We can’t get all the way down to the inner workings of the pump on this one, unfortunately, as all of our source images for the Vega: Frontier Edition – Watercooled card are from a reader. The reader was kind enough to remove the shroud from their new WC version of Vega: FE so that we could get an understanding of the basics, leading us to the conclusion that AMD has built one of the most expensive pre-built liquid cooling solutions for a graphics card.
The video tear-down goes into detail on the images we received, but we’ll revisit most of it here. The card uses the same base PCB, same VRM, same GPU/HBM layout and positioning, and same everything as the air-cooled card. The difference is entirely in the cooling solution, where the Delta VRM fan goes away and is replaced with an additional reservoir (more on that in a moment), while the GPU/VRM cooling is handled by liquid plates and a pump. The die-case finstack atop the I/O is also now gone, and the baseplate is simplified to an aluminum plate with no protrusions.
Before getting started: Our Vega FE Hybrid mod has just gone through its final data pass, and is now in video editing and writing. The content will arrive tomorrow!
That cleared away, as we know a lot of folks are excited for the mod's results, we're now focusing on the MSI GTX 1080 Ti Lightning card momentarily. This is a video card that we first covered at Computex 2017, where we detailed initial specifications, MOSFETs and power components, and the target use case of XOC or heavy overclocking. We didn't yet have information on the card internals, but our latest tear-down (embedded below) gives some insight on the card's design. There are some unique features on this card that should pose an interesting A/B test during thermal benchmarking.
Following our first battery of tests, we dismantled our AMD Vega: Frontier Edition card (which we purchased retail) to get a closer look at the VRM & power design, thermal design, card assembly, and sizes for everything on the board. The tear-down process is the first step to our inevitable hybrid mod of AMD Vega, which should determine the card’s headroom with the thermal limitation removed. We’re also using this as an opportunity to report rough die size measurements, HBM stack measurements, and mounting distances for the community.
Full review testing is still forthcoming, as we didn’t have the usual pre-release embargo period to look things over, but this will serve as our first official Vega: FE coverage. Our next round of coverage will likely be a VRM analysis by Buildzoid, which will be accompanied shortly by thermal/power testing and overclock/gaming testing. Production tests will land in there somewhere – those are already half done – we just need to figure out where they fit best, based on content scheduling.
With hours to spare until our Vega shipment arrives from a retailer, we put together a review of the Zotac 1080 Ti Amp Extreme – it’s in editing now, and still pending completion – and tore-down the card. The tear-down is live now on YouTube, and is embedded below.
As for the reference to the rubber bumper not making contact, that’s shown in the above photo. Note also that this bumper isn’t over the inductors, so it’s not going to impact coil whine, and it’s not making contact to the VRM heatsink. We already tested this and have data for it in the review.
Thanks to GamersNexus reader ‘Grant,’ we were able to obtain a loaner nVidia Titan Xp (2017) card for review and thermal analysis. Grant purchased the card for machine learning and wanted to liquid cool the GPU, which happens to be something with which we’re well-versed. In the process, we’ll be reviewing the Titan Xp from a gaming standpoint, tearing it down, analyzing the PCB & VRM, and building it back into a liquid-cooled card. All the benchmarking is already done, but we’re opening our Titan Xp content string with a tear-down of the card.
Disassembling Founders Edition nVidia graphics cards tends to be a little more tool-intensive than most other GPU tear-downs. NVidia uses 2.0mm & 2.5mm Allen keys to secure the shroud to the baseplate, and then the baseplate to the PCB; additionally, a batch of ~16x 4mm hex heads socket through the PCB and into the baseplate, each of which hosts a small Phillips screw for the backplate.
The disassembly tutorial continues after this video version:
We’ve fixed the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition ($700) card. As stated in the initial review, the card performed reasonably close to nVidia’s “35% > 1080” metric when at 4K resolutions, but generally fell closer to 25-30% faster at 4K. That’s really not bad – but it could be better, even with the reference PCB. It’s the cooler that’s holding nVidia’s card back, as seems to be the trend given GPU Boost 3.0 + FE cooler designs. A reference card is more versatile for deployment to the SIs and wider channel, but for our audience, we can rebuild it. We have the technology.
“Technology,” here, mostly meaning “propylene glycol.”
While we work on our R7 1700 review, we’ve also been tearing down the remainder of the new Nintendo Switch console ($300). The first part of our tear-down series featured the Switch itself – a tablet, basically, that is somewhat familiar to a Shield – and showed the Tegra X1 modified SOC, what we think is 4GB of RAM, and a Samsung eMMC module. Today, we’re tearing down the Switch right Joycon (with the IR sensor) and docking station, hoping to see what’s going on under the hood of two parts largely undocumented by Nintendo.
The Nintendo Switch dock sells for $90 from Nintendo directly, and so you’d hope it’s a little more complex than a simple docking station. The article carries on after the embedded video:
Ryzen, Vega, and 1080 Ti news has flanked another major launch in the hardware world, though this one is outside of the PC space: Nintendo’s Switch, formerly known as the “NX.”
We purchased a Nintendo Switch ($300) specifically for teardown, hoping to document the process for any future users wishing to exercise their right to repair. Thermal compound replacement, as we learned from this teardown, is actually not too difficult. We work with small form factor boxes all the time, normally laptops, and replace compound every few years on our personal machines. There have certainly been consoles in the past that benefited from eventual thermal compound replacements, so perhaps this teardown will help in the event someone’s Switch encounters a similar scenario.
NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 liquid coolers were announced today, all using the new Asetek Gen5 pump with substantial custom modifications. The most direct Gen5 competition would be from Corsair, makers of the H115i and H100iV2, each priced to compete with the Kraken X42 ($130) and X52. The Corsair units, however, are using an unmodified Asetek platform from top-to-bottom, aside from a couple of Corsair fans. NZXT's newest endeavor had its components dictated by NZXT, including a custom (and fairly complex) PCB for fan speed, pump speed, and RGB control, planted under a custom pump plate with infinity mirror finish. The unit has gone so far as to demand a double-elbow barb for pose-able tubes, rather than the out-the-top setup of the Asetek stock platform – that's some fastidious design.
As for how we know all of this, it's because we've already disassembled a unit. We decided to dismantle one of our test-complete models to learn about its internals, since we're still waiting for the X52 and X62 models to be review-ready. We've got a few more tests to run.
Before getting to the tear-down, let's run through the specs, price, and availability of NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 closed-loop liquid coolers.
We've still got a few content pieces left over from our recent tour of LA-based hardware manufacturers. One of those pieces, filmed with no notice and sort of on a whim, is our tear-down of an EVGA GTX 1080 Classified video card. EVGA's Jacob Freeman had one available and was game to watch a live, no-preparation tear-down of the card on camera.
This is the most meticulously built GTX 1080 we have yet torn to the bones. The card has an intensely over-built VRM with inductors and power stages of high-quality, using doublers to achieve its 14-phase power design (7x2). An additional three phases are set aside for memory, cooled in tandem with the core VRM, GPU, and VRAM by an ACX 3.0 cooler. The PCB and cooler meet through a set of screws, each anchored to an adhesive (preventing direct contact between the screw and PCB – although unnecessary, a nice touch), with the faceplate and accessories mounted via Allen-keyed screws.
It's an exceptionally easy card to disassemble. The unit is rated to draw 245W through the board (30W more than the 215W draw of the GTX 1080 Hybrid), theoretically targeted at high sustained overclocks with its master/slave power target boost. It's not news that Pascal devices seem to cap their maximum frequency all around the 2050-2100MHz range, but there are still merits to an over-built VRM. One of those is greater spread of heat over the area of the cooler, and lower efficiency loss through heat or low-quality phases. With the Classified, it's also a prime target for modification using something like the EK Predator 280 or open loop cooling. Easy disassembly and high performance match well with liquid.