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Zalman Reserator 3 Max Dual Ultimate Liquid CPU Cooler Review

Zalman Reserator 3 Max Dual Ultimate Liquid CPU Cooler Review

If you thought the first Reserator was unique and different, just wait till you see what Zalman offers in the Reserator 3 Max Dual. Let's take a look.

@chad_sebring
Published Fri, Jun 13 2014 9:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 72%Manufacturer: Zalman

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

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We've known from years of looking at, using, and reviewing Zalman coolers, that they definitely do like their round coolers and today's sample is no exclusion. Honestly, there must really be something to this design since it has made Zalman so much money over the years as they tweaked and made advancements to their designs. If you can recall, we have looked at one of the Zalman AIOs before, but a fair bit of time has passed since then; now we are looking at a dual radiator version from their Reserator series of coolers.

When we say dual radiator AIO, people typically think of a 240mm long radiator that is usually 27mm thick; that is nothing like you are going to see today. Just when we were thinking the plumbing on the original Reserator 3 Max was almost a masterpiece of engineering, this time around Zalman has taken two of their coolers, put them base to base, and they have now plumbed the second cooler into one single loop.

A design such as this proves that there are companies out there thinking way outside of the box when it comes to AIO designs. We aren't talking going at it like Enermax and SilverStone did, but rather a whole different take on the most efficient system to cool the fluid in the loop. That isn't to say that there aren't a few small issues that will pop up along the way from such a design, but we will be covering those along with the rest of what Zalman is offering up in the new Reserator 3 Max Dual Ultimate Liquid CPU cooler.

On the technical level, the Reserator 3 Max Dual offers two radiator sections that are entirely made of copper with black Nickel plating for both oxidation and aesthetical reasons. This radiator section of the AIO is 276mm in length, 122mm in width; the 73mm thickness will make installation in mid-towers and a lot of full towers very challenging, but Zalman does have a solution to allow memory and motherboard heat sinks to clear with adjustable mounting clips. We also get a head unit made mostly of plastic, with LEDs under the cap and aluminum trim. The cold plate is made of copper as well, and these may be the only non mixed-metal loops out there. When you combine the head unit, radiator assembly, fans, 10.5 inches of tubing, and the coolant, the Reserator 3 Max Dual weighs in at 1426 grams; but keep in mind, ninety-percent of that weight is held by the chassis, and not the socket.

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As we move downward, we run into the fan section. Here we see that we have a pair of 120mm by 25mm thick fans that offer blue LEDs in the hubs. These fans are rated to spin at speeds from 1000 to 2300 RPM delivering up to 46.6 dBA of noise level. Unfortunately there is not a CFM rating provided. To connect the fans, both of the individual leads come into a clip of sorts and are then transferred to a single four-pin header that powers both of them. The pump is powered by a three-pin header. The last bit of information offered is that there is also a one gram packet of ZM-STG2M thermal grease, which works in temperatures ranging from -40 to 150 Celsius.

One thing right up front that is going to hit very hard is the pricing. We have seen some high pricing before, but most dual radiator based AIOs tend to release in the $130 to $150 U.S. dollar range. However, with this Zalman solution we are seeing pricing over the $200 mark. At this price, we could be looking into the Swiftech H220, or the Cooler Master clone, so this has to be one seriously awesome AIO, or Zalman may have just made a huge mistake. Prices can always be lowered if need be, and our testing will show us its value, but there has to be something other than just the unique design that puts this cooler at this level.

PRICING: You can find the ZALMAN RESERATOR 3 MAX DUAL for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ZALMAN RESERATOR 3 MAX DUAL retails for $219.50 at Amazon.

The time is now to get up close and personal with Zalman's new Reserator series cooler and we will try to keep pricing alone out of our mind until the end of the review. In the mean time, please continue on as we show you the "Ultimate" liquid cooler: the Reserator 3 Max Dual.

Packaging

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The packaging is quite clean, and almost elegant in the way it is done. The front offers a look at the dual radiator as the backdrop to the chrome lettering used for the cooler naming at the top and bottom.

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The right side is kept clean and classy as well, and it offers just the description, product name, and some fine print and barcodes at the bottom.

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The back offers two views of the radiator –one from the front, and one from behind. That is followed by lists of the features. These cover the four pass design, plating, efficiency, and cold plate design, among other things.

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The left side is nearly identical to the right side, but this time we find Zalman offers up the specifications for the cooler at the bottom of this panel.

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Unlike other companies offering AIOs, Zalman likes to use a clamshell of plastic to secure and protect their coolers in transit. Outside of this clamshell, floating around inside of the box, there is also a bag of hardware, and some paperwork to dig out.

Zalman Reserator 3 Max Dual CPU Cooler

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The head unit is an attractive one. Here we have a brushed outer ring followed by a black and white ring that will turn the white section blue when the cooler is powered. Inside the plate the Zalman name is surrounded by two half circles; both are done in textured metal as well.

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Both of the swivel fittings get screwed to the head unit to keep them from coming loose, and we also see that the three-pin power lead for the pump comes from the head unit right next to them.

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The outer ring is held to the head unit with screws, but between them are metal threaded inserts to accept mounting hardware. The cold plate is shipped with the protective sticker on it, which tells you to remove it before you install the cooler to the motherboard.

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After removing the protective film, we find a much oxidized and just funky looking copper cold plate. After a bit of cleaning, and polishing it up a touch, we found slight circular milling marks, and the center of the plate is slightly higher than the edges.

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Moving away from the head unit, we find ten and a half inches of black tubing running to the center of the dual radiator; that's right, we say center. The location of the tubing in the radiator should offset the need for longer tubing.

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Now we get to the dual radiator. You can easily see the tubing connecting in the middle as described, and this also is what makes the radiator a tad longer than most. Each side offers a two pass cooler that takes the coolant behind each of the clear nine-bladed fans to either side, for a total of four complete passes behind the fans for maximum cooling potential.

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As we take a gander at the back of the radiator, you can now see that the middle is where both of the round coolers are tied together, and to the tubing. We also see a fan hub in the center that takes two fans leads down to a single power cable.

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Zalman doesn't just clad the cooler in plastic and leave it at that. The sides are both designed with X patterns in them along with the name of the cooler; unfortunately this will all be upside down in a chassis.

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When it comes to powering the system, you will need two headers to do so. The pump uses only a three-pin to supply power, but the fans can take advantage of the PWM headers, and allow for some fluctuation based on thermals.

Accessories and Documentation

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These are the basic mounting components. We have the AMD and Intel head unit brackets at the top that you will have to mount. At the bottom, we have a universal back plate to take the mounting stress, and spread the load.

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This bit of the kit offers us the normal Intel screws, and the LGA2011 version. The second row has the clips for the back plate, a case badge, and the AMD mounting screws. The bottom row offers radiator to chassis mounting screws, studs for the back plate, and a set of screws to mount the bracket to the head unit.

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We also get a packet of thermal grease, the LGA775 pre-load insert, the back plate mounting sticker, radiator mounting studs, screws for them, and clear plastic clips at the bottom to use with the radiator mounting system.

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These are radiator adjustment brackets. These four bars mount to the radiator, and with the notched sections, there is adjustments to offset the radiator from the motherboard using standard fan hold locations.

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There is a manual that takes you through all the hardware by name and explains what each piece is for. The manual also explains every bit of the installation required to get this into any chassis –space willing.

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Since the radiator mounting is a bit confusing, there is a page dedicated to getting it all set up and working correctly before you hang it in the chassis to realize it was done wrong. Very helpful page here.

Installation and Finished Product

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First, we should get back to more detail on the radiator mounting. Here we have set the stud into the clip, and it is adjustable to slide the radiator in and out. The hex shaped hole above is where the bracket mounts directly to the radiator.

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While this is only one of the four brackets, this image does explain better how this arrangement works. Just remember brackets built with A-clips go to the left fan, and ones built with clear B-clips go to the fan on the right.

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We also installed the Intel head unit bracket. There is some room for adjustment of the orientation of the logo on the front; just be aware, and do not put the mounting leg under the fittings.

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To get here we had to apply the sticker to the other side so that it sticks in place to the motherboard. We also had to put the studs in each end, and install the retainer clips to help keep them from pushing out of the back when mounting the head unit.

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Flipping the board over, we found the studs poked right through the board and stood a bit proud of the PCB. This will not affect mounting pressure in the slightest, as the mounting screws have sections of thread that vary in length to compensate for each socket type.

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This is the configuration in which we will be testing the Reserator 3 Max Dual. This was another issue we spotted here. Think about the motherboard being rotated to the left; the head unit is still correct, but the hoses will now run right across it and block it from view.

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This is the typical orientation in which users will install the head unit. There are no intrusions to the memory to speak of, and since the memory is now the tallest thing on the board, height of this is not an issue either.

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Once things are powered up, there is a very visible blue glow from the head unit surrounding the Zalman name plate in the center. However, while the fans do have blue LED hubs, they are very dim, and in this lighting they are barely visible.

Test System Setup, Thermal Tests and Noise Results

Test System Setup

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I would first like to thank ASUS, InWin, Corsair, and Fractal Design for supplying products for me to test with.

To see our testing methodology, and to find out what goes into making our charts, please refer to our CPU Cooler Testing and Methodology article.

Thermal Results

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We would have liked to see slightly better results than the 50.5 degree average we got, and while it's not that bad overall, it does fall short of other AIOs in its class.

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This was a bit disappointing to be blunt. While still much better than a stock cooler, the Reserator 3 Max Dual was even bested by its little brother, let alone the Antec, CoolerMaster, and Corsair units above it in the charts.

Noise Level Results

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With the fans dialed down to 1500 RPM at 7.5V, the noise coming from the fans is only 35 dB. While they are audible, it is nothing that cannot be dealt with.

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Once the fans were set free, they spooled up to a reported speed of 2280 RPM, and delivered a very loud 67 dB of noise into the room. We also noticed that in certain instances when the radiator was hung vertically, we would get a fan harmonic as well that would oscillate, and that was rather annoying.

Final Thoughts

While there is a lot to brag about for Zalman in this design, things like a quad-pass system to give the coolant four chances to be rid of heat, rather than just two. There is the uniqueness of the design, and you will for sure not see another AIO like this from anyone other than Zalman. It looks good once it is installed, and with PWM control of the fans, the Reserator 3 Max Dual is fine for just about anyone, even while gaming.

The real issue here is that for every "pro" there is a "con", and that just doesn't work out well for the Reserator 3 Max Dual. While the head unit is sleek and attractive, the centralized location of the tubing in the radiator blocks that view anyways.

The radiator is super thick and looks like a beast, but with all the hardware and offsetting, combined with the fact that all the naming that is visible on the side of the radiator is upside down, it really takes things down a notch. Then, of course, even if you could deal with selling out the highly priced cost, the lackluster performance we got in our testing sort of kicks the whole thing right in the grapes.

While there is always the chance of getting a bad unit, since this is a retail sample, it can only go two ways. Either this particular cooler just isn't up to the job at hand by design, or there is the distinct possibility that there are more, identical coolers that out in the wild waiting for someone to buy them.

For over $200 we expected great results, and with naming like the "Ultimate Liquid Cooler," maybe your marketing and engineering team should meet each other. From what we see in this design, Zalman may have been better off sticking to air cooling designs.

PRICING: You can find the ZALMAN RESERATOR 3 MAX DUAL for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ZALMAN RESERATOR 3 MAX DUAL retails for $219.50 at Amazon.

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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.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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