A few months ago, we had a look at many all-in-one liquid cooling solutions, ranging from low cost solutions to enthusiast-grade products. However, regardless of their size and capabilities, all of those kits were quite similar to each other. Today we have something that truly stands out from the crowd, Zalman's latest liquid-cooling solution, the Reserator 3 Max Dual.

Zalman's engineers are no amateurs when it comes to liquid cooling; they actually are one of the first companies that shipped liquid cooling solutions as complete retail products, so they have extensive experience in that particular field. The Reserator 3 Max Dual is being advertised as the "Ultimate Liquid CPU Cooler" and it currently retails for $140 including shipping, making it one of the most expensive all-in-one solutions available. It's clearly aimed at overclockers and enthusiasts, but is Zalman's newest creation worthy of such a heavy title and premium price? We will find out in this review.

Packaging and bundle

We received the Reserator 3 Max Dual in a large, dark cardboard box with little aesthetic appeal, as the artwork is based on a picture of the radiator. Blister plastic packaging protects the cooler inside the box. The bundled items are supplied into two plastic bags, entirely unorganized. Besides the hardware required for the mounting of the cooler and the instruction manuals, Zalman does not provide anything else. The thermal paste is the weak link of the bundle, as only a single dose of average thermal paste is supplied, when most users would expect at least a small syringe with high-quality thermal paste with such a premium product.

The Reserator 3 Max Dual AIO CPU Cooler
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  • lorribot - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    You go in to great detail about your test rig and how you test thermal efficiency but completely fail on how you actually test noise, just some " noise measurements are a bit tricky" statement .
    Actually it is not.
    A good test would be the amount of noise produced to cool a given thermal load to say 70C. This would replicate what I would want in the real world, ie how much noise will this thing make cooling my i5/i7 when playing a game or doing massive calculations etc.
    Most noise tests seem arbitrary, such as dB with fans a full speed which is worthless information and provides no useful comparison as all fans run a different speed or are subjective observations of the quality of the noise.
    Noise generated for a number of given workloads would actually be useful please make it happen.
  • Hairs_ - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Silent pc review provide this sort of analysis, in an anaechoic chamber, with stock vs. reference fans. However, their db classification for "silent" is different, and liquid coolers always perform worse than a good air cooler on a "cooling per dB" metric.

    SPCR's conclusion (which I'd trust above all others) is that liquid coolers are a bad investment as they cost significantly more, produce worse results and are often far too noisy to justify the results. Push enough air and create enough noise, and you can get all sorts of headline grabbing low temperature results...
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    While I agree that air cooling is generally preferable to liquid cooling from an audible efficiency perspective, at the extreme overclocking end of the scale, air coolers just can't keep up. Another downside to the massive tower air coolers is that there's greater risk of damaging the system during frequent transportation (eg LAN party users). There are trade-offs either way you go.

    That said, I prefer air cooling as I optimise my systems for noise.
  • AnnihilatorX - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - link

    I disagree. At normal fan speeds liquid coolers tend to lower temperature range and variance, you won't see ultra low temperature, nor you won't see ultra high temperature, and this is due to specific heat capacity of the liquid being higher than air. While overclocked working CPU on air coolers can reach say 70+ deg C, on liquid it would barely reach 40 deg C (speaking from experience) . This is what is important, not low idle temperature.
  • AnnihilatorX - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - link

    To clarify the above reply was replying to Hair not Gigaplex
  • E.Fyll - Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - link

    Actually, it is not as simple as that. Noise measurements are indeed very tricky.

    Your proposed method however is indeed interesting. However, I would need specific equipment to emulate the PWM thermal control of a motherboard and control the coolers in order to maintain a set temperature. I will be adding that in my long "to buy" list.

    I just hope that this will not then start a "comments war" on topics such as "why 150W load and not 160W load", etc etc. :)
  • Impulses - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Dunno why we're still obsessed with CPU cooling when must enthusiasts are running GPUs that get far hotter and many are running several of them.

    We really need some sorta standard bracket/mount that could facilitate mounting these things to GPUs... Anand has featured a couple but they all seemed to have issues, or maybe I didn't pay close enough attention.
  • SantaAna12 - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Agree in general about GPUS......but....this is a CPU cooler review that anticipates a new line of enthusiast unlocked chips. Right on time perhaps?
  • abhaxus - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    I have the Kraken G10 mounting a Kuhler 620 to my reference R9 290. I replaced the Kuhler's fan with the stock fan from an H100 and the radiator is mounted in a rigged up location in my case (have it mounted in the 5.25" bays of my Bitfenix Raider). With the fan on low, it is silent and will only hit 90C if I play an extended session of a high GPU usage game (Crysis 3, BF4). With the fan on medium, which is inaudible with music/game audio playing, I never hit over 70C. This is with the card overclocked to 1107/1350 @ +100mv in Afterburner. My VRM temps stay at around 59-65C as well, and I did NOT put VRM sinks on there, just the standard 92mm fan that comes with the G10.

    Very good purchase overall. Now that the Swiftech H220 is back in America I think I will be purchasing one to properly loop my GPU, however.
  • flyingpants1 - Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - link

    I'm totally in agreement, except for the part where you say "many are running several of them". The market for exotic coolers is pretty tiny, and the amount of people who run multiple GPU setups is vanishingly small.

    I'd guess over 90% of PC gamers are using single GPUs under 200 watts, GTX 760 or R9 270x. I'd like to see a slew of water coolers released for those cards.

    The PC market is really, really, reeeeally slow to adapt. It took like 20 years to make USB cables reversible. They're still using ATX, for god's sake. Mini-ITX is nice, but Apple's new Mac Pro slaughters everything from a design standpoint.

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