Implementation of liquid coolers on GPUs makes far more sense than on the standard CPU. We've shown in testing that actual performance can improve as a result of a better cooling solution on a GPU, particularly when replacing weak blower fan or reference cooler configurations. With nVidia cards, Boost 3.0 dictates clock-rate based upon a few parameters, one of which is remedied with more efficient GPU cooling solutions. On the AMD side of things, our RX 480 Hybrid mod garnered some additional overclocking headroom (~50MHz), but primarily reduced noise output.

Clock-rate also stabilizes with better cooling solutions (and that includes well-designed air cooling), which helps sustain more consistent frametimes and tighten frame latency. We call these 1% and 0.1% lows, though that presentation of the data is still looking at frametimes at the 99th and 99.9th percentile.

The EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid has thus far had the most interesting cooling solution we've torn down on an AIO cooled GPU this generation, but Gigabyte's Xtreme Waterforce card threatens to take that title. In this review, we'll benchmark the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force card vs. the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid and MSI/Corsair 1080 Sea Hawk. Testing is focused on thermals and noise primarily, with FPS and overclocking thrown into the mix.

A quick thanks to viewer and reader Sean for loaning us this card, since Gigabyte doesn't respond to our sample requests.

As we board planes for our impending trip to Southern California (office tours upcoming), we've just finalized the Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force tear-down coverage. The Gigabyte GTX 1080 Xtreme Water Force makes use of a similar cooling philosophy as the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid, which we recently tore-down and reviewed vs. the Corsair Hydro GFX.

Gigabyte's using a closed-loop liquid cooler to deal with the heat generation on the GP104-400 GPU, but isn't taking the “hybrid” approach that its competitors have taken. There's no VRM/VRAM blower fan for this unit; instead, the power and memory components are cooled by an additional copper and aluminum heatsink, which are bridged by a heatpipe. That copper plate (mounted atop the VRAM) transfers its heat to the coldplate of what we believe to be a Cooler Master CLC, which then sinks everything for dissipation by the 120mm radiator.

The GTX 1060 3GB ($200) card's existence is curious. The card was initially rumored to exist prior to the 1060 6GB's official announcement, and was quickly debunked as mythological. Exactly one month later, nVidia did announce a 3GB GTX 1060 variant – but with one fewer SM, reducing the core count by 10%. That drops the GTX 1060 from 1280 CUDA cores to 1152 CUDA cores (128 cores per SM), alongside 8 fewer TMUs. Of course, there's also the memory reduction from 6GB to 3GB.

The rest of the specs, however, remain the same. The clock-rate has the same baseline 1708MHz boost target, the memory speed remains 8Gbps effective, and the GPU itself is still a declared GP106-400 chip (rev A1, for our sample). That makes this most the way toward a GTX 1060 as initially announced, aside from the disabled SM and halved VRAM. Still, nVidia's marketing language declared a 5% performance loss from the 6GB card (despite a 10% reduction in cores), and so we decided to put those claims to the test.

In this benchmark, we'll be reviewing the EVGA GTX 1060 3GB vs. GTX 1060 6GB performance in a clock-for-clock test, with 100% of the focus on FPS. The goal here is not to look at the potential for marginally changed thermals (which hinges more on AIB cooler than anything) or potentially decreased power, but to instead look strictly at the impact on FPS from the GTX 1060 3GB card's changes. In this regard, we're very much answering the “is a 1060 6GB worth it?” question, just in a less SEF fashion. The GTX 1060s will be clocked the same, within normal GPU Boost 3.0 variance, and will only be differentiated in the SM & VRAM count.

For those curious, we previously took this magnifying glass to the RX 480 8GB & 4GB cards, where we pitted the two against one another in a versus. In that scenario, AMD also reduced the memory clock of the 4GB models, but the rest remained the same.

Upon return home from PAX, we quickly noticed that the pile of boxes included an MSI GTX 1080 Sea Hawk EK graphics card, which use a pre-applied GPU water block for open loop cooling. This approach is more traditional and in-depth than what we've shown with the AIO / CLC solutions for GPUs, like what the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid uses (review here).

The Sea Hawk EK ($783) partners with, obviously, EK WB for the liquid cooling solution, and uses a full coverage block atop a custom MSI PCB for cooling. The biggest difference in such a setup is coverage of the VRAM, MOSFETs, capacitor bank, and PWM. The acrylic is channeled out for the inductors, so their heat is not directly conducted to the water block; this would increase liquid temperature unnecessarily, anyway.

We won't be fully reviewing this card. It's just not within our time budget right now, and we'd have to build up a wet bench for testing open loop components; that said, we'll soon be testing other EK parts – the Predator, mostly – so keep an eye out for that. The Sea Hawk EK was sent by MSI before confirming our review schedule, so we decided to tear it apart while we've got it and see what's underneath.

As we reported on August 4, the Class Action lawsuit against nVidia has been settled in courts. The final payout amount is pending approval (full resolution by December, in theory), but owners of the GTX 970 may now submit claims to retrieve a $30 payment per GTX 970 purchased, should those owners feel entitled to the funds.

Claims can be filed on the GTX 970 Settlement website. The claim filing deadline is November 30, 2016, with the final approval hearing scheduled for December 7, 2016. Claims must be filed before the deadline and will not be paid out until after the final approval hearing goes through.

Taking a break from innovating tediously typed names for graphics cards, Inno3D claims it has now improved GPU AIO cooling with its new “iChiLL BLACK” GTX 1080. For future reference, we'll revert capitalization to something that makes more sense and is less susceptible to triggering sticky keys.

The iChill unit runs a CLC mounted atop the silicon, as one would expect from any AIO-cooled card (review of Hybrid vs. Sea Hawk here), and uses an aluminum baseplate with heatspreaders for the VRM and VRAM cooling. Heat conducted through the baseplate is dissipated with an 80mm blower fan, similar to the Sea Hawk, though Inno3D markets that their fan is capable of spinning down to 0RPM under low load. As far as we can tell, Inno3D does not deploy a copper VRAM cooling plate like EVGA does with its Hybrid, and instead takes a more traditional route of using thermal pads to communicate heat to the baseplate. The plate is cooled entirely independently from the GPU, and vice versa.

Buildzoid of “Actually Hardcore Overclocking” joined us to discuss the new EVGA GTX 1080 FTW PCB, as found on the Hybrid that we reviewed days ago. The PCB analysis goes into the power staging, and spends a few minutes explaining the 10-phase VRM, which is really a doubled 5-phase VRM. Amperage supported by the VRM and demanded by the GPU are also discussed, for folks curious about the power delivery capabilities of the FTW PCB, and so is the memory power staging.

If you're curious about the thermal solution of the EVGA FTW Hybrid, check out the review (page 1 & 3) for that. EVGA is somewhat uniquely cooling the VRAM by sinking it to a copper plate, then attaching that to the CLC coldplate. We say “somewhat” because Gigabyte also does this, and we hope to look at their unit soon.

In Corsair's recently released Hydro GFX marketing video, we noticed that the video card on display used the protruded coldplate that we've been talking about since the 980 Ti Hybrid. That plate was recently put to the test in our GTX 1080 Hybrid vs. Sea Hawk review, where we found the protruded unit performs marginally better than the flat plate shipping with the Sea Hawk / Hydro GFX. We reached out to Corsair to discuss the change spotted in the marketing video, hoping to understand why the unannounced* (officially) modification was made, and have outlined the email responses below.

This seems largely to be a non-issue for users who purchased their cards from the official Corsair website, though we do have some contingencies for MSI Sea Hawk buyers. Note also that the temperature difference we spotted between the coolers is partially a result of new information we received regarding the Hydro GFX, primarily that the coldplate had its standoffs machined down by MSI prior to shipment. These machined standoffs have a larger tolerance (~0.2mm) for height than we've seen in from-factory Asetek CLCs (~0.05-0.08mm), which means mounting pressure could contribute to marginal thermal differences.

The video breaks things down most readily, but continue reading if preferred.

We're finally reviewing the real EVGA GTX 1080 Hybrid ($730), having built our own several months ago by using a liquid cooling kit. The EVGA version, though, is more official – and it's also using an FTW custom PCB rather than the 5-phase reference board we relied upon. The FTW Hybrid has better power management and delivery, in theory, alongside a far more advanced cooling solution than we instituted on our own DIY Hybrid.

In this review, we'll primarily and most heavily be focusing on thermals between the Sea Hawk X and the EVGA 1080 FTW Hybrid, but will also look at FPS and overclocking performance. Noise and power testing are additionally available, along with some unique Boost functionality discussion.

The review is forthcoming – within a few hours – but we decided to tear-down EVGA's GTX 1080 FTW Hybrid ahead of the final review. The card is more advanced in its PCB and cooling solution than what we saw in the Corsair Hydro GFX / MSI Sea Hawk X tear-down, primarily because EVGA is deploying a Gigabyte-like coldplate that conducts thermals from the VRAM and to the CLC coldplate. It's an interesting fusion of cooling solutions, and one which makes GPU temperatures look higher than seems reasonable on the surface – prompting the tear-down – but is actually cooling multiple devices.

Anyway, here's a video of the tear-down process – photos to follow.

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