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Modding the EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 2.0 Graphics Card

Building a Better EVGA GTX 970 SC

Now that you've seen the attributes of the individual parts for this build, it is time to put the plan into action. There are several parts and tools necessary to complete the re-build of the EVGA GTX 970 SC graphics card, including:

  • A dremel moto-tool
  • Screwdriver with assorted-sized Phillips and Hex bits
  • Rounded and flat needle metal files
  • ENZOTECH BMR-C1 Memory Ramsinks
  • ENZOTECH BCC9 Memory Ramsinks (low profile)
  • EVGA GTX 970 SC backplate
  • Thermal compound
  • PCB/electronics-safe surface cleaner
  • Lint-free clothes

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The necessary components to modify the EVGA GTX 970 SC for liquid cooling include the WATERCOOL HeatKiller GPU-X3 GPU water block, the EVGA GTX 970 SC backplate, and the ENZOTECH copper heat sinks. The ENZOTECH heat sinks were selected because of their copper construction, size, and use of 3M-type thermal adhesive. The sinks were found to be a perfect fit for the DDR5 memory modules as well as the GPU VRMs.

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The ENZOTECH Ramsinks are constructed of solid copper with thin rods extending from the base to aid in heat dissipation when airflow applied. There are a total of 20 copper rods entending from the base, ensuring maximum heat dissipation from the cooled components. Two different sized sinks were selected because of the different thermal dissipation needs of the project. The smaller sinks are used for the DDR5 memory modules because of there lower heat generation. The larger sinks, having almost 2x the surface area of the smaller sinks, were deemed more appropriate for the GPU VMRs because of their high heat production.

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As shown in the picture of the naked GTX 970 SC, the front plate on the right side of the card intersects the DDR5 memory modules to the right of the GPU. This makes for problematic mounting of the heat sinks to the memory modules without modification to the cover plate. The board could have been run without the plate, but I chose to keep it for the extra protection it provides to the naked PCB as well as the secondary heat path for the memory VRM circuitry.

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Because of the cover plate overlapping the memory modules, a Dremel moto tool was used to cut out sections of the plate to uncover the memory modules. After cutting the sections of the cover plate, the cutout sections were filed to remove burrs from the cut sections and shaped until the ENZOTECH heat sinks fit without binding.

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The ENZOTECH Ramsinks are mounted to the GPU VRMs and DDR5 memory modules after remounting the cover plate and cleaning the surface of all modules with PCB-safe surface cleaner. I chose to use ArticClean's 2-part surface cleaner that I had on hand, but any PCB-safe cleaner will do (including high-purity Isopropyl alcohol). All heat sinks are direct mounted to the surface of the modules using the factory-installed 3M thermal tape. Prior to mounting the heat sinks to the top and bottom DDR5 memory modules, the low profile sinks must be cut down to half size to fit underneath the GPU water block (the GPU block only allows for a maximum sink height of 6mm). Note that proper mounting the first time is critical because the thermal tape cannot be reused after the initial mount.

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The ENZOTECH sinks are mounted to the DDR5 memory modules with sections of the cover plate cut to fit the heat sinks to the memory modules to the right of the GPU. The sinks fit perfectly over the surface area of the memory modules.

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The heat sinks fit perfectly over the GPU VRMs to the left of the GPU core with two sinks each adequate to cool the upper six and lower six VRMs. The surface of the VRMs is high enough to prevent contact between any PCB-mounted components or traces and the heat sink surface as well.

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Modding of the EVGA GTX 970 SC graphics card is complete are mounting the HeatKiller GPU-X3 GPU water block after applying your preferred thermal paste to the GPU core. The block is oriented so that the block liquid ports are on top of the card, to the left of the power connectors. There is no problem using the power connectors with the block mounted, even though the block looks close in proximity to them. After cutting down the upper and lower memory heat sinks, the block fits perfectly over the memory sinks.

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The EVGA GTX 970 SC backplate mounts directly to the back of the card, adding a modicum of protection to the rear-side components and memory modules. Additionally, EVGA includes thermal tape for the DDR5 memory modules for passive heat dissipation via the back plate. The HeatKiller GPU-X3 GPU water block is fixed in place with four hex nuts that extend a few millimeters above the surface of the back plate.


June 15, 2015 | 01:35 PM - Posted by arc (not verified)

Why didn't this come around when I was building a new rig so i wouldn't have to get a 980GTX for a watetblock?

June 15, 2015 | 02:51 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Now you have a 980 to try it out on?

June 16, 2015 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Arc (not verified)

I need to go back to reading the articles, its a mod not a card. /derp

June 15, 2015 | 02:50 PM - Posted by fkr

this just makes me wish all cards came with an AIO liquid cooler option, hopefully AMD's new offering will help make this a trend.

look at the performance of evga's AIO gtx980ti, and that is a reference board.

nice write up and hope all is well.

June 15, 2015 | 06:41 PM - Posted by arbiter

IMO this think looks cheesey and cheap. those stick on ram coolers, yea umm no. who knows how long they will stay stuck on to the ram before falls off and who knows what will happen.

IMO if you are gonna water cool should just go with a full coverage block my evga hydrocopper.

June 15, 2015 | 07:17 PM - Posted by Screwyluie (not verified)

I have a machine with an 8, year old gpu in it using those ramsinks and not one has budged... I think you're a bit too paranoid

June 15, 2015 | 07:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I've had great experience with Swiftech universal blocks. What I like about them is you can reuse them on any new card you go with, versus having to buy a new full coverage block every time you go to upgrade and you want to water cool.

June 25, 2015 | 01:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They pretty much do make an AIO version of the 970....But a AIO cooler and then buy the nzxt bracket to mount the cooler onto the card. It is SUPER easy to do and it dropped my temps by 20 deg

June 15, 2015 | 02:53 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Personally, I didn't see enough of the upside to do this.

June 15, 2015 | 03:00 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

You saw the load temps, right?

June 15, 2015 | 03:44 PM - Posted by Daniel S

I'm a clumsy dumb ass who has bricked a card with an aftermarket cooler. I miss the days when a watercooler could almost double performance. So I can see folks holding off, but the noise reduction is phenomenal.

June 25, 2015 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I watercooled both my 970 ftw's and have them overclocked to over stock 980 specs. I could not accomplish this without the watercooling. I don't think it doubled performance but it added a TON.

June 15, 2015 | 04:12 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Personally, I'll leave it up to the overclocking audience. My issues are mostly general user. In short- my arguments are not for the challenge of overclocking as having moved on from that interest.

Overclocking on this kind of margin is generally overcome by the next generation of video cards. The heat won't make a compelling difference in the warranty of the GPU if you don't overclock. The heat issued doesn't change very much- it's only displaced somewhere else- notable for those who pay AC. But the thing I noticed in this one was the sound. I'd have to look at a fan as well. I have to admit I've come to love my mouse quiet system and video card. I game less than I work so a handful of FPS just isn't worth it.

Well, enough of being a drug. I've decided that if I'm going to look into this effort, I want a notble bang.

PS, I have a 980- that might be fun too- if a little more pricey.

August 29, 2015 | 05:16 PM - Posted by Blair (not verified)

Mouse quiet? I don't know about that! I have a little pet rodent and He is very loud sometimes! Especially if his bowl is empty or he wants picked up. And when I am sleeping he always bangs on his wheel until I let him out, Then after I let him out he keeps me awake from jumping up and down of the bed or walking on my head! So no! Little rodents are very noisy!

June 16, 2015 | 04:41 PM - Posted by dahauns (not verified)

Well, of course they look impressive at first sight, but keep in mind: the air cooled temps are still solidly within nominal range with lots of reserve to spare, even though the cooling uses the silent profile.

And the low temps are bought with a much higher idle noise level. And yes, pcper, you can still go to Zero speed when idle, even when OC. Makes me wonder if they even tried to adjust the fan curve to achieve a stable OC with minimal noise or just went with the full blown Agressive setting (to make the watercooler look at least somewhat competitive?) - the far lower delta temps do suggest the latter.

And what for? For a ~3-3.5% increase from air to water OC, and an impressive, but ultimately pointless low delta T?
Sorry, not impressed.

June 15, 2015 | 06:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice article, although I don't think Maxwell benefits too much from improved cooling. I'd like to see the benefits on a 290X or something else whose overclocking is generally limited by temps rather than arbitrary power limits.

June 15, 2015 | 07:18 PM - Posted by Screwyluie (not verified)

I have been looking into doing something like this on just one of evga 970s, the top one gets very hot. Thanks for the write-up.

June 15, 2015 | 08:10 PM - Posted by remc86007

I have two Evga 970 SC models just like the one used here. Despite the cards running relatively cool, I can't get them past 1404Mhz reliably. They always seem fine (no artifacting and the temps are fine), but eventually after around 3hrs under load the NVidia driver fails. This doesn't happen in all games, and hilariously it doesn't happen in furmark. Is this a driver thing or are my cards just poor?

Also, I used to have stick on heatsinks on a modified X700 from years ago. I remember my memory overclock fell off a cliff one day and I opened my case to discover a few of the heatsinks sitting on the floor of the case...

June 16, 2015 | 07:45 AM - Posted by DaKrawnik

Thanks for doing this test to show us what is possible, but for the time and money that would go into something like this negates the positives imo. I already got a 1516MHz actual in-game boost clock using the stock air cooler on my GTX 970, and fan noise (auto) and temps (83C) are not an issue.

The stock fans on my H100i need to be swapped out for something quieter though...

June 16, 2015 | 08:22 AM - Posted by Vargis14 (not verified)

I have had 6 of the black cougar vortex PWM fans for a few years and I can vouch for there quietness and good airflow. They direct the air strait out of the fan,not in a cone shape like most fans do. Their build quality is fantastic and they have a very very long unrealistic lifespan listed for them of 300,000 hours.

I had them on my 4.5-5.0 ghz 2600k's original H-50 and they performed better then the enermax magma's I had on it originally but in the last 5 months I upgraded the cooler to the fantastic 38mm thinck radiator Cooler Master Nepton 140XL and it came with 2 140mm jet flow fans that are crazy loud at 80-100% but at 60% and under thy become pretty silent and they have great static pressure and even with a ambient temp around 29c the 2600k at 4660mhz tops out at 67c after 20 minutes of Intel burntest v2 with the fans at 65%

June 16, 2015 | 08:12 AM - Posted by Vargis14 (not verified)

Good review......but it definitly needed some other cards benchmarked for comparison. Like a regular 980, 290/X etc,but the regular 980 is what I think people would like to see if a 150 or so dollar GPU can hang with a higher tiered card.

Also I realize you used a waterblock you had on hand but any real water cooling fan would use a full cover waterblock, they look better and perform better buy keeping the vrms and other hotspots near ambient temperature which is paramount when pushing a card at its highest function able overclock especially if you want it to survive longer than 6 months to a year.

June 16, 2015 | 11:32 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Water cooling and modding is not just about putting things together with off the shelf parts, but experimenting with what you have to see if you can get decent performance without killing your budget.  I've been water cooling my rig for a long time (over 10 years) with many iterations in my build and cooling apparatus, so I think I more than qualify as a "real" water cooling enthusiast.  This was more of an experiment to see how well it would work, and it seemed to work pretty well in my opinion.

Thanks for the feedback though...

 

June 17, 2015 | 08:37 AM - Posted by razor512

How far can you push that card if you do the BIOS mod to increase the power limit, and voltage limit to 1.285V?

June 18, 2015 | 07:29 AM - Posted by Jason Bailey (not verified)

That's exactly what I was thinking.

Or more importantly how far can you push a Ti or Titan with a custom Bios and water cooling?

At stock you can only increase the TPD by 10% on the Ti & Titan but you can increase by 25% on the 970 & 980. So opening up that extra power could provide a very good boost.

June 17, 2015 | 05:11 PM - Posted by db87

Epic fail that the VRM's aren't watercooled, wrong water block chosen if you ask me.

June 18, 2015 | 05:48 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

I've been running 2x GTX 970 in SLI on a mATX board in a mATX case hooked up to G20 AIO liquid cooler brackets on corsair 140mm kits. They run about 40C all day even heavily overclocked. Really good set up.

June 23, 2015 | 10:49 AM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

if they sold these complete I'd think about it

March 1, 2016 | 02:32 PM - Posted by katdeskinner (not verified)

cant get my evga gtx sc past on stock cooler, but is stable

GPU 1467
MEM 3764