Karakoram Prime-X Review
Cons: Expensive, weight of entire system
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Karakoram has been one of the leading binding manufacturers since its founding in 2009. The brand differentiates its products with active joining technology and systems; the active joining of the two halves is meant to increase the snowboard's performance by helping to mitigate the flex of the two board halves. Karakoram thought about the details and additional weight savings when designing the 2020 Prime X. It uses CNC'ed space-grade aluminum, aluminum hardware, and hollow, yet strong pins. The 2020 model saves 85 grams off of its 2019 predecessor.
These bindings performed excellently on the way up. We gauged their performance on a range of motion, comfort, sidehilling ability, and the quality of the stride. The Prime X provided all range of motion required for daily touring. The pivot point maxes out at around 90 degrees relative to the board, and the touring pivot works like an axle, minimizing friction for efficient touring. The metal baseplate provided adequate comfort and is consistent with the rest of the industry. In addition to comfort, this model sidehills very well thanks to its higher sidearm. Overall, the Prime X tours well.
The Prime X is machined with bombproof material and looks robust. Given its structure, it's pretty light. A single binding weighs 720 grams on our scale with the ratcheting buckle.
Since we cant ride with only a single binding, we decided to weight the entire setup. Every screw and bracket was accounted for. The Karakoram Ride 2.0, risers, and touring brackets weighs 839 grams, which is one of the heavest ride interfaces in the category, in part due to the number of moving parts. The entire riding weight of the Prime X is 5 pounds 0.3 ounces. Suddenly the seemingly light weight has become pretty heavy.
Karakoram does offer a light ride attachment system, which is a lightweight option to connect your binding for the descent. The brand claims that you can save over 100 grams off of your set up. This is an additional purchase that you have to be willing to shell out a pretty penny for to harvest these benefits.
Transitions on the Prime X were intuitive, straightforward, and efficient. Karakoram redesigned their interfaces to smooth out some of the issues in year's past. Active systems are more susceptible to snow build up because of smaller allowances and move moving parts to interfere with. The Ride 2.0 system mitigates ice build-up and has a larger tolerance to allow easier attachment in challenging conditions.
The transition for ride mode to touring was easy to accomplish. The touring interfaces require that you remove the snow before inserting the binding. The tab to close the interface has a breakaway component to avoid a critical failure into tour mode. That way, only the tab breaks as opposed to the entire system. We appreciate the added detail to improve reliability. When in touring mode, the heels can lock down in place for downhill travel. It's a nice feature to have but far from critical.
The transition back into ride mode is a significant improvement when compared to previous models. There is a larger tolerance for the pins, and the ride plates are more resistant to snow build-up and shed snow better due to the grooves. It requires a more snow clearing and preparation than other systems, and will need more attention to detail and technique than other models but is not challenging. Once you figure out the technique, the bindings can easily be applied with one hand.
Principally, Karakoram's design is supposed to increase ride performance. The bindings to actively pull the board halves together do theoretically increase response. The brand also makes wider baseplates that make direct contact with the board, which drives power to the board and edges; this could increase the board's feel, as well. It's hard to say if these features directly influence the downhill performance when compared against other competitors.
The Prime X provides a responsive character that is fit for all types of objectives. The highback is stiff edge to edge but has decent lateral play that enables a little more opportunity to tweak out grabs in an overall reactive binding.
Straps, Lean, Risers
The Karakoram straps are some of our favorites. They are lightweight, comfortable, and durable.
The lean adjuster is easy to switch back and forth between tour and ride mode. It offers 0-22 degrees of forward lean in ride mode and -8 degrees in walk mode.
Karakoram has struggled with risers in the past, but this is their best rendition yet. The heel risers are easy to engage with a ski pole and provide adequate height in two settings. To adjust from the high to the low setting, you have to be pretty accurate to avoid putting the entire system down.
The Prime X comes at a high price point, and the active system seems to add to the cost of the binding because of its complexity. If you're interested in trying out or convinced on the active system, then this could be a good choice. It's one of the best Karakoram bindings available. If you're open to other choices, some bindings are lighter and provide comparable downhill performance at a fraction of the cost.
The Karakoram Prime X is a binding that fits all objectives. It has a responsive and comfortable feel, and the company has refined its interface to alleviate some of the icing and tolerance issues of the past for more efficient transitions. The binding itself is pretty light, given its robust look. Collectively, the field weight is on the heavier side of the spectrum due to the complexity of the system. The Prime X is a solid binding that comes at a heavy price. If you're into the active system, then it is a worthy consideration. If you want to go splitboard and save some money, other options exist at a lower price point and offer comparable performance.
— Isaac Laredo