Zalman CNPS9500 AM2 Bling

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Product: Zalman CNPS9500 AM2
Provided By: ZalmanUSA
Price: $69.95CND @ MemoryExpress

Introduction:

Zalman has enjoyed success from their very popular CNPS 9500 series of CPU coolers.  Today we are looking at the third revision of this cooler.  It all started out with the CNPS9500 LED, went Intel only with the CNPS9500 AT, and now is AMD only with the CNPS9500 AM2.  Don't be fooled by the "AM2" tag attached to the name.  This cooler actually straps onto AM2, Socket 754, Socket 939 and Socket 940 without removing the motherboard.  That should make installation a snap and bring ease of use down to where almost anyone could install this cooler.  Let's get started.

nVidia Green Box
nVidia Green Box

For some reason this cooler in approved by nVidia - even though nVidia doesn't make CPU's.  I guess that it will help it move more products into the hands of enthusiasts who likely use the nVidia chipset with their AM2 processor.

Bundle & Specs:

Because the CNPS9500 AM2 is built only for the Athlon 64 platform, the bundle is really quite lean.  There are no back stiffener plates or other mounting hardware other than the single mounting clip that works on 754, 939, 940 and AM2 sockets.  This is quite refreshing as there are not a lot of pieces you need.  However, if you buy this HSF and decide to go with an Intel system, you will need to purchase a different cooler.

Usual Zalman Bundle
Usual Zalman Bundle


 

What Zalman lacks in cross-platform socket compatibility they make up for in looks.  This unit is nickel plated and looks incredible.  Pictures don't do it justice at all.  This is a very beautiful cooler.

Compatible CPUs and Motherboards

  Socket CPU Silent Mode
(1,350~1,800rpm)
Low-noise Mode
(1,800~2,600rpm)
Compatible
Motherboard
AMD AM2 Sempron Supports all speeds Supports all speeds
Athlon 64
Athlon 64 X2
Athlon 64 FX-62
754 Sempron Supports all speeds Supports all speeds
Athlon 64
939 Athlon 64
Athlon 64 X2
940 Athlon 64 FX
Opteron
 
Specifications

Heatsink

Dimensions 85(L) X 112(W) X 125(H)mm
Weight 530g
Material Pure Copper
Dissipation Area 3,698cm2
Thermal Resistance Silent Mode 0.16 °C/W Low-noise Mode 0.12 °C/W

Fan

Bearing Type 2-Ball Bearing
Speed Silent Mode 1,350rpm± 10 % Low-noise Mode 2,600rpmM ± 10 %
Noise Level Silent Mode 18.0dB ± 10% Low-noise Mode 27.5dB ± 10%

FAN Speed Controller (FAN MATE 2)

  - Dimensions : 70(L) x 26(W) x 26(H)mm
  - Weight : 20g
  - Output Voltage : 5V ~ 11V ± 2%
  - Allowable Power : 6W or lower
  - Connector : 3-Pin
   

We'll take a closer look at this HSF on the next page.


Closer Look:

This unit is virtually identical in terms of design and performance as the CNPS9500 LED.  It features the same curved heatpipe design, all copper construction and an LED fan.  What separates this from its predecessors is the fact that it is nickel plated and comes with a green LED fan - not a blue or red fan as has been traditional of Zalman.

Front View
 Front View

Rear View
 Rear View

The design is very clean and because it is so shiny, it is very hard to photograph.  The pictures make it look quite dark and dull, but in reality it's shiny and gleaming.

The base of this HSF is very flat, smooth and is polished to a mirror finish.  This heatsink is all about quality and Zalman is proud enough of it to stamp their name onto each and every fin.

Shiny Bottom View
 Shiny Bottom View

Zalman Pride
 Zalman Pride

Before we jump into the installation process, let's take a look at our test system and see what this cooler must do to keep things under control.

Test System & Info:

We are using our mid-range AM2 Dual Core system with this HSF to see if we can reach Athlon 64 5000+ speeds and beyond.

  • AMD Athlon 64 4200+ X2 Socket AM2 - MemoryExpress
  • MSI K9N Platinum Motherboard - MemoryExpress
  • 2GB Kit of Crucial Ballistix PC2-8000 - Crucial
  • eVGA 7600GT KO
  • Seagate 7200.10 250GB SATA HDD
  • nForce 9.16 drivers
  • Windows XP Pro SP2 & all available updates.

We ran this system stock speed - 200x11 = 2.2GHz at 1.35 volts for our stock speed test.  At this speed we used both the stock cooler with static fan speed as well as the Zalman CNPS9500 AM2 at both low fan speed and high fan speed.  Temperatures were recorded using Core Temp.  Idle temperatures were taken 15 minutes after loading Windows.  Load temps were taken after running 2 instances of Folding @ Home at slightly higher than idle CPU setting as well as Prime 95 for about one hour.  We tried to keep ambient temperature around 18C throughout testing.  Overclocked settings were recorded at 250x10=2.5GHz at 1.5v to heat things up a bit.  We have the ability to overclock higher and that will be covered in an upcoming motherboard review.  The high voltage wasn't required for stability, but we wanted to heat things up as much as possible.

Installation:

Normally, installation of large aftermarket heatsinks requires motherboard removal, but thankfully the AM2 version of the CNPS9500 does not.  It requires that you simply remove the small, underpowered stock cooler, place the clip on the CPU base and install the new HSF.

Old Tiny Cooler
 Old Tiny Cooler

Clip Installed
 Clip Installed

Mounted & Ready
Mounted & Ready

If you are slow, this installation should take no more than 7 minutes - including the time it takes to clean off the old Thermal Paste and apply new Thermal Paste.  Because the unit clips onto your motherboards existing AM2 HSF retention bracket, this is a very easy and quick installation.

We will take a look at some performance numbers on the next page.


CNPS9500 AM2 In Action
CNPS9500 AM2 In Action

Stock Performance:

We tested this cooler when clocked at stock speeds and when overclocking our CPU.  We ran the fan at its lowest setting and on the maximum setting on the Zalman CNPS9500 AM2.  The stock cooler was plugged into the motherboard and ran on high speed during the tests.  The results below show what the stock cooler can do at its best, and compare the Zalman cooler at both low and high speeds.

Stock Speed Temps


 

This cooler is an improvement at when running the CPU at idle, but doesn't blow us away as much as the 12C temperature difference when running full load when the fan is turned up.  At high speed, the cooler makes audible noise, but it is not very loud at all.  In fact it is virtually silent up until about 9v or 75% power.

Overclocked Performance:

Just to be clear, we overclocked the CPU - not the cooler for this next round of tests.  We overclocked to 2.5GHz on this processor and bumped up the voltage to generate more heat.  You can see that there in fact is quite a bit of heat generated from this CPU.  Also keep in mind that we are recording temperatures using Core Temp - a utility which monitors temperatures of both CPU cores.  These temperatures are reported higher than other temperature programs which monitor CPU temperature differently.  These results are meant to be compared only with each other as we put the stock cooler against our first AM2 cooler.

Overclocked Temps

We are extremely impressed with how well this cooler performed when the heat was turned up.  With ambient temperature being equal, this cooler just blew the stock cooler away when we turned up the CPU heat.  Even at low fan speed we are seeing about 17C between the stock cooler and the Zalman CNPS9500 AM2.  I retested and checked ambient temperature to make sure these results are accurate - and I assure you they are.  Wow.

Conclusion:

If you have an AMD AM2 system and want to improve your cooling, Zalman makes some great products.  If you are planning on sticking with AM2 for a while and want a CPU cooling with good looks, excellent performance and low noise, you can't do much better than the CNPS9500AM2 cooler from Zalman.  However, if you are thinking about swapping platforms and you don't need a cooler with a green LED fan, the CNPS9500 LED offers cross-platform support and should work on AM2 CPU's as well.

If good looks are your concern though, this cooler has what it takes to be a winner.  The entire cooler features a mirror finish and looks great.

Pros:

  • Excellent performance and low noise.
  • Very nice finish.
  • FANMATE2 allows control of fan speed.
  • No motherboard removal required.

Cons:

  • FANMATE2 controller introduces more wires to your case.
  • Restricted to AMD CPUs.

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
n/a
Stability:
10/10
Features:
9/10
Value:
9/10
Total Score 9.6

I'd like to thank ZalmanUSA for dropping this cooler our way for a review.  We are very impressed with the performance and looks of this cooler on our AM2 system and expect better overclocks than with the stock cooling for sure.

If you have any questions or comments about this review, please post them at the comments link below.  You will be required to register and log in to post, but that's fast and easy.