Closer Look: Zalman Reserator 3 MAX
If you read through some of my previous reviews, you’ll probably find out that Marvel’s The Avengers was one of my favorite movies (don’t worry, it’s still up there). Honestly, that was just the most recent movie to feature one of my favorite comic book superheros, Iron Man. I mean come on, a billionaire genius inventor that gets to tinker with cars and high-tech hardware all day? What’s not to like? It should come as no surprise then my appreciation for some of the design that went into the Reserator 3 MAX – tell me that picture on the box doesn’t look like an Arc Reactor! I don’t know if that’s the look Zalman was going for or not, but I like it. If anything, it’s great to see something entirely different from the other selections available – one of the best parts of building PCs with enthusiast hardware are the myriad of choices, and I’m glad the Reserator 3 MAX brings Zalman’s unique style to this category.
The contents are pretty simple – there’s a universal back plate, with two mounting rings (one for AMD, the other for Intel sockets). Mounting screws for all modern sockets are included, along with a “loading plate” to increase the contact pressure between the heat spreader of the CPU and cold plate of the cooler (used on the AMD socket). Zalman’s thermal paste is included as well, and it’s pretty decent stuff (ZM-STG2M). I feel Zalman should include at least one more of the pre-cut foam tape square, as it isn’t reusable and would need to be replaced with every installation. You could install the cooler without it – but you might lose a bit of mounting pressure and have a much more frustrating experience when attaching the water block. It’s possible the retail versions would include additional foam tape squares, as I seem to remember my Zalman CNPS-9900MAX included at least two.
If you have looked at Zalman’s recent offerings, the Reserator 3 MAX should fit right in. The radiator (sorry, reserator, since it acts as both a reservoir and radiator) employs the same circular heat-pipe arrangement as the other black pearl nickel coated coolers, along with a 120mm version of the clear-bladed, blue LED-lit fan.
The Reserator 3 MAX product page has some pretty good depictions of the inner and outer cooling loops that circle through the cooling fins – the heated water ends up taking four trips back and forth through the fins as it is cooled and returned to the CPU via the “90 liters per hour” pump. Since heat is radiant, circular designs make a lot of sense; this “quad” cooling loop is a pretty smart use of space.
The reserator is about the same as a thick 120mm radiator, including the fan (about 75-80mm). The hard plastic shell feels very sturdy – it feels more like armor to protect the cooling fins than plastic. You’ll probably notice that it can ONLY be mounted as a chassis exhaust. While a push/pull configuration is possible, you’re still stuck with using the Reserator 3 MAX in an exhaust orientation. This is intended, as the openings in the hard plastic cage allow air from the fan to cool VRMs and other motherboard components which are commonly located near the rear exhaust.
The water block itself seems a spin-off of an Asetek design, but I do not know if there are any similarities other than basic shape. There is a nicely diffused blue LED visible when the pump is plugged in, rendering an almost Tron-like quality to the water block. I personally prefer some sort of LED on the pump housing, as at least I know the pump has power if the light is on (granted, that doesn’t always mean the impeller is working); an added benefit on the Reserator 3 MAX as the pump itself is very quiet.