120mm Water Cooler Round Up Part 2 – Looking Inside

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Final Thoughts

Pumps from 4 all-in-one water coolers

For a while I have wanted to tear some of these closed CPU loop water cooling units apart just for sheer curiosity on my part. Way back when the first Corsair H50 came to us we took one apart just because it was new. Since then several generations of Asetek coolers have come to the market. The Scythe and the Zalman LQ315 are two confirmed Asetek units of later generations due to them having Asetek branded hardware and the lug mounting system that Asetek has had since the first generation of their coolers.

The Cooler Master and the Zalman Resorator Max are two that are close to Asetek designs internally, but mounting system, coolant, and radiators are not. Now I do not claim to understand patents, but with what I have seen in my tear down of these coolers I can understand how Asetek claimed in 2012 that competitors were ripping off their designs. The Cooler Master Sedion 120M and Zalman Reserator 3 Max are very similar to the Asetek designs and many of the parts were found to be interchangeable.  This could be a coincidence, but then again Asetek has already taken action against Cooler Master for patent infringement and companies like Swiftech had to pull the H220 CPU cooling kit from the market. This patent battle has clearly been going on for some time and will eventually worked out. 

Coolant from the All-In-One Coolers

As for the units themselves, I found it fascinating how little coolant there is in them, a ½ cup or less. The Cooler Master and Zalman Resorator Max had dye in their coolants. From what I have seen from custom loops with dyed coolant, over time those loops can get gummed up from the dye, which leads to less performance. I personally have only run water in my custom loops due to horror stories I have seen, so I cannot say with certainty if the dyes are the issue. With the Resorator Max’s cold plate already showing signs of staining, the stories may very well be valid and have reservations about the performance after long term use. The other thing that I found counter to custom loop designs is the small diameter of the tubing used. Where custom loop builders tend to go for ½” and ¾” ID tubing, all the AIO units run ¼” ID tubing.


The cooling performance between the true Asetek designs and those that appear to similar are virtually identical. That means when it comes to performance it doesn’t look like enthusiasts are really better off going with one version versus the other. The only question that is left is reliability and lifespan and that is one area that was not looked at by us or any reviewer that we have seen. Water cooling is still our preferred method of keeping processors cool!

The Legit Bottom Line: If closed loop water coolers have always looked similar to you despite having different designs, now you know why. How does the old saying go.. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”

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  • David Campbell

    Zalman Resonator 3 max on a core2duo E8600 @ 4166 never seen higher then 67c
    not dead yet march 2017 haahaha might even put it on my ASUS GTX 580 dcii just for fun that sits at 905gpu 2153gddr5

  • Bansaku

    ” I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how little liquid there is in these things, especially the Zalman Resorator, I mean, how does the pump go about pumping essentially little-to-none liquid in the loop? ”

    1/2 cup in the loop is plenty! One has to consider two things; The fact that the channels running through the radiator are extremely thin, and when liquid heats up, it expands. In my automotive experience, I can tell you that when coolant heats up it is no different than any other liquid in regards to the fact that it bubbles. When doing a radiator flush on a vehicle, it is very important to have the engine running as hot as possible with the rad cap off. This is to bleed out any excess air, and to attain the proper boil level of coolant. Adding too much coolant or not properly bleeding the bubbles can result in the loop literally bursting due to the liquid/air’s expending pressure. In the case of auto motives, either the hoses blow, or the head gasket on the engine block. Now think of that happening inside you case. 😛

  • arterius2

    I just can’t seem to wrap my head around how little liquid there is in these things, especially the Zalman Restorator, I mean, how does the pump go about pumping essentially little-to-none liquid in the loop? is this really how much the loop can hold? (it does seem a lot bigger from the outside). Is it filled to the top or is the pump pretty much pumping air half the time? I’m quite baffled how these things can perform “relatively” well considering what has been revealed here. I’m just not understanding the science here. it’s my understanding that you need a reasonable amount of liquid to absorb the heat and transfer them to the radiator to dissipate it, it seems to me it would be difficult to fulfill that role without enough liquid to even wet my pants with.

  • basroil

    As a mechanical engineer (and computer enthusiast), I love articles like these. Good job!

    “Zalman Resorator Max had only about ¼ cup of what Zalman calls Nano Fluid; but
    smells and looks a lot like ethylene glycol that has been dyed blue.”

    You might want to check out “Enhanced thermal conductivity and viscosity of copper nanoparticles in ethylene glycol nanofluid” , Zalman probably applied a similar method to increase thermal conductivity of the fluid. Considering that those nanoparticles are made with copper sulfates, it could explain the blue tint in the liquid and even the “stains” on the fins. The half volume of the fluid is easily explained by the difference between the heat pipe method that device used vs the radiator method of everyone else.

    Any chance you would be up to burning the solutions (just a small bit) to see if there are differences in a flame test? (if you do, I’m sure people will be clamoring for videos) If there’s Cu(II) in there, it should burn more green than the rest.

  • jack

    why is page 3,4,5,7 are blanks? where is the rest of the review?

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Jack, Should all be there now… Had a formatting issue.

      • jack

        much thanks!

  • Will Lyon

    Are you sure that’s a plastic impeller shaft and not a ceramic one? Kinda looks like white ceramic to me.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      We can double check!