Published on Thursday, 05 January 2017 22:08
2017 is finally here and with it so is the new CES (consumer electronics show) in which pretty much all manufacturers from around the world are either introducing new and innovative products ment to empty our pockets (some of which will probably not be available for many months to come) or promoting the ones already released in mid/late 2016. As expected we will of course take a look at several of those products as they get released in 2017 but until these start rolling in our lab we'll be testing some of the last and most interesting products of 2016. One such product is no other than the brand new EK-XLC Predator 280 Pre-Filled CPU Xpandable and Liquid Cooling by our friends over at EK Water Blocks.
EK Water Blocks is a premium computer liquid cooling gear manufacturer from Slovenia established in 1999. Our goal is to excel in a niche market of performance upgrades for computers. With continuous research and development, we have established a portfolio of products for water cooling. Quality and breathtaking design on the technological edge is our philosophy.
Slightly over a year ago EK Water Blocks released the EK-XLC Predator 240 a AIO model which consisted by a dual 120mm coolstream PE copper/aluminum radiator with two 120mm Vardar fans and a 6W laing DDC 3.1 pump attached to it which in turn was connected to a supremacy mx water block (only Intel compatible right of the box) via two long EK-ZMT tubes. The EK-XLC Predator 240 was and still is one of the best AIO models around but larger is always better so soon afterwards EK Water Blocks released the tri-fan 360 model and not too long after that they released the 280 model which we have here today. The EK-XLC Predator 280 is also a dual-fan model just like the 240 but instead of two 120mm high-static pressure Vardar F4-120ER PWM fans (2200RPM/77CFM/31Pa/33.5dBA) it comes bundled with two 140mm high-static pressure Vardar F2-140 PWM fans (1600RPM/84CFM/18.6Pa/31.6dBA) and so the coolstream CE copper/aluminum radiator used is quite longer and wider as well (295x133mm/335x142mm). EK Water Blocks also used a different pump with the 280 model so instead of the 6W laing DDC 3.1 pump (180 l/h flow) this time over we see the 6W EK-SPC 60A pump (flow rate of 450 L/h). EK Water Blocks has also used a quick disconnect coupling (or QDC) with the Predator 280 which can be used to expand the system without having to drain the unit (this coupling is only compatible with QDC modules by EKWB).
SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES
PACKAGING AND CONTENTS
Once again at the front of the box we see a large product image and its main features right beneath it.
The key benefits of liquid cooling are mentioned on the left side of the box.
You can also check the main product features from the rear of the box.
All the pieces EK water blocks has used for the EK-XLC Predator 280 are listed at the base of the box right next to a wireframe of the product used to showcase its size.
The bundle is placed inside two thick pieces of plastic which do a great job keeping everything safe during transport.
Inside the box you will find the EK-XLC Predator 280, eSATA to 2pin power adapter, 4pin to 2pin fan adapter, EK-TIM ectotherm thermal paste tube, Allen key, installation instructions, Intel backplate and all the necessary screws for mounting onto Intel LGA1150/1151/1155/1156/2011/2011-3 mainboards.
THE EK-XLC PREDATOR 280
At first glance the EK-XLC Predator 280 looks a lot like the 240mm model (excellent quality by EKWB as usual).
The radiator is 45mm thick but with the 140mm Vardar F2-140 fans installed the thickness of the Predator 280 goes up to 68mm.
By mounting the pump and reservoir at the end of the radiator you are getting vibration-free and silent operation.
A fluid filling port is placed right over the pump while a fill/drain port is placed at the front of the radiator.
The F2-140 Vardar fans feature excellent build quality and can reach speeds of up to 1600RPM to produce up to 84CFM of airflow with 18.6Pa of pressure and 31.6dBA of noise.
Once again the power control board can give power not only to the two fans and the pump but also to a third fan (as mentioned in our review of the 240 model this board is probably also used in the 360 model).
Although the CoolStream PE radiator model used with the Predator 240 has an FPI count of 19 the CoolStream CE model of the Predator 280 has an FPI count of 16.
The two 400mm long EK-ZMT tubes connect the pump to the supremacy mx water block.
One of those tubes includes the quick disconnect coupling.
We've seen better looking water blocks but the supremacy mx fits nicely with an AIO model.
EKWB has once again used silver fittings just like with the 240 model.
Worth mentioning is that the copper base of the supremacy mx is not only flat and features a mirror like finish but it also has a total of 47 micro channels inside.
Testing complete water cooling kits or individual radiators is no different than testing CPU Coolers and since we want all of you to be able to compare similar products we created new and separate charts (you can still cross-compare results however since we are using the same test rig). So once again single (120/140mm) watercooling solutions are tested with the radiator mounted at the rear of our test rig while dual/triple/quad (240/260/280/360/420/480/560mm) solutions with the radiator mounted at the top. For the dBA tests complete water cooling kits or radiators with bundled fans are measured both while on idle mode or with the fan controller in the minimum setting and while on extreme load or with the fan controller all the way to the highest possible setting (PWM fans do that on their own without our intervention). Every single test takes place in a temperature controlled room of 23 degrees Celsius Ambient Temp with the help of two AC units placed diagonally inside the room. When testing complete water cooling kits we use the Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste. Finally much like when testing CPU Coolers it's very important to point out that just because a water cooling kit outperforms another when tested with our test rig (when we test complete water cooling kits) that does not necessarily mean that the same performance differences will apply 100% for other CPU models and in other situations (such as different ambient temps and system configurations).
To successfully record the load temperatures we use the latest OCCT application for around 6-10 minutes to push the processor to its limits and after that is done and the temperatures are recorded we wait for about 10-20 minutes for the CPU to cool down and record the idle temperatures. This is done to allow time for the thermal conductive material to achieve the optimal performance level. Same procedure is then repeated with the Passmark BurnIn Test as a failsafe just in case the OCCT results are wrong. This procedure takes a lot more time than the usual peltier/thermometer tests but this way not only can we deliver real world results to our readers based on real CPUs but we can also triple check the results using a variety of programs. Last but not least the temperatures were recorded using both the latest versions of AIDA64 and RealTemp while the noise level tests (when fans exist in the bundle) are performed using a high precision ExTech HD600 Decibel Meter placed about 10-15cm above the radiator. Still although the same testing procedure applies to all units do take into consideration that unlike the official numbers which are measured in special noise isolated labs with just the fans here we also have both the rest of the cooler and the rest of the system (although all system fans are turned off when recording noise levels).
When we tested the EK-XLC Predator 240 over a year ago we all thought that it was a great AIO liquid cooler (perhaps the best of its class) but at the same time we wanted something more. The 360 model offers that “extra” but most mid-towers in the market currently don’t have enough room for it and so we were all looking forward to the day EK water blocks would release the best of both worlds, a 280 model. That day arrived and although the EK-XLC Predator 280 doesn’t land far away from its smaller brother (the 240 model) in terms of performance it does offer that while at the same time producing lower noise levels. The new Predator 280 is just as thick as its predecessor so that is once again somewhat of a drawback but most modern mid and full towers shouldn’t have a problem with that (nor should many old models). The new EK-XLC Predator 280 also comes with the QDC (quick disconnect coupling) which we didn’t have the chance to test when we reviewed the 240 model so after playing around with it during our tests I have to admit that it can come handy if you decide to opt for one of EKWBs QDC modules.
Right now the EK-XLC Predator 280 by EK Water Blocks retails for USD249.98 inside the USA (Amazon.com) and for 244Euros inside the EU (Amazon.co.uk) a price tag which is once again set quite high for an AIO solution. Of course unlike most of their competition EK water blocks uses custom pieces to manufacture their Predator line and we do feel that the excellent build quality and performance are well worth the price premium but at the end of the day not everyone may agree with us. That being said the EK-XLC Predator 280 is without doubt one of the best AIO liquid coolers money can buy and for that it gets our Platinum Award.
- Excellent Build Quality
- Top Of The Line Cooling Efficiency
- Expandable / Future proof (Can Add Extra Radiators, GPU waterblocks, CPU waterblocks, Pumps)
- Powerful EK-SPC 60A pump (450 l/h)
- SATA Power Connector
- Quick Disconnect Coupling
- Intel Only (Optional AMD Mounting)
- Price (For Some)