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Zalman Reserator 1 V2 and Fan Kit

Date: October 24, 2006
Author(s): Matthew Harris

Water cooling has a lot of benefits. First off it’s more effective, water removes heat close to ten times better than air. Secondly it’s generally quieter, this is owed to waters better thermal capacity and the fact that the radiators used have way more area than a simple HSF does. Today we take a look at an un-traditional water cooling system that’s about as quiet as you’ll ever get.


Zalman has been around in the enthusiast arena for quite some time. At first they made those kooky flower coolers without fans that performed on par with factory offerings. Eventually they started adding optional fans that hung on the case. Recently though, Zalman started adding integral fans to their coolers which put them into the good graces of the overclocking community. Many felt that Zalman’s designs were great for the silent computing crowd who rarely overclocked but weren’t advisable for a PC running balls to the wall with heavy overvolting.

Yes, yes I know this is a water cooling review but I’m leading somewhere with this, I promise. Eventually Zalman came out with a passive water cooling rig that relied on overall size to perform the function of a fan cooled radiator. At first the Reserator wasn’t widely held as being the overclocker’s darling as it was still a bit on the inefficient side. The blocks used weren’t as well engineered as the aftermarket blocks sold by their competition, they were very simple in design. In fact the GPU block was a straight through design with nothing to break up the flow. Zalman has been continually upgrading their block designs though. With each redesign the Reserator has undergone a facelift and has been refitted with the new blocks.

Let’s see what Zalman has to say about the Reserator 1 V2 shall we?


The Reserator 1 V2 incorporates Zalman’s HCET(High Capacity Extrusion Technique) technology, high efficiency cooling technology, and optimal heat dissipation design for exceptional cooling performance even through natural convection cooling.

The Reserator 1 V2 is a fanless water cooling system that unites the functions of a reservoir, radiator, and water pump into one system for easy operation. It is anodized and comes with a custom coolant to prevent corrosion.

The new CPU Water Block (ZM-WB4 Gold), VGA Water Block(ZM-GWB3), and the optional Northbridge Water Block(ZM-NWB1) and VGA RAM Water Block (ZM-RWB1) enable the setup of a complete Water Cooling System with excellent performance.

Features & Specifications

Reserator (Reservoir+Radiator+Water Pump)

“Reserator” is a compound word derived from ‘Reservoir’ and ‘Radiator’ – it acts as a reservoir while radiating heat. This product works well with natural convection and integrates a water pump inside for convenience.

– Dissipation Area : 1,274m2

– Weight : 6.5kg

– Dimensions : 150(L) x 150(W) x 592(H)mm

– Material : Anodized Pure Aluminum

– Coolant Capacity : Max. 2.5L

– Integrated Water Pump : 5 W, Qmax 300L/h

(A type: 230V-50Hz, B type: 120V-60Hz,

C type: 220V-60Hz, D type: 110V-60Hz)

– Maximum Lift : 0.5m

CPU Water Block (ZM-WB4 Gold)

The CPU Water Block incorporates a pure copper base for excellent heat transfer, and has gold plating to prevent corrosion. It supports Pentium 4 Socket 775/478 CPU and AMD Socket AM2/754/939/940 CPU, and is designed to be light weight and easy to install.

– Weight : 135g(Water Block)

– Dimensions : 63(L) x 63(W) x 16.5(H) mm

– Material : Polycarbonate Cover, Gold Plated Pure Copper Base

– Compatibility : Intel Pentium 4 (Socket 775/478)

AMD Sempron/AMD64 (Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX/Opteron)

(Socket AM2/754/939/940)

VGA Water Block (ZM-GWB3)

The VGA Water Block incorporates a light weight pure aluminum base for high cooling performance, and is anodized and coated to prevent corrosion. It also incorporates revolving fittings that provide freedom in direction when connecting them with the tubes, which further allows simple installation.

– Weight : 100g

– Dimensions : 60.4(L) x 60.4(W) x 30(H) mm

– Material : Anodized Pure Aluminum

– Compatibility : Graphics cards with heatsink mounting holes

Anti-Corrosion Coolant (ZM-G200)

This coolant contains a high quality anti-corrosion agent for various materials including copper, aluminum, and plastic, that prevents corrosion for long term operation.

– Material : Propylene Glycol & Anti-Corrosion Agent

– Weight : 500ml

– Freezing Point : -9°C

– Exchange Cycle : 1 year

Flow Indicator

This component is connected in-line with the circulation tube for checking the circulation of the coolant. When the coolant is actively circulating, the cap inside the flow indicator shakes rapidly, providing easy indication of the circulation status.

Quick Coupling

The Fittings incorporate valves that prevent leaks when disconnecting the PVC Tubes allowing quick, convenient separation and reassembly of the Reserator for transport and coolant replacement.

Close Look

Zalman has also created a the ZM-RF1 Fan Kit which is a top hat that that sits atop the Reserator and has a 140mm fan that forces air down the length of the Reserator’s body. I’ll be taking a look at it and see if it makes any difference to the overall performance of the system as a whole.

The Reserator comes packed in a huge box that shows full color shots of product and lists the various features on the ends. As you can see the box was compromised in shipping but fortunately the packaging is more than adequate at keeping your investment safe. The Fan Kit is also packed in a full color box that also outlines its features. Happily the Fan Kit made the trip unscathed.

Opening the box for the Reserator exposes the tubing and instructions and the top layer of foam packing material.

The blocks, fittings and coolant are in the next layer foam and the bottom layer is molded to cradle the Reserator itself. This adds up to a fairly bulletproof shipping system that keeps the Reserator safe from everything but the most extreme damage.

Fan Kit

The Fan Kit is packed in a more environmentally friendly cardboard cradle. It includes the instructions, wiring, clips to affix the wiring for the fan to the Reserator, Fan Mate 2 and double sided tape to affix the Fan Mate 2 to your case. I would’ve liked to see a 4 pin to 3 pin adaptor included since Zalman expects you to power the ZM-RF1 from a fan header on your motherboard. Its power consumption of 5W at full speed might be more than some motherboards are capable of handling easily and could damage the header.

Here’s a look at everything included with the Reserator 1 V2. The blocks are in retail packaging while the rest of the parts are in poly bags. In the bags are the PCI pass-thru and quick disconnects, the flow indicator and the plug for plugging the power cable pass-thru inside the body of the Reserator in the event that you pull the stock pump and use an external pump.

One thing I like about the pass-thru for the tubing is that the holes are radiused so that the tubing won’t be chafing on a thin edge. I am not impressed that here is no provision for the wiring for the ZM-RF1 to pass through. This means that you have to leave a PCI cover off to run the wiring through unless you drill a hole in the case.

The coolant is blue ethylene glycol based coolant. No, it’s not pre-mixed, you have to mix it with 2 liters of distilled water.

The base of the Reserator is etched with flow directions, the "out" port is the exhaust from the pump and is where you’ll place the line going to the flow indicator and then to the blocks. Zalman recommends running from the Reserator to the CPU block then to the GPU block and from there back to the Reserator.

Looking down into the Reserator we can see the pump and we can also see where the plug goes in the event that the pump is removed. Due to the glare in the second picture it looks like the pump itself screws directly to the base. It’s actually a stainless steel bracket over the top of the pump that holds the pump in place. I took the pics this way due to the fact that removing the base is a task that basically requires a bench vise, two men and a small boy to accomplish. Since I’m lacking three of those things I was unable to pull the base for a closer look at the pump. This begs the question of exactly how difficult it would be for someone to remove the base in the event that the pump did fail.

ZM-RF1 and GPU Block

Here’s a peek at the ZM-RF1 on the Reserator. It simply sits atop the top of the Reserator and the body acts as a duct directing the air down through the fins of the Reserator.

The ZM-GWB3 (hereafter known as the GPU block) is made entirely from aluminum. It’s basically universal in that it fits almost every card out there with the exception of cards lacking holes for their heatsinks and the 7800GS and certain Matrox cards. It uses a mounting system very similar to the VF900-cu. You mount the nipples to the card and then use screws through the top of the block into the nipples. I have to say, aside from the lack of a rear stiffening plate, this has to be the single most painless mounting system I’ve ever used. I really wish that the other block manufacturers could work some sort of deal with Zalman to get the rights to this mounting system. It would make life simpler on so many levels for the water nuts out there.

One thing I really like about the GPU block is the pivoting inlet/outlet. They’re great for a a couple of reasons in that you can route the tubing past any obstructions that might be in your tubing’s way and avoid kinks and you can aim them towards the PCI slot the tubing’s coming from. They’re a downer in that you’re tied to the 8mm size since they’re a legacy part. You can’t swap them out to run larger tubing should you want to. Up to this point you have the option to pull the quick disconnects from the Reserator and hard plumb the circuit with barbs to the reserator. The CPU block supports up to 10mm tubing so it is an option with it. The GPU block though kills this.

You can see the mounting method used by the GPU block a bit better in the second pic and the third pic shows how the rear of the card is the only support for the block. If you are a bit heavy-handed with the tension on the block you can warp the card so care needs to be taken during the installation.

The ZM-WB4 Gold (hereafter referred to as the CPU block) is a pin-fin style block with a gold plated copper base and a molded polycarbonate top. While I tend to shy away from clear plastic tops I think the CPU block is fine since it’s polycarbonate rather than plexiglas. Plexi tends to have issues after machining and is more fragile than polycarbonate. The inlet and outlet are molded into the top, this is good and bad. It’s good in that you don’t have to worry about barbs cracking the top where they interface with it and bad in that the barbs step down from 10mm to to 8mm so you have a smaller diameter hole than with a dedicated 10mm barb.

Of course you could cut the smaller part of the barb but this will void your warranty so if there’s a problem with the block in another area you could still be up a stump if Zalman exercises it’s right to refuse to RMA the part due to that fact.


The bottom of the block is very smooth and the contact area is very flat. I ran a straight edge across the base and other than some curvature at the transition to the outer edge (where the block won’t be touching a CPU anyway) the bottom is very flat.

The block works with sockets 478, 775, 754, 940 and 939 so most modern PC’s are represented aside from the 462. The good news is that if you have a ZM-WB2 you can use the 462 pieces with this block. If you don’t you might try contacting Zalman to see if they can be purchased separately. The 754, 949, 939 and 775 all have retention brackets that are attached to the motherboard to hold the block in place, the 478 is held by the stock retention bracket.

Zalman says to use the brass screws (seen in the second shot highlighting the block mounting hardware) to attach the block to the pieces in the retention bracket on the 478. I found that they were way too short to do the job until later. They will work if you loosen the screws on the bracket on the block and then push the sides down hard. All told the 478 mounting is not that great. For my testing I used the longer steel screws, I just had to be mindful of the end of the screws where they went through the retention pieces. When I had all the pressure I needed on the block the ends of the screws were a mm or so from the mobo.

Installation Cont.

After the blocks are mounted install the graphics card into the case and begin routing the tubing. Start by attaching one end of the tubing to the GPU block after passing it through the pass-thru plate (which is also installed). After that measure the length of tubing needed to reach from the CPU block to the GPU block by holding the free end of the tubing up to the blocks. Cut to length then attach them. After that feed the other end of the tubing through the pass-thru plate and attach it to the input on the CPU block. This leaves the tubing in a loop as I’ve demonstrated in the second picture. The reason behind this is so that you can pull the tubing taut and cut it in half giving you the same amount of tubing for each side.

To install the flow meter you want to lay it next to the tubing going to the CPU inlet with the caps off, measure the length of the body in the tubing then cut that section of tubing out. This keeps the overall length of the tubing the same. After that push the tubing on the fitting and screw the cap on. The cap acts as a clamp holding the tubing in place. Make sure to slide the cap on the tubing half that’s going into the PC first and also put the flow meter in place with the arrow pointing towards the PC. This will stop the flow meter from acting as a valve and clamping the flow off.

After you’ve installed the flow meter you install the quick disconnects and plug them into the Reserator. Make sure to plug the one with the flow meter into the port labeled "out". After that fill up the Reserator with your water and coolant then plug in the power and switch the pump on. Let it run for a few hours and check for leaks before powering up the PC. Zalman recommends an hour, I say go for at least 8hrs. Pull on the tubing a bit where it goes onto the fittings to make sure you’ve got good connection there that won’t start spewing water the first time you need to move something in your case.

After it’s all said and done the Zalman is a very svelte setup that adds a minimal amount of clutter to your PC. To move your PC you only need to unplug the quick disconnects, pop the tubing loose and wander off with the case then come back and get the Reserator. Overall the setup is pretty painless and should be done by the average enthusiast in a couple of hours and by a water dog in under an hour. Overall it took yours truly 2 hours to install and I had to strip out my integrated loop, un mount the motherboard and put the retaining bracket back on the motherboard then remount it.

Testing, Conclusion

I can hear you asking, "But Matt, how does it perform?" I’m getting to that, be patient.

First the tested system:

Now the numbers for the base cooling of a Swiftech Apex Ultra with an MCW60 on the GPU:

Not too shabby considering that the heat from the radiator is being dumped in the case.

And for the numbers from the Reserator:

What I find interesting is that overall the highs are on average 2°C higher and the lows are 2°C lower except on the CPU, the CPU is running a full 5°C lower at idle but the loads are still showing a 2°C increase. Considering that this is widely regarded as a non-performance kit I’m very impressed. I’m putting a close to 200W(calculated) heat load on the loops and the Reserator is handling it like a champ. Does this mean that the Zalman is a replacement for high end water cooling? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m running my Swiftech with the fans turned down to about 6V, there’s considerably more overhead to it’s capability but I was running it for as much silence as possible. This begs the question, what added capability does adding the ZM-RF1 Fan Kit add to the mix?

After several hours of tests I could see absolutely no improvement by adding the Fan Kit. I think it has to do with the actual distribution of the thermal load in the Reserator. The design of the Reserator has the return water dumping in right at the bottom of the unit and the pump is so low in flow rate that the water isn’t being agitated that far up the body of the Reserator and the heat is only migrating up the body of the unit rather than being absorbed from the water. I’ve confirmed this by shooting the body of the Reserator with a IR temp gun and I discovered that the top of the Reserator is hovering at around 5°C warmer than the ambient room temperature while the bottom is nearly 12°C warmer. That’s close to a 7°C difference between the top and the bottom of the unit.

Having the warm water return to the top of the unit and having a pump capable of causing the water to become agitated throughout the body of the unit would radically increase its thermal capacity. That said this unit is an effective replacement for high end air cooling. It’s dead silent, looks cooler than hell and it’s painless (mostly) to set up. It removes a lot of the heat generated from the case thus allowing for lower overall CFM’s required to evacuate the heat from your PC. This translates into noise prevention and makes for an improved computing experience.

If you do decide to get the Reserator 1 V2 forego the Fan Kit and spend that money on some silent case fans. The Fan Kit is extremely loud at full speed and even at the full speed makes no difference in operating temps so the money would be better invested elsewhere. Now, if you decided to use an external pump such as the Swiftech 355 and modified the water return to bring the return water to the top of the Reserator’s tank the fan could have an effect but it would still add considerable noise to the unit.

Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Overall I walked away from the Reserator 1 V2 impressed. For what it does it does it well and that’s giving very good cooling with no noise. Indeed I could not hear a single sound from the pump during testing. I do think that upgrading the pump to a Liang DDC would be a wise move on Zalman’s part. That and extending the return port to bring the heated water up to the top of the tank would really bring this unit to life.

That said I’m awarding the Reserator 1 V2 a 7/10 and advising against spending the extra cash on the ZM-RF1. Like I said before, you’d be better served to use that money elsewhere.

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