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.
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.
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.
We've just finished testing the result of this build, and the results are equal parts exciting and intriguing – but that will be published following this content. We're still crunching data and making charts for part 3.
In the meantime, the tear-down of our reader's loaner Titan X (Pascal) GPU has resulted in relatively easy assembly with an EVGA Hybrid kit liquid cooler. The mounting points on the Titan XP are identical to a GTX 1080, and components can be used between the two cards almost completely interchangeably. The hole distance on the Titan XP is the same as the GTX 1080, which is the same as the 980 Ti, 1070, and very similar to the GTX 1060 (which has a different base plate).
Here's the new video of the Titan X build, if you missed it:
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:
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