Who is Zalman?
To be honest with you, I did not know until just recently. After seeing a review of the Gold CNPS3100 CPU cooler on another website, I knew I wanted to do a little research.
Prior to reviewing the Zalman cooler, I had been using an Alpha PAL6035 heatsink/fan unit. No complaints at first, other than the shrill whine of the 7000rpm fan. I took it for granted that in order to overclock as aggressively as I was, I had to put up with the high volume fan noise. The noise level began to take its toll. I tried to deaden the "ring" by using foam insulators to prevent any vibration noise. It helped, but I wanted a better solution.
The heatsink by itself is called the ZM65BC-Gold. The construction process is a bit different from the standard methods of most machined heatsinks. Each fin of the heatsink is amazingly thin. These fins are then staked and bolted together to create the base of the heatsinks that sits over the processor core. While smooth, it does not quite have the same super flat polished feel of the Alpha heatsink. Nothing a little heatsink compound won't take care of though.
The fan design allows each fin to have direct contact with the processor. Most of the competition relies on thermal conductivity of a solid metal to disperse heat up into the fins or tines, but the Zalman gives each fin's heat payload a more direct path.
There is a channel down the middle for the retention clip. Fairly low effort to seat, but once in place it is not going anywhere. To remove the clip, you need a small screwdriver or some needle nose pliers as the clip does not have the thumb lever we are used from GlobalWin, Thermaltake or Alpha.
To round out the CNPS 3100 kit, Zalman includes the fan unit and a syringe of high quality heatsink compound.
CNPS stands for Computer Noise Prevention System. By creating a highly efficient heatsink, Zalman is able to package the heatsink with a larger, quieter fan to move air across the fanned fins. The fan shroud that is mounted at your PCI slots similar to the CardCooler, has two voltage choices. When hooked up to the motherboard, the 80mm fan pulls 12V to move around 45cfm. When plugged into a 4-pin outlet, it pulls 5V and delivers about 30cfm, but is very quiet.
If you are not overclocking, having the quieter option is nice. The Athlon Thunderbird, at 1GHz was stable with the quieter fan setting. Overclocking was out of the question with stability issues at 1050MHz and locks in startup at 1100MHz.
Once installed, you realize the Zalman is, by comparison, very quiet due to the larger lower RPM fan. But how does it handle the stress of an overclocked T-Bird?
Next Page: The Test and Conclusion