Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
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EK Waterblocks or EKWB, for short, has been an industry leader in DIY PC liquid cooling in many ways, for quite a long time now. EK released its Fluid Gaming line of DIY components a few years back to address a more cost-conscious crowd as they could reduce the cost of parts by creating an entirely aluminum solution.
As expected, the community of liquid cooling purists did not receive this well. Still, as the parts were tested, we did find that the components were not only capable but quite nice, as long as you pay close attention not to add mixed metal parts into the solution.
Fast forward to the present day and EKWB has enhanced their Fluid Gaming line to now encompass custom prebuilt gaming PCs under the banner, which also happens to be liquid-cooled with the Aluminum as mentioned earlier components.
As you can see, we have the Vanquish 275-AG, but this unit was sent to us just before the AMD Ryzen XT launch, so keep in mind that the performance and capability you see going into this review will be a bit better than what you see in the following.
The I/O of the ASUS X570-Pro is quite good with four USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb) ports and four USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb) ports, one of which is Type-C. The front of the PC011 chassis also offers dual 3.2 5Gb Type-A ports and a single 3.2 10Gb Type-C port.
There is also Wi-Fi via an add-in card since the motherboard does not offer it built-in, and this ensures that you have a network on your new gaming rig, even if your home is not cabled for wired LAN.
Upgradability will be excellent for the Vanquish as all of the parts are off the shelf and can be upgraded as needed. The use of an X570 chipset board means that full PCIe 4 capabilities are present and the new Zen 3 CPUs whenever they drop. The only thing to note is that if you are to swap GPUs and blocks, you would want a fluid gaming part, as you want to keep within the Aluminum ecosystem.
The advantage I see to the EK Fluid Gaming PC offering is that you can have the beauty of a custom hard tube build with a professional fit and finish that you can take out of the box and have running in under half an hour or so.
There are a variety of systems available from 3900X down to 3600X CPUs and GPU combos. The one we have today can best be represented by the 270 Vanquish, which comes to the market at $2949.99. This can be seen as a pretty rough price point, but when you add up the sum of its parts, it starts to make some real sense.
Vanquish 270 Marketing
Here we give space to the manufacturer to talk about their marketing points, and we assess them and provide our point of view on the claims.
Here we see the main page from the Fluid Gaming website for the most suitable configuration as ours was received just before the XT launch. This model has the 3800XT, which is a higher clocked version of the one we have on hand so that you can expect about 3-7% more performance relatively in comparison.
Being that the Vanquish systems are AMD powered as EK has had a pretty prominent relationship with AMD as of recent, they also show the game and software bundles that are available when you buy your system. At the time of writing, it is Rainbow Six Siege, Assassins Creed Valhalla, and MS Office 365 subscription, all usable and likely fun for those would have a system of this caliber. For the record, I do not consider MS Office in any way “Fun,” but it is necessary for most things I do.
EKWB made a few good bullets here, first of all, highlighting that the system is, as you can tell, liquid-cooled. They also made a great chassis choice with the PC011 model, which helps to show off the Liquid cooling and the ARGB aesthetic.
Next up from EK’s marketing team, we have the GeForce RTX Graphics with EK Fluid Gaming GPU block to ensure lower thermals and optimal boost clocks. Then you have the note of “cool and quiet,” which is a note that many liquid-cooling enthusiasts tout with an LCS setup. The last mark is “high performance, low cost,” which I can also agree to in a sense based on component cost and the time and labor to assemble and tune these systems.
The last notation on the page is to notify a customer that they need to pay special attention if they intend to change parts in the gaming PC, to stay within their Fluid Gaming components, or to ensure to use Aluminum-based parts to avoid issues down the road.
One thing I will give EK here is they did not go overboard with marketing fluff, but just put the information on the table for you to decide if you want it. This is respect, and not just because it means I don’t have to write an insufferable amount about overdone marketing.
Packaging and Accessories
The outside of the box that the Fluid Gaming PC came in was not inconspicuous at all, as, on the brown box, it boldly states what is inside. I do think that some users may prefer this to be toned down to avoid the potential for theft in today’s world.
Puling the brown outer box, and we get a view of the color box for the system. This is a direct match to the size of the PC011 packaging, so it may even have been done at Lian Li’s level to help make a more fluid transition. On the package, it shows the beauty of the system inside, although the configuration may vary. As you will see, the box shows GSkill memory, but the unit we have has HyperX, but that’s a minor thing.
In the accessory pack, we have quite a lot so we will list it below:
- 2x Wi-Fi antennae
- 2x SSD trays
- Drain Tube
- Extra PSU cables
- EK Decal
- ASUS Motherboard manual
- EK quick start guide
- 2x Extra SATA cables
- RGB extension cable
- AC input cable
- Extra screws
As you can see, the EK Fluid Gaming PC includes all of the extra accessories you would get with a prebuilt PC from a custom system integrator. I do like that EK includes a drain hose already terminated with a fitting to ensure the end-user has a complete maintenance solution.
The EK guide also covers how to fill and even hos to drain and refill the system so that a novice user should be comfortable using and maintaining the system.
Here we see that when removed from the packaging, the Vanquish is wrapped in a plastic bag, then soft foam end caps are used to ensure that rough transport should not be much of an issue. The glass all has cling film on it to ensure abrasion damage should be abated. Inside we have expanding instapack foam to ensure during transport; parts should be held into place. There are also foam pieced holding tubes to avoid flexing.
Opening everything up and removing the front glass, giving direct access to the front-mounted acrylic reservoir and distro plate, we removed the red labels warning users to fill the system before use. We also had to cut the zip ties holding the bottle of EK Cryofuel clear coolant and fill bottle, which ships inside the chassis. The system is shipped mostly empty to avoid the potential for leaking if anything goes wrong in shipping.
Now that the accessories and unboxing are out of the way, let’s look at the system itself.
EKWB Vanquish 275-AG Overview
The EKWB Fluid Gaming Vanquish 275-AG or any of the fluid gaming series of systems will look like what you see here as they all use a similar chassis and cooling configuration. I must say this looks good, and while performance we will see soon, if the aesthetic has anything to do with it, this thing will be an amazing rig.
Peeking inside and we see the dead straight tubing runs, which makes for not just an aesthetically pleasing finished rig, but also an efficient one and easier to maintain and rebuild as the time of ownership proceeds.
Flipping around to the rear, and we find the I/O, which is quite stuffed. We have the standard motherboard I/O, which is loaded with no less than eight USB ports, full audio connectivity, and Gigabit networking. Below that, we have the RTX 2080 SUPER GPU, which has the standard connector layout of triple Displayport and an HDMI and VirtualLink Type-C. Below the GPU, we have the Wi-Fi card for those needing wireless network connectivity.
Peeking around the cable management side and we find the steel panel with vented and filtered openings for airflow to the PSU and any cooling installed in the vertical area, which for this system there is none.
Pulling the glass panels and we get a look at the components that make up the system. The front we see the same with an acrylic reservoir/distro plate that serves the liquid cooling system along with manage flow to the components and is DRGB lit like the rest.
Peeking inside, we get a cleaner look inside of the clean parallel runs of the hard tube, making the system look super clean, and just overall, a very professionally finished build.
Flipping around to the cable management side and we see that the panel is removed so we can peek inside. The 850W EVGA PSU is found below, along with all of the system’s cabling being obscured from sight by the vertical storage bar. This sort of visual aesthetic makes the build feel very well managed and adds some serious appeal and value to the finished unit. I think EKWB’s choice to work with Lian Li on this new system series is an excellent choice as it allows for this level of finished build quality and fit and finish.
Inside the Vanquish 275-AG
Here’s the first shot I wanted to take inside the Vanquish to show how clean everything looks. The hard tubing, along with the right angle fittings into the GPU, makes the build have such a clean and efficient feel.
Here we see the Samsung 970 EVO 1TB NVMe SSD in place below the Velocity CPU block with EK cooler affixed to ensure optimal controller cooling.
Pulling the focus out a bit and we see the quad Kingstone HyperX Predator RGB DIMMs slightly obscured by the two parallel tubes running above them.
Looking upwards inside the chassis, we find the triple 120mm EK Vardar-S RGB fans in place. For a compare/contrast, we fired the rig up to show how the illumination really brings the aesthetic to life.
Now that the system has been powered on and comes to life, I wanted to give a quick internal shot of what you would see.
Moving to the front and as you can see, like any liquid-cooled system, you will be dealing with bubbles for the first few hours to a day as everything works out of the deepest recesses of the liquid cooling loop. Once everything heat cycles a bit, most of the bubbles should settle up top; however, I would also suggest tilting the system a bit a few times as that will help expedite the process.
Do note the now moving flow meter wheel, which lets you know your pump is indeed moving liquid, and everything is being fed with coolant. This is a great indicator as you can see it and know that if it is not moving, your pump is either not pushing fluid, or there is a blockage that needs to be checked.
Here is one shot before we synchronized all fo the RGB via software to show how much lighting the Vanquish can have if you want to make everything visually pop. Now let’s turn down the lights and see how the Vanquish looks in the dark.
Here we killed our studio lights and tried to capture the beauty of the DRGB in the EK Fluid Gaming PCs. As you can see, I set the first image to all blue/purple, and everything illuminates well and creates a defined aesthetic for the build.
Next up, we set the default rainbow color cycle to show the colors across the spectrum of DRGB devices. While a static image serves decently enough at this, to see it in real life without the limitations of a photosensor, it is a stunning build.
Now we have seen what the Vanquish packs, let’s dive into the UEFI and get to testing.
BIOS/UEFI and Software
Moving into the UEFI, and the very user-friendly easy mode interface greets you. Of course, we will be moving directly to the advanced mode. We will show you several screenshots of the UEFI below.
One thing worth noting is that some time was spent here to tune the memory up to 3600MHz overclock over its XMP profile, and that left me a bit impressed to ensure optimal performance.
It seemed appropriate to end with the save/exit screen as we move into the OS and look at the software.
Here is the stock desktop after I got into Windows. I must say I was quite pleased to see that there was no bloatware in the system at all, and EK simply added the ASUS Aura DRGB control and Ryzen master. Nothing else I could find was added that does not come with Windows 10 by default.
The DRGB is controlled entirely by ASUS Aura software, which all of EK’s components are compatible with. This allows us to customize the internal lighting to a myriad of settings and scenarios. Or, if you prefer, you can turn the lighting off entirely if you like the stealth look.
Ryzen Master also comes preinstalled, in case you would like to try some tuning, or even to monitor the system.
WPrime is first up and being a multi-threaded benchmark. We know it will scale with any CPU we throw at it. You can manually set the number of workers or threads you want to allocate to the calculation, which we did the total thread count for each CPU to ensure we measure the maximum performance the CPU can offer.
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test which uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
The EK Vanquish smashes through our benchmarks quite well, and the only area where it shows a position which was not chart-topping is the POVRay 1T test where the higher boost clock speed of the Ghost Canyon’s 9980HK gives it a slight edge/
Aida64 Memory , Encryption & Hash
Here we see the memory performance is solid and as expected with a 3800X where you see a write penalty based on the CCX layout/design where write performance is halved. Also, the latency takes a bit of a hit, but once again, that’s standard fare on Ryzen 3000.
7-Zip is an open-source and free compression application. It works well with multi-threading and also can see gains from clock speed as well.
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
WebXPRT is a browser-based test, and we like this test as this is one of the areas not many think to test. This also happens to be a real-world usage test that can be impacted by the mitigations which have recently rolled through and were patched.
The above tests show that the Vanquish PC we have on hand is a stout performer, only losing ground a bit to tests that focus on the type of 1T efficiency that Intel still has a slight lead.
Graphics Performance Benchmarks
Superposition from Unigine is a DX12 based benchmark. We test with the 720p LOW preset as this removes all but the most basic GPU loading, and all of the FPS performance comes from the CPUs ability to push frames to the GPU. This test is far more efficient and speed based rather than being highly threaded.
Unigine Superposition is one of our 3D gaming loads, and we test it at the 720p low preset to remove the GPU from the equation as much as possible and show the impact of the system on graphical performance. Here we see that the RTX 2080 SUPER with liquid cooling does a great job of churning out a stout result.
3DMark Firestrike is our second graphics or synthetic gaming test. Here we see the Vanquish being a chart-topper her again, which is not necessarily a surprise as it also has the most powerful GPU of the bunch. Still, the CPU score even exceeds other tested systems with similarly spec’d components.
3DMark Time Spy
Time Spy is another 3DMark test variant, but this one is for DX12 based systems. This test can be quite stressful, and since its an entirely different load, you may be surprised to see how the results shuffle when compared to Firestrike.
Moving to the newest graphical and gaming benchmark in the UL suite, and once again its more of the same as we see the liquid cooling solution makes a big difference to the performance we received with the Vanquish pulling excellent results even in CPU tests.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The gaming tests show that the Vanquish is an amazing performer at up to 4K at AAA games pulling over 60FPS average on high. For those looking to play high FPS competitive titles, this should easily push a 1080p 240Hz display well for ultra-competitive framerates.
System I/O Benchmarks
For storage performance, we test the platform using its internal storage along with external ports via the listed storage device. It is tested in CrystaldiskMark 7.0.0 x64, and we average the results to ensure a good cross-section of expected performance.
The single drive in our configuration is a 1TB 970 EVO, and as you can see, everything lines up to what you would expect. Do keep in mind that the NVMe M.2 slots are PCIe 4 compatible, so the storage can be upgraded to a PCIe 4 extra SSDD on the additional lower M.2 or even replace the top one, depending on your use case.
Thermals, and Power Consumption
For power consumption tests, we use a wall meter to test the full system draw. The reason for this is it will represent what the entire system pulls versus our meter, which shows the power draw on each PSU cable. The reason for this is that measuring the power draw from the EPS cable, for example, does not take into account VRM losses and, therefore, can show a much higher power draw for the CPU or other device due to an inefficient VRM design or loading range.
Idle power consumption is unsurprisingly higher than the other systems we have tested at 85W, but with the level of DRGB and pump solution, it makes sense.
Loading up the CPU with a full FPU load and the maximum draw for the Vanquish jumps up to 192W, which is a bit higher once again than the other Ryzen equipped Corsair rig, which has less RGB and only an AIO pump.
Testing synthetic GPU stress only is an excellent way to show the overhead the CPU adds, as the GPU does not pull more power after it reaches steady state. Here we see the Vanquish pull only 283W, which was a bit surprising as that places it below the Corsair 3700X equipped rig with only a 2070 SUPER in tow.
Idle temps were the lowest of the pack, as you would expect at 32C.
Loading each CPU up with a full burn-in FPU load, and we see the EKWB Vanquish once again pull a chart-topping result, not breaking 70C under full load and allowing the loop to heat soak for well over an hour.
The EKWB crew makes some great gear and have for several years. I was apprehensive when I first saw their aluminum-based Fluid Gaming series come to market. However, after testing a system with it equipped, I cannot say I have any concerns with the performance or quality of the parts. The only thing of note would be to ensure when expanding, stay within the ecosystem to avoid issues.
What we like
Thermals: The EKWB Vanquish series are fully liquid-cooled and deliver excellent thermal performance as a result.
PCIe 4.0: While the PCIe 4 is not here for everything, it is good to know that the EKWB Fluid Gaming series of PCs are PCIe 4.0 compatible and ready for when you want to swap in an appropriate device, whether it be GPU or storage.
Value: When comparing the current market price for the system as it sits and running a quick PC Part picker, we find that the parts alone run over $2400 without any of the liquid cooling hardware or sleeved cabling. Adding the elements from EK’s website and there is almost no discernable markup for the build and configuration of the finished rig.
What do we think could be better?
Package marking: I know this is a bit of a nitpick, but there’s not much else I can say as a con to the Vanquish besides that having a big brown box that displays your liquid-cooled gaming PC has arrived, may not be the best as far as the discretion to the value of what if being delivered.
The EKWB Fluid Gaming series of systems makes sense from a value and performance perspective. And it gives you a truly beautiful finished build that you can add storage or other parts as they are needed.