Worth the big bucks?
EK Water Blocks is back in business with its new generation of liquid coolers in the AIO category. Meet the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB cooler, which is quite innovative from its design. It packs a solid performance punch that the competition has to manage. The digital RGB lighting is quite brilliant. We have everything to love about this cooler, albeit a bit high price tag.
Build Quality - 9/10
Design - 9/10
Performance - 9/10
Features - 9/10
Value - 8/10
- Thermal Performance
- Removable Lid
- Rotatable Lid
- Radiator Design
- EK-FPT 120mm Fans
- Digital RGB Lighting
- AMD AM5 socket support
- Intel LGA1700 socket support
- Easy Installation
- The price could have been better, but it is still competitive
When it comes to PC cooling and especially custom loops, EK Water Blocks need no introduction. They are manufacturers of quality products backed by effective customer service. Back in 2015 or so, EK Water Blocks launched their first take on the All-In-One cooler for the CPU segment under the Predator series. I was excited as well and bought an EK-XLC Predator 360. That AIO was based on their custom loop components, and it has a quick disconnect fitting as well to expand the loop.
Also Read: EK-AIO Elite 360 D-RGB Review
It was a brilliant idea, but unfortunately, it might not be a brilliant execution as they issued a worldwide recall on the first version due to the O-Ring issue. Down the road, I ended up having 2 replacements and finally returning it for a complete refund. Yes, that is how their customer service is. Every time they paid for the bot ways shipping. They learned from this EK-XLC series and, later on, ventured again into the AIO segment with EK-AIO nomenclature, and at that time, they were on the money. EK-AIO series coolers were available in 120mm, 240mm, 280mm, and 360mm, with EK-AIO Elite being the enthusiast-grade AIO using push/pull configuration.
Now, the company has released a new generation of AIO named EK-Nucleus AIO. They are expected to release an on-screen display version as well. This new cooler is already available in two sizes, 240mm, and 360mm. It might be confusing, but let us clarify if you hear the term LUX and Nucleus. LUX is a name that EK Water Blocks is using for their Digital RGB versions of EK-Nucleus AIO. There is another series under EK-Nucleus named Dark. This is a non-RGB version of the EK-Nucleus AIO. We can summarize it as under:
- EK-Nucleus AIO
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 LUX D-RGB
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 LUX D-RGB White
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB White
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 DARK
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 DARK
In this article, we are taking a look at the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB cooler. As the name suggests, this is a 360mm version. EK Water Blocks has changed the design of the radiator and changed the way cables on provided fans are handled. This cooler is using EK Water Block’s new fans named EK-Loop fan FPT D-RGB 120mm. Quite a long naming convention they are using this time! This cooler is compatible with Intel Sockets LGA: 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 + Next-gen Intel Socket, 1700 and AMD Socket: AM4, AM5. This cooler features a stunning digital RGB light show in addition to a good performance (oh! We have already hinted about it).
|Product||EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB|
|Radiator Dimension||400 x 124 x 27 mm|
|Fan Compatibility||120 mm|
|Pump Unit Dimensions||82.3 x 69.2 x 61.6 mm|
|Pump Unit Material||ABS housing, ABS top ring|
|Pump Speed Range||3100 RPM ± 10%|
|Pump PWM Range||20 - 100%|
|Pump Unit RGB Type||5V Digital (Addressable)|
|Pinout||5V, D, Empty, Ground Pump RGB Cable Length 500 mm|
|Tubing Material||Ultra-Low Evaporation Rubber with Nylon Braided Sleeve|
|Tubing Length||400 mm|
|Fan Dimensions||120 x 120 x 25mm|
|Fan Speed Range||550 - 2300 ± 10%|
|Fan Noise Level||36 dB (at maximum speed)|
|Fan Air Flow||72 CFM = 122,33 m³/h (at maximum speed)|
|Fan RGB Type||5V Digital (Addressable) Pinout 5V, D, Empty, Ground|
This cooler is shipped inside a white color cardboard box. There is a picture of the unit along with the name of the cooler.
There is a serial number sticker on the side of the main packing box. EK Water Blocks has highlighted:
- This cooler features a rotatable top at 90°
- EK Water Blocks has addressed the placement of rotary fittings so that the cooler can be installed in tight space-constraint areas.
Opening the box shows a black color Styrofoam cover placed on top. There is a user in a paperboard container in an orange color placed in the center. It has various papers inside.
There is no egged carton. Instead, EK Water Blocks has used a black color Styrofoam pad-based container into which the cooling components are nicely secured. I like the overall presentation, but there is more to it.
There is an orange color accessory box provided with this cooler. It has all the mounting hardware inside. There is a black color ribbon on one side. Use it to pull the main container out from the box.
The inner container also has a black color Styrofoam pad placed over the contents.
Look at that! I love this presentation. The mounting thumb screws, springs, and thumb nuts are nicely placed in their dedicated places inside the Styrofoam-based container. Other items are bundled and placed in their positions accordingly.
It is time to take a look at what EK Water Blocks has provided in the accessory box.
EK Water Block has always paid closer attention to providing detailed instructions for installation using pictures. This cooler is no exception to that. One more thing we noticed is that there is a 120mm version mentioned right on the first page. This implies that EK Water Blocks will release a 120mm version down the road. There is no mention of a 280mm version, though.
There are a bunch of paper boards provided with the cooler. One peculiar thing is that registering this cooler on EK Water Block’s website would give one additional year of warranty.
EK Water Blocks has provided:
- 1x Intel Backplate for LGA1700 [Bottom one]
- 1x Intel Backplate for other Intel sockets [Top one]
- 1x Intel Mounting Bracket [Top one]
- 1x AMD Mounting Bracket [Bottom one]
EK Water Blocks has provided:
- 4x Thumb Nuts
- 4x Springs
- 4x Thumb Screws for Intel LGA 20xx
- 4x Thumb Screws of other Intel and AMD sockets.
- 12x Philips Head Screws UNC 6-32x30mm [For Fans Mounting]
- 12x Philips Head Screws UNC 6-32x34mm [For Fans Mounting]
- 12x Philips Head Screws UNC 6-32x6mm [For Radiator Mounting]
EK Water Blocks has provided an EK-TIM Ectotherm thermal paste. Please keep in mind that this cooler comes with a pre-applied thermal paste as well.
EK Water Blocks is the first brand to ever consider the possibility of making the installation convenient, particularly in tightly packed surrounding areas of the CPU socket for the thumb screws. They have provided a Thumb Screw Tool for that.
The idea is simple. Place a thumb screw on one of the socket’s mounting holes and use this tool to install or remove the already installed screw. No more using hand pressure or even using a plier to remove the tool and worry about damaging the capacitors in this doing.
The above picture illustrates the idea. There is a hole in the center, as can be seen, and a similar hole on the opposite side. I get the idea, but there is no bar or something that we could use to pass through these holes and then use easily to rotate the tool. This is some EK Water Blocks should work on, in my opinion.
EK Water Blocks has changed the game when it comes to cable management of the fans. We are seeing a mini-PCIe connector cable with a 4-pin PWM connector and a standard 5V 3-pin RGB connector. We will come back to this later in this article. This extension cable has a length of 500mm.
Let’s see what EK Water Blocks is saying about this cooler. “The EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 Lux D-RGB is an all-in-one liquid cooling solution offering a stylish fan-like gradient lighting effect on the pump unit to suit your needs for contemporary addressable RGB aesthetics. It is designed to fit the most popular cases on the market today and features a triple fan setup with a slim 360mm radiator. Compatible with most modern processors, it is also ready for the next-gen Intel socket.”
Well, EK Water Blocks is not boasting about the performance metrics in its statement. Their focus seems to be on digital RGB lighting and socket compatibility. We will see about the thermal performance later in this article.
EK Water Blocks is using an aluminum-made radiator which is black color coated. This radiator has a size of 400 x 124 x 27mm. Here 27mm refers to the overall thickness of the radiator unit without fans. Keep in mind that the chamber side of this radiator has a different design, and it raises the height of this unit. Adding 25mm thick fans in 120mm size, the overall height of this unit would be 53mm, including the heads of the screws. EK Water Blocks has done a good job with fin stacking. This unit has an FPI count of 20, which is almost a standard in the majority of the AIOs. The gap between two mounting holes on opposite sides is 105mm. The gap between any two adjacent holes is 15mm. This radiator has 12 channels for coolant flow. These mounting holes have 6-32 thread sizes.
The block on the far end of this radiator has a rectangular design or layout. There is no sticker or branding of any sort over here.
There is no protective plating under mounting holes on the main frame. This plating protects the screws from damaging the fins. You will be ok as long as you will use EK Water Blocks screws on this radiator.
The side frame is riveted, and there is a brushed aluminum finish over here. There is no EK branding on either side.
EK Water Blocks has done something different with this radiator. There is a chamber near the block. It conceals the tube connections with the radiator housing. Other than that, I don’t see any other reason, particularly with the thermal performance aspect. This raised area, in tandem with installed fans, would give one unique and satisfying look to this unit.
We can see that fan’s height is the same as the height of the raised portion of the radiator (25mm). They sit in a flushed line, almost a uniform layout view.
The EK Water Blocks is using sleeved rubber tubing with fine threading. These tubes are quite soft and flexible. They don’t kink anyway, so that is a plus. They run to approximately 400mm. They are wrapped inside nice nylon braided sleeves for aesthetics.
This cooler features a distinctive style for pump housing. This housing is made of ABS material, including the top ring. This unit has a dimension of 82.3 x 69.2 x 61.6 mm. The above picture shows the top view of this unit. The top lid is removable so that it can be rotated in 90° increments to align the EK logo in an upright position depending on the installation orientation. This would mean we are not concerned about the orientation of the block during installation. The overall layout is not circular, but the top lid is circular. It features a beautiful and stylish fan-like gradient lighting effect.
Here you can see the gradient-style digital RGB lighting on the pump top.
The sides of this housing have a black color finish tone, and there is no branding of any sort on the sides.
We can see the rear view of the housing where the fittings are installed at a 90° angle. EK Water Blocks has improved the position of rotary fittings and installed them closer together, which allows this cooler to be installed in even the tightest spaces. There is a serial number sticker placed at the base.
Looking at the base of the pump housing, we can see a transparent cover there. Since the cooler comes with pre-applied thermal paste, this cover protects the thermal paste. There are 4x mounting holes on the main housing to which the mounting bracket is to be installed. Take note that this mounting plate is not aligned with the main housing frame.
Be careful handling this unit, as it is quite a fingerprint magnet. The above picture shows a close-up view of the base. We have a copper base that is not nickel plated. It measures 38x38mm in size.
3x cables are coming out from the tube side of the pump housing. One has a 4-pin PWM connector to power the pump.
The second connector is a standard 3-pin 5V digital RGB connector.
The third connector is a standard 3-pin 5V digital RGB male connector which allows daisy chaining of the RGB elements to be controlled from a single source.
EK Water Blocks has provided a PWM control for the pump speed, which is a plus. The pump is rated for up to 3100 ±10% RPM having a PWM range of 20 ~ 100%.
EK Water Blocks has used their new generation of fans named FPT. FPT stands for Full Pressure Technology. As the name suggests, the frame of this fan makes full contact with the radiator or other surface area and does not allow air to be leaked due to static air pressure. Here is what EK Water Blocks is saying about this fan. “EK-Loop Fan FPT 120 D-RGB is a 120mm high-static pressure computer cooling fan designed and built primarily for the highest-performance computer liquid cooling systems. FPT series fans aim to succeed the EK-Vardar fans completely, as they improve upon many aspects while maintaining focus on excellent radiator performance.
These fans feature an optimized and balanced performance-to-noise ratio on the wide operational range of the fan. FPT fans feature a full frame design that doesn’t allow air to escape outside the frame and thus achieve overall better static pressure. The new fan allows daisy-chaining, ultimately reducing cable clutter and easing cable routing through the EK-OmniLink, an 8-pin Micro-fit connector-based ecosystem. All the signal and power wiring for PWM and D-RGB run on a single cable and connector, which then utilizes a single cable to connect to the source.”
These fans have a 7-blade design. These blades are frosted for even light diffusion as these are digital RGB versions. The inner frame is circular in design. There is a special design between the outer frame and the inner frame to which EK Water Blocks refer to as full surface contact design. This frame is black in color. There is an EK branding on the center. Each fan has 9x digital RGB LEDs facing upward.
There is a cut-to-size anti-vibration pad on all mounting corners of this fan.
There are EK Water Blocks branding on the sides of the frame. This is for aesthetic purposes.
As we have mentioned above, these fans are using unconventional cable design. This is what EK Water Blocks refer to as EK-OmniLink. Each fan has a small-size cable using 8-pin micro-fit connectors. This is to simplify the cable management by reducing the cable clutter.
One end of this fan cable has an 8-pin micro-fit female connector.
The other end of this fan cable has an 8-pin micro-fit male connector. This design is there to easily daisy-chain the devices. You will have to connect these fans so that one female connector remains available for the provided adapter cable.
There is a 4-arms assembly in an X shape. One arm has an inset on which the wires are routed toward the frame of this fan. EK-FPT Fan-120ER D-RGB is a model of this fan. This fan is designed in Slovenia and manufactured in China. This fan takes 0.25A at 12VDC to produce 3W power.
These fans use Fluid Dynamic Bearings along with a newly designed motor to reduce noise, particularly during low-speed operations. These fans can be mounted horizontally or vertically without any issues.
The specification fan is:
|Type||8-pin micro-fit connectors|
|Speed||550-2300 ±1 0% RPM|
|Airflow (maximum)||77 CFM|
|Bearing Type||Fluid Dynamic Bearings (FDB)|
|LED Input Power||2.30W|
|LED Input Current||0.45A|
|LED Input Voltage||5V|
We took some key features from EK Water Blocks website. These include:
- Standard D-RGB connectors
- Full Pressure Technology
- High-quality motor and bearing assembly
- High-static pressure / low noise profile
We have tested the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB on the AMD AM5 platform. Installation on AM5 is straightforward and convenient. Some key steps are:
- Remove the protective cover from the base
- Install fans on the radiator
- Connect fans using EK-OmniLink cables
- Install AMD Mounting bracket on block us M3x4 screws
- Remove the AMD stock mounting bracket from the motherboard
- Install 4x AMD Thumb Screws
- Place the block on the threaded portion of the installed Thumb Screws
- Place 4x Springs
- Use 4x thumb nuts to secure the block on the socket
- Use a diagonal approach for an even fit of the block
- Lift off the top lid from the block and put it back on after necessary rotation so that EK logo remains upright
- Install the radiator and connect cables.
- Installation is complete
The above picture shows the fans placed over the radiator, and they sit in a flush line with the rear high raised chamber. Look at the cables connected with each other as well. This is not as close to Lian Li AL/SL V2 fans, but still, we would have less clutter to deal with.
This cooler has a dimension of 400 x 124 x 27mm without fans. With fans, this size is 400 x 124 x 53mm. We did not observe any clearance issue with this cooler. You would need to check that your PC Case has clearance for this size radiator. The tube side does not hinder DIMM slots.
Digital RGB Lighting
This cooler does not have a dedicated RGB controller. Users would need a supporting motherboard. This lighting is compatible with:
- ASUS AURA SYNC
- GIGABYTE FUSION 2.0
- MSI MYSTIC LIGHT SYNC
- ASRock POLYCHROME SYNC
We have tested the lighting using RGB FUSION 2.0 on GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER and found it working flawlessly. Here are a few pictures.
Below mentioned configuration is used: –
- AMD Ryzen 7 7700X
- GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER
- Sabrent Rocket DDR5 32GB Kit @ 4800MHz
- Colorful GeForce GTX 1050 Ti iGame 4G [For Display]
- Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 2TB NVMe SSD [For OS]
- be quiet! Straight Power 11 850W Platinum PSU
Here is the settings table for testing:
|All Cores||5200MHz All Cores|
|Thermal Paste||Stock Thermal Paste|
|Test Run Time||30 minutes CINEBENCH R23.2|
|Idle Time||10 minutes|
|Fan/Pump Speed||100% PWM Duty Cycle|
Disclaimer: Every silicon is different; hence no two same SKUs are likely to take the same voltage to yield the same performance at the same thermals per se, but the margin would be close. Not every stress test run may yield the same result, which could be due to various reasons like thermal paste application, ambient temperature variation, the mounting pressure of the cooler, etc. This is very why we have listed our variables and their settings. Variables not mentioned are on the Auto setting.
For those who know the new AM5 platform and its thermal behavior, this is an excellent performance from the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB cooler. In fact, it has managed to beat another popular cooler, that is ARCTIC Liquid Freezer – II 360. One would expect new coolers to offer better performance, and EK Water Blocks means business with their new coolers.
Summer is up, and the room’s fan is on, which is why I could not measure the noise level of the unit.
News of a new generation of liquid coolers from EK Water Blocks has been up for quite some time, but finally, the wait is over as EK Water Blocks officially launched the new EK-Nucleus AIO series coolers. Initially, these coolers are available in two sizes and two variants:
- EK-Nucleus AIO
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 LUX D-RGB
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 LUX D-RGB White
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB White
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR240 DARK
- EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 DARK
LUX here refers to the digital RGB, and DARK means no lighting. This is the main difference between both and obviously the pricing factor accordingly. We have taken a look at the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB version. From the user guide, we can guess that EK Water Blocks will be releasing a 120mm version as well down the road. My guess is that this is an EK Water Blocks’ own design.
This series has taken over the previous EK-AIO series liquid coolers, and this generation has some new distinctive features setting it apart from the competition. This cooler is compatible with Intel Sockets LGA: 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1200, 2011, 2011-3, 2066 + Next-gen Intel Socket, 1700 and AMD Socket: AM4, AM5.
This cooler has a 360mm radiator having a dimension of 400x124x27mm. 27mm is the thickness of the radiator housing, excluding the tube side chamber. EK Water Blocks uses an aluminum-made radiator with rotary fittings. The complete radiator assembly is black color coated. This radiator has a 20 FPI count and 12 channels for coolant flow. There is a brushed aluminum finish on both sides without any branding.
EK Water Block has used a full-width cover on the tube side of this radiator unit. It has a height of approximately 25mm. This is purely aesthetic so that fans and radiators can sit in a flush line for an even outlook. EK Water Blocks is using sleeved rubber tubing with fine threading. These tubes are quite soft and flexible without kinking. They run to approximately 400mm and have nice nylon braided sleeves for aesthetics.
The pump housing is made of ABS material. It is black in color, and it is not a circular or square design. The top lid is also made of ABS material, and it features a stunning fan-like gradient lighting effect that looks cool in person. This lid is removable so that users can rotate and put it back such that the EK logo remains upright. This would free users from the orientation of the cooler during installation. This unit has a dimension of 82.3 x 69.2 x 61.6 mm. Tubes are installed a 90° on the rear side of this block. They are installed right next to each other, which would allow this cooler to be installed in tight spaces. There are three cables coming out from this block.
One has a 4-pin PWM connector to power the pump. The PWM range is 20~100%. The other two cables use standard 3-pin, 5V male and female connectors, which are compatible with D-RGB Sync technology from major motherboard manufacturers. The base of this unit is made of copper material and has a dimension of 38x38mm. It comes with a pre-installed thermal paste. EK Water Blocks has provided a tube of EK-TIM Ectotherm as well.
Another change in this new generation of liquid coolers from EK Water Blocks is the addition of new FPT fans. FPT stands for Full Pressure Technology. The frame of these fans is designed such as it prevents air from leaking due to air pressure. These fans have taken over the popular Vardar fans. These fans in their standalone packing have a dimension of 120x120x27mm, whereas the fans that come with this cooler have a dimension of 120x120x25mm. Seems like EK Water Blocks has customized these fans for this cooler.
Each fan has 9x digital RGB LEDs installed facing up on the hub for some brilliant aura of digital lighting. Each fan has 7x frosted blades, and each mounting corner has a cut-to-size anti-vibration pad. These fans are rated for 550 to 2300 RPM ±RPM generating 36 dB(A) sound output at full speed with 77 CFM airflow at full speed. These fans use a newly designed motor which is coupled with Fluid Dynamic Bearing to provide maximum performance without any issues.
These fans are using what EK Water Blocks refer to as EK-OmniLink. Instead of using regular cables for the fan’s motor and LEDs, there is a single cable per fan that uses 8-pin micro-fit connectors (male and female). This would make cable management an easy job and would reduce cable clutter. EK Water Blocks has provided an adapter cable that has a 4-pin PWM connector and a standard 3-pin 5V RGB connector on one end while having an 8-pin micro-fit male connector on the other end. This cable has a length of 500mm. All in all, we have to deal with only one cable.
We have tested EK Water Blocks EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB AIO on the AMD AM5 platform using GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTER motherboard with AMD Ryzen 7 7700X CPU. Installation is simple, and it involves 17 items for the installation of the block on the socket. We did not face any difficulties or issues during the installation. The user guide is comprehensive and provides pictures as illustrations. Please take note that you will have to remove the AMD stock mounting brackets from the motherboard before installing this cooler.
Also Read: EK AIO 240 D-RGB AIO Cooler Review
EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 D-RGB AIO is listed at USD 204 at the time of this writing. This is a steep price, but after a quick price checkup on the NewEgg website, you will find that this price is competitive, particularly when there are 280mm solutions from some other manufacturers retailing at USD 200. EK Water Blocks has done a fine job keeping the price in check. EK Water Blocks offer a 5-year warranty which is extensible to a total of 6 years after registering this cooler on their website. We absolutely admire the thermal performance of the EK-Nucleus AIO CR360 LUX D-RGB liquid cooler. Not only was this cooler able to keep the thermals of Ryzen 7 7700X in check, but it did as well as the competition. The digital RGB lighting augments this quite well.
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