Manufacturer: Zalman UK Price (as reviewed):£34.99 inc. VAT US Price (as reviewed):$54.99 ex. Tax
Large air coolers have come under a lot of pressure to perform recently as all-in-one liquid coolers have begun to encroach upon their price domains, particularly of those at the higher end of the market. Coolers like Corsair's H80, for example, offer maintenance free and high performing CPU water-cooling that is far cheaper than a custom loop and a cinch to install, plus it only costs £5 or £10 more than a high end air cooler.
That's not to say that air coolers are dead in the water, however. More expensive coolers like the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 and Phanteks' PH-TC14PE review have proven themselves to be capable of taming massively overclocked systems, and likewise the cheaper (and smaller) Arctic Freezer i30 put in a good showing too, although it was a little noisy. Zalman's CNPS14X also comes in towards the lower end of the market at £35, but it's a larger cooler by some degree than the i30 and is also advertised as “Ultra Quiet”,so we were interested to see what it could do.
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Looks-wise, the CNPS14X is about as standard as large air coolers can be these days, Zalman this time having abandoned the iconic circular fin structure of coolers like the CNPS9900-MAX. The dual-sided heatsink features six copper pipes on each side that transfer heat up through two separate stacks of aluminium fins. There's no paint job or choice of colours available, so you're left with the colours of the respective metals.
Zalman has fitted a single PWM-controlled 140mm fan to the CNPS14X, which sits in between the two fin stacks, pulling air through one and exhausting it out through the other. The cooler can also hold two more 140mm fans should you have them lying around, and Zalman provides clips for their installation.
The list of sockets supported by the CNPS14X is extensive (see the specifications below for the full range). It supports all three of the performance CPUs that we currently test with, and makes use of a single universal backplate and one set of clips that require different orientations depending on the socket used.
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Installation of large air coolers is never the most fiddle-free of affairs, and the CNPS14X is a mixed bag of simplicity and frustration in this regard. For sockets that require a backplate (i.e. all those except LGA2011), you simply clip some nuts into the appropriate holes and stick it to the back of the motherboard.
Actually installing the cooler itself, however, is a little trickier. After you've attached some metal clips to it and applied some of the included thermal paste, of which there's enough for a few mounts, you'll need to line the cooler up with the nuts in the baseplate and begin locking it into place. This requires the use of bolts, rather than screws, and a spanner is included to aid in tightening the bolts as much as possible. However, the lack of turning space means this requires a lot of patience, and fitting the spanner between the heatsinks and RAM on our motherboards proved to be very difficult for some bolts.
Click to enlarge - getting the spanner in between motherboard heatsinks and RAM modules can be tight
At 160mm, the CNPS14X is certainly a large cooler, so you'll need to check if your case can house it before buying it. That said, it sat comfortably enough inside our SilverStone PS03 midi-tower case, and we didn't have to resort to taping the side panels shut to test it.