The EVGA Hybrid closed-loop liquid cooler has been the center of attention for a few of our DIY “Hybrid” mods, and for good reason: It was the best-performing CLC for GPUs that we tested last year, largely due to the protrusion in the coldplate and the dense microfins. The EVGA Hybrid cooler ($100) uses Asetek's supply, so we resurrected our old Corsair H100 (torn apart years ago) to compare a Generation 3 Asetek cooler to the new generation on EVGA's unit. You'll see that the setup is largely the same, though.
The EVGA Hybrid cooler we're tearing down today accompanies the GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, 970 Hybrid, and the forthcoming 1080 Hybrid. We managed to drop thermals of the GTX 1080 down to 18C (delta T over ambient) from ~57C by mounting an EVGA Hybrid cooler to the card, and even got an extra 100MHz out of our OC. Let's look at why that was the case.
Phanteks has become known for making PC cases, fans, and CPU coolers. The company recently introduced their first custom GPU waterblock, the PH-GB1080-X, designed to fit the Founders Edition GTX 1080. AIB partners using the same reference PCB as the FE 1080 will also support the PH-GB1080-X mounting. In theory, that includes the EVGA SC models and MSI's lower SKUs, but check with Phanteks for official support.
The new waterblock features a silver design with matte black accents. The waterblock also has RGB lighting, all the rage right now. The three RGB lights on the waterblock plug into a proprietary power adapter
The past week has been major for hardware news. We've seen the announcement of the Titan X and AMD's new Radeon Pro SSG with 1TB extended framebuffer (learn about that here), but there's also been news of Intel's Kaby Lake shipping to OEMs, and of AMD's boosted earnings.
AMD's new GPU news is interesting in its own way, and so we produced a separate video for that content. The new Radeon Pro SSG ("Solid-State Graphics") is coupled with a 1TB extended framebuffer that operates via PCIe, and bypasses some of the slow-downs encountered when dealing with memory transactions that exceed normal on-card memory. As for the rest of the week's news, our hardware recap below will run through it all swiftly. The topics include: (1) Kaby Lake architecture CPUs shipping to OEMs, (2) AMD earnings recovery, (3) DDR3 price drops, (4) Titan X announcement, (5) Phanteks 1080 waterblock with LEDs.
The video transcript is located below that, if you'd prefer written content.
Our “Hybrid” mods aren't necessarily something we recommend for cards like the RX 480 and GTX 1060 – you're increasing cost of the card by 30% just to add a CLC – but the mods have routinely discovered throttle points. The GTX 1080 was our first Hybrid mod (one which we would actually recommend), and gave us an additional ~100MHz OC with perfectly flat clock-rate stability – something sorely lacking on the FE card. That's what we want, and will help further smooth over the 1% low and 0.1% low performance metrics (explained here).
Today, we embarked upon our journey to build a GTX 1060 “Hybrid” card. This is a DIY approach to liquid cooling the GTX 1060, and aims to stabilize the clock-rate over time to eliminate spurious frametime performance. We also hope to reduce thermals drastically enough that the overall noise levels will be reduced, presumably while maintaining a lower thermal value. This is what happened when we ran the same test on the RX 480 ($240) – it was trivial to run the radiator fan at 30% on the RX 480 “Hybrid” and keep lower thermals than stock.
Honestly, though, this GTX 1060 Hybrid endeavor is mostly within the realm of “because we want to.” It's not something you should necessarily do – that's an extra $50-$100 to throw a cooler on a card that's ~$250 to $300. Poor value. But we're doing it anyway, and hopefully we'll learn something about the performance and clock stability along the way.
We've hit episode 20 of Ask GN – our video series is almost old enough to drink. The format has matured and the user questions have shaped discussion for months now. To contribute to the next episode of Ask GN, please visit the video page and leave your comment among the YouTube commenters – these are good ones, though; we promise.
This week, our Ask GN discussion moves along from the 1080 & 1080 Ti rumor discussion of past episodes and instead focuses on AMD's new RX 480, 470, 460, and potential higher-end devices (e.g. a “490,” should one exist). The questions, as always, are timestamped below.
The test results are in from our post-review DIY project, which started here. Our goal was a simple one: As a bit of a decompression project after our 9000-word analysis of nVidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, we decided to tear-down the GTX 1080, look underneath, and throw a liquid block onto the exposed die. The “Founders Edition” of the GTX 1080 is effectively a reference model, and as such, it'll quickly be outranked by AIB partner cards with regard to cooling and OC potential. The GTX 1080 overclocks reasonably well – we were hitting ~2025-2050MHz with the FE model – but it still feels limited. That limitation is a mix of power limit and thermal throttling.
Our testing discovered that thermal throttles occur at precisely 82C. Each time the card hits 82C absolute, the clock-rate dips and produces a marginal impact to frametimes and framerate. We also encountered clock-rate stability issues over long burn-in periods, and would have had to further step-down the OC to accommodate the 82C threshold. Even when configuring the VRM blower fan to 100% speed, limitations were encountered – but it did perform better, just with the noise levels of a server fan (~60dB, in our tests). That's not really acceptable for a real-world use case. Liquid will bring down noise levels, help sustain higher clock-rates at those noise levels, and keep thermals well under control.
The video (Part 3) is below. This article will cover the results of our DIY liquid-cooled GTX 1080 'Hybrid' vs. the Founders Edition card, including temperatures, VRM fan RPM, overclocking, stability, and FPS. Our clocks vs. time charts are the most interesting.
We're building our own GTX 1080 Hybrid. We're impatient, and the potential for further improved clock-rate stability – not that the 1080 isn't already impressively stable – has drawn us toward a DIY solution. For this GTX 1080 liquid cooling mod, we're tearing apart $1300 worth of video cards: (1) the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, which long held our Best of Bench award, is being sacrificed to the Pascal gods, and (2) the GTX 1080 Founders Edition shall be torn asunder, subjected to the whims of screwdrivers and liquid cooling.
Here's the deal: We ran a thermal throttle analysis in our 9000-word review of the GTX 1080 (read it!). We discovered that, like Maxwell before it, consumer Pascal seems to throttle its frequency as temperatures reach and exceed ~82C. Each hit at 82C triggered a frequency fluctuation of ~30~70MHz, enough to create a marginal hit to frametimes. This only happened a few times through our first endurance test, but we've conducted more – this time with overclocks applied – to see if there's ever a point at which the throttling goes from “welcomed safety check” to something less desirable.
Turns out, the thermal throttling impacts our overclocks, and it's limited the potential of a GPU that's otherwise a strong overclocker. And so begins Part 1 of our DIY GTX 1080 build log – disassembly; we're taking apart the GTX 1080, tearing it down to the bones for a closer look inside.
Thermal testing for cases, coolers, CPUs, and GPUs requires very careful attention to methodology and test execution. Without proper controls for ambient or other variables within a lab/room environment, it's exceedingly easy for tests to vary to a degree that effectively invalidates the results. Cases and coolers are often fighting over one degree (Celsius) or less of separation, so having strict tolerances for ambient and active measurements of diodes and air at intake/exhaust helps ensure accurate data.
We recently put our methodology to the test by borrowing time on a local thermal chamber – a controlled environment – and checking our delta measurements against it. GN's thermal testing is conducted in a lab on an open-loop HVAC system; we measure ambient constantly (second-to-second) with thermocouples, then subtract those readings from diode readings to create a delta value. For the thermal chamber, we performed identical methodology within a more tightly controlled environment. The goal was to determine if the delta value (within the chamber) paralleled the delta value achieved in our own (open air) labs, within reasonable margin of error; if so, we'd know our testing is fully accurate and properly accounts for ambient and other variables.
The chamber used has climate control functions that include temperature settings. We set the chamber to match our normal lab temps (20C), then checked carefully for where the intake and exhaust are setup within the chamber. This particular unit has slow, steady intake from the top that helps circulate air by pushing it down to an exhaust vent at the bottom. It'd just turn into an oven, otherwise, as the system's rising temps would increase ambient. This still happens to some degree, but a control module on the thermal chamber helps adjust and regulate the 20C target as the internal temperature demands. It's the control module which is the most expensive, too; our chaperone told us that the units cost upwards of $10,000 – and that's for a 'budget-friendly' approach.
Quick Disconnect (QDC) liquid cooling has been concepted a few times before. For the enthusiast and DIY market, there’s not been much of an uptake on the QDC quasi-open loop liquid cooling – but there’s also never been a major marketing push. Our CES 2016 visit with EVGA had us hands-on with a quad-SLI + CPU quick disconnect liquid cooling setup, taking from the well-received GTX 980 Ti Hybrid design and expanding into sequential liquid cooling.
EVGA’s roadmap for 2016 includes quick disconnect GPUs, CPU blocks, and radiators, with additional product support in cases, power, boards, and audio. We’re focusing on the QDC components and the case today.
Be Quiet! has been in the air cooling and power supply business for more than a decade, dating back to a 2002 origin. At CES 2016, the German company didn't have any ground-breaking new technology or designs, but did share some information about what may be coming soon.
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