Mostly known for its cases, NZXT has a formula for its closed-loop liquid coolers: make them bigger. When most everyone else was producing 120mm or 240mm radiators, NZXT introduced its 140mm and 280mm CLCs. That allowed NZXT’s units to be quieter than its competitors. But like any first-generation product, it wasn’t perfect. The company responded with the X6—which we reviewed last month and awarded a 9 Kick Ass—and now the X41, which is getting the full MC treatment this issue.
Among PC builders, Zalman is practically legendary. The company was the pioneer in the design of beautiful copper air coolers that offered both low temperatures and low noise. In recent years, though, the market has shifted from its “radial” or cylindrical design to blocky stacks of fins and even closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs). The company has been selling conventional CLCs for several years now, but it obviously decided to do something really distinctive with the Reserator 3 Max Dual.
When you think about it, a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC) is an odd thing to put in a computer. Tubes full of water, pumping into a radiator? Sounds like something fit more for a car than a PC. Why not just put a standard air cooler in there? To be honest, an air cooler works perfectly fine for most setups. But if you’re prepared to spend $100 or more on this component, and you want to squeeze another few megahertz out of your CPU, something like NZXT’s Kraken X61 can fit the bill beautifully (provided that your case is large enough to accommodate one).
Zalman has a well-earned reputation for high-quality air coolers. The “flower” design of its older all-copper heatsinks was eye-catching and distinctive, and its large (for the time) fans ran quietly even under load. Lately, though, liquid cooling has been all the rage. Closed-loop units from companies such as Corsair and NZXT are packaged with the cooling tubes and pump pre-attached to a radiator—referred to as an “all-in-one” (AiO) design. These units are much less expensive than cobbling together separate components, and there’s little maintenance required. The LQ-320 marks one of Zalman’s first forays into the AiO market, and it’s a respectable part, though arguably priced too high for its performance.
Note: This review was originally featured in the June 2013 issue of the magazine.