Installation, Performance, and Conclusion

The Predator 240 is only compatible with Intel processors, and there's actually a little work to do before it can be installed on your motherboard.

The CPU backplate included with the Predator 240 is required for installation, and this must replace the stock plate from your LGA socket.

The included backplate and protective gasket

There's an included Torx wrench to remove this, but be careful not to drop anything on those exposed LGA pins!

The installation was simple, but a little nerve-wracking (I hadn't removed a socket retention mechanism before). The installation was quick and I didn't encounter any issues with fit, though it does require a bit of care to hold the backplate in place while re-attaching the mechanism above.

The new backplate installed (with the included gasket protecting the PCB)

The water block simply screws down into the new backplate and was very simple to install.

What about fit inside an enclosure? This is a really big cooler for 240 mm, and to help with this EKWB has a case compatibility tool on their site. Having a custom-cooling friendly case will be your best bet, but this tool is a helpful resource, and users can submit their experience with the cooler so the number of enclosures represented should only improve.

Case compatibility aside, with the cooler attached it was time to take this to the open test bench (where coolers always fit) for some numbers.

Performance

Test Platform
Processor Intel Core i5-6600K
Motherboard ASUS MAXIMUS VIII GENE (mATX Intel Z170)
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 8 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
Graphics Card XFX AMD Radeon 5450 (Fanless)
Storage OCZ Vertex 460 120GB SSD
Cooling EK-XLC Predator 240, Corsair H100i GTX, Corsair H105, Corsair H75DEEPCOOL Gabriel, Noctua NH-U9B SE2
Power Supply Corsair TX 650W PSU
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit

The test setup I employ for cooling is very simple, with all components tested under the same conditions on an open test bench. To provide accurate noise readings a passively-cooled graphics card is used, and the power supply's fan does not spin under the loads I'm using for these tests. Temperatures were recorded using RealTemp software, with the hottest core at the end of one of the identical 5-minute long tests used for these results.

As we are limited to whole numbers with monitoring software such as RealTemp, it seems safe to assume that I might have up to a +/- 0.9 ºC margin for error using this method. Room temperature was more precise, with a reading of ambient air (in 0.1 increments) taken with each CPU reading, and the final number adjusted to reflect the CPU temperature above that current room temp.

Noise was measured using a digital sound pressure meter positioned exactly 24 inches from the edge of the system. (Note that while great care was taken to take accurate readings with multiple samples taken for each result, the limitation of my instrument is an accuracy of +/- 1.5 dB.) The same meter was used for all tests with a consistent noise floor of 33.6 dBA.

Idle temps are not really "zero", most coolers kept the idle CPU at room temperature

Good results here, but the Corsair coolers performed better. It must be noted that a stock Core i5 isn't much of a challenge to a closed-loop CPU cooler, and most of the coolers tested were able to keep the CPU at room temperature when idling (hence the seemingly erronious zeros on this first chart). Moving on to overclocked results now, with the i5-6600K pushed up 400 MHz and all cores synced to this higher clock using the test system's ASUS motherboard.

The performance of the Predator 240 became more impressive the higher the CPU load became. Of course a solution this big and expensive would undoubtedly be cooling something more demanding that my Intel Core i5-6600K, but with all cores linked and an overclock of 4.30 GHz Prime95 was a pretty tough test. Here the Predator 240 really impressed, with the lowest temperature I've seen thus far - and besting even the Corsair H105 (a fantastic performer) and the H100i GTX in Performance Mode.

What about noise?

Here the Predator 240 impresses again, with very quiet performance. I'll add that the character of the sound was very soft, with no high-pitched pump noise or the like. Very good acoustic performance here, even under load (where the fans only had to spin up slightly).

I would love to see what this cooler can do against some tougher thermal loads, because it didn't break a sweat on my test bench. (An update is already in the works with a 4.7 GHz OC on the 6600K.)

Conclusion

The EK-XLC Predator 240 is built like a tank, offers very quiet operation, and cools really, really well. The drawbacks are higher than average cost for a closed-loop cooler at $199.95, a more involved (and intimidating) installation due to the LGA socket backplate swap, and a large footprint that could cause incompatibility with a number of enclosures. Still, if you have room for it in your enclosure the Predator 240 is a tremendous option, and while it is ready to go out of the box it can be fully customized and expanded if desired using standard water cooling parts.

Strengths

  • Outstanding thermal performance
  • Very quiet operation
  • Rock-solid build quality
  • Ability to customize/expand

Minor weaknesses

  • Very large size could present an issue in some cases
  • Price relative to self-contained cooler market
  • Added degree of difficulty with removal of stock LGA socket backplate

The Predator 240 was barely audible in a quiet room, and still offered better performance than anything else I tested at the highest thermal loads presented on my test system. If you need this much cooling power and can afford it (and have the space in your enclosure), this is the best option I've encountered so far. A beast!

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