EK Waterblocks (EKWB, or just EK) really needs no introduction in the water cooling world. They are a stalwart in the water business and produce lots of good products. While Swiftech may be more well known to those outside the niche, EK has built itself up to be just as viable a solution, from the reservoir, through the pump, block and radiator; including the fittings that bind them all together. They carry pretty much everything you could need, even tubing (well, they use Primochill for that).
Today, we will be looking at their full water cooling kit, the EK-KIT L360. It comes with, quite literally, everything you need to water cool your processor.
Before getting any farther though, I must issue an apology to the good folks at EK. It took me far to long to get around to testing this kit and writing the review. I hope they accept my most humble apologies for the length of time this has taken.
Features & Specifications
We’ll let EK take the features and specifications section. This is all pulled from the page for the EK-KIT L360 water cooling kit.
The EK-KIT L360 water cooling kit is a basic kit for all users that seek simple, yet quality and effiicient all-in-one solution, assembled from selected market proven components.
EK-Supreme LTX (LTX stands for Light XTreme) is a universal Intel socket CPU waterblock for the advanced enthusiast users. It has been designed to lower the production costs yet still offer the EK quality branded CPU waterblock at the best price. Now even better and more user friendly with PreciseMount mounting mechanism!
360mm version of EK-CoolStream RAD XT radiator fits in many computer chassis/cases and will succesfully take the heat out of your system. EK-DCP 2.2 12V DC water pump is also a market proven product which allows adequate and optimal flow for your water cooling system.
High quality EK made EPDM rubber tubing ensures long lasting operation and does not suffer from plasticizer leaching effect, very common with regular PVC tubing. This 10/16mm (ID/OD) tubing also allow for very tight turn radius!
Majority of components have been pre-assembled resulting in quick and painless installation procedure. This kit can also be upgraded with an additional EK-VGA Supremacy, EK-FB, EK-FC or EK-RAM series waterblocks!
EK-KIT L360 water cooling kit includes following items:
– universal CPU water block: EK-Supreme LTX UNI CSQ 2013 (incl. mounting- & thermal material)
– radiator: EK-CoolStream RAD XT (360)
– radiator fan: EK-FAN Silent 120-1600 RPM (3pcs)
– water pump / reservoir combo unit: EK-DCP 2.2 X-RES incl. Pump
– tubing: EK-TUBE ZMT Matte Black 16/10mm (2 meters)
– compression fittings: EK-CSQ Fitting 16/10mm – G1/4 Nickel (6 pcs)
– coolant concentrate: EK-Ekoolant UV Blue (100mL; for 1L of coolant)
This water cooling kit is compatible with the following CPU sockets:
– Intel LGA-775
– Intel LGA-1366
– Intel LGA-1155/1156
– Intel LGA-2011
– AMD Sockets: 939, 754, 940
– AMD Sockets: AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, FM1, FM2
Made in Slovenia – Europe!
As you can see, it fits every modern socket from both Intel and AMD, so this is a universal, out-of-box solution. The only thing you need to add is water.
Everything comes in a nice sized – and heavy – box. Everything is well packed, mostly in its own individual box.
EK has a nice symbol system to denote what’s in each of its boxes. They’re reasonably self-explanatory; from left to right: blocks, reservoirs, radiators, pumps and accessories.
The tubing included is plenty long for any reasonable installation. It is also very flexible for tight bends.
They also include UV dye, but frankly I would recommend against using it, as I recommend against any dye. If you take my advice, if you order this kit or any kit, order some PT Nuke PHN to go along with it and use plain distilled water + PT Nuke PHN.
Three fans are included. Manufactured by Gelid, they are quiet but have decent CFM and static pressure ratings.
The wires are sleeved as well, to maintain good appearances in your case. I didn’t use these in the final installation trying to keep an even keel with the prior loop (which didn’t do so great, we’ll talk about that later). They run quiet though and seem to be closely related to a Yate Loon medium, for water coolers familiar with those.
In a very nice touch, EK included compression fittings with the loop. This is a solid step up from your standard barb and in the end they’re easier on the person installing the loop. It’s very difficult to mess up a compression fitting, where leaks are possible with barbs (mostly from people too lazy to install clamps on them…).
The pump and reservoir come together in one box.
The only moving part (ok, other than the fans) is well protected and, like the full kit itself, comes with everything you need.
The foam filters impurities (large ones at least) out of the water. There are also all the bits and baubles that you could need. Handily, the pump has two power options. You can use a three-pin fan connector, as the pump comes with out of the box, or the included 4-pin MOLEX adapter. There are even two different mounting brackets.
While the instructions actually tell you how to assemble the pump/res combo, these come pre-assembled, which is good; within reason, the fewer things someone new to water cooling has to worry about doing themselves, the better.
That’s not to say it’s difficult to deal with though. Unscrewing the reservoir for cleaning is a simple matter.
The radiator is EK’s XT 360, a 3x120mm, nicely thick radiator.
Rated at 11 FPI (I count 13, but that won’t affect much), it also has copper fins and brass chambers.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Supreme LTX UNI CSQ water block. This isn’t EK’s top of the line Supremacy, but it’s a solid water block none-the-less.
Everything to install the block on any modern socket (all the way back to Intel LGA 775 and AMD Socket 939) is included. They also include the very good quality Gelid GC Extreme thermal paste.
In case you thought you could install your block with paper on the bottom, EK kindly asks you remove the protective cover before installing the block.
The EK Supreme LTX block is not a full featured block like their Supremacy, which comes with several different impingement plates you can swap around at your liesure. However, the LTX is still an EK block, and as such it is well designed with a micro channel heat plate that will wick away heat very efficiently from your CPU.
The bottom has a beautiful mirror finish; that paper affords excellent protection. There was not a flaw in this finish.
Here is the block torn apart. As you can see water is taken down into the block, channeled down into the micro channels and expelled out the other side once the water has grabbed the heat and pulled it away.
As far as components go, this kit has got everything you could need for a water loop. While not EK’s top of the line for everything (mostly the block), they aren’t anywhere close to cheap or budget components either.
Installing the kit, especially on a benching station like the Dimastech EasyXL was a breeze. As long as your case has three 120mm fan mounts properly spaced for a radiator, accompanied by enough room for the pump/res combo, you’re good to go.
This benching station actually comes with a pump mounting bracket, so the one that came with the kit wasn’t needed.
The block looks great installed on an EVGA X79 Dark.
Now that it’s installed, we are almost ready to get to testing how well it performs; but first, let’s have a look at the one and only issue with this system – the tubing. You see, this black tubing doesn’t seem to like to stay completely coherent. For lack of a better term, it needs to be cleaned out. Now, I don’t know how much, if any, cleaning out you can do on your own but running the system for a while definitely cleans it out, to the detriment of the water block. After approximately two months running off & on, this is what the block looked like.
Of course, we should probably have a closer look at that.
Now, it’s not as bad as it looks. ALL of the channels are clear and this didn’t seem to affect performance in the least.
So it doesn’t seem to hurt performance, which is a good thing and it’s why I won’t ding them too badly. However, I would probably recommend getting some good tubing (Primochill Pro LRT is a good choice) to go along with this kit. The added cost will be minimal and it will keep this from happening. Additionally, this may well be their reason for including the dye – perhaps PT Nuke PHN + distilled breaks this tubing down in a way their dye doesn’t. I’m not sure, but it certainly shouldn’t.
Anyway, now that that small blemish is out of the way, let’s move on to testing!
The test system is X79-based since the Ivy Bridge-E processors put out the most heat of currently available Intel processors. The CPU is a hexacore, twelve-threaded i7 4960X. RAM is courtesy G.Skill, a quad channel DDR3-2400 kit and the motherboard is an EVGA X79 Dark. Rounding out the installation is a Cooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid 1300W PSU, an ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II and of course the Dimastech benching station.
Before you look at the numbers, please take note that the fans on this loop and the other loop did not match anywhere near as well as I thought they would. Turns out these Deltas at 8 V are much stronger than the Panaflo fans at 8 V. The reason for the fan change is room – the “custom loop” as designated on the graph had all the room in the world, as it was not attached to anything. This loop was in a benching station and as such, there wasn’t room for those 38 mm thick fans. I thought the 25 mm Deltas would be close approximations. Apparently I was mistaken. So, please keep that in mind when looking at the performance numbers. For the comparison loop, my several-years-old custom built loop was used. It consisted of a Swiftech MCP35X, Swiftech MCR-320 and an EK Supreme HF CU.
The 4.0 GHz numbers were run at 1.15 V and the 4.6 GHz runs were at 1.35 V. The CPU was loaded using the AIDA stability test. To give the loop time to equalize, the tests were run for 15 minutes each. To rule out any TIM application issues, they were run three times, reapplying new TIM each time. The temperatures represent the average of all six cores averaged over the idle & loaded time periods. Ambient was measured throughout with a Tenma digital thermometer (the same one I use for LN2 benchmarking) and the results were normalized to 25 °C ambient.
As you can see, the EK-KIT L360 straight up trounced my old loop, but remember that’s with different fans and apparently running them both at 8 V was nowhere near close to each other. I assumed the EK kit would do better – it has a thicker radiator, at the very least – but for it to out-perform by this much has to have at least something to do with the fans. Regardless, look at the numbers by themselves! This loop is capable of keeping a fully loaded, overclocked hexacore CPU nice and cool.
Lest some folks consider 15 minutes to be too short for the loop’s water to normalize, I went ahead and graphed maximum temperatures over time.
With one core’e exception of ticking up one extra degree at the thirteen minute mark, the loop heated to sustained maximum temperatures in just over seven and a half minutes. After that, it was smooth sailing. Note this type of core temperature variation was consistent through the cores in all of the runs. Even with a soldered-on IHS you’ll see plenty of core temperature variation.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
This review kind of wrote itself – the numbers are right there for you to see, as is the lovely looking kit. The EK-KIT L360 is a monster of a water loop that happens to come in a box with all the parts together. The price is even reasonable. The kit sells on EK’s site for € 223.61 (incl 22% VAT). In the US it’s even cheaper, selling at Performance-PCs for an impressive $259.95. As far as competition, Swiftech’s closest competitor is a 2×120 kit that goes for $279.95. There’s absolutely no question there that this kit is the one to go with. For $20 less, that’s just a no-brainer.
The only thing potentially to dislike about this kit is the tubing issue mentioned earlier, where it will make your block nice and ugly after a few months. It’s not anywhere near a deal breaker – the performance seemed to be fine. It’s just not pretty. Since a good water cooler should be cleaning their loop out every 6-12 months anyway, this is a non-problem. Just make sure the channels remain clear and all is well. The channels were discolored but clear of any obstruction after 2-3 months running this install. Get some good Primochill tubing when you order the kit (you’ll still be cheaper than the Swiftech 2×120 kit) and be happy.
Aside from that, which is not much at all really, there is absolutely nothing to complain about here. In one easy to install, out of the box solution, you get everything you could need to build a full, functional and very strong performing loop. No, it’s not an all-in-one, nor is it priced as such, but it’s going to out perform any all-in-one on the market and then some. Whether this kind of temperature performance is worth it to you is, of course, up to you. $259.95 is a very reasonable price for this kind of performance and these kinds of components. If you want to get your feet wet (as it were) in the water cooling side of our hobby, this is one item that should command your full attention…and then command your hands as they type in payment info!
Editor’s Note (March 17, 2014) — Matt Ring (mdcomp)
EK has done a complete investigation into the black substance found during the review, below are their findings from Product Manager, Niko Tivadar:
Regarding the black stuff in the bottom I can assure you it has not come from our tubing. I have also made inquiries to our rubber tube manufacturer, some 30km from our facility and they did confirm the EPDM rubber cannot break down like this under any reasonable condition. Also, we haven’t found any incompatibilities between copper sulphate or benzalkonium chloride and our EPDM based tubing.
But due to the nature of tube manufacturing the tubing can contain tiny traces of char. These traces are however not enough to form deposits as shown on the photographs which leads us to another conclusion:
The blackish stuff most likely came from the radiator, which could have been contaminated with some sort of black algae if it was used previously and left partially wet, exposed to environment. It is highly unusual but may explain the dark spots. The algae usually grow in static flow cavities which explains why the main cooling chanels are clear of the the buildup. As per our testing the copper sulphate and benzalkonium chloride do not offer complete protection against organic build up while – ironically – the propylene glycol based EK-Ekoolant does.
The author of this review, Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus), has confirmed that the radiator was brand new when installed into the loop and was never wet by his hands, apart from flushing it out immediately before installing it.