Zalman Reserator 3 MAX Nanofluid AIO Liquid CPU Cooler Review


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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.


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  1. David Ramsey

    I think you mean “90 liters per HOUR” pump, not “90 liters per MINUTE”.

    Although the latter would be cool. Literally.

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      Ha! An excellent catch, thanks for pointing that out (it should already be fixed in the article). I even made sure to reference the manufacturer’s page…and apparently just made up my own units. However, I agree that it would be cool – perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part 😉 Hopefully Zalman will include the…uh…time compressor…on a 140mm model 🙂

  2. Xantosh

    managed to stumble across this fan on a parts list page the other day, was wondering how good its cooling is for vrm’s/NB, cause i have a GA-970A-D3 and in ambient temp of 32c, during gaming i see close to 70c, so judgin by your excellently written review, it would be perfect for my upgrade im going to do,

    Current: http://au.pcpartpicker.com/b/J5a
    Note: i couldn’t find my actual CPU on that site, its a PhenomII X2 560BE oc’d to 3.8GHz (can run stable at 4 but due to high heat here, i don’t flly OC it on the stock air cooler!)

    and this is what i want to add to it, (mostly just CPU bottle necking! and also the vidcard is a maybe, want to see how much alone the CPU will boost system performance!

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      Hello Xantosh, and thanks for reading the review! In your new/potential build you linked, you’re also using an 8320 so similar performance wouldn’t be out of the question – of course, with different components, it’s always hard to say what the specific result would be. Using the M5A99FX Pro R2 and the FX-8320 from my testbed, I saw an approximate 10C reduction in the temperature of the VRMs (the heatsink, really) which I could only attribute to the cooling effect from the Reserator 3 Max. It still cooled the CPU adequately too! My one recommendation would be to make sure the motherboard you choose has adequate PWM fan controls, as the results were obtained with the fan (and CPU) running at 100% – it’s a 120mm fan, so it can get pretty loud at full RPM, which you shouldn’t see under normal loads anyway. It’s certainly a unique cooler, and not for everyone, but I appreciated the VRM cooling it provided along with cooling the processor. I hope that helps!

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