mm tall, 100mm wide and 135mm long. Under all of the black nickel plating is an aluminum fin array surrounding five, copper, U-shaped heatpipes that stem from a copper base. The fan and shroud of the CNPS10X is also black and houses a 120mm, blue LED, multi seed fan.

I remember when I purchased my Zalman CNPS9500, it came with a "Fan Mate". This time around Zalman has incorporated the "Fan Mate" into the top of the cooler shroud. This is a multi-functional version of a fan controller this time around, with three separate preset speeds as well as a manual mode for more finite control of the speed and noise levels, making this the first PWM controlled both manually and automatically on the market. Not only can you control the CNPS10X from the top of the cooler, but it is also detachable, so you can put the controller where it is easiest for you to use. Please refer to the chart below for settings, color of the indicator, speeds and when the manual dial control is functional.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The CNPS10X Extreme Is on shelves currently but is a fresh arrival, so a bit of delivery time is needed before it is more widely available. I was able to find the CNPS10X Extreme at Newegg for 79.99 U.S. Dollars and Google Shopping only brings up two other reliable e-tailers at this point carrying the cooler and all are listed at the same price. This price tag puts the Zalman in the range of the TRUE and Thor's Hammer. Let's get down to business and see what the CNPS10X Extreme is all about.


The Package

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The CNPS10 Extreme is boldly labelled across a black package with both a cutaway window exposing the fan and if you look closely, the image of the lower part of the cooler. In the lower left corner is a sneak peek of the fan controller Zalman is introducing to the world with this cooler.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The right side of the package is where Zalman displays six images with text below them highlighting the key features of the CNPS10X.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The back, again, lists the key features, this time in text only. There has been a substitution, though. Instead of "versatile compatibility", there is a specific list of compatible sockets for the CNPS10X Extreme.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

With the left side of the package Zalman has placed on the top half an explanation of the fan controller and a specifications list at the bottom.

The Zalman CNPS10X Extreme CPU Cooler

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

When you first open the top of the packaging you are looking at the cardboard tray containing the hardware. Below this and snugly fit into the box is the plastic snap together packaging containing the cooler. Both the plastic on the cooler and the tray separating the parts got the CNPS10X Extreme to my door in excellent condition.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

Once the packaging was out of the way it was time to get the mug shots. The CNPS10X Extreme uses a 120mm fan that is attached to the top fan shroud and the fins of the cooler itself. The choice of fan covers the fins nicely and should provide adequate flow to keep temperatures at bay.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

From the side you can see there are almost three groups of aluminum fins surrounding the five heatpipes on the Zalman. The middle section's fins are deeper and slightly different in shape as well as the top and bottom groups. The plastic cap that houses the fan controller also cleans up the profile by making a flat surface versus ten tips poking out.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

Starting at the top, you can get a peak at the fan controller placement on the CNPS10X. Moving down the cooler you can see that the groupings of fins are different in respect to each other. My take on this is that they use the bigger longer fins in the middle as that is where most of the airflow is concentrated, thus utilizing the physics to work for them. All the way to the bottom there is the origin of the heatpipes from a two piece, screwed together base. The top piece of the base contains the alignment "nub" for the AMD latch, the same as their previous coolers.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The right side of the cooler is the same as the left, except for one thing. This side of the CNPS10X contains the 4-pin PWM connection on the end of over a foot of wire. The wire comes out here due to the implementation of the fan controller and its placement, as it is wires from the controller to the fan under the shroud.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The top of the CNPS10X Extreme is shrouded with this sculpted and shaped plastic shroud. Both the Zalman and CNPS10X Extreme logos are placed on here and boldly standing out is the fan controller. This controller can be used in its current position, in manual and automatic speed control modes, as well as detached which I will show you later.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The fan controller is almost locked into place in the top of the CNPS10X. I had to insert a thumbnail and pry in the gap just above the CNPS10X logo. With gentle pressure the wire connection releases its grip and the controller slides right out the top in this orientation.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

Getting in a bit closer, you can see the two tabs, one to each side, that align the controller to place it back into the shroud. With the slots lined up gently push the controller down and the 4-pin connection will make contact for functionality.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

This angle is to give you a good look at the layout of the five heatpipe configuration and how they align through the fins. It also accentuates what I said about how the black nickel plating covers every inch of the metal surfaces.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

While the screwed on base is made of copper, it is also plated; one, to fight oxidation of the copper and secondly it helps in thermal transfer from the IHS. This base does not only contain a mirror finish, but is flat and level against a razor. I only saw light in the corner to corner test, as the corners seem to deflect from the center, just slightly.

Accessories and Documentation

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

First, let's discuss the mounting hardware. The AMD bracket that uses the central "nub" in the base is what I was accustomed to with my CNPS9500. The issue with AMD is that the heatpipes block one way of installation so this cooler may not configure correctly due to the orientation of some AMD motherboard sockets. Above this is the i7 mounting to the left and the i5 and LGA775 combination mounting brackets. The way these work is you have to screw the black plastic base to the motherboard. Once that is completed, you rock the metal bit around the base and it holds onto the sides of the cooler base. Drop both the cooler and the bracket onto the plastic base and secure it with the four screws. For the i5 / LGA775 it is a bit more involved as it uses a few additional parts included in the kit.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

Zalman is very thorough with the included "tidbits" they ship with the CNPS10X Extreme. The manual at top center is very easy to follow. Reading it thoroughly prior to use of this cooler is highly recommended, so you may familiarize yourself with all the finer points of this cooler.

Below, starting from the left is about two feet of extension cable for the fan controller. Next to that are four washers used during mounting atop of the included, double sided, foam tape to mount the controller. There's also a Zalman sticker for your case, four mounting screws for Intel and the i5 / LGA775 locking pins (refer to the manual, as these can be a bit tricky to install). Last but not least is a tube of Zalman's own ZM-STG2 Super Thermal Grease.

The Fan Controller in Action

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The green light indicates that the controller is in manual mode. This means that the user can now use the dial at the far end to specify speed with the twist of a finger. This also gives you the first look at the blue LED's in action. This was taken with the fan controller set at its maximum speed allowed. Manual mode gives you full access to the 1000 to 2150 RPM range of the fan.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

The controller is now in high (HI) as indicated by the red LED. This setting is set for 1000 to 2150RPM depending on the PWM control settings in the motherboard.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

It's a bit tough to discern, but the LED is violet in this image indicating the medium (MED) setting. This setting is rated for RPM's in the 1000 to 1950 range.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

And finally, the last setting of the group, the blue LED in this case which is designated the low (LO) speed setting. This time the RPM still start at 1000, but is capped at 1500.

Zalman CNPS10X Extreme

This is what I meant when I said the controller was detachable. No it isn't wireless, although not a bad idea, the fan controller is tethered with the four wire extension. As per the instructions, when you do use this method, be sure to align the white wire as shown in the image. It will not function in the other direction.

Test System &Testing Results

Test System & Test Results

TweakTown uses a different method for testing CPU heatsinks which allows for an even playing field across all product tests. We feel that by using the same ambient temperature and strict lab-like testing procedures we are able to accurately compare one product to another. More information on our testing procedure can be found in the T.E.C.C. article here.

While the TRUE Black and the Thor's Hammer both beat out the Zalman, the Xigmatek isn't out ahead by much over the CNPS10X Extreme. I can tell you by feel alone, the fan equipped on the Zalman isn't as powerful as the Yate Loon's I tested the Hammer with. This makes me think the CNPS10X is more efficient and could match or beat the Hammer with a fan swap. Not too shabby in my opinion!

The noise level testing comes out about average for a 120mm fan. There is one thing I need to mention. If its noise that makes you pass on the purchase the CNPS10X, there is soon to be a "silent" model of this cooler to be released.

Final Thoughts

I'm left feeling very satisfied with the CNPS10X Extreme as a whole. The black nickel coating seems to be all the rage in high-end air cooling these days and Zalman picked up on the trend by providing a sturdy yet sexy product to cool your CPU. The fan incorporated is capable of containing our rig and even if the temps weren't great, they are still admirable. The fan controller is one of a kind. With a simple twist dial speed control and a large push button to swap between fan speed modes, this is a nice addition to any cooler, but the design allowing the controller to nestle into the shroud is top notch.

Pricing of the CNPS10X Extreme is at premium levels, which compares to the prices of the coolers I have been comparing the Zalman to. At 79.99 U.S. Dollars at Newegg, I think the price is both reasonable and justified. Performing close to the Hammer and offering both a fan and a sweet built-in removable fan controller is just icing on the cake. Given the choice of the three, I'm leaning towards the Zalman for the most complete package for your premium dollar.

Issues were limited in my time testing the CNPSX10 Extreme. I do have one issue and it is for the AMD users out there. The cooler has a similar issue to other three, four and five heatpipe coolers. They tend to block off the area to slide the latch in from the sides. This causes the issue where some AMD users will find they have to orient the fan blowing up at the top versus out the back. This completely depends on which of the two ways the AMD socket ring is installed. Sticking with the installation, the Intel version of the hardware isn't all that bad, but the implementation of the push pins can be a bit tricky if you don't read up on the installation completely first.

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Chad joined the TweakTown team in 2009 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM and coolers.

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