Testing & Results
The CPU coolers were tested installed in a computer case in its normal orientation (a NZXT H630). A 200mm top/rear exhaust fan was added to the enclosure to aid in cooling VRMs and most of the front drive cages were removed to clear the path from the 200mm intake fan. The GPU remained installed during testing. All fans were set to 100% to remove that variable from the results (motherboard fan control was disabled). This is how I would assume most enthusiasts would set up a similar case while overclocking a similar platform.
All tests were performed using the AIDA64 Extreme Edition System Stability test using 100% fan settings on an Asus M5A99FX PRO R2.0. The test was allowed to run until temperatures plateaued, then I recorded the ambient temperature of the intake air and began logging temperatures over the next minute. After an initial warm-up run, I ran each test at least three times (more if I received inconsistent results), and recorded the ambient temperature again. Once I had “good data,” I dropped the best and worst results and subtracted the (average over the test) ambient temperature from the median result to arrive at the delta T temperature you see in the chart.
Each time a heat-sink was swapped, the Tuniq TX-2 thermal interface material I used for each application was cleaned off of the contact surfaces with Arctic Silver’s ArctiClean two-step TIM remover, and an appropriate amount of TX-2 replaced for the next heat-sink. Due to the nature of applying TIM and mating two surfaces, I would like to adopt a 3% margin of error – even though my thermometers and the built-in thermal diode measure temperatures down to one-tenth of a degree Celsius, it could be assumed that temperatures within a degree of each other are essentially the same result.
Motherboard: Asus M5A99FX-PRO R2.0 w/ 1708 BIOS/UEFI
System Memory: 8GB (2x4GB) GSkill Ares 1600MHz DDR3 CL8
Processor: AMD FX-8320 Piledriver, 4.6GHz/1.428V LLC (Extreme)
Video: Sapphire Radeon 7950 3GB 1000MHz Core, 1300MHz mem
Disk Drive 1: OCZ Vertex 2 240GB
Enclosure: NZXT H630, +200mm exhaust fan (top/rear)
PSU: Rosewill Lightning 800W Modular 80+ Gold
Monitor: 1920×1080 120Hz
Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit w/SP1
Overall, a strong performance from the Reserator 3 MAX. There’s something important that isn’t shown on this graph though, and it’s one of the more exciting aspects of the performance of this particular CPU cooler. The real story here are the VRM temps. Compared to the Swiftech H220 where the VRM heatsinks measured an average of 53.4C while running the System Stability test, the Zalman Reserator 3 MAX cooled those same heatsinks to an average of 44C; almost 10 degrees Celsius cooler!
When I purchased my first AIO liquid cooler (incidentally, the H220) I ran headlong into a problem I hadn’t considered before. While CPU core temps were down, the rest of the system ran much hotter. Now, those MOSFETs are built to get pretty hot and still function, but I like to keep my systems running as cool as possible (both for noise and longevity reasons). I was getting cooler CPU temps, but I was still limited on my overclocks because the VRMs would get uncomfortably warm. In an ATX case you can usually add some more fans, but very few enclosures are built with motherboard cooling in mind.
Since AIO coolers are a good match for many mini-ITX builds due to their smaller size and superior cooling potential in the tight confines of a small enclosure (that are usually limited on fans that can be added for cooling), the Reserator 3 MAX manages to address the problem of chipset cooling there too. To me, and probably many others, this is a very significant benefit.