UK price (as reviewed):£83.20 (inc VAT) US price (as reviewed):$124.99 (ex Tax)
While Zalman proudly boasts that its latest all-in-one liquid cooler is the world's first to use a nanoparticle coolant, we were more intrigued by other aspects of its design. The circular copper radiator is especially eye-catching, and stands out from the sea of black rectangles to be found around the rest of our labs. Its price also caught our attention, as at almost £85, it's the most expensive 120mm radiator cooler available, coming in at even more than SilverStone's TD03 and nipping at the heels of the excellent Corsair H100i.
Beginning with the waterblock, we were pleased to discover just how solid it is. The majority of it is made from copper and the smooth and shiny baseplate is securely screwed into place. The top of it lights up blue when its powered up, which maybe to some people's taste, but almost certainly not everyone's, which is why it's a shame there's no way to disable it. A sadly unbraided standard black 3-pin cable powers the pump.
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The tubing isn't as thick as that which, for example, Corsair uses, but the rubber material is still feels of a good quality. It's flexible enough to bend easily, but still feels a lot sturdier than the FEP that SilverStone's Tundra coolers use. The tubes, as is their wont, pass into and out of the radiator, which is where things start to get a little different.
The circular radiator is actually formed from two separate radiators, an inner and an outer one. As the diagram shows, each radiator also has an upper and lower level of piping, so the water flows around the circle four times, giving it longer to be cooled than just one or two circles would allow. It's an efficient use of space to be sure, but only testing will tell how effective it is. Zalman also claims that airflow generated by this design has positive effects on VRM temperatures, but we aren't able to test this. Pleasingly, both the pipes and fins are fully made from copper and have been given an attractive black nickel coating.
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The unit's single 120mm fan comes pre-attached to the radiator, and though you can access the screws that hold it in place through the back, it's irregular form factor means it will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace or upgrade. Like the pump unit, it also lights up a cool blue when on, and again there's no way to disable this. The multi-coloured 4-pin PWM cable isn't braided, and though this isn't a major criticism by any means, it's still worth bringing up at this price point.
Rather than having mounting holes on the radiator as usual, which would be impractical with the circular design, Zalman has fitted the Reserator 3 Max with a plastic bracket with 120mm mounts. This will let you attach it directly to an exhaust mount, or to a second 120mm fan of your choosing for a push pull configuration. We did enjoy not having to align the radiator with a fan to install it, as this can often be fiddly and frustrating, but the bracket itself is really rather lightweight and flimsy, especially when compared with the rest of the unit.
Cooler installation hasn't always been Zalman's strong point, and indeed we were far from thrilled upon discovering that we had to use eight small screws simply to attach the mounting plate to the waterblock – it felt like a big step back from Corsair's magnetic plates. The backplate for sockets other than LGA2011 is solid metal, but the sticky pads used to hold it in place are annoying – we've found them to be unnecessary and they nearly always leave most of their sticky residue behind when you remove them. The supplied thermal paste is also just a tiny sachet that doesn't feel very premium. All in all, there's nothing out and out challenging about installing the Reserator 3 Max, it's just more time consuming than it needs to be.