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Using the NZXT Kraken G10 to Watercool a Radeon R9 290

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Manufacturer: NZXT

Installation

When the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X first launched last year, they were plagued by issues of overheating and variable clock speeds.  We looked at the situation several times over the course of a couple months and AMD tried to address the problem with newer drivers.  These drivers did help stabilize clock speeds (and thus performance) of the reference built R9 290 and R9 290X cards but caused noise levels to increase as well.  

The real solution was the release of custom cooled versions of the R9 290 and R9 290X from AMD partners like ASUS, MSI and others.  The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II model for example, ran cooler, quieter and more consistently than any of the numerous reference models we had our hands on.  

But what about all those buyers that are still purchasing, or have already purchased, reference style R9 290 and 290X cards?  Replacing the cooler on the card is the best choice and thanks to our friends at NZXT we have a unique solution that combines standard self contained water coolers meant for CPUs with a custom built GPU bracket.  

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Our quick test will utilize one of the reference R9 290 cards AMD sent along at launch and two specific NZXT products.  The Kraken X40 is a standard CPU self contained water cooler that sells for $100 on Amazon.com.  For our purposes though we are going to team it up with the Kraken G10, a $30 GPU-specific bracket that allows you to use the X40 (and other water coolers) on the Radeon R9 290.

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Inside the box of the G10 you'll find an 80mm fan, a back plate, the bracket to attach the cooler to the GPU and all necessary installation hardware.  The G10 will support a wide range of GPUs, though they are targeted towards the reference designs of each:

NVIDIA : GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770, 760, Titan, 680, 670, 660Ti, 660, 580, 570, 560Ti, 560, 560SE 
AMD : R9 290X, 290, 280X*, 280*, 270X, 270 HD7970*, 7950*, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 6770, 5870, 5850, 5830
 

That is pretty impressive but NZXT will caution you that custom designed boards may interfere.

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The installation process begins by removing the original cooler which in this case just means a lot of small screws.  Be careful when removing the screws on the actual heatsink retention bracket and alternate between screws to take it off evenly.

Continue reading about how the NZXT Kraken G10 can improve the cooling of the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X!!

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As horrible as it is, you should still keep the R9 290 reference cooler in tact and around in case you need to replace it.

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The first step for putting together the new cooler is to attach the fan to the red G10 bracket as it will be responsible for cooling the power delivery hardware that will no longer have a heatsink on it.  These foam stand offs help to remove vibration noise.

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The back plate has three difference openings for different GPU designs.  You'll have to slot in the screws and then add the rubber grommets to keep them in place during installation.

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Place the back plate on the rear of the GPU keeping the mounting screws in place.

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This shot shows those screws coming through the top of the R9 290 PCB.

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Getting the X40 cooler installed was kind of a pain in a few ways, but the process is pretty straight forward in theory.  The Kraken X40 uses the "teeth" method for retention and the G10 bracket should work just fine with other coolers you may already own that use the same installation methods.  That includes Corsair and others.  

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At four places around the water block you find sets of three holes like this, used to attach the mounting screws.  For the best fit you'll want to match the correct hole with what is listed in the manual for your GPU.  

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Getting the four nuts on the screws through the bracket takes some patience but you can see in the video that it wasn't all the difficult.  Screw them down tightly, in an alternating fashion, to keep the water block on the GPU.  Be sure to apply thermal paste to the GPU before screwing it down!!  Even though the lettering won't match up, you'll want to put the fluid outlets at the top of the card to better help with installation and cable management.

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You can fold the tubes down to fit between the top of the fan and the top of the bracket to keep it organized.

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With the bracket installed you'll need to attach the power cables for the PWM fan, the fan on the radiator of the X40 and prepare for installation into your system.  You'll be able to mount the radiator and fan anywhere in your case that you would have placed it when using it on a CPU - as long as the tubing reaches.  

Now that we have it installed, let's take a look at how it changes the performance and noise characteristics of our Radeon R9 290.

March 14, 2014 | 02:54 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

Having to bodge heatsinks for the VRM's really irks me, shows how much forethought went into this design.

March 14, 2014 | 03:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Ryan, great review! It would be very helpful to see a follow-up article with VRM heatsinks. ~100C is quite high, and not all VRM heatsinks will fit underneath of the G10, so some guidance for readers would go a long way.

March 14, 2014 | 04:45 PM - Posted by Buyers

On your sound level graph, both blue and green bars are labeled 'Load', where one(green) should be 'Idle'.

Also, you say to make sure to have the fan on the bracket blowing down onto the power circuitry. Maybe add a note to look around the edge of the fan for the diagram that shows the air flow direction arrow.

Would it be too much hassle to get a measurement of the space available for the added RAM and VRM heatsinks, and perhaps a follow-up addition on the VRM temps? Surely that may help the stability at the higher clocks.

March 14, 2014 | 05:12 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

Is the vrm tests fair? You are comparing a 21% overclock to stock, of course stock clock will be lower.

March 14, 2014 | 05:17 PM - Posted by D (not verified)

GOLD AWARD???

For a cooler that does NOT meet the designed cooling specifications from AMD? Some parts don't even get proper airflow, parts that are originally have thermal pads and a decent heatsink... If i was AMD I would force NZXT to not release this product in current conditions!

PCPER please remove that Gold Award. Cooling products that will result in dying videocards should get a BIG AVOID award instead.

Please take this seriously.

March 14, 2014 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

I don't feel the vrm test are fair. At that overclocked speed the gpu is using more power. Higher temps should be expected.

I have this cooler on my reference 290 and I am running this test now. The only difference I am using a h55.

March 14, 2014 | 09:30 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

No after market cooler meets AMD's specifications, but people use them all the time.  I think the bracket is a great option for people to really cool off the GPU, with some pending work for the VRMs.

As for it not being a "fair" comparison I can tell you that even under stock clocks and voltage, the NZXT Kraken G10 configured results were hitting that 95C+ level, it just took a bit longer.  

March 14, 2014 | 05:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

fan blowing in seem logic, but just out curiousity, have you tried fan blowing heat out ? see if it's the same, worse or better ?

March 14, 2014 | 05:32 PM - Posted by razor512

From review done on this with a thermal camera, the VRM's end up running beyond their thermal limits during full load (non overclocked)Most VRM's do not have a built in thermal shutoff, and many can continue to run well above 200C (this is why on some systems, e.g., the msi 870 series boards without VRM heatsinks will melt or set on fire.

Using the G110 will mean that users will have reduced lifespan from their cards.

here are some thermal images: http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/NZXT-Kraken-G10-Review-527/#Fu...

What is not properly covered is that some lower end cards actually have higher VRM temperatures than the top of the line cards, this is because the lower end or mid range cards may still have a 170+ watt TDP, but will have far fewer power phases, and if you look at the models of many of the VRM's, you will see on the data sheets, that with the limited number on the card, they are being run much closer to their limits, while on a high end card, you may see them at a peak usage of about 40-50% of their max power rating.

March 14, 2014 | 09:31 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting!

March 14, 2014 | 11:38 PM - Posted by Pholostan

Interesting, thanks for the link.

My first thought when I saw this kind of bracket was how the heck the VRM mosfets were going to cope. They get only a fan on them, and it looks like it is not nearly enough. I need to check the spec-sheet for the mosfets in question, but I doubt they can take that kind of temperature for extended periods. But I think I agree that the lifespan of the cards will be significantly reduced.

March 14, 2014 | 05:57 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

My temps after 10 minutes of mll (290, g10, h55, stock clocks)

Vrm1 72
Vrm2 66

The power set to 150 is causing the high temps.

Ryan, how about a retest at stock clocks

March 14, 2014 | 09:32 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We will try to retest that!

March 14, 2014 | 07:08 PM - Posted by SetiroN

These issues have been well known to water coolers for years; not providing a VRM heatsink on a straightforward design such as the Hawaii cards (all components lined up along with two PCB holes) sure shows some intelligent engineering.

All those self contained water cooler companies need to disappear. Along with their silly customers asking for stock clocks.

March 14, 2014 | 07:17 PM - Posted by Prodeous

Nice review.

With regards to VRM's. It would be nice if there was clarification of which VRM is which.

There is a set of VRM's between the PCIE and GPU core, I would expect that to be VRM2 as it showed a temperature drop since the aftermarket cooler has a nice 80mm fan over them.

VRM1 would then bee a small VRM between crossfire (where it would be) connectors and GPU core. As there is no air movement what so ever, the temps will continue to increase.

As a verification, please place another 80mm fan on the left side of the GPU to verify if the 100*c temps will drop or not.

Either way, nice to see this nice boost to the GPUR and significant drop in noise :)

March 14, 2014 | 07:41 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

Here is a g10 290x review at stock clocks

http://www.legitreviews.com/nzxt-kraken-g10-gpu-water-cooler-review-on-a...

I don't like the way pcper is comparing apples to oranges. How can you do a cooler review when the specs aren't consistent? The power draw of a 290 is going to go up considerable when overclocked.

Ryan

Do you plan to retest the vrms at stock speed to make a fair comparison?

March 14, 2014 | 09:33 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It's not unfair - who would buy this and not want to overclock their system??  The GPU temperatures are lower but I don't see you complaining that they could be LOWER if I ran it at stock speeds.

:/

March 14, 2014 | 09:53 PM - Posted by Valkyrie743 (not verified)

i agree. there is a long thread going on at overclock.net

http://www.overclock.net/t/1445970/legitreviews-nzxt-announces-kraken-g1...

i personally own one. i have it installed on my GTX 780 Ti. and after seeing the puget system review, i decided to buy the ACX cooler and use the stop bracket that came with it that cools the vrm and ram chips passively. (and helps with that fan)

i did have to mod the 4 posts of the ACX unisink for it to work with the g10 and my AIO cooler (im using the X40 as well)

the thing that sucks is that some of the nvidia cards dont have VRM temp readings available (using gpuz).

personally, if you have a aftermarket cooler card (say acx from evga or Direct CUII card. the g10 is perfect being that these cards have separate heatsinks for the ram and vrm's.

right now though i have my reference 780 Ti overclocked to 1000mhz and 1850mhz memory and temps never go past 47C under 30 minutes or more of Vally or heaven benchmark runs!! way better than the 82 to 83C i was getting.

March 15, 2014 | 04:01 AM - Posted by elajt_1 (not verified)

It's quite obvious that NZXT needs to go back to the drawing board. I'm quite amazed that they've even managed to come up with a half finished product like this. There is roughly 4 areas to cover: GPU, VRM's and RAM and noise. They failed miserably at 2 of them (VRM's and noise). This isn't exactly rocket science is it. The truth is anyone with half a brain could have made a better overall solution than this. For me this shows 1 of 2 things. They are either stupid or don't care (well except for selling junk and making lots of money that is).

March 15, 2014 | 02:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

elajt_1, I look forward to your design!

Kickstarter right? send us a link.

You do have half a brain yes?

March 16, 2014 | 05:38 AM - Posted by elajt_1 (not verified)

That kind of post is not really worth a response. But as you seem like a troubled kid, I'm going to try and help you understand (I know, it seems like an impossible task). There are already pretty good coolers out there, so you don't need to have much knowledge on how to build one, since most companies more or less copy each others designs. In this case they didn't even manage that. However even without the possibility to copy another design, it's kind of crusial to test it, before you start to manufacture it. Again it's no rocket science, it's just common sense. "Almost" anyone can understand that.

March 16, 2014 | 06:14 AM - Posted by silenthill

I’ve got a gigabyte gtx 780 ti, core 1020 mhz was able to get it to 1050 and it was running 1200 boost in game stable & temps were around 78-80 on the winfoec cooler, do you think a can push it further if i use this solution or i’ll be limited by the silicon lottery

March 17, 2014 | 06:43 AM - Posted by Martrox (not verified)

So many mistakes here....First off, fan is 92mm,l not 80mm. Second, if you are going to take your expensive videocard (kills warranty in almost all cases) please take some time and do you research. Spend a few (not many) more bucks and get some heatsinks for the VRMs....NOT the memory chips, not needed. BTW, I've been running the original version* of this for the last couple of years on both a GTX680 and a HD7970, using Antec Kühler H2O 620's.
Last thing, put a fan on the door over the videocard - doesn't have to be fast, I use 140mm 1000 rpm(read slow & quiet). It makes a huge difference in VRM temps.I run my GTX 68- @1171/1658(tends to game at 1248 boost ALL the time) and my HD7970 @1100/1500 - Neither ever goes past 55C in games, and the VRMs on the HD7970 never goes past 75C.

Geez, guys, do your homework....you too, Ryan.
* GPU mounts with backplate and 80mm fan mount made by Dwood (no longer around) cost me $30 shipped.

March 17, 2014 | 08:46 PM - Posted by Angry

What about SLI AND CFX setups? Can cards be side by side?

This would be very usefull for those setups...

March 20, 2014 | 06:10 PM - Posted by Casecutter (not verified)

I would agree the Kraken G10 bracket kit should include at least a nice long one piece finned heatsink that clips in place. NZXT of all people should be forward thinking enough to source and include one. I suppose the problem then begins one for reference 290/290X, but would that work for 780/780Ti or then other AIB's with custom PCB's. It seems nicer to at least toss in two (290 & 780 types) heatsinks, so you don't need to scrounge around to find something that you end up needing to modify to fit. While I'm not one to like the real little individual that fit VRM's as I always think one will pop-off and either jam a fan, or worst short the board.

May 31, 2014 | 10:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

the best way to use this thing is to cut the reference mid plate so the vrm and memory can be cooled.

July 19, 2014 | 05:32 PM - Posted by Miles (not verified)

Hi there I have just fitted the g10 to my GPU and am using a corsair H90 but using the valley benchmark program it still goes up to 78 degrees iv plugged the h90 into a sysfan1 on my mother bored and set it to 100% on my bios and still getting to 78 degrees any ideas ??

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