I would hope at this point the Zalman CNPS10X series of coolers have caught your attention. My first glance at the currently growing series of coolers was with the CNPS10X Extreme. This was a new take on incorporating stylish looks with an integrated and removable fan controller. The controller had pre-set fan speeds or actually allowed for dial control as well. The Extreme had all the bells and whistles; nickel plating, a plastic cover to clean up the looks and if I recall correctly, the fan even boasted LED lighting.
The newest release in the series is the CNPS10X Performa that we are about to get an in-depth look at. From my angle it really seems that Zalman had a good start with the Extreme version and saw potential in an otherwise good looking cooler with average performance. Zalman went back to the idea tank and pulled out some old tricks and beefed up the performance level of the self proclaimed Performa. It only makes sense the cooler should do well.
When I say they are simplifying things, I mean it in the way that the Performa is just that, a performer. Think of it like an older car with a good motor and transmission in it. It may not be the prettiest thing on the street, but it commands respect when you have to clear your windshield of its rubber to see how far behind it you actually are. Same rules apply here. It isn't the sexiest cooler I have had in my hands, but with a name like Performa, I expect big things.
All right, enough with the buildup, let's pop the hood and see what Zalman brings to the track.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
Zalman brings an amalgam of a copper base and pipes stemming from the base and taking the heat to an array of aluminum fins, as do most coolers. The main difference is the amount of material they use. Zalman packs forty-seven fins around five U-shaped heatpipes and does this in less than 150mm of height, making this a good choice for most cases on the market including some SFF and micro chassis'. Let's just say for the common builder, this cooler offers a solution to your needs. With all that material it does make the CNPS10X Performa a weighty contender at just more than a pound and a half of heft. Taking into consideration its compact size and the amount of materials in play, it leaves the Performa with roughly 102 square feet of cooling surface.
To add to the equation of a bunch of surface area, now we need a fan up to the task of cooling all this metal. Zalman supplies a no frills, black plastic, 120mm fan. Now, what this fan lacks in appearance it makes up for in power. While I wasn't able to locate an actual CFM number, let me just say this fan puts out quite the flow. Speeds of the fan are from 900 RPM on the low end to 2000 RPM on the high end. If the noise at 2000 RPM is a burden and keeping temperatures as cool as possible isn't in your plan of things to do, there is an included resistor to connect inline to reduce the RPM capability of said fan. Also, something that is widely overlooked by quite a few of the cooler manufacturers, the CNPS10X Performa mounts to any mainstream socket and even a couple of older ones right out of the box.
Through an email or two I was told that the marketed prices were going to be right around $45 USD, and doing a bit of shopping through Google, proves this mark to be right on point. I see the Performa can be found for around $40 before shipping is added from some of the e-tailers, while others are charging a few more dollars and getting closer to the $50 mark.
I already blew the surprise in the title, so I can say that while I would search for the $40 version, even at $50 it's worth every penny they get.
The CNPS10X comes in a very eye catching package with an all-black background that makes the naming, image of the cooler and the teal and blue coloration popping right out at you.
Zalman carries the same thing around to this side. Although, there is a hint of some of the tech involved in the ghosted image of the fins in the background.
On the back is where Zalman fits most of the features and compatibility of the CNPS10X Performa.
This last side houses easier to read compatibility charts and a full specifications chart below it.
As soon as you open the box, you run into the hardware. I took it all out and set it aside for later in the review. As you can see, the high density foam keeps all the parts separated to insure the cooler arrives in tip top condition.
Once out of the box, you can get a better look at how the cooler is surrounded in sections of foam. Its high density for function, and with that there is less needed to keep the cooler "drop resistant" in the packaging.
The Zalman CNPS10X Performa CPU Cooler
As I mentioned previously, the Performa is a squat build. Looking into the 47 fins, they seem placed closer than usually seen in a cooler. All that aluminium with the five copper heatpipes supplying them makes for an efficient design.
From the side you can now see all five pipes instead of the two rows from the front. Zalman also offers dual fan mounting with the Performa utilizing the grooves in the outer edges.
At first glance the Performa looks like a typical tower cooler, but from this angle you can see a bit of originality in the shape of the fins. The embossed lines around the edge add a bit of style as well as a bit of structural support for all those fins.
Seems direct touch used to be the king of cooling tech, but Zalman brings us a cooler with an all copper base below the pipes. This proves in my mind that direct touch is an OK concept, but you don't need it to break out from the pack. A well designed cooler with a flat base and good contact to the heatpipes is just as capable.
While it doesn't have a polished base, the last image was rather flat. This is just to give a better idea of the finish that comes on the Performa out of the box. Not too far off from what I would do lapping it up to say a 1500 grit sandpaper judging by the reflectivity.
From the front you can see there is only one set of mounting holes at the bottom side. This allows for a more unencumbered entry of air flow to the fan blades. While there is the RC24P connected to the fans 4-pin connection, if you want to unleash the beast within, I don't suggest you use this resistor.
For those who like to see what the fan draws during operation, you can see this fan hits 2000RPM using only 0.20A to get it done. Using the fans model number only brings me to other mentions of the cooler itself and not to any real specs on the fan.
In preparation of the fan placement, you need to dig into the hardware goods to find the anti-vibration strips to lay them onto the cooler to keep the fan isolated from the cooler. Also notice the wavy bit in the middle. This should create a bit more disturbance of air flow in the middle where the fan is less likely to have great CFM. The disturbance should help speed up the airflow, and almost create a low pressure area behind the hub of the fan to increase overall heat dissipation.
The choice of fan is superb, the fan is larger than the fin assembly and that means two things. Better coverage of the surface area of the cooler, and that this fan can offer airflow to the motherboard as well, if positioned low enough.
From the side you can see again how well it covers the fins. Also, it's very easy to see how two fans can be mounted to the Performa for even better performance, if you really need that.
Something typical with the Zalman fan, not only is the front mounting corners removed, but there is a good amount of the sides removed which actually allow for a bit of the blade to be exposed. This should do two things; allow for a bit more air to easily enter the fan and seemingly it should help with noise as well.
Accessories and Documentation
The manual is very handy when getting into the more complicated mounting hardware. The parts list, images and text make it all make sense and answered any issues I ran into.
The Performa comes with a universal back plate and hardware to mount to everything since socket 754 from AMD and socket LGA775 from Intel. Zalman supplies a 1g packet of TIM, mounting clips for two fans and four thin anti-vibration pads to round off this packet of hardware.
Inside of another bag, there are sticker pads for the back plate lined up along with the case badge in the back. In the front are some of the screws, hex nuts and some screw retainers for the back plate.
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 it isn't winning any top place marks in this section, it did fall in third overall; not too shabby for a cooler that "looks" like so many others.
This is where the men are separated from the boys, and as I stated, Zalman brings us the Performa with an Alpha male mentality. What more needs to be said, so far it is the top cooler on our list.
At idle the ZP1225ALM fan is right in there with some of the more silent fans we have tested so far. Not the best, but nowhere near making your ears bleed.
Here is the only downfall of the Performa as I see it. During load the fan I received went all the way up to a mind numbing hum of 74dB. Now, once in a case this noise will seem less evident. I've always said there is give and take with any cooler, the Performa just gets a bit louder than most, but hey, it gets the job done, doesn't it?
So, at this point the only thing that is crossing my mind is why are you still here reading this, when you should be searching the net to find your very own CNPS10X Performa to call your very own. Even though it is a bit plain looking and does hit the highest dB rating tested in quite some time, there is no arguing the temperatures. Hands down, the Zalman CNPS10X Performa has taken the top of the list in cooling ability out of the box.
I know some of you are going to argue that the Noctua is quieter and really close in temps, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. As far as setting the bar in air cooling performance, Zalman has done just that. Now going beyond the box specs and original equipment, imagine this cooler on a pair of 38mm, Delta or Kaze, 3000 RPM monsters; the temps will only drop. On the flip side, a pair of Noctua fans strapped in a push pull can get you near silent operation with the increase of temps being a possibility. In my opinion if you are worried about noise, you wouldn't be looking at something called a Performa!
I think some of the old big dogs need to huddle together to protect their own; Zalman is now the new big dog on the streets. With the naming of this cooler I would have been disappointed to say the least to see it just be mediocre. I was realistically thinking top 5, but to see what Zalman brought with the CNPS10X Performa, it might be a good idea for some of the others to take note. Silence isn't everything anymore, with all the new furnaces, I mean processors, making it onto the main stage these days. The Zalman solution is more than capable of handling the heat in the kitchen and still keeping the weaker dogs on the porch.
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