Zalman CNPS20LQ - A Liquid-Cooler That Makes Waves (Part 1)

10/15/2012 5:43:16 PM

As power users know, different types of CPU coolers provide vari­ous advantages and disadvantages. Conventional liquid-coolers are very efficient, but they require regular maintenance and sometimes painstaking assembly. High-end air-coolers work well for basic CPU cooling, but they require as much open space inside the computer case as possible to move the air efficiently. Fan noise is also a consideration with many models.

Description: Zalman CNPS20LQ

Zalman CNPS20LQ

For some, the best of both worlds may be a closed-loop cooling system, which doesn’t need regular maintenance or a lot of free space in which to operate. The versatility, effectiveness, and ease of installation of a closed-loop system are a few reasons why Zalman has decided to introduce a closed-loop CPU liquid- cooling option, the CNPS20LQ. This is the first CPU water cooler Zalman has offered in quite a few years.

“The CNPS20LQ stands at the sweet spot of having the best of both worlds,” says Michael Park, product manager for Zalman. “Thus we have introduced our CNPS20LQ to bridge the gap between air cooling and full-fledged liquid-cooling.”

New Kid On The (Water) Block

The water block and pump assembly for the CNPS20LQ is very thin, measuring inches tall. This condensed design allows the CNPS20LQ to fit in computer cases where space is limited.

“The water block mainly serves to conduct the heat from the CPU,” Park says. “Because it achieves its core function in a compact size, there is no sacrifice in performance. In fact, because of the low height, airflow between the intake and exhaust fans become more unilateral, which makes the overall heat removal process much more efficient.”

The surface of the cold plate that sits above the CPU is made of copper. Park says that copper’s high thermal conductivity rate, compared to alumi­num, for example, makes it an ideal material for this type of CPU cooler.

“The surface in contact with the CPU plays a vital role in determining the heat transfer rate of the overall product,” Park says. “To have a higher heat transfer rate, you need to use a material with high thermal conductivity and also have large surface area for heat dissipation.”

Zalman ships the CNPS20LQ with thermal paste pre-applied to the CNPS20LQ’s copper cold plate, another move to simplify the installation process.

“With pre-applied thermal paste, users will no longer have to be concerned about whether the thermal paste was properly applied,” Park says, “no more worrying about spilling out thermal paste and making a mess or applying an insufficient amount of thermal paste.”

As part of the cold plate, the CNPS20LQ has several micro fins, also made of copper. Picture the micro fins as tiny, thin copper sheets that sit atop the cold plate.

“Once the heat is transferred from the CPU to the cold plate, the heat is then dissipated to the individual micro fins,” Park says, indicating the heat then transfers to the coolant in the closed- loop system. “In short, the micro fins increase the surface area where the initial point of heat transfer occurs. Using copper maximizes the efficiency of this process.”

Thoughtful Design

Description: Zalman CNPS20LQ

Zalman CNPS20LQ

You’ll find the CNPS20LQ contains two black rubber tubes, which carry the coolant back and forth between the radiator and the water block. Park says the pipes connect directly to the pump and are firmly attached, ensuring that they can’t inadvertently be dislodged or broken, which protects the sys­tem’s interior components from any coolant leaks.

“Ideally, heat dissipation occurs more rapidly if the distance between the radiator and the cold plate is shorter, but it is equally important to provide flexibility in positioning the radiator,” Park says.

To deal with this issue, Park says, Zalman’s designers created the tubes for the CNPS20LQ to have enough length that the positioning of the fan and radiator can be a little flexible.

“Some users will prefer to attach the radiator on the top or side panel if the ventilation toward the back is inadequate,” he says. “So the tubing length of the CNPS20LQ was designed to be as short as possible, but long enough to be customizable.”

The radiator makes use of a blue metal chassis, which makes the CNPS20LQ different from some other water cooling options, where plastic may be used in the radiator housing. The metal parts may add additional weight, but they have advantages that greatly offset that issue, Park says.

“The aluminum framing in our CNPS20LQ functions as a heat sink in addition to providing structural rigidity and excellent fit and finish,” he says. “Such attention to detail on making superior products is what we strive for here at Zalman.”

The fan’s construction helps it run quietly, Park says, as does its use of high- quality components. For example, he says the CNPS20LQ’s fan makes use of a long-life bearing, which lets the fan run more quietly and avoid problems with abrasion compared to sleeve bearing or dual-ball bearing fans.

“The fan is virtually silent under moderate load,” Park says.

CNPS20LQ Specifications

Cold plate material: copper

Radiator fin material: Aluminum

Water block weight: 6.9 oz.

Radiator dimensions: 6.0 x 4.7 x 1.5 inches (H x W x D)

Fan dimensions: 4.7 x 4.7 x 1 inches (H x W x D)

Fan speed: 900 to 2,000 rpm (+/-10%)

Fan connector: 4-pin

Fan noise level: 17 to 36 dBA (plus or minus 10%)

Plump connector: 3-pin


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