Introduction

Every once in a while we see some very unique approaches to graphics card designs, even more so than just a slightly modified or fan-less heat sink (like ASUS's silent 6600 GT). Many times, HSF alterations on reference designs are to cut down on heat or noise that's generated during the card's operation, but some solutions are a bit more dramatic than others.

Liquid cooling with GPUs has been around for a while now and there is a lot of debate over how practical and effective it really is. It can definitely be impressive to see a gaming setup with its processors massively overclocked and cooled with liquid nitrogen systems, but for most people this type of system is very much out of their reach. Water cooling is a little more practical, but in order for it to be anything more than a novelty (i.e. used only be a small number of enthusiasts), it has to yield practical benefits without a lot of extra cost and trouble.

In principle, water cooling has some very nice benefits. For one, there is potential for these cards to run much cooler than air cooled cards, which would allow for high overclocks. Fan noise could also be cut down drastically, as water moving through small tubes is generally far quieter than a fan blowing air. However, one thing water can't get you is temperatures lower than the ambient room, but for most people that means 25 C or less, so that should be sufficient.

Today we are looking at two cards using ATI's current top-performing solution, the X1900 XTX. One of the cards is made by Sapphire, a company known for its innovative graphics card designs. This card features a slightly different take on water cooled graphics solution, and it aims to address the address the issues many people have with assembling water cooling systems. The second card is a more traditional design from Connect3D, using the same X1900 XTX chipset. It will also as something of a baseline performance metric, since absent special cooling configurations most X1900 XTX cards will perform similarly.

These two X1900 XTXs are very different from each other and show how much variation there can be between two versions of the same graphics card, and that should make things interesting. While the Blizzard X1900 XTX may overshadow its Connect3D competitor in terms of design, performance will still be similar in many areas, provided clock speeds are the same. We'll look at overclocking potential as well as noise levels, though, and there at least we should see some more substantial differences.

Connect3D Radeon X1900 XTX
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  • Gioron - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    As soon as I saw the cooling system I had flashbacks to http://www.dansdata.com/aguatec.htm">this review and http://www.dansdata.com/thermagic.htm">this almost as bad review. There is almost no situation where the water cooling card is a good idea. There is no magic mystical power of water to cool things down, its just an easy way to transfer heat from one place to annother. In the case of most sane water cooling rigs, this means transfering the heat from the small CPU contact patch to the large efficient/quiet radiator elsewhere. You lose efficiency by adding water to the loop, but you more than make up for it with a huge unwieldy radiator that would never fit on the CPU under normal circumstances.

    However, in this situation (and in the first linked review) you're moving the heat from the processor contact to a radiator thats exactly the same size and efficiency as one you could attach directly to the processor, which means you lose efficiency moving the heat and then have no way to make up for it. As noted in the article, it does take a bit for the water to warm up which slows the temperature increase, but the final temperature MUST be higher than the temperature of the same heat sink just bolted directly onto the core. Anyone who even glanced at a thermodynamics textbook can tell you that. You may be able to get the water cooling system close to the efficiency of a normal heat sink, but you'll never exceed it and the marketing speel is complete and utter BS.

    There is, however, one possible use for this card. Some shuttle boxes have the GPU slot right next to the side of the case, preventing the installation of cards with dual slot coolers. You can use this card to move the heatsink on the other side of the card and get cooling almost as good as a dual slot cooler, but the real solution to this problem is just for the case to be constructed such that dual card coolers will actually fit. (And since I haven't looked at shuttle cases much since I bought mine, they may actually have figured this out by now, leaving this card to be completely pointless.)
    Reply
  • tekkstore - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    https://www.tekkstore.com">tekkstore.com Reply
  • tekkstore - Monday, April 17, 2006 - link

    https://www.tekkstore.com">tekkstore.com Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, April 12, 2006 - link

    quote:

    One of the purported benefits of the Blizzard water cooled X1900 XTX is that it will supposedly generate significantly less noise than an air cooled solution. We measured the sound levels of both cards and found that this is NOT in fact the case.


    Fixed it for you. The numbers listed indicate they are both very loud and neither would be appropriate for a quiet system or HTPC.
    Reply
  • jmke - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    Hello, are these "A" weighed? Reply
  • jmke - Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - link

    forgot to ask; at what distance? was the card inside a case? Reply
  • haelduksf - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    "Bigger reservoir = more heat capacity" is a common myth, but a myth none the less. Adding more water to a loop doesn't result in any meaningful increase in heat capacity, and a larger res usually puts more strain on your pump to boot. Reply
  • NegativeEntropy - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    I think what you menat was more water does not equal lower temps. By definition more coolant does indeed increase the total heat capacity of the system assuming the same fluid. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Exactly, which is what was intended in this article.If you have a gallon of water vs. a quart of water, both at 25 C, the gallon can absorb 4X as much heat before turning to vapor (not that you'd ever get it that hot with a computer system....) Taken to the extreme, you could have a system sucking water from the ocean and spewing back slightly warmer water into the ocean, and it would never really change the ocean's temperature. The only extra strain on a pump would be if the pump has to pull/push water through more pipes. Reply
  • z3R0C00L - Monday, April 10, 2006 - link

    Actually adding more water can make a difference provided you have a larger heat dissipator (radiator).

    But I do agree adding more water does not mean better temps.. you need a larger dissipator to remove the heat from that extra water. At least using the logic I have an x1900XT clocked at 750/1700 using water and no voltage tweaks or increases.
    Reply

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