EKWB GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming Full Cover Waterblock Review

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EKWB has released a lot of great cooling solutions be it CPU blocks, GPU blocks, other parts for a loop, or entire custom loop kits. We previously reviewed the EK full cover block made for the 295×2, and with good results in our loop. Today we are going to look at another high-performance, full cover water block made especially for GIGABYTE’s monster GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming card. The EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG reviewed here actively cools the GPU, vRAM, and VRM’s with water flowing directly over top of them. If this is anything like the results we saw before, things are are going to get a lot cooler around here!

Retail Packaging

Checking out the slideshow below, you will see the packaging the EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG comes in. If you have seen or purchased any EK product over the past couple of years, you will recognize the familiar packaging with the off white and orange combination. The front of the box shows the EK branding as well as the model number of the block inside while the back shows some high-level technical data and what is included inside the box.

When you slide the sleeve off the inner packaging you are greeted with an “EK Orange” box which contains the block and included parts. Inside you will receive:

  • EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG water block
  • Mounting mechanism with screw-in brass standoffs
  • Thermal pads
  • Thermal grease EK-TIM Ectotherm (1 g)

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Meet the EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG

Our first clean shots of the block below reveal EK has sent us the EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG – nickel with the acetal see-through top. The nickel is polished to a nice mirror finish on the side we see through the acetal. As mentioned in the introduction, the block covers the GPU, vRAM, and the VRM’s offering a complete solution for cooling everything relevant on the GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming. The ports are your typical G1/4 so you can use any size fitting which threads into G1/4.

I have to admit, I don’t follow EK too closely so seeing acetal extending past the ‘business ends’ of the block covering other parts was a first for me. It looks pretty good without a PCB behind it… I have to imagine it looks better with one!

Flipping the block over to the ‘business end’ you will see the mirror finish for the ram, but the VRM portion has a machined finish.

Front

Front

Alternate 1

Alternate 1

Alternate 2

Alternate 2

Back

Back

Close Up

Close Up

Installation

Installation was quite easy following their included instructions. You simply remove the stock heatsink and backplate, cut and apply the included thermal pads to fit on the VRM’s and memory, apply the included EK TIM (or your own), and mount the block to the card.

The most difficult thing about getting this together was trying to get the film off the included thermal pads… cutting my nails the night before really didn’t help things out! But after fumbling with those, it was easy breezy. In all, it took me around 15-20 minutes from removing the first screw from the stock cooler, to putting on the the last one. Below are photos of the installation process.

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Test System, Methods, and Results

Test Setup
CPU Intel i7 5820K @ 4.2 GHz, 1.2V
Cooling System Custom Loop with EK LTZ CPU Block, Swiftech MCP655 Vario, Swiftech MCR320 + PA 120.2, 3x Yate Loon High @ 1K RPM
Motherboard ASRock X99 OC Formula
RAM Kingston Hyper X 4x4GB DDR4 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35
Graphics Card GIGABYTE GTX 980Ti Xtreme – Stock and 1489 MHz (actual boost)/2000 MHz @ 1.23V
Hard Drive Samsung 950 Pro (512 GB)
Power Supply EVGA Supernova G2 750W
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64
Benchmarks Furmark, Battlefield 4, Star Wars: Battlefront
Equipment, Utilities
Digital Multi-meter, Weather Center (ambient temperatures – normalized to 21°C), Realtemp, GPUz

Method

For this set of testing, using the stock cooler, I ran each test/played each game for at least 30 minutes in order to saturate the heatsink in my environment. When using the EK water block, all tests were run for an hour to allow the cooling system to normalize to the heatloads it was receiving. Tests were performed at stock overclocks for the GPU, then the overclock listed in the specifications above.

Results

Results with the EKWB are listed in the graphs below. We can see the Windforce cooler already does a heck of a job in keeping the 250 W card cool. The Windforce cooler, like many others, doesn’t spin up until temperatures hit 60 °C so its dead silent until a significant load (think gaming) hits the GPU. Even then, it was still whisper quiet with the fan ramping up to around 57% in Furmark, less in other less stressful and more realistic situations. But, this isn’t about the stock cooler, this is about the water block EKWB made for the GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming.

At stock speeds and voltages (1405 MHz actual on the core 1.18 V), the idle temperatures were 5 °C less than the Windforce cooler (again the fans were off). I played my favorite first person shooter, Battlefield 4, and the temperatures reached 56 °C. This was 13 °C less than the Windforce cooler. In Star Wars: Battlefront, temperatures hit 55 °C under the EK block, again 13 °C less than the Windforce cooler. Moving on to our resident GPU killer, Furmark, temperatures reached 65 °C under water while hitting 72 °C on the Windforce cooler. A difference of 7 °C there.

Stock GPU Speeds

Stock GPU Speeds

After overclocking the card (1489 MHz actual @ 1.23 V) you will see the water block start to pull away a bit from the already formidable Windforce cooler. Nothing changed while idle, remember the card clocks down to 2D clocks and voltages), so we will skip that.

Moving on to the games, BF4 only raised 1 °C over the stock results versus the Windforce going up 3 °C. This yields a difference while overclocked of 15 °C (versus 13 °C stock). Star Wars: Battlefront actually showed the same temperatures in this round of testing for the water block (55 °C), but the Windforce went up a couple of degrees to 73 °C from 68 °C. I am not sure why the result ended up that way, but it was retested a couple of times over multiple days (adjusted for ambient temperature differences). Last, but not least, is Furmark. Here we see a meager increase of 1 °C over the stock clocks when using the water block while the Windforce cooler jumped up 4 °C.

Overall performance was much better than air; as would be expected with a water cooling loop having enough radiator to do so. I didn’t focus too much on a direct comparison as every system will be different. But make no mistake about it, it works just fine.

Overclocked GPU Speeds

Overclocked GPU Speeds

Conclusion

Wrapping things up here, EKWB came out with another great looking part in their EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG which is made specifically for the GIGABYTE GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming card. In my cooling loop, it knocked temperatures down on load by at least 13 °C in gaming and 7 °C in stress testing with Furmark over its stock cooling solution. Mind you, this was not against a reference cooler but a pretty formidable cooler in their triple fan Windforce cooler, native to this card.

In my opinion, the EKWB solutions have always looked pretty good and this is not change here. With the nickel/acetal model we have, you can see the path the water takes through the block. New, to me, are the acetal “overhangs” on each side of the block showing the PCB underneath. I am used to seeing them completely covered with other blocks I have used (the 295×2 block).

Pricing on the EK-FC980 GTX Ti XG show $137.99 on their website. The backplate will run you another $34.49 if you choose to put one on. The factory cooling on the card includes one and even has a thermal pad for additional cooling, but it didn’t appear to have an averse affects running without it. It was warm to the touch, but not hot or alarming. As far as other blocks to compare it to, currently there isn’t one, at least in full coverage anyway. So, if you want to watercool the GIGABYTE GTX 980Ti Xtreme with a full cover block, you have no choice! Good thing EK blocks are usually a great choice anyway. This product is Overclockers.com approved!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

What Does This Mean? Click to Find Out!

Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. Nice article ED. :thup:

    I will only add, if your rad fans were in the 1800-2200 RPM range on the testing, I'm sure your H20 temps would have decreased even more and increased the gap between the air cooler but than again, you'll just be adding more noise to the loop, that's if the user wants the most cooling done possible or find a medium, like you have, in keeping it silent.