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Intel's Core i7-920 And A Replacement Cooler: Zalman's CNPS 10X Extreme

Is It Worth Upgrading Your Stock CPU Cooler?
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Zalman is a Korean company that specializes in higher-end cooling solutions and cases. You’ll also find thermal grease, power supplies, mice, and even monitors in Zalman’s portfolio. But the company’s core business is still coolers, and we selected one of its latest upper-mainstream solutions, the CNPS 10X. This new cooler is different from what we’ve seen in the 9000-series, with its characteristic circular design, as it was designed to have the 120 mm fan blow into the direction you mount it (this can be either the rear or top of a traditional PC tower case).

The fan can be controlled either by the system or using the included “remote control,” called PWM Mate, which allows speeds between 1,000 and 2,150 RPM. Five U-shaped heat pipes with a 6 mm diameter conduct processor heat to the massive head sink, which has a surface area of 8,544 cm² (based on Zalman data). The base is made of copper, while the fins are pure aluminum. An anti-corrosive nickel coating on the base gives it a silver color, but it’s still copper, which is one reason for the device’s weight.

The cooler weighs in at 920 grams, which is massive compared to the 496 g of Intel’s Core i7 reference cooler. As a result it requires a mounting plate, which has to be installed on the bottom of your motherboard of choice before you can screw the CNPS 10X into its mounting holes.

Although the mounting mechanism is very solid, we recommend against shipping a PC with the cooler mounted, as your system could get damaged if someone drops it during transport. The cooler supports all common platforms, including the LGA 1156 socket interface for Intel's upcoming Core i5 processor family.

The CNPS 10X’s performance was convincing, as it reduced the Core i7 processor core temperature by up 9-16°C (16-29 °F) in idle mode, and 6-19°C (11-34°F) at peak CPU load when overclocked.

The PWM Mate, which is the fan’s remote control, is a snap-in device on top of the cooler; you can remove it at will. The LED will show the fan’s status: slow, medium, fast, or manual. The last of these requires the speed to be set using the small wheel.

The cable can be used to position the PWM Mate somewhere else. The black bracket has to be installed at the rear of the LGA1366 motherboard.

Processor: Intel Core i7-920

The Core i7-920 is well-known at this point, as it is the cheapest Core i7 processor. Its 2.66 GHz clock speed already provides solid performance, but most of these chips can easily be overclocked to 3.2 GHz without even modifying the default voltage. We also found that the majority of processors will reach at least 3.6 GHz with only small voltage adjustments, and even 4 GHz is often possible if you use a powerful cooler and exercise a little patience.

All Core i7 processors center on the same processor design with four cores, 256 KB L2 cache per core, and 8 MB shared L3 cache (that is, until Intel's Core i7 is launched on the LGA 1156 interface next month). Hyper Threading adds four more logical cores, helping maximize performance by utilizing each core’s execution pipelines more efficiently. Although the processor is rated at 130 W, most will not get close to this unless you overclock them—which, of course, we did, in an effort to stress the coolers.

Intel’s boxed cooler does a good job until you heavily overclock your processor. Naturally, this isn't a usage model Intel encourages, which is why there isn't more headroom built into the stock heat sink.

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Top Comments
  • 32 Hide
    pirateboy , September 3, 2009 8:27 AM
    at least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    Korok , September 3, 2009 6:23 AM
    answers the question fully
    nice article
  • 2 Hide
    Twoboxer , September 3, 2009 7:12 AM
    What was the ambient temperature during this test?
  • 0 Hide
    drealar , September 3, 2009 7:35 AM
    Short simple article.
    This surely gives me the answer to a question I had in mine.
    'Never buy bulky aftermarket cooler if I Never OC'.
    Cool, now my choices are down to lighter low-profile Zalman performance coolers which will still beat stock ones :D 
  • 4 Hide
    leafblower29 , September 3, 2009 7:50 AM
    I was able to overclock to 3.6ghz on my Phenom II 940's stock cooler.
  • 2 Hide
    dingumf , September 3, 2009 7:51 AM
    leafblower29I was able to overclock to 3.6ghz on my Phenom II 940's stock cooler.


    Enjoys your slightly higher temps
  • 1 Hide
    yellosnowman , September 3, 2009 7:55 AM
    good article on the zalman cpns10x but I would like to see a Thermalright 120 TRUE black with 2x NF-p12 :)  2 best fans with best heatsink
  • 0 Hide
    leafblower29 , September 3, 2009 7:56 AM
    dingumfEnjoys your slightly higher temps

    they aren't that much higher.
  • 2 Hide
    gti88 , September 3, 2009 7:58 AM
    I think, Hyper 212 is far better choice. Zalman's too noisy and twice more expensive.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 8:08 AM
    some aftermarket coolers are geared toward superior cooling, others are geared toward silent or near silent operation.
    it's not clear how this test with one cooler can make such a point. you would have to test at least two coolers against the stock cooler. one with superior cooling, and another that is super quiet, at say a certain (entry level?) price range.
    this zalman cooler may be a good cooler, but is not an ace either in cooling or in silence.
  • 6 Hide
    ravenware , September 3, 2009 8:14 AM
    K

    A round of coolers would be more beneficial. Most of the readers on TH would immediately know the answer to the elementary question raised in the article...seems a little strange to propose the question and then only bench one aftermarket cooler.
  • -2 Hide
    tomvertommen , September 3, 2009 8:19 AM
    It would be nice to see a noise level comparison between the stock cooler and the CNPS10X Quiet.
  • 32 Hide
    pirateboy , September 3, 2009 8:27 AM
    at least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 8:38 AM
    I still use an Intel stock cooler with really good results. But I added a metal X-bar to the bottom of it and screwed the stock cooler to this X-bar instead of using the springs. To my experience this makes a big difference.

    The motherboard bends too easily under the weight of the cooler and the springs. This reduces the pressure from the CPU to the cooler and gives poor heat conduction. Also the cooling elements of other components in the neighbourhood of the CPU on the Asus board had bad contact because of the sever bending of the motherboard.
  • 0 Hide
    anonymous x , September 3, 2009 8:39 AM
    pirateboyat least include numbers in degrees Celsius in your tables if you are serious about your article...I doubt more than half of your readers use Fahrenheit...maybe only the US and some other backward countries use it still?

    when you first go to tom's hardware you select your languages, and there are 2 english options i think. I wonder if it changes to celsius for other countries besides the US. Doesn't matter for me, I know both systems and can convert between them.
  • 4 Hide
    amnotanoobie , September 3, 2009 9:02 AM
    forestersome aftermarket coolers are geared toward superior cooling, others are geared toward silent or near silent operation.it's not clear how this test with one cooler can make such a point. you would have to test at least two coolers against the stock cooler. one with superior cooling, and another that is super quiet, at say a certain (entry level?) price range.this zalman cooler may be a good cooler, but is not an ace either in cooling or in silence.

    As much as I don't want to endorse another site, frostytech already has a list going (top 10 for performance, and a top 10 for silence):
    http://www.frostytech.com/top5heatsinks.cfm




  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , September 3, 2009 9:33 AM
    Would like a vote on how many TH readers know aftermarket coolers are better for overclocking and how many dont!
  • 0 Hide
    anamaniac , September 3, 2009 10:08 AM
    How about comparing a TRUE and a CM V8 also?

    *Wishing I bought a TRUE instead of a V8*
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , September 3, 2009 11:18 AM
    Wow, this is a Tom's classic article. You guys haven't reviewed heatsinks for so long.
  • 0 Hide
    verrul , September 3, 2009 11:23 AM
    wait zalman makes their money off their mid end silent cooling solutions not their high end ones. Always better to use aftermarket imo. I have wifey's comp running same x2 6000 be i am hers isn't overclocked but still we had to put an aftermarket zalman 7500 in this case cooler on it to help with the poor case airflow. She absolutely has to have the side on.
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