Today I'm writing about what I personally feel may be the best cooling device on the market. I wanted to quiet down the PC in our bedroom, so I ran out and bought the Zalman Reserator 1. I must say that I've been nothing but tickled with my new toy.
Water cooling has typically been thought of as something that only mega-geeks and overclockers can appreciate, but the Zalman Reserator has NO FANS and a completely silent water pump, so now we can add people that just want an absolutely quiet PC to the list of potential water cooling users.
The unit I have is the"Reserator 1." This product has been replaced with the "Reserator 1 Plus" and with many added features that make it's release quite welcome.
The "1 Plus" comes with the otherwise optional VGA water block, quick-disconnect couplers and an I/O bracket to send the hoses through the back of the case. The plain "Reserator 1" comes with none of these additional items, although they can be added, and the hoses are sent through the back of the case by simply screwing fittings into an open slot (you'll see the photos later.)
Before I go further, let me walk you through how my installation process went...
The water blocks:
The first thing we get to mount is the water block. The Reserator comes with one style water block, but a low-profile version is also available. Because I'm installing in a Lian-Li PC50, Im going for the low profile block.
The water block is VERY easy to install, and Zalman makes sure almost all users are covered by including mounting hardware for Socket A, Socket 775/478 and socket 754/939/940. One simply installs the included bracket to the underside of the motherboard and then place the water block to the top. After another bracket is fastened to the top, a single "bar" holds the water block down against the CPU.
Socket A users have a catch to deal with. Most newer boards do not have the four mounting holes indicitive of AMD's original CPU cooling reference design (Blame AMD. THEY removed the holes.) You'll need them to mount the water block. On other motherboards, the water block really mounts no differently then any other heatsink.
The fittings for the case:
Now we move to the back of the case. We're going to have to get the hoses out of the case, and to do this we simply install a couple fitting into an available slot.
The Reserator Plus 1 actually comes with a plate with two holes in it, so aesthetically it looks a little better; but either is easy to install and both get the job done.
Now that our water block and rear case fittings are in place, we can install the hoses that go from the water block to the rear of the case. I simply took the hose, measure about a foot of length and cut two sections with ordinary scissors.
I then unscrewed the fittings, slid the fitting ring over the end of the hose and then pushed the open end of the hose over the nipple. I then screwed the threaded ring back over the nipple.
Now that the inside of my case is done, it's time to move to the outside. I took the rest of my hose and cut it in two. I attached one hose to each fitting of the case. I then take the hose that I decide is going to move water TOWARDS the CPU and cut it in half so I can install the flow meter. If you have more than just a CPU water block, this should be the hose that goes straight to the CPU.
Because there's no fan and you can't hear the pump of the Reserator, the flow meter is all I have to tell me that my Reserator is working.
I can now hook my hoses up to the plastic fittings of the Reserator tower. They are clearly labeled "IN" and "OUT."
Fill 'er up!
Now that everything is hooked up, I can fill my Reserator up! I used a gallon jug of distilled water and a bottle of Redline's Water Wetter. Zalman also makes an anti-corrosion agent for the Reserator and hear it's very good. I used the Water Wetter because I could go to the local auto-parts store and buy a bottle.
NEVER use tap water or spring water as they have elements in them that can cause corrosion or cause the pump to seize up. Also... Try to fill up the Reserator at the location you plan on using the PC. I assembled this thing in the garage, tested it at my workstation and then moved it into the bedroom with a full tank!!! THAT IS HEAVY!!!!!
I fired up the Reserator to check for leaks. Naturally, there are none. I took for granted that there wouldn't be because this whole process was so idiot proof it was amazing. Just cut the hose with clean straight lines and screw the fitting down all of the way and the Reserator is NOT going to leak. Once the flow meter was spinning away, I knew I was good to go. That's not to say mistakes weren't made.....
There were problems....
My first mistake was thinking I could make a truly noises computer. I was naive. My first problem was using a fanless power supply. Initially, I had used the ePower Lion 450. Don't get me wrong as I still think fanless power supplies are great. But without any other fans in the case, the air is just dead and it takes no time at all for the inside of the case to get really hot.
The video card and RAM didn't need active cooling, but because there was no air-flow inside the case, I started getting lock ups and artifacts and the problem certainly wasn't the CPU temperature because despite the ambient temperature of the case being somewhere near that of the sun, the CPU was cruising along at a mere 47C, which is a good 5C cooler than it ever ran with active cooling (previous HSF was a Coolermaster Heatpipe.)
Because of the odd layout of the Lian-Li PC50, installing the "exhaust fan" (which is at the TOP of the case in the PC50) wasn't a hot idea either (pun not intended.) The lock ups and artifacts went away, but the fan had to run at a noisy RPM (80MM fans just suck in general. Pun intended this time.) Also, the fan couldn't help in keeping the PSU cool too, so the PSU overheated, it's fan kicked in, and I had a PC that was actually LOUDER than before I installed the Reserator.
I ripped the power supply and exhaust fan out of the case. I reached for a power supply I had laying around that I never had a use for.. before now. It's a very vanilla Ultra V-Series 500W, but it seemed to be the best candidate for this job.
With the Asus board I had to use (because of the reference holes for the heatsink) I needed a power supply with a single 12V rail. Because Asus Socket A boards don't use the 2x2 12V connector, I couldn't use a dual 12V rail power supply. Well.. technically I could, but that would leave me with a completely unused 12V rail. The V-Series had a big ol' 120MM fan that barely spun, so it was very quiet.. but still managed to move a lot of air. And because it was a 500W (it's kind of a cheap power supply, so to be fair I'll say it's more like a good 400W power supply) it had more than enough power, so I'd never really tax it with this build and it would never really get too hot.
I'm very happy to say that, once I put the side panels back on, I couldn't hear the 120MM on the V-Series power supply at all. There were no artifacts or lock ups at all, so apparently it moved enough air to where I did not need any additional fans! Yeah! A quiet PC!
Overclocking issues with low profile water block:
Now that the air-flow problem had been addressed, let's go back to those two water blocks and how they fair with overclocking.
With the low profile water block, I'm able to maintain a cooler temperature, but any overclocking I did required a voltage bump and this immediately caused the temperatures to rise and the PC locked up often in Windows at pretty much ANY SPEED above stock. The "stock," large water block that came with the Reserator would actually keep the CPU cooler REGARDLESS of CPU core voltage and I was able to get a stable 10% overclock without any increase in temperature.
Unfortunately, the larger water block put the hoses so close to the power supply in the PC50 case, I was afraid that they would kink and that's about the worst thing you can do in a water cooling system (besides fry your pump.) So I went with the low profile cooler and a new case is DEFINITELY on the horizon.
If you want a truly quiet PC, you can't go wrong with the Reserator. Simply put, with nothing more than a PSU fan spinning in your machine, you can not hear a damn thing.
Because all of the CPU's heat is evacuated out of the case, the PC can maintain a low ambient temperature if you just use a power supply with a good 120MM fan on it and nothing more.
Naturally, watercooling the video card will help bring those ambient temperatures down even more, so by all means I recommend the "1 Plus" model, or buying the additional VGA block if you can find the original Reserator at a good price. Goodness knows, I'm going that direction and I'm going to lose the PC50 case too so I can switch back to the standard size CPU water block.
All and all, I have no complaints. It's quiet, it's cool, its VERY easy to install... It's expensive? At over $200 it's quite an investment, but I can sleep with the PC three feet from my head and the big blue aluminum tower is a conversation piece that nearly rivals a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. It's like a Venus de Milo for the uber geek. So in my opinion, it's high price is NOT a mark against it.
I have to give the Reserator a 10.
Photo from Zalman's website.
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