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Observations and Results

Using the smoke from a small incense wick during testing, I noticed that air moves through the cooler pretty easily. The bulk of the air also seems to evenly hit each heat pipe before it trails off in different directions out the back. This tells us the design works well even without a full fan shroud. Performance should be optimal based on this observation.

Following top secret NASA-ish technical protocols developed by engineers, a series of idle, desktop, and fully loaded CPU tests were performed which should give us typical, real world performance. In other words, we used OCCT to push the hex-core to its max load and back again.

Based on our results, what we discovered is that the N620 and the CNPS10X were extremely close at idle. The Tuniq edges out both by a degree. This is most likely due to the room’s ambient 20C temperature. It’s under regular desktop use, which is often mainly single core operations, where things are fairly uneventful. It’s only when the INTEL 980X is fully taxed do we see the CNPS10X Extreme show off some of its cooling magic besting the challengers.

Despite the great performance showing, noise levels weren’t bad at all, owing to optimizations for low noise. The cooler was plugged into one of my liquid cooled machines just so we could get a noise level measurement. Even though the fan is rated to 39dBA, the meter detected just under 34dBA at its highest point. The combination of the GTX295 and case fans in the test system were ultimately louder.

Final Thoughts

Considering what I knew before I really started down the road to technical enlightenment, I have to give Zalman some props. They’ve produced some impressive enclosures and cooling solutions that have a quality unrivaled by the greater part of the market. The CNPS10X Extreme CPU Cooler continues a long running tradition many enthusiast have come to appreciate. The quality finishes, tight construction quality and dedication to both performance and quiet are a rare combination.

The CNPS10x Extreme may appear to be like any other CPU cooler. But, based on today’s difficult test standards, it’s as close to perfect a design as anyone can get. It looks great, it’s innovative, it doesn’t waste resources on fancy decorative materials and it does a commendable job of cooling Intel’s titan of the desktop processor market, the 980X. It’s definitely one of the best all-in-one air cooling solutions on the market.

Having said all that, the CNPS10X Extreme has room to improve. Fitment issues like the inclusion of additional washers for the various quality motherboard PCBs would be a nice touch and while we like the PWM Mate, we’d like it better if it wasn’t just a standard remote on a leash. A wireless solution would really set this great cooler apart from the crowd (but would add to the $69.99 US price tag). But then again, when has Zalman shied away from pricing for quality?


  • Innovative PWM Mate feature
  • Great cooling performance
  • High quality materials and components
  • Very attractive design


  • Extra washers for thin PCBs required for best fit.
  • PWM Mate cord could be improved. Why not “remove” the cord?
  • Premium priced product

Overall Rating: 9.0 / 10.0

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