Excerpt: Zalman is a name we have all heard of whether your first thought is the Reserator passive water cooling tower, their fans or even there ever growing range of heat sinks really depends on your own personal experiences with their products. The single factor that unites all products across the range is Zalman's self confessed obsession with "noiseless computing" and "silent cooling products".
The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX CPU cooler is a decent CPU cooler. It’s got good looks with the nickel plated design and blue or red LEDs for the fan, but I was sort of surprised to see the results of the testing. It’s been a while since I last reviewed a Zalman CPU cooler and quite frankly I was expecting more cooling performance it. Then again you have to take into account its rather small design and only single fan cooling.
Summary: When Zalman released the CNPS10X line, we expected the long-lived flower heatsink design to walk off into the sunset for a well-deserved retirement. The CNPS9000 series has failed to perform effectively against conventional tower coolers produced by the competition. The CNPS9900 MAX was a surprise in that a new iteration was introduced at all, especially with so little improvement over the last version.
Conclusion: OK, so that’s how I got really interested on testing the Zalman CNPS9900 MAX, as Zalman had some very convincing features including 3 heat-pipes being equivalent to 6 (U-shaped) heat-pipes, a 135mm fan, and a very appealing black-pearl nickel plating including a mirror-finished base. Also, Zalman is launching a new heat-pipe design which is supposed to be 50% more effective in heat transfer compared to ordinary heat-pipes.
Summary: The Zalman CNPS9900 MAX is a very beautiful cooler, moving apart from the ubiquitous "tower" design, giving your computer a unique looks. Its fan has discrete red LEDs (it can also come with blue LEDs), which you can barely see during day time, but it doesn't glow too much in dark enviroments.
Besides being a very nice-looking CPU cooler, its strong point is its performance, on the same level of the best air coolers we tested to date.
Excerpt: We were ready to write Zalman off for good. Its much-beloved 9000-series copper heatsinks (culminating in the CNPS9900, which received a Kick Ass award in March 2009) were blown away by the advent of skyscraper-style coolers like the Thermalright Ultra-120. Zalman’s attempt at a skyscraper-style cooler, the CNPS 10X, was a bust, aesthetically and thermally. But now, Zalman’s returned to what it knows best: circular copper arrays surrounding a central fan.
Pros: Top-tier performance; quiet; good looks; less sharp than its predecessor.
Summary: The CNPS9900 Max heatsink has a total heat dissipation surface area on the order of 5402cm2, stands 150mm tall and weighs 755 grams. The manufacturer claims max heat capacity is a whopping 300W! CPU compatibility extends to Intel socket 775/1155/1156/1366 and AMD socket AM2/AM3 processors.
Summary: With the CNPS9900 MAX, Zalman made another attempt to show that its copper fin ring type heatsinks are still competent in handling thermal loads of today's CPUs, and still competitive with the tower-type heatsinks that are pretty-much the norm these days. This, even after the company itself took a dip into the tower-type design with the CNPS 10 series.
Pros: Decent Performance, Plenty of directed air "spill" that cools northbridge heatsink and VRM, Support Intel and AMD sockets, Fixed fan, no fan-installation steps, Perfect clearance with memory, VRM and northbridge areas, Included voltage-based fan-speed reduction cable, Thermal compound supplied in syringe, Fan illumination is soft and pleasant, not too bright
Cons: Price needs to be lower, Some installation steps complicated, Fan very loud at full-speed, Unique fan, can't get a spare one after the included one's life runs out, No provisions to attach additional or third-party fans
Summary: With the CNPS 9900 MAX, Zalman managed to surprise me. These coolers are based on an old concept introduced a long time ago, and thought the 9900 series never left the market, I was not expecting to see a performance level this good.
So yeah, the concept is still working really well. The dilemma anno 2010 though is that some people will dislike the sheer design/looks of the unit.
Conclusion: Please remember that these test results reflect our experience with each cooler on a specific motherboard, with a specific processor, BIOS revision, and test programs. That said, the ranking produced by these tests is accurate and gives a good idea how the coolers will perform relative to one another on any given system.