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Zalman 9700LED CPU Cooler

zalman_9700led_logo.gif

Date: February 5, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

If you love large air CPU coolers, then you will drool over the 9700LED. It’s equipped with a 110mm fan, while it’s older brother, the 9500LED, has only 92mm. Included extras here include better thermal paste and a fan controller. Does this CPU coolers larger stature make it a winner in our temperature testing?



Introduction

Zalman has long been a producer of quality cooling products and have had good overall success in our reviews. I took a look at their CNPS8000 early last month and was far from impressed. It was actually the first Zalman product I’ve used that left a bad taste in my mouth. It had good intentions, but simply didn’t perform well enough to be considered by anyone. Then I received the CNPS9700 LED, which I knew had to impress me more than the 8000. Why? Because it’s a larger version of the 9500LED which both Greg and I had great experiences with.

We were not the only ones who enjoyed the 9500LED however, as they sold incredibly well and received good reviews the world over. So, it only made sense to follow up with a larger version for even better cooling ability. The primary difference between the 9500 and 9700 is the size. The 9700 LED has a 110mm fan as opposed to the 9500s 92mm. Thanks to that fact, this is one large cooler, but still managed to fit inside my NZXT Apollo case without issue.

Close Look

The cooler arrived in a very similar box as the CNPS8000, although this one proved larger for obvious reasons.

Here are all of the included extras laid out. We have the fan controller, motherboard brackets and screws, thermal paste and installation manual.

The 110mm fan is completely clear, which is usually the case with fans that are LED equipped.

This is easily one of the best looking coolers available. It quite simply, is a huge copper flower with numerous fins. You have to be careful holding and installing the cooler though. I have in the past, cut myself on the fins and it’s not fun. Who said being a computer geek wasn’t a dangerous job?

The fan cable is tucked away inside the cooler. You just need to reach in and pull it out.

It looks like there are 6 heatpipes… and in a way there is. Physically, there are only three but they form a figure eight pattern to flow back into the copper base on the opposite end.

The base was a little cleaner than this at first, until I accidentally ran my thumb along it.

There you have it. Not a far stretch from the 9500 that we’ve seen time and time again. Let’s move onto the installation process.



Installation

Installing the 9700LED proved to be similar to many other coolers out there, including the CNPS8000 we reviewed last month. Your entire motherboard has to be hauled out since they include a special bracket for the back.

One huge gripe I had against the CNPS8000 was that the included bracket contained a sticky coating on the back, which resulted in residue left over once you removed it. I was relieved to see that this bracket was completely unlike that one.

One huge bonus to the 9700LED is that it includes their new thermal paste that applies like nail polish (not that I am familiar with this), instead of pumping it from a tube. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I was hugely impressed by how easy it was to apply an even, thin coat. It’s incomparable to a tube as far as I am concerned.

An immediate advantage the 9700LED has over it’s brother, the 9500LED, is the sheer size. As mentioned earlier, the 9500LED used a standard 92mm fan, but the 9700LED has been upgraded to a 110mm. Because of this, the overall size is considerably larger.

Of course this cooler doesn’t have “LED” in it’s title for fun and games. It has a bright blue LED fan, just like the 9500. As you can see in the picture, this doesn’t light up the entire cooler, just the immediate right side. Personally, I think this looks kind of odd. It works with a top down cooler but doesn’t as well with this. You may disagree, but it’s an observation.

With all of the glamour shots out of the way, let’s see how this baby can cool a CPU!



Testing, Final Thoughts

Before we get into our testing methodology, you may be interested in the actual specs and dimensions of the cooler. Here they are, as provided by Zalman.

Testing Methodology

Whenever we stress test components for temperatures, our main concern is making sure that there is proper airflow inside the case and sufficient space outside. All PSU cords are neatly tucked out of the way to the best of the cases ability and there is 1ft of breathing room behind the PC. The tower door is kept on the PC while testing occurs.

The case used is NZXT’s Apollo, which has a rear mounted 120mm fan in addition to a door mounted 120 fan used to bring cool air in. The testing rig used for today’s benchmarking is as follows:

All testing was completed under 80°F – 81°F room temperatures. Today, we will be comparing the performance of the 9700LED to the recently reviewed CNPS8000.

Considering the fact that the CNPS8000 is not that great of a cooler to begin with, it’s no surprise that the 9700LED obliterated it. At 3.06GHz, the 9700LED proved a full 24°C lower than the other cooler on the low setting and 19°C lower on high. Even as it stands, for a hearty overclock on the E6300, the 9700LED didn’t allow it to go beyond 52°C at full load.

Although the differences here are not as noticeable as they were for the CPU tests, it’s still equally impressive. The average motherboard temp with our maximum overclock hovered around 42°C.

Final Thoughts

Efficient CPU cooling and good looks are two important factors when looking to purchase a new cooler. Luckily, the 9700LED accomplishes both of these goals well. Even with the mediocre CNPS8000 out of the picture, the 9700LED proved to have some very nice cooling ability in this high ambient (80°F) room. The fact that the CPU was overclocked 40% and temps didn’t go beyond 52°C is a nice achievement. Granted, that was with a higher fan speed, but even with the lower and much quieter speed, it didn’t budge beyond 56°C.

Oddly enough, the temps remained pretty congruent between testing under 1.86GHz and 3.06GHz frequencies, so it shows that you don’t necessarily need a liquid cooling setup in order to get some great overclocks anymore. The noise was not a problem with the cooler either, especially at lower speeds. At higher speeds, there was slight whine but it wasn’t quite overbearing. With the case door on, it sounded more like a light hum.

Normally in this room I don’t expect to see lower CPU temperatures even with water cooling. The 9700LED stepped up to the plate though and delivered solid performance. The installation also proved a great experience, with the toughest part being the removal of the motherboard which seems to be unavoidable nowadays. The install process was made even better with the inclusion of their thermal paste that you apply with a small brush. This is something that should have existed long ago and is worth the $10 it retails for separately. I didn’t have any AS5 on hand to compare it to sadly, but the resulting temps as they stand are impressive enough.

The only real downside to the cooler is that it retails for near $70. That is not chump change. There are -many- coolers out there that have good cooling ability, but most do not include an innovative thermal paste applicator, fan controller or look good. This one achieves all of these. Is it worth $70? Not particularly.. that’s a lot of cash for an air CPU cooler regardless of how you look at it. Price aside, the 9700LED earns itself a 9 out of 10, with the price being it’s primary downfall.

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