Karakoram Prime-X Review
Cons: Expensive, weight of entire system
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$503.97 at Backcountry
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|Pros||Improved interface, downhill performance, comfortable straps, easy to deploy heel risers||Uphill and downhill performance, lightweight, good value, efficient transitions, lean adjusters||Lightweight, easy to transition||Lightweight, fast transitions, responsive, great straps, easy to use buckles||Inexpensive, lightweight, lean adjuster|
|Cons||Expensive, weight of entire system||Heel risers can be challenging to deploy with softer baskets||Have to buy heel lock separately, soft pole baskets can struggle with riser bar||Might be too stiff for lighter riders, high back catches on heel cup between walk and ride modes||Pin-based binding|
|Bottom Line||Enjoyable for the up, down, and in between||Top-notch performance that keeps your wallet in mind||The best of the best for all the lady splitboarders out there||Meticulous engineering to make the good even better||A classic contender in our fleet, it comes at an excellent price, with decent performance across the board|
|Rating Categories||Karakoram Prime-X||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Arc Pro -...||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Spark R&D Blaze TR|
|Uphill Performance (20%)|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Straps, Lean, Risers (10%)|
|Specs||Karakoram Prime-X||Spark R&D Arc||Spark R&D Arc Pro -...||Spark R&D Surge Pro||Spark R&D Blaze TR|
|Measured Weight (pair)||3.18 lbs||2.8 lbs||2.4 lbs||2.7 lbs||3.12 lbs|
|Compatible Systems||Karakoram Splitboard Clips, Prime Crampons||Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons||Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons||Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, and Ibex Crampons||Spark Pucks, Voile Pucks (Regular or Canted), Burton Channel Pucks, One Binding System, Sabertooth Crampons, Ibex Crampons|
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 split in the board. 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 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 being comfortable, this model sidehills very well thanks to its higher sidearm. Overall, the Prime X tours well.
The Prime X is machined with bombproof materials 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 can't ride with only a single binding, we decided to weigh the entire setup. Every screw and bracket was accounted for. The Karakoram Ride 2.0, risers, and touring brackets weigh 839 grams. This 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 lightweight 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 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 the year's past. Active systems are more susceptible to snow build up because of smaller allowances and more moving parts. The Ride 2.0 system mitigates ice build-up and has a larger tolerance to allow easier attachment in challenging conditions.
The transition from 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 lockdown 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 and nylon-based top. It requires a more snow clearing and preparation than other passive systems. 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 actively pull the board halves together to 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 levels of lateral play that enable 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 an hourglass-shaped dial that 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.Heel Risers
This is Karakoram's best riser system 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.
Karakoram offers the Prime X in a women's specific model. The binding is the same based on design features and material but has women's specific sizing in its critical components.
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 about 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
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