The last Zalman cooler we saw here on bit-tech, the Zalman CNPS10X Flex, was expensive, noisy and only offered average cooling. This was disappointing, as Zalman has been a big name in cooling for a long time now. We were therefore hoping that the CNPS9900-MAX Blue would signal a return to form for the company.
Those familiar with Zalman’s futuristic flower-style coolers will most likely feel a pang of nostalgia while gazing at the CNPS9900-MAX Blue – its circular heatsink arrays were very popular but have been shunned in recent years, as they've usually proved to be less efficient than today's standard stacks of fins.
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The CNPS9900-MAX Blue has three 6mm heatpipes; these start and finish in a contact plate at its base, and transfer heat to the ornate heatsink fins on their way. A single PWM-controlled 135mm fan (which isn’t covered by a shroud) is also located between the fins.
Meanwhile, a fan-speed-reduction cable is provided in the box, which can be placed between the fan’s power connector and any PWM-compatible fan header to reduce its speed significantly. The fan is also illuminated, and although the light can’t be turned off, the blue glow is only subtle so we didn’t find it intrusive.
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Installing the CNPS9900-MAX Blue was fiddly to say the least, which was mainly due to the excessive number of parts compared with other coolers we've tested. However, we couldn't fault its strong, secure grip to the CPU once we’d mounted it. You get plenty of thermal paste in the box too, so you should be able to install it several times without having to buy more.