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EVGA Hydro Copper GTX 980 Water Block Early Performance Testing

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Manufacturer: EVGA

Installation and Overview

While once a very popular way to cool your PC, the art of custom water loops tapered off in the early 2000s as the benefits of better cooling, and overclocking in general, met with diminished returns. In its place grew a host of companies offering closed loop system, individually sealed coolers for processors and even graphics cards that offered some of the benefits of standard water cooling (noise, performance) without the hassle of setting up a water cooling configuration manually.

A bit of a resurgence has occurred in the last year or two though where the art and styling provided by custom water loop cooling is starting to reassert itself into the PC enthusiast mindset. Some companies never left (EVGA being one of them), but it appears that many of the users are returning to it. Consider me part of that crowd.

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During a live stream we held with EVGA's Jacob Freeman, the very first prototype of the EVGA Hydro Copper was shown and discussed. Lucky for us, I was able to coerce Jacob into leaving the water block with me for a few days to do some of our testing and see just how much capability we could pull out of the GM204 GPU and a GeForce GTX 980.

Our performance preview today will look at the water block itself, installation, performance and temperature control. Keep in mind that this is a very early prototype, the first one to make its way to US shores. There will definitely be some changes and updates (in both the hardware and the software support for overclocking) before final release in mid to late October. Should you consider this ~$150 Hydro Copper water block for your GTX 980?

Continue reading our preview of the EVGA GTX 980 Hydro Copper Water Block!!

EVGA Hydro Copper Block Installation

Earlier in the week we posted a video on our YouTube channel describing the water block installation process. This is pretty straight forward for users that have done any custom water cooling before, but can be intimidating for anyone just starting out in the field.

That video is where all the detail is at so be sure to view that if you want installation details. But let's go over the product at a high level here as well.

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Based on the upcoming EK water block for the GTX 980, the EVGA Hydro Copper includes a white LED (not working in our test unit) as well as a slick looking EVGA shield to add some style to the design.

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The underside of the unit is where the copper water block hides, with properly raised areas for contact with the GPU, memory and power delivery hardware. The block will of course ship with proper thermal pads to facilitate even contact with all secondary locations and includes thermal paste to apply to the GM204 itself.

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The inlet and outlet block is interesting in that it includes 6 total connection points, allowing a lot of flexibility for installation options. These are great to facilitate the best possible routing for single GPUs setups and make it a lot easier to get multi-GPU SLI rigs up and running too. EVGA includes 4 plugs to fill-in any unused ports.

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This photo shows the teardown of the EVGA GeForce GTX 980 ACX 2.0 SC card that we are currently testing for review including the ACX 2.0 cooler, the water block and all the screws and assembly parts.

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After proper installation with the Hydro Copper, the GTX 980 is a damn sexy piece of hardware! For our testing we installed a pair of barbs up top as it allowed for the easiest access for our testbed-style configuration.

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Even though it has slimmed down quite a bit, you will still need two slots of space in your system for the card due to the dual-slot bracket with video display connections.

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Here it is ready to go! Powered by a Koolance EXT-440 and an additional 360mm radiator, there is more than enough cooling power to give the GTX 980 the best possible chance for overclocking.

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October 2, 2014 | 04:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What effect do these adjustments have on power consumption ?

October 2, 2014 | 04:39 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Ah, I did mean to put that in. We are only looking at 50-60 watts more power. 

October 3, 2014 | 11:27 AM - Posted by annoyingmouse (not verified)

You definitely need to test power draw again. Cooler transistors run more efficiently, and 70C+ to 40C is a big drop. I had a first gen Radeon 7970 drop 30 watts when I put a water block on it.

October 4, 2014 | 02:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Where are you getting this info from? The difference between 70C and 40C is nothing when comparing efficienty. Dift velocity doesnt alter much from a 30C change. Putting a water block also increases consumption as it can stably boost to higher clock rates with out the need of user overclocking.

October 10, 2014 | 01:41 AM - Posted by Kate C (not verified)

Leakage current increases with increasing temperature - this is a well known phenomenon and the decrease of power consumption as temperature is reduced has consistency been observed with liquid cooled GPUs.

For a systematic analysis of this, I refer you to this presentation from GTC earlier this year:

http://on-demand.gputechconf.com/gtc/2014/presentations/S4484-how-temper...

October 2, 2014 | 04:15 PM - Posted by Graham E (not verified)

what an absolute fantasic card, nVidia really outdone themselves with this, evga has pulled it out the bag with there cooler also. Really making me want to upgrade my system reading the review and watching the video, keep up the good work guys at pcper

October 2, 2014 | 04:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just an FYI they purposely cheery pic very best cards to send to reviewers.

October 2, 2014 | 04:38 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Can't say that isn't true for sure, but I did test two different cards with same results.

October 3, 2014 | 12:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i didn't realize you installed the block thought they sent you a hydro 980

October 3, 2014 | 01:14 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Nope, the Hydro 980 is not even a thing yet, considering we were testing the only block in existance and had to install it on a 'regular' EVGA 980 to test it.

October 2, 2014 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Also for those interested in how kingpin achieved these results you can read his "uncorking the gtx 980" guide here : http://kingpincooling.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2886

October 2, 2014 | 04:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What about memory over clocks?

October 2, 2014 | 04:56 PM - Posted by Keith Jones (not verified)

I could not care about pushing the overclockers even higher i have a small room that gets very hot and i care much more about the temperatures so 42c is very helpful

October 3, 2014 | 03:04 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you overclock it as Ryan did, it is still going to put out 225 W worth of heat into your room, even though the gpu stays at 42 degrees.

October 3, 2014 | 01:18 AM - Posted by JxcelDolghmQ (not verified)

"individually sealed coolers for processors and even graphics cards that offered some of the benefits of standard water cooling (noise, performance)" That's not really true, closed loop watercoolers still haven't overtaken good air coolers. When you take noise into account, flagship closed loops offer equal or somewhat worse performance compared to flagship air coolers while costing more, and on lower budgets, there's absolutely no contest. It's almost impressive that Asetek has managed to make watercooling that's no better than air.

Even if the maximum clock speed only increased by 100mhz, I wonder if performance would see a slightly larger increase due to clock speeds being more stable at their maximum. 87mv is pretty disappointing, my AMD 7950 gave 207mv of room out of the box. Still, 100mhz from watercooling isn't a bad jump. I wonder how much voltage you can safely give the GPU, assuming temperatures remain low and power delivery is up to the task. There isn't much information out there about voltage-related degradation, but it is often the limiting factor when using custom watercooling.

October 3, 2014 | 03:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"That's not really true, closed loop watercoolers still haven't overtaken good air coolers. When you take noise into account, flagship closed loops offer equal or somewhat worse performance compared to flagship air coolers while costing more, and on lower budgets, there's absolutely no contest."

For cpus, there isn't too much of a reason to water cool since you usually have plenty of space and heat pipe based coolers compete quite well with water coolers. This wasn't the case before heat pipes started to get use in cpu coolers; I think almost all high-end air coolers currently use heat pipes. At this point, it may be a lot easier to install a tiny water block than a giant air cooler though.

For gpus air cooling does not do as well; the space is obviously constrained. You do not have 140 mm of space above the gpu for a giant air cooler. You have maybe 20 mm of space per slot. It is amazing that they have been able to cool more than 250 W with such low-profile coolers. Water cooling gpus makes a lot of sense, although it will still be expensive. You also have the case of multiple gpu configurations where you may have two 250 W or more cards a few millimeters apart. This doesn't happen with cpus.

I agree with your statement about performance, but only for cpus, not gpus. As far a price is concerned, if you are going to spend $600 on a high-end video card, then a little extra for water cooing isn't out of the question.

October 3, 2014 | 04:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

According to kingpin, "safe" voltages on LN2 can go up to 1.6v so there should be plenty of margin from 1.25v even though the max voltage you would apply with watercooling could be around 1.4v

October 3, 2014 | 05:21 PM - Posted by KingKookaluke (not verified)

I can't believe that EVGA left you guys the prototype cooler for testing! Way to go boys!!

October 8, 2014 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Eyedol (not verified)

Does this waterblock support the EK-FC Terminal? It looks like it does... can you confirm?

October 11, 2014 | 08:15 AM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

How about Ares III review sometime soon?

October 14, 2014 | 04:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The Metro Last Light Frequency Comparison chart (http://www.pcper.com/files/imagecache/article_max_width/review/2014-10-0...) seems to have gotten mislabelled.

Blue is labelled GTX980 + 125%PT instead of 980GTX stock
Yellow is labelled GTX980 + 125%PT + 225MHz, instead of just GTX980 + 125%PT.

April 7, 2015 | 09:36 PM - Posted by ssiperko (not verified)

power won't be a problem on my 980 KPE's..... hurry up with the blocks for this EKWB. :drooling:

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