With AMD and Intel locked in a bitter price war, AMDís entire Athlon 64 lineup is currently selling for an all-time low: distributor pricing for the Athlon 64 3200+ on AMDís CPU price list is $81, while the X2 4200+ lists for $100 more at $187 and the 4600+ priced at a mere $240. (Note that these are the prices that distributors pay in quantities of 1,000. This is not the same as street prices. Distributors like Ingram Micro ultimately sell PC components to retailers like Newegg and Zipzoomfly. These retailers then sell the parts directly to the public. Distributors can buy in quantities greater than 1,000 and pass those savings on to retailers, this is how street prices can fall below list prices.)
The bottom line is that getting a powerful CPU upgrade on the cheap has never been easier. For added performance, many enthusiasts will then push these budget CPUs even further with a little bit of overclocking, making that sub-$250 purchase even more of a deal.
But what if you want a little more cooling to go along with your overclocked AM2 CPU than the stock AMD cooler provides? Thatís where aftermarket cooling manufacturers like Zalman come in. Often times these aftermarket coolers can not only do a better job cooling the CPU, they can also do so while running much quieter than the stock CPU cooler.
With AMD CPUs selling for so little, we wanted to take a look at one such cooler, the AM2-compatible version of Zalmanís CNPS9500.
Zalman Tech is all about noise, the lack of it in fact. They were founded in 1999 and have stuck to their CNPS, or Computer Noise Prevention System ever since. Zalman manufactures air cooling for the CPU, GPU, and chipsets, quiet and silent power supplies, as well as an array of water cooling parts.
Zalmanís CNPS CPU coolers began with the 2000 and 3000 models. It was an all-aluminum (2000) or copper/mixed (3000) design with fins sticking up in an elliptical shape from the base. After that, the 5000 model was reshaped, with fins coming from a central core out to the sides forming a circular shaped cooler. Both designs had a fan blowing down or away from the fins. The Zalman CNPS6000 shifted back to the design of the 3000 but was larger and had more fins. Then the 7000 and 7700 were introduced. They were a new design, the flower shape. From a small base, fins spread out and up, forming an almost cone like shape with a fan at the top. The 7000 had a 92mm fan, and the massive 7700 had a 120mm fan. This design has been copied with moderate success by companies such as Thermaltake with their Orb series coolers, Pentagram, and others. Letís take a look at the evolution of Zalmanís CPU coolers:
Now letís look at the new cooler from Zalman, the CNPS9500 AM2. The CNPS9500 AM2 is largely based on Zalmanís CNPS9500 LED, sporting an all-copper design, only it ships with a new clip that offers native support for AMDís new AM2 socket.