Swiftech Maelstrom Standalone Bay Reservoir Review

Anyone keeping tabs on Swiftech lately has seen this reservoir, but the Maelstrom bay reservoir is finally in my hands.

@chad_sebring
Published Wed, Oct 24 2012 10:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Swiftech

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 20 IMAGES

Along with the rest of the main components to building a water loop in a PC, you must consider what reservoir you are going to use. There are many styles to choose from. You can go with a cylindrical res, but I have had a few develop stress cracks in them, so I moved to other variations. There are the pump-combo style ones that are bolted right to the side or top of the pump and add a few ounces of capacity, because most of these offerings are small and compact to be able to still fit inside the chassis somewhere. Of course we can't forget the bay style either. This has to be my personal favorite for a couple of reasons. First is the capacity, which is usually quite large, especially considering the dual bay options out there. The second reason I prefer the bay res is the ease in which you can fill and bleed the loop once it is completed.

There is one last type of reservoir that you will find widely available, and that is a bay res with the pump either completely built into the reservoir, or with others, you can mount one or even two pumps to it depending on the needs of the user. Not very often do you see more of a line-up approach to this concept though, and that is exactly what Swiftech is offering in the latest of its reservoirs. This design was built in three flavors, there is a standalone unit, there is a single pump variation, and yet a third version with the ability to house two pumps for that extra push in longer or more restrictive loops.

Swiftech keeps the "goodie train" rolling on the concept that has made it to e-tailers shelves. The Maelstrom 5 one quarter inch dual bay reservoir has much more to offer than just a plain Acetal cube with some fittings and mounting holes drilled into it. Along with a great look to the front of the Maelstrom, there are plenty of things you will see on other examples, but some things you haven't seen, at least not all in the same package.

If I have piqued your interest, and you think the Maelstrom from Swiftech sounds like it may be your next purchase, continue reading, as it only gets better from here.

Specifications, Availability and Pricing

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As I mentioned, this design comes in three variations, and here we are looking at solely the standalone version of the Maelstrom that does not accept any pumps. The reservoir is made of clear Acetal, but has a black anodized aluminum cover on the front that gives you a large window into the reservoir, a graduated fill level on the side, and even better is the LCD coolant temperature display you get at the bottom. On the back of this face plate, there are steel brackets that are screwed to it to mount the Maelstrom into your PC. Since water is close, Swiftech also Nickel plates these brackets, so if any coolant does get out of control, it won't rust the brackets.

Dimensionally you get a 3.3" by 5.3" Acetal box that can hold up to 7.9 fluid ounces of liquid internally. To fill the reservoir with this fluid, there is a large brass cap that has been plated in chrome, and is designed to come off by hand. Internally there is an anti-vortex design in a small cylinder. This design has notches at the bottom to allow the water in, and then it has to travel to the top of another inner cylinder before it is passed through a plastic sponge material and a metal filter. On the way out of the reservoir there is a black POM piece protruding out the back as it gets connected under the reservoir, and to make connections easier, the POM brings it to an accessible location. The Maelstrom also has three inlets to allow for parallel tubing to return to the res, or your choice of three options for one tube. Since we have an LCD to power, and the added feature of an included UV LED, you will need an available Molex 4-pin for the LCD screen and a 3-pin fan header to run the LED bulb.

For the version of the Maelstrom we are going to be seeing up close here in another couple of pages, I found it listed not only at Swiftech, but I also noticed both FrozenCPU and Performance PCs are also stocking this and all of the Maelstrom line. What I really like about what I see is that the pricing is exactly the same no matter which of the three you are to choose. For the basic model as you are about to see it, you are going to have to spend $89.95. These prices will continue to go up as you add a pump or two, and for the dual pump variant, expect to shell out quite a bit more, to the tune of $279.95. If the single pump version is more your speed, it lies right in the middle at $179.95, again this pricing translates to all three locations. You can also buy these with the appropriate pump mounting options for your needs, and add the pump yourself.

I do feel at this point that there is quite a bit being offered in the standalone unit, and is worth what Swiftech is asking its potential customers to spend. If you want to go big and get the pumps in the Maelstrom as well, considering the going rate of an MCP35X, the pricing does scale well.

Packaging

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You will see that the Maelstrom ships in a pretty non-descript, flat black, cardboard box for transportation. The only thing to note really is all found on the one panel.

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First of course is the product label. This says that this is the Maelstrom, a 5.25" dual bay reservoir. It then continues to tell you what you should expect to see in the box, like the reservoir, the temperature controller, UV LED, screws, half inch fittings, clamps, and the guide.

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The second thing I like to see on water cooling components is a tamper-proof sticker. This shows you that since this left the factory, no one has gotten inside of the box and caused any malicious damage that you can't yet see.

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After I cut the sticker and opened the box I found the paperwork, and a couple of hardware bags packed on top of the Maelstrom.

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As an added layer of protection, the Maelstrom is shipped in an envelope of bubble wrap. While not as durable as something like high density foam, the unit arrived in great shape with no scratches to the face or the Acetal parts.

Swiftech Maelstrom 5 Dual Bay Reservoir

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I had another image to start off with, but I thought this one would get us off on the right foot and help show some of the features here. At the top, on the left there is a graduated scale to measure the coolant level, and next to it is a large window that incorporates the Swiftech logo. On the bottom left side you have the name painted on the aluminium cover and on the right is an LCD screen that will later show the coolant temperatures.

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On the right side of the Maelstrom you have this nickel plated steel bracket, which allows you to mount the reservoir in the chassis without the issue of cracking the reservoir by tightening the mounting screws too tightly. I also like the added touch of more logo cut outs.

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In the back of the Maelstrom, you see there is a lower fitting that is the outlet under the anti-siphon tube. To the right are three return ports, but only one fitting is provided while the others are capped off. You can also see two holes drilled in the Acetal; those are the optional spots to glue in the UV LED.

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The same bracket is used on this side. The brackets rest against the side of the Maelstrom for support, but are mounted to the back of the face plate as the aluminum plate gets mounted. The screws pass through the steel, into the Acetal, and brass inserts in the aluminum plate makes for the stealth mounting.

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On the top you see the really large fill cap that is solid brass that gets chromed. This will work with just the grip of your hand, as the X is thick and raised enough to allow this. You can also see the coolant temperature sensor in the lower left corner that sends its reading to the LCD screen.

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Looking at the bottom you can see the filter media and the screen in the anti-siphon chamber, and why the need for the POM adapter piece. Over on the right, there is a hole drilled to allow the temp sensor with an o-ring to screw in and be leak free.

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This tiny little PCB is what will be controlling the LCD screen and the temperature sensor in the Maelstrom. While the PCB is powered with a 4-pin Molex connection, it is wired for only ground and the 5V+ lead. Of course the thin black wires are running to the sensor, leaving the thicker red and black wires to carry the power.

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Finishing off the looks of the Maelstrom we are back where we started. This time you can see the flow in the top of the reservoir window, along with the purple glow of the LED I placed behind the anti-siphon tubes and the logo. You can also see the temp sensor is functioning, as the bluish-green LCD is displaying a 25.1 degree coolant temperature.

Accessories and Documentation

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On the left there are two clips that will allow you to use the Maelstrom out of the box. These will clamp on three quarter inch tubing without issue, and will of course compress a bit smaller for thinner diameters as well.

On the right you get another bag, but this time there is a set of four mounting screws to connect the nickel plated steel supports to the chassis. The other pair of screws I really had no use for, nor could I find their purpose.

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The instructions or the guide is very well written. Of course you can only see the front page with the checklist of the various versions of the Maelstrom reservoir and what is included with each kit. Further into the guide you find black and white images and description to get this unit out of the box and into your loop in no time at all really.

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Of course the nine inches of wiring and the Molex connection to power the thermal sensor and the LCD screen are mandatory to connect. The longer bunch of wiring with the 3-pin fan connection on one end, and the UV LED on the other, is optional and requires a bit of superglue to mount it, so be sure it is where you want it long term if you do plan on using it.

Final Thoughts

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While I was scouring Swiftech.com for information about the Maelstrom, I had already run most of my testing I wanted to get through with this in the loop. I found this chart that you were just looking at that I then took as a reference to results I found while clocking the i7 2600K to 4.6GHz as well as stock values and compared them to this chart. Using IBT as the test medium, I went through the typical rounds of 50 passes which takes over an hour to complete to be sure I am giving everything time to settle or saturate if that is the case. Not with the Maelstrom. Stock clock runs resulted in a reading of 27.2C on the LCD with a room temperature hovering right at 25C. By the chart I have an extreme cooling system. Even when I applied the overclock, and again ran things for over an hour, I looked at the front of the Maelstrom to find it displaying 29.5C in that same 25C ambient temperature. Granted there are other parts in the loop helping produce those results, but it does show that at least I am using top notch, quality parts to go along with this very cool reservoir.

Installation is a breeze. I applied the Lok-Seal compression fittings to the black POM piece as well as in the middle of the back of the Maelstrom. Even with the much larger fittings now in play, there were no clearance issues or complications with the use of the Lok-Seal parts. With the components I was using in this loop, I had some issues getting coolant to the pump to allow me to start to bleed the loop. However, once flow was achieved, there was a rush of air to the reservoir. Cycling the power would fill the res with a cloudy mess of bubble, and once powered down they just dissipated into the air space of the reservoir, with very little of it passing through to the outlet. On top of that, the tube inside of the res, the special cuts at the bottom, the anti-siphon media, and the screen all work to catch any air in the main body of the Maelstrom and out of the rest of the loop. While I did find myself going for a pair of pliers often to remove the top cap for filling, the very large hole made pouring right from large bottles very easy with no spillage at all if you have a steady hand.

I have seen thermal displays, I have seen reservoirs with cover plates, some form of a graduated scale, and of course I know they sometimes come with the pumps. I can't say too much for the units that do offer the 35X pumps, or even the reservoirs with the mounting plate that I could apply my pump to, but I can speak for the standalone Maelstrom we just took a look at, and I have to say I am really impressed.

Breaking it down a bit, the plain dual bay res from whoever is going to be roughly $40, add a face plate of anodized aluminum that is custom cut and designed to work with the LCD display has to be another $20. The engineering in the anti-siphon setup, there is a lot of money in that. Offering an included temperature probe, it has to be $20 worth of work to any reservoir, and that is with a LCD display that isn't built in. Just that alone makes the $89.95 listing price of the Maelstrom as you just saw it worth every penny and some.

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After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

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