Introduction to the EKWB Predator 240 AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
EK Water Blocks (EKWB), if you've never heard of them before, is a top-tier CPU water cooling component manufacturer based in Slovenia and founded in 1999. They have strictly made components that you can buy separately and put together your own liquid cooling setup, or they sold them as a ready-to-assemble kit - until now. Today, EKWB is launching the Predator 240, which is their first pre-filled and pre-assembled solution.
The Predator 240 was not built with brand new parts, rather it's utilizing top-performing components from its enthusiast product line and putting them together in a ready-made kit. They basically got rid of the annoying part of selecting a radiator, water block, fittings, tubing, and pump, and made an awesome kit instead. While this isn't new to the industry, EKWB wanted and needed to expand to these types of kits to cater to a larger crowd, and we're happy they did!
Looking at the line of components used, this cooler is utilizing the Supremacy MX water block - made from the purest copper available and polished to a mirror finish, a 6-watt DDC pump - which is PWM controlled for automatic speed regulation, a CoolStream PE radiator - an all-copper radiator compared to a copper-aluminum or aluminum radiator, providing superior cooling efficiency, and fitted with a pair of Vardar fans - providing high static pressure (3.16 mmH2O), low noise (Max 33.5 dBA), and a PWM interface. To assist with silent operation and keeping everything vibration free, is a technology EK calls Hovercore. It's a radiator dampener that prevents the transfer of pump vibrations from the unit onto the chassis, which would annoy the heck out of you.
What's even more awesome about this kit? It's fully expandable. Included with the kit are instructions
for draining the liquid and expanding out your loop. While the 240 needs to be drained, the larger sibling - Predator 360, will NOT have to be drained to expand, thanks to integrated quick disconnects. It would have been cool to see that tech on the 240, but you can't have everything, right?
The Predator 240 that we're reviewing today is only compatible with Intel socket CPUs; AMD compatible kits will be available at a later date, slated for 2016. You will find this cooler available at select retailers in North America, but we can imagine it will be available elsewhere, like Amazon, in due time. The MSRP is currently $199.95 with free shipping on Amazon
, but like anything, you could safely expect the street price to be a bit lower as it becomes readily available. Should you run into any issues with your Predator 240, EKWB provides you with a 2-year warranty.
While the price tag on the Predator 240 is relatively high compared to their competition, you have to remember a couple things. For starters, this kit is all components that they would sell individually, and those components are top-notch in the quality department. Secondly, if you were to piece together your own high-end liquid cooling loop, you'll find yourself spending this amount or significantly more. From experience, I spent well over $500 on my first self-built loop and some of these AIO kits can perform almost as well. You know what, let's take a quick rundown of what these components would cost you individually.
||EK-CoolStream PE 240
||EK-XRES 100 DDC MX 3.2
||EK-Tube ZMT 15.9/9.5mm
||EK-Ekoolant EVO Series
|Similar DIY Kit
||EK-KIT L240 (R2.0)
So with the chart above, you get a relatively good idea of what piecing together your own kit would cost. EK has taken the hard part of selecting parts and assembling a kit out, all for a relatively reasonable price. Given that the individual parts will cost you significantly more than this kit, it's a no-brainer to grab this kit.
Below are the technical specifications for the parts included in this kit.
|EKWB Predator Technical Specifications:
||295 x 133 x 68 mm (L x W x H)
||Copper Fins, 90% Copper Tubing, Brass Chambers, Aluminum Housing
||EK-Vardar F4-120 ER Predator Edition
||550 - 2200 RPM (+/- 10%)
|Max Air Flow:
||Intel: LGA-1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 1156 / 2011(-3)
Will the price tag on the Predator 240 match the performance? That's something we will have to find out in the coming pages! Let's move on and take a quick look at the packaging and what comes inside the box, and follow that up with a performance review of this wicked liquid CPU cooler.
Predator 240 Packaging and a Closer Look
Having worked with a couple EKWB products in the past, on a personal level, and reading several reviews around the web, I knew what to expect in terms of packaging quality. Needless to say, if you haven't done either, you will be happy with EKWB starting with just the simplest item: the packaging.
The outside of the box is very slick and easy to read and understand. The front side of the box gives us a nice picture of the Predator 240, lets us know that it's designed to handle overclocking, expandable, and easy on the ears. There is jargon on the bottom: Hovercore, Vardar, CoolStream, Supremacy, and DDC, but we'll find on the bottom of the box what exactly most of this stuff is. The back side gives us a few key points regarding this cooler, while the sides tell us why liquid cooling is beneficial. The rest of the box is filled with logos and the Predator 240 name.
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Cracking open the box we find that the Predator 240 is contained in a formed plastic insert. This cooler traveled all the way from Slovenia to my house in Wisconsin and suffered zero damage, so the packaging did its job very well. Again the Predator 240 is an already assembled liquid CPU cooler from EKWB, which is a first of its kind in their arsenal; there is virtually no assembly required by you. This cooler is looking mighty easy to install, and I'm very happy to see that! The only items inside the box were the pre-assembled cooler itself, instructions, and two small bags with screws and cables in them - that's it!
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Pulling the Predator 240 out of the packaging, this is where you really understand that you have to do so little to get the cooler installed in your system. The fans are pre-installed and pre-wired to an integrated fan hub, as is the pump, so all you will have to do is connect a power wire and the PWM fan cable to your power supply and motherboard, respectively. This will give a very nice and clean appearance.
Here's a look at how neat EK kept the wiring from the fans to the integrated fan hub. If you didn't catch it, the fans included with this kit are Vardar fans, rated at 77 CFM at massive 3.16 mmH2O static pressure, producing a max noise level of 33.5 dBA.
The next view you can see the fill port that EK built-in, should you decide that you want to expand this kit and cool more components.
Zooming in on the integrated fan hub, you can see how everything connects.
On the other side you can see how everything connects to the radiator. The reservoir and pump are integrated on the left hand side of this shot, which will add a little bulk to the overall dimensions of the kit, however the overall thickness of the reservoir/pump is not any larger than the radiator with the fans installed.
The tubes are connected to the reservoir/pump combo via compression fittings.
The bottom of the water block is protected with a sticker, which is highly understandable considering how much work they put into it…
… it's polished to a mirror finish, and you can see how well it is polished below.
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Looking at the top of the block, the tubes are also connected via a compression fitting. There is an EK logo up here, but it does not light up. However, there are two 3mm holes predrilled into the block where you can add LEDs of your choice. You will connect the block to your motherboard via pre-installed thumb screws.
Should you decide you want to expand your Predator 240, you will have to remove the tube on the CPU block end. EK includes very detailed instructions
on how to drain, fill, and expand this cooler.
A couple close-ups of the fittings and the logo on the block:
The water block used in this kit is called the Supremacy FX. This block was introduced into EK's lineup in 2014 and designed to provide the best performance at the best price. The block is comprised of a copper base, an injection molded transparent MABS polymer, and a black anodized brushed aluminum top cover.
Looking closely through the acrylic side, you can actually see the channels cut into the copper.
Included with the kit are screws to mount the radiator to the top (or a location of your choosing) of your chassis, a SATA power cable, a PWM connector, a Torx wrench, EK-TIM Ecotherm, a new socket backplate, and a very detailed and easy-to-read instruction manual.
This wraps up the introduction to the cooler and the packaging, so let’s move on and see how easy this slick looking liquid CPU cooler is to install!
Installing the Predator 240 Liquid CPU Cooler
Forewarning: This section is going to be very brief thanks to EK's extremely simple installation method.
I always start off by cleaning the CPU with a high purity rubbing alcohol to ensure any old paste is removed and any contaminants are gone.
Before I get too involved, I hooked up the power wire (right) and the PWM fan connector that you see dangling in front of the fan. If you don't do this beforehand, you'll find yourself removing the cooler just to connect these.
Next I remove the socket's backplate to prep it for the new Supremacy MX backplate. This is done with the included Torx wrench.
Installing the Supremacy MX backplate is as easy as screwing the stock screws back into place.
Now I have to be honest, at first I was sighing at having to remove the factory backplate to install a new one. Every other cooler that we've reviewed, they have a backplate that just goes over the factory one, so why couldn't EK? Well, after I thought about it and actually did the install, I'm actually significantly happier with this design method. Sure it's an extra step, but the agony of installing a waterblock on a 'set-on-top' backplate is completely removed. Now instead of having to worry about holding the backplate in place and screw the waterblock down, like many of them are, you are completely free to screw in the EK block with ease. This is an enthusiast product after all.
Since this cooler is rather tall, measuring a whopping 68mm with fans installed, you will need to ensure that you have plenty of room in your case. In this review, I'm using the Fractal Design Define XL R2 Chassis, which is very versatile for cooling, but it isn't perfect. While utilizing the mounting holes closest to the side panel, I still found that the cooler was getting in the way of my 8-pin power connector. Fortunately the wiring had enough give that it slid right past the connector with only a little help. Don't mind the fan wire on the top left of the picture, as I moved that out of the way when I did the install.
With the radiator installed, you can now see how big it really is.
The second-last step is to apply the TIM. EK recommends the "blob" method or "line" method, in which we're using the "blob" method. This is the same thing that we've done with every other cooler.
The final step is to screw down the four thumb screws snugly and you're set! This is the final view of everything connected.
All powered up the cooler is darn near silent in a 74*F room with no load. We'll have to see if we can hear it under heavy loads from x264 or Prime95, as the fans will spin up.
The only thing that I found rather annoying, is the power LED on the fan hub. This LED is a fairly bright red and will probably annoy others as well.
Since we know that everyone is curious with how well the Predator 240 performs, let's move onto the testing. We’ll compare it to the various air and liquid CPU coolers that we’ve tested in the past, see how well it works with an overclock to 4.3GHz on a i7-4770k. Before we get into the tests, click the next page to see what we’ve got in our system.
The Test System
Before we take a look at the performance numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Intel Z87/LGA1150 Platform
- Intel Core i7 4770k Quad-Core Haswell CPU
- EKWB Predator 240 Liquid CPU Cooler
- 32GB Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866MHz Memory
- GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H Motherboard
- EVGA GTX 570 Classified Video Card
- 2x 120GB Samsung 840 Pro SATA III 6Gb/s SSD’s in RAID 0
- Seasonic SS-760XP2 80 Plus Platinum Power Supply
- Windows 7 Professional Operating System
- Fractal Design Define XL R2 Chassis
The Intel Z87 platform that we used to test these memory modules was running the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H motherboard with BIOS version F7 that came out on 08/05/2013. It is understood that there is a newer version of the BIOS, however in order to not taint the results, we will be sticking with a single version of the BIOS between all coolers. The processor used, the Intel Core i7 4770k, will be using the stock frequency of 3.5GHz with turbo boost enabled, which can boost it up to 3.9GHz. Low power state is enabled, which clocks the CPU at 800MHz at idle.
Many of the previous tests we chose not to overclock beyond the turbo frequency in order to show you what your average user would see, but we did find the limits of this particular processor without going too extreme on the voltage and will start to include those results. The 4770k will be overclocked to a 4.3GHz turbo boost at 1.270 volts, which is over the stock 1.193v. To push this particular 4770k stably to 4.4GHz required well over 1.4 volts, which the performance gains of a 100MHz increase was not worth that huge bump in voltage.
Predator 240 Benchmarking
In the benchmarks that will be run, we used an Intel 4770k clocked at 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost and the low power state enabled. Turbo Boost allows the 4770k to hit up to 3.9GHz right out of the box.
To record temperatures, we used Core Temp, logged the temperatures for 15 minutes or while each program was active, and averaged all 4 cores.
Benchmark wise, we will be using several synthetic and real-world benchmarks to perform normal, heavy, and extreme load. The benchmarks that we're going to use today include: Prime95, x264, 3DMark 2013 (Firestrike test only), Metro Last Light, and Sleeping Dogs. Prime95 will peg all four cores and eight threads to 100% with the In-Place Large FFT test, which will help us to understand exactly how hot this CPU can get with each cooler.
Ambient temperature during all testing was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
I have reviewed several other air and liquid CPU coolers in the past and you will find them in the charts below for comparison purposes.
3D Mark 2013
Metro Last Light
Comparing the Predator 240 to all of the other coolers that we've checked out in the more recent past, you will find that the Predator 240 hits about middle of the road or better on all of the tests. When you check out the charts, though, the difference between the top cooler and this cooler is quite small.
Overclocking with the Predator 240
Many of the previous tests we chose not to overclock beyond the turbo frequency in order to show you what your average user would see, but we did find the limits of this particular processor without going too extreme on the voltage and will start to include those results. The 4770k will be overclocked to a 4.3GHz turbo boost at 1.270 volts, which is over the stock 1.193v. To push this particular 4770k stably to 4.4GHz required well over 1.4 volts, which the performance gains of a 100MHz increase was not worth the risk from that huge bump in voltage. Also understand that every processor reacts differently to voltage adjustments, so some may run slightly cooler or hotter at this same overclock frequency.
I did not start overclocking the 4770k until after my Cooler Master Glacer 240L review, so not all coolers were tested under the increased stress of an overclock.
Again, ambient temperature at the time of testing is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. To record temperatures, we used Core Temp, logged the temperatures for 15 minutes or while each program was active, and averaged all 4 cores.
Not all coolers were overclocked and benchmarked with Prime95. There were times that the cooler was already too hot under stock frequencies, and risking failure of my CPU to obtain an unrealistic synthetic benchmark's results was not worth it. Instead, x264 will be a much better and realistic example of taxing a CPU heavily.
3D Mark 2013
Metro Last Light
We found that the Predator 240 was able to handle our 4.3 GHz i7-4770k @ 1.270v quite well. Like the stock clock benchmarks, we found this cooler to be right in the middle of our other coolers that were benchmarked. Also like the stock clock benchmarks, a large chunk of the contenders around the Predator 240 were only off by tenths of a degree to a degree or two.
EKWB Predator 240 Power Consumption
This is a newer section that we've added into the cooler reviews just to get a little more insight on what you’re getting yourself into for power consumption. It's only fair to check out how much each cooler consumes compared to stock, so we’ll take a look at both idle and load numbers.
Each cooler will not have any power elements disconnected, unless otherwise noted; rather they’re introduced to help you understand the power consumption differences between the coolers when they’re fully functional.
To do our measuring for power consumption, we’ll be using a Kill-A-Watt meter hooked up to the computer only, we’ll let the system sit idle for 15 minutes after boot to allow it to settle down and take a measurement then. The average whole number that the meter is displaying is the number that we'll use. We’ll then load up Prime95 to put a full load on the CPU to get each cooler to work as hard as they can, grabbing the power consumption numbers in the same way. All tests are done at the stock turbo frequency of 3.9GHz on the i7-4770k.
Power usage is spot on with just about every cooler at idle, and this is exactly what I was expecting from the Predator 240. The load usage was very reasonable and darn close to the other liquid coolers, though if you're looking strictly at what used the least vs. the most, this cooler used 16 watts more than the lowest (Corsair H105).
EKWB Predator 240 Liquid CPU Cooler Final Thoughts and Conclusion
EKWB has been around for well over a decade, providing the enthusiast market with high-end water cooling parts to satisfy the enthusiast's extreme cooling needs. Up until today, you could only purchase parts or ready-to-assemble kits. Not everyone is up to the task of assembling a liquid CPU cooler, especially with the dangers that come along with it. That's where EK decided to enter the pre-assembled market and bring us a ready-made kit using parts from their successful lineup. I'm sure they already knew they'd have a hit on their hands.
The Predator 240 is a fully expandable kit, so if you decide you want to connect a GPU block, you're absolutely free to. EK includes highly detailed and easy-to-read instructions
with the kit, which includes information on how to expand out this kit. While the 240 is not as easy as the 360 will be, utilizing quick disconnects which requires zero draining, it should still be plenty easy thanks to the thoughtful design.
Installation was the simplest that I've run into yet, as all you have to do is remove the factory socket backplate, attach a couple wires, connect the radiator to your case location of choice, and install the block with TIM. Now in my situation where I top mounted the Predator 240, I almost had an issue with the 8-pin ATX power connector, as the 68mm tall combo was almost too large. You will definitely need to be mindful of the chassis you choose to use and the location in which you choose to install it.
Yes the Predator 240 is a fairly expensive kit, but you have to take a look back at what you're getting. On page 1, we gave you a rundown of how much each individual part would cost you, as well as a very similar kit that requires the end user to assemble it. The performance aspect was very good, and I know plenty of people that just want the best of the best, even if it costs them a few more bucks. On the other end of the spectrum, there will absolutely be plenty of people that will look at the performance per dollar and may choose a less expensive kit that cools almost as well or possibly better. While this kit didn't perform as the best cooler of the pack, we feel it's a very worthy contender in the enthusiast cooling market. Have we mentioned that this kit expands? Most kits don't do that, and we feel the Predator 240 has a lot of potential, should you choose to expand.
While sitting at idle or low loads, you can barely hear the Vardar fans humming along; I think my laptop's fan is louder, which seems pathetic. Under the stress of a game, video encoding, or a benchmark, the fans spin up to a whole (rated) 33.5 dBA. Even at this noise level, they were not a nuisance by any means.
This kit will set you back a cool $199.95 USD plus free shipping on Amazon
, and will be available at online retailers starting today. You will receive a 2-year warranty with this kit, should something go wrong along the way. Perhaps as the kit is more readily available, we'll see the street price drop a bit.
I only had one annoyance, and that was the bright red power LED on the fan hub. It shines right through the grille on my chassis, illuminating the surrounding area pretty well. I can't say it's a deal breaker by any means, rather just an annoyance.
Legit Bottom Line:
EKWB's Predator 240 is the first pre-assembled kit in their arsenal; sure it's pricey compared to other kits out there, but you're getting high quality parts, very good cooling performance, and room for growth with this expandable kit.