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.
We've got a new thermal paste applicator tool that'll help ensure consistent, equal spread of TIM across cooler surfaces for future tests. As we continue to iterate on "Hybrid" DIY builds, or even just re-use coolers for testing, we're also working to control for all reasonable variables in the test process. Our active ambient monitoring with thermocouple readers was the first step of that, and ensures that even minute (resolution 0.1C) fluctuations in ambient are accounted for in the results. Today, we're adding a new tool to the arsenal. This is a production tool used in Asetek's factory, and is deployed to apply that perfect circle of TIM that comes pre-applied to all the liquid cooler coldplates. By using the same application method on our end (rather than a tube of compound), we eliminate the chance of users changing application methods and eliminate the chance of applying too much or too little compound. These tools ensure exactly the same TIM spread each time, and mean that we can further eliminate variables in testing. That's especially important for regression testing.
This isn't something you use for home use, it is for production and test use. When cooling manufacturers often fight over half a degree of temperature advantage, it would be unfair to the products to not account for TIM application, which could easily create a 0.5C temperature swing. For consumers, that's irrelevant -- but we're showing a stack of products in direct head-to-head comparisons, and that needs to be an accurate stack.
No reference card has impressed us this generation, insofar as usage by the enthusiast market. Primary complaints have consisted of thermal limitations or excessive heat generation, despite reasonable use cases with SIs and mITX form factor deployments. For our core audience, though, it's made more sense to recommend AIB partner models for superior cooling, pre-overclocks, and (normally) lower prices.
But that's not always the case – sometimes, as with today's review unit, the price climbs. This new child of Corsair and MSI carries on the Hydro GFX and Seahawk branding, respectively, and is posted at ~$750. The card is the construct of a partnership between the two companies, with MSI providing access to the GP104-400 chip and a reference board (FE PCB), and Corsair providing an H55 CLC and SP120L radiator fan. The companies sell their cards separately, but are selling the same product; MSI calls this the “Seahawk GTX 1080 ($750),” and Corsair sells only on its webstore as the “Hydro GFX GTX 1080.” The combination is one we first looked at with the Seahawk 980 Ti vs. the EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid, and we'll be making the EVGA FTW Hybrid vs. Hydro GFX 1080 comparison in the next few days.
For now, we're reviewing the Corsair Hydro GFX GTX 1080 liquid-cooled GPU for thermal performance, endurance throttles, noise, power, FPS, and overclocking potential. We will primarily refer to the card as the Hydro GFX, as Corsair is the company responsible for providing the loaner review sample. Know that it is the same as the Seahawk.
This week's Ask GN episode answers viewer questions about FinFET vs. Planar, the impact of cooling on power consumption, CPU load for 120Hz / 144Hz displays, liquid cooler testing, and a few extras. We spend most the time talking liquid coolers and cooler testing – a fitting topic, having done multiple “Hybrid” video card builds lately.
The full list of questions with their timestamps can be found below the video. Thanks to our viewers for the questions and, as always, post more in the video comments on YouTube for inclusion in next week's episode.
The Titan X (Pascal) DIY “Hybrid” project has come to a close, and with that, we've reached our results phase. This project has yielded the most visible swings in clock performance that we've yet seen from a liquid cooling mod, and has revealed significant thermal throttling in the reference nVidia Titan XP design. What's more, this card will not feature the market saturation created by AIB partners with lower end cards, and so more advanced coolers do not seem to be available without going open loop or DIY.
Our liquid-cooled Titan X Pascal Hybrid has increased the card's non-overclocked frequency by an average of nearly 200MHz – again, pre-overclock – because we've removed the thermal throttle point. The card has also improved its clock-rate stability versus temperature and time, provable during our two-hour endurance run.
With thanks to GamersNexus viewer Sam, we were able to procure a loaner Titan X (Pascal) graphics card whilst visiting London. We were there for nVidia's GTX 10 Series laptop unveil anyway, and without being sampled the Titan X, this proved the best chance at getting hands-on.
The Titan X (Pascal) GP102-400 GPU runs warmer than the GTX 1080's GP104-400 chip, as we'll show in benchmarks in Part 3 of this series, but still shows promise as a fairly capable overclocker. We've already managed +175MHz offsets from core with the stock cooler, but want to improve clock-rate stability over time and versus thermals. The easiest way to do that – as we've found with the 1080 Hybrid, 1060 Hybrid, and 480 Hybrid – is to put the card under water cooling (or propylene glycol, anyway).
In this first part of our DIY Titan XP “Hybrid” build log, we'll tear-down the card to its bones and look at the PCB, cooling solution, and potential problem points for the liquid cooling build.
Here's the video, though separate notes and photos are below:
Recapping some of the most recent hardware news for the past two days, we visit topics centering on liquid cooling for video cards and a side topic discussing Micron's newest 32GB mobile 3D NAND.
For GPUs, ZOTAC has just announced its “ArcticStorm” GTX 1080 card with waterblock, providing full coverage over the VRAM, FETs, and GPU itself. Standard G1/4 threaded fittings include barbs to support 10mm inner diameter tubing, and microfins are spaced at 0.3mm apart. For a more visual understanding of microfins and spacing, check our liquid cooler tear-down. A metal backplate is included with the card.
We don't have a price on Zotac's ArcticStorm just yet, but have reached-out to ask.
Gigabyte and EKWB will be launching limited-time bundles of their new waterblocks and motherboards. The EK-FB GA-Z170X Monoblock will be sold along with the Z170X-GAMING 7-EK motherboard, and the X99-ULTRA GAMING-EK will be bundled with EK-Supremacy EVO X99 monoblock.
The EK-FB GA-Z170X waterblock will provide cooling to CPU and the motherboard’s MOSFETs, all without having to remove the motherboard’s FET heatsinks. Traditional liquid cooling setups do not often cover the FET heatsinks, and the only cooling they get is from tower cooler fans, case fans, or low-hanging vapor chambers.
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