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EKWB Predator 240 AIO Review

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
What do you get when you take a custom water loop consisting of a massive radiator, an ultra high performance waterblock, low evaporative tubing, fill it with poly glycol water, and then seal the entire thing up tight? We are not sure either but EK Waterblocks calls their creation the Predator 240. This is an all in one water cooler of absolutely epic proportions, one that is meant to be head and shoulders above similar solutions from the likes of Corsair, Cooler Master, Thermaltake, NZXT and many others.

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Technically speaking this CPU cooler is classified as an AIO solution, in that it is an off the shelf purchase that gives any buyer - even novices - the ability to get liquid cooled temperatures without any of the headaches (like bleeding, adding a kill coil/fungicide, or leaks) normally associated with a custom loop. However, what makes the Predator so unique is the fact that EKWB has built its reputation exclusively upon the shoulders of water cooling and they’ve leveraged that knowledge to offer a closed loop product like no other. Essentially, they’re perfectly placed to offer something that isn’t another Asetek or CoolIT knock-off.

In a nutshell the Predator 240 is a custom loop that’s been prebuilt and sealed up for convenience’s sake, though it can also be modified with future additions just like a normal custom setup. Let’s consider it a closed loop that can be opened and modified if the need arises, making it an "AIO" in name only. In either case, no matter what you call it the Predator 240 is built with enthusiasts and overclockers in mind.

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While not the first to cater to this market with a modifiable product, EK has built the Predator 240 in such a way that it shouldn’t have any peers in the off-the-shelf AIO market. The equation is actually a simple one: a monstrous 240mm radiator that boasts a depth of 68mm, the excellent Supremacy MX water block, and two high performance fans. Some enthusiasts will say that building a loop is half the fun, but the Predator begs to differ. Instead this unit is meant to provide insane cooling abilities but it an easy drop-in, plug and play design.

EK may not be a household name to mainstream air and AIO consumers, but is well known and <i>highly</i> respected by enthusiasts who want the best and can pay for the best. That definition of EK also suits their Predator 240 as well. With an online average asking price of $200 consumers can literally purchase a Corsair H110i GT alongside an H50 and have money left over! Obviously with this kind of asking price the EK Predator 240 is not meant for everyone, but if it offers comparably high performance metrics that cost may actually be justified.

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Predator 240

A Closer Look at the Predator 240


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Let's start with the elephant in the room. The Predator is massive. How massive you may ask? Think 295mm (11.61”) long, 133mm (5.24”) wide, and a whopping 68mm (1.69”) thick with its fans installed. The scary thing is that the hard edges, all-black aesthetics, and nary a piece of plastic <i>anywhere</i> make it look even larger. Expect some challenges fitting this into most cases.

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To put these dimensions in perspective a Corsair H110i GT's radiator is only 30mm deep, and only the H80i GT is thicker at 49mm. In other words this 240x120x48mm radiator is only slightly thinner than a H80i GT's and that figure grows when its integrated shroud is taken into account.

While this unit is technically an All-In-One sealed water cooling device, the fact it is made up of the same core parts and has 'AIO' in its name is about the only thing it shares in common with the typical products in this category. Instead it is best to consider the Predator 240 a factory-built custom water loop that comes prefilled and ready for use.

The amazing dimensions are literally only the tip of the iceberg with the Predator 240, but before we move on it is also worth pointing out that this radiator is not only thicker than most but it also boasts a copper-based design rather than the usual aluminum. In essence it uses a slightly modified EK CoolStream PE 240 radiator.

As with an 'off the shelf' PE 240, the EK Predator 240 uses copper for the water channels, <i>brass</i> for the end chambers / water reservoir, and only uses aluminum for the housing. Copper and brass may indeed be much, much for effective than aluminum but they are also heavier, harder to shape, and all round noticeably more expensive. This is why most AIO's almost never use copper rads and instead go with cheaper aluminum as price and profit are a prime consideration rather than performance. EK obviously didn’t cut any corners here. This fact alone does help justify the rather high asking price of the unit as a two bay copper radiator of these dimensions typically goes for $60 all on its own.

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Albeit impressive in its own right, the radiator is only one element of EKWB’s impressive design. The tubing and connectors are also different from what consumers will find in the AIO corner of the market. Basically, EK has used their own custom ACG compression fittings and they’re of extremely high quality, completely justifying their off-the-shelf price of $7 each. More importantly these chrome fittings allow the tubing to easily swivel which will make installation that much easier.

The de-facto standard for AIO tubing in synthetic rubber and whether it is FEP, PA, or EPDM the end results are basically the same: ease of use is above reproach and there’s almost no liquid evaporation over time. Each have has its own minor points of variance, but the material used is not the important part. Instead it is the dimensions that matter. Yes, girth does matter.

The typical outer-diameter usually runs from 9.5mm (3/8”) to 14.3mm (9/16”). Compared and contrast that to the Predator's 16mm OD (10mm interior diameter) tubing and you can see that EK has done all they can to not only increase the fluid capacity but also reduce pressure requirements.

It may not be evident by just looking at the pictures, but EK has actually used about 15.8” worth of this EK ZMT tubing here. This too is noteworthy as only a few AIOs have this kind of length, with 12” to 14” being more typical these days. This added length in conjunction with the swivel connectors will make this cooler easier to install but it may become a hindrance in more compact enclosures.

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At the other end of the tubing is a pair of 90° swivel connectors and an honest to God <i>real</i> waterblock rather than an oddball pump / block combo. To be a bit more precise this is an EK Supremacy MX waterblock which is one of the better ones you can find and would set you back a good $60USD if bought separately.

One of the nice bonus features of this block is its inclusion of four pre-installed, spring loaded retention bolts that simply slide in and out to fit different sized CPUs. This too will make installation easier than usual, though with a few caveats we will go over in the setup and installation section.

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More importantly as this is high end EK block the efficiency of it is simply off the charts compared to the typical AIO waterblock. This does not even take into account the fact it is drop dead gorgeous. Instead they say a picture is worth a thousand words. We couldn’t find type small enough to fit a thousand words in its reflection, but as you can see 'mirror shine' is not an exaggeration. With that base EK shows the rest of the AIO marketplace how quality finishing is done.

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Attached to the radiator’s edge is the aforementioned brass water chamber which will hold significantly more fluid (EK uses a water / glycol mix) than the typical AIO. This should help keep CPU temperatures lower as there is simply more fluid <i>mass</i> to absorb heat before a saturation level is reached.

Since the waterblock is not the typical combination unit found in AIO's EK had to move it to a different location; right next to the reservoir. It is a pretty powerful DDC 3.1 pump as well. Even in a 6 watt, 3.1 configuration this is indeed overkill for a single rad / single block unit, but as the Predator can be upgraded it does make sense (this is where the additional chrome end caps sprinkled around the radiator come into play). In either case, for a single loop like this, we have zero concerns over the radiator's backpressure being too much for the unit to handle.

Also note that EK uses what they call a Hovercore to insure vibrations from the high output pump aren't transmitted to the chassis. This involves cantilevering the pump out from the radiator (it is separated by a suppressive, vibration-dampening gasket) so it doesn't actually make contact with the metal case itself.

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Last but not least there are two two EK Vardar branded fans which are capable of running at up to 2200RPMs (ours ran at about 2255 and 2249). At this speed they can move 77 cubic feet of air a minute at an extremely potent 3.16mm/H2O of static pressure and retail for about $20 each.

In addition, EK is the first to take fan control in an entirely new direction. Instead of relying upon software they have included an integrated quad 4-pin header fan controller. This combination not only exceeds expectations but makes USB based solutions look downright cheap by comparison.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Setup and Installation Issues

Setup and Installation Issues


The EK Predator 240 is one of the few All In One CPU cooling solutions where it is advantageous to not have any previous experience installing AIOs. This is because it doesn’t follow the usual setup process that typical AIOs do. This did not come as all that much of a surprise as the entire philosophy of this cooling device is radically different from the status quo so why should the installation process be any different?!

This different approach does however come with its own unique set of issues and benefits. Overall however we feel the Predator 240 has one of the better installation procedures; or at least is as long as you own Intel based system. Unlike most competitors, this model is Intel-only at this time, and unless EK releases a AMD version the only way to mount this unit onto an AMD system is to purchase the EK Supremacy MX AMD mounting kit, tear down the unit, install the AMD bracket, reinstall, add fluid, bleed, and…basically remove all the advantages it has over a custom loop in the first place!

Also worth noting is that out of the box it is configured to support only Intel 115x and certain 2011v3 sockets. While most 2011 motherboards will be compatible with this unit, some don't have their mounting holes drilled completely through the backplate. In those cases you have to purchase a secondary 2011 screw adapter set separately.


To begin the installation consumers will have to first prep their motherboard. This is par for the course for all AIOs, but instead of this meaning you have to prep the motherboard by installing a backplate and top plate, what EK wants you do is replace the Intel backplate and use their custom setup instead.

This certainly sounds more daunting than it is as all you need do is use the small torx screwdriver EK provides and remove the three screws holding the blackplate in place. Then remove it and replace it with the EK version. Make sure to place the included gasket between the motherboard and the custom backplate and that is it. Not really all that difficult - just different.


With that being done the motherboard is prepped, and since the EK Predator comes ready to be installed on any Intel 115x based system all you need do is put the motherboard back in your case and install the EK Predator into place. This is actually where the major installation issues come into play.


Put simply this sealed unit is two parts massive and one part heavy. That is a combination that is charitably described as less than easy to work with. Our Cooler Master HAF had no problems accepting the monster radiator but just barely. If your case is smaller, or your motherboard's VRM heatsinks are overly tall you will run into problems. That however is the only problem a typical consumer will run into provided careful attention is paid to the amount of space their chassis has above the motherboard.


This is especially true when the fact that the only step left is to mount the waterblock. This is a simple as placing the block in place, and screwing down the four pre-installed screws which will only take a moment to do. Then plug in the various cables and the EK Predator is ready to devour any heat load imaginable.

Overall we consider this installation to be quirky rather than difficult. In fact it is much easier than some other AIOs we have seen in the past though there are certain enclosure limitations that will need to be taken into account.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Stock and Quad Fan Performance

Stock Fan Performance Results


You can find our 2015 CPU Cooler Testing Methodology HERE.

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As expected the Predator 240 simply has no equal in the AIO marketplace. Also as expected that thick radiator does demand high static pressures to keep it properly cool. Unfortunately the stock fans can only do this at higher speeds, and once they are slowed down to much more ear-friendly levels the performance gap does close somewhat. With that being said, even then this dual 120mm device still outperforms dual 140mm units and that is bloody impressive.


Quad Fan Performance Results


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With four of those hard to source Vardar fans the Predator only gets better. To be honest, this unit craves quad fan configurations as only here will that extra thick radiator get all the static pressure it needs. Of course using four fans turns this 68mm AIO into a 93mm thick device and that will require one hell of a case for it to fit into.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Sound Level Testing

Sound Level Testing


You can find our 2015 CPU Cooler Testing Methodology HERE.

<i>While everyone "hears" noise differently there is one easy way to remove all subjectivness and easily compare different fans: use a sound level meter. This way you can easily compare the various fans noise envelopes without us coloring the results and see what fans fit within your personal comfort level. Of course, we will endeavor to try and explain the various results (which are taken at a 30 inch distance) to help you our readers get an even better understanding of how loud a cooler's stock fan is, but even if you discount our personal opinions, the fact remains numbers don't lie. All fans are tested with both voltage regulation / PWM turned off. 32 decibels was the background noise level and as such anything below this level is considered inaudible. This is why the bottom of the chart stops at 32.</i>

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This is the one area EK does need to work on. Put simply the Predator proves that there's no such thing as a free lunch since if you want insane performance expect louder acoustics. Of course since this is a modular unit there is another option: add in another radiator or two to the loop and install a few quieter fans.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,283
Conclusion

CONCLUSION


What EK waterblocks has created with the Predator 240 is something special; an ultra high performance water cooler that’s just as easy to install and live with as today’s most popular AIOs. It accomplishes this feat while incorporating components normally associated with custom loops and still remaining around the $200 mark. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Predator will appeal to anyone outside a very narrow niche market but it does widen the possibilities for those who don’t want the trouble of setting up a custom water cooling layout.

There is absolutely no denying the Predator 240 costs more than any other All-In-One sealed water cooling device available today. Even when compared against Corsair’s H110i GT - a model usually not used in the same sentence as 'inexpensive' – it hits some pretty stratospheric pricing levels. Put simply if money is your primary concern, then this is not the cooler for you. Models like the H110i GT or even H80i GTX will provide more than enough cooling potential and better chassis compatibility.

On the other hand for enthusiasts who like to push the boundaries of overclocking sanity the Predator 240 will be a dream come true. No matter how you slice it this model may indeed be very expensive but it has equally impressive amounts of cooling performance on tap. We honestly doubt anyone beside LN2 / TEC / DICE users will be left wanting more and even then the EK Predator would make a great practice device for those pretrial runs where LN2 would be a waste of money.

Honestly, it is completely unfair to compare this model to other AIO’s. It is just in an entirely different class. On the other hand, among custom loops it actually provides some pretty good value considering its individual components would easily put you back more than $220.

With all that said the Predator is not going to be right for everyone. Even excluding its asking price from the equation, the massive radiator which defines its performance demands high static pressure fans. That is another way of saying the stock fans are very loud at full speed, and in order to avchieve adequate cooling results the fans need to spin at fairly high speeds. To a certain extant this can be overcome by swapping out the two stock fans for <i>four</i> lower noise fans, but that in turn adds another forty or fifty dollars to an already high asking price. Luckily the fans speeds are completely user controlled.

Due to its price and certain other limitations, typical mass market closed loop coolers from Corsair and the other manufactures may have little to worry about since the EK Predator 240 is targeted towards a different market segment. However, it still shows us a tantalizing glimpse of what can be achieved when a manufacturer moves outside the usual CoolIT / Asetek clique. Regardless of any critiques, this is still one Dam Good and Dam Innovative cooling solution.

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/EK_Predator/dam_good.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/water_cooling/EK_Predator/di.png" border="0" alt="" /></div>
 
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