Zalman Reserator 3 MAX Final Thoughts
Leave it up to Zalman to bring their radial style to the all-in-one CPU cooling market, with an added (and very effective) bonus of some VRM cooling. Combined with the exceptional cooling performance of the Reserator 3 MAX, Zalman has produced a unique and highly effective CPU/VRM cooler. The minor annoyances I encountered during installation are simply overshadowed by the performance benefits. I still think the mounting ring could be re-thought to make installation faster, but that only applies to people that constantly switch CPU coolers…and I just don’t feel it is Zalman’s primary responsibility to address those small percentage of users. For a “normal use” application, it isn’t much of a factor.
Zalman Reserator 3 MAX Conclusion
Performance isn’t “top of the chart” – it’s close, but products like this should remind you there are many more aspects to consider when selecting a CPU cooler. If one were to record VRM temperatures and chart them, most coolers would be in about the same place; with respect to VRM temperatures the Reserator 3 MAX would easily be at the top. Performing exceptionally well in more than one area is a neat trick, and this is one of the only CPU coolers right now that will provide those extra cooling benefits.
Zalman continues to execute their particular affinity for radial coolers and black pearl / nickel coated copper nicely with the Reserator 3 MAX, complete with a subtle blue-lit fan and accents. Appearance is – as always – a subjective rating; I think Zalman nailed it with the Reserator 3 MAX. It looks beautiful and exactly how I would have pictured a futuristic mini powerplant (or…Arc Reactor?) inside my machine. While everyone’s tastes are different, I have no problem saying this is my pick for “best-looking CPU cooler” to date.
I never got the impression that anything on the Reserator 3 MAX was cheap or brittle. Everything is solid and nicely polished. They could take a page from SilverStone’s design book and use a little more metal on the waterblock, but the plastic isn’t horrible and it keeps the weight (and price!) down. The hoses are soft, flexible and premium-feeling, and the fittings seem to be solid and confidence-inspiring. The Reserator itself is well built, and the plastic cage that protects it feels even better and more solid than it looks.
The function of an all-in-one liquid cooler is to keep your CPU cool. With the Reserator 3 MAX, you get an additional bonus by design – it’ll keep your VRMs powering your CPU cool too! Since it uses a 120mm fan, you also get full compatibility with almost every case on the market including a push/pull arrangement if you’d like. I can’t even say the “exhaust-only” mounting is much of a con, since to receive the motherboard cooling the Reserator 3 MAX needs to be mounted in the rear fan port anyway. Could Zalman have included a bracket to allow an intake orientation as well? Maybe, but I doubt it’d be worth the fan/intake noise for an extra degree or two. Besides, the performance is very impressive as is, and you can still add a second fan if you really need one more degree of cooling. This is one of the only products available that will do such a great job of cooling both your CPU and motherboard in one compact, attractive product. I don’t think I could ask for more functionality!
The Reserator 3 MAX as of the beginning of September ’13 was very hard to find, but has since been listed for sale online for $129.99 (Newegg). I initially received my review version before any pricing details were released, and after testing it I was expecting it to be priced around $140-$150. After all, it is competitive with coolers that cost around that mark, and once you factor in the smaller size, nanofluids and VRM cooling benefits I think there’s a lot of value there. When you consider a comparable performing AIO cooler will cost at least $100, and a chipset cooler will be $20 or more, I feel that Zalman priced their Reserator 3 MAX very competitively.
I’m glad that Zalman was willing to apply some tweaks to the now-standard AIO formula. For considering cooling beyond just the CPU and recognizing a computer system as a whole, then designing and manufacturing such an impressive-performing and attractive product, I feel they’ve justifiably earned a Gold Tachometer award. I love seeing different approaches to the same problem, and I think Zalman’s Reserator 3 MAX is one of the best implementations of an AIO cooler so far. It is astounding how much performance they’ve crammed into a 120mm “reserator.” Now I can’t stop looking at the 135mm fan in my Zalman CNPS-9900MAX and hoping for a new product announcement…
+ Design that impresses with both looks AND performance
+ Unique and attractive
+ Powerful cooling ability
+ Also effectively cools VRMs/motherboard components
+ Can be used in a push/pull configuration
+ Wide compatibility (120mm)
- Integrated fan, can not be easily replaced
– Mounting bracket installation could be streamlined
– Would be nice to have LED color options…
– Double sided tape used for mounting back plate can be a hassle to remove, extras would be nice
Final Score: 9.50 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Do you prefer air or liquid cooling for your overclocked CPU?