On the heels of our recent review of EVGA’s GTX 780 Classified graphics card, today we’re going to take a look at an eagerly anticipated accessory for said card – the Hydro Copper Waterblock. As we all know by now, overclocking Kepler-based graphics cards can be limited by GPU temperature and power target limits. This especially holds true when higher voltages are applied to the GPU. In an effort to take away the worry of reaching the maximum temperature threshold while overclocking, and at the same time appease the water cooling crowd, EVGA has made available the Hydro Copper Waterblock. As we found out in our review of the GTX 780 Classified, the stock ACX air cooler does an admirable job in its own right; but let’s find out how much better temperatures are kept under control using the Hydro Copper Waterblock.
Specifications and Features
There isn’t a whole lot of technical information available on the EVGA website, but here is what’s available.
First, the marketing blurb from EVGA.
“Upon first glance you will notice this is no ordinary water block, this is a full cover- end to end block, with illuminated EVGA logo on the side. The innovation does not stop at stability and appearance however; the base plate is made of chrome plated electrolytic C110 copper, and the 0.25mm x 0.35mm thin pin matrix provides optimal thermal transfer to ensure the lowest temperatures possible.”
Some other high-level features include the following.
- Superior Full Copper Design
- Created from a solid copper block, this choice of material allows for extreme thermal conductivity, thus providing the best thermal performance available for liquid cooling.
- High Flow Liquid Design
- Internal high flow liquid paths allow for coolant to get in and get heat out as quickly and as sufficiently as possible.
- Full Component Coverage
- Integrated Internal Pressure Points
- Glowing EVGA Logo
- Chrome Plated Electrolytic C110 Copper
… And some fancy graphics are in order to further elaborate on the features!
Full Cover Design
A full cover design means a complete end to end block. No tricks here. This ensures the card does not bend, provides ideal thermal transfer for the entire card, and looks awesome!
Chrome-plated C110 copper
Copper is the ideal material for thermal transfer, we use specialized copper that helps transfer thermals effectively, and also designed in a way to minimize weight.
0.25mm x 0.35mm thin-pin matrix
These pins help transfer heat from the GPU to the liquid, allowing for the ultimate performance in GPU cooling!
Glowing EVGA Logo
Glowing EVGA logo looks great, and is supported by EVGA software that allows fine tuning of the LED.
Up to six different barb configurations gives you the utmost in flexibility for routing your tubing.
Custom Compression Fittings
Includes both 3/8″ and 1/2″ compression fittings. No hose clamps required.
Packaging and a Close Up Look
Our review sample came in a generic brown box with an EVGA logo on it. EVGA was kind enough to also send along the appropriate backing plate required for proper installation. You’ll definitely want to get the backing plate to help stiffen the card, this waterblock is heavy!
Opening the waterblock box, we find the installation manual and the GPU shim sitting on top. Under the top protective foam is the Hydro Copper Waterblock securely nestled in a foam bed of its own. The accessories are tucked into pockets that protect them as well.
The accessories include two each of 3/8″ and 1/2″ compression fittings, two plugs, a bag of mounting screws, and a tube of Swiftech TIM-MATE2 thermal paste.
The Hydro Copper Waterblock has a peel off plastic film applied to the front and back to protect it during transportation. Our first few pictures show the top side at a couple different angles – it’s big, it’s beefy, it’s extremely well made, and it looks plain awesome! The markings on the front corner reveal that EVGA has employed Swiftech to manufacture the Hydro Copper Waterblock, which is widely regarded as one of the premier water cooling manufacturers in the world.
The Hydro Copper Waterblock has been designed so the compression fittings can be installed on top, bottom, or one in each location. Once you make that decision, simply seal off the unused openings with the two included plugs. Because the block uses the industry standard G1/4 thread size, you have the ability to use just about any fitting you wish.
The bottom of the Hydro Copper Waterblock is made from chrome plated copper and is polished to a mirror finish. All the thermal pads have been pre-applied for ease of installation.
The backplate packaging is a simplistic approach with the item protected in a bubble wrap pouch. Included with the backplate are a bag of screws needed for installation and an installation guide.
The first thing that needs to be done is to remove the stock ACX cooler. This requires removing a total of 20 screws from the back of the card. Put the screws in a safe place because you won’t be using any of them for the waterblock installation. Once the screws are removed, lift the ACX cooler off carefully because you’ll need to unplug the fan wire from the PCB. After the ACX Cooler is removed, you can remove the reinforcement baseplate leaving you with the bare PCB. At this point, you can clean the TIM off the GPU and check that all the thermal pads came off the memory when you removed the reinforcement baseplate.
Next, apply some TIM to the GPU core and remove the protective film on the Hydro Copper Waterblock. There is also a protective film applied to the thermal pads, so make sure to remove that too. Now, set the GPU shim on the PCB and secure it from the back of the PCB with the appropriate screws. You’ll remove these GPU shim screws and reinstall them when it’s time for the backplate, but this temporarily keeps the GPU shim from sliding around when you set the waterblock in place. Now simply set the waterblock in place, then flip the card over so you have access to the back of the PCB again. Remove the four screws we used to hold the GPU shim in place and set the backplate over the PCB. Using the screws that came in the waterblock kit, begin installing all the screws. Two installation notes are in order. First, a long silver screw needs to be installed at the upper corner before the backplate is set in place. Second, a screw/washer/nut combo will need to be installed to secure the I/O bracket before setting the waterblock in place.
The installation process is really quite simple and only takes five to ten minutes to complete. If you want to see a more detailed description of the installation process, the manual can be downloaded from the EVGA website.
I chose to incorporate the Hydro Copper Waterblock into my existing loop, which up to this point was only cooling the CPU. With a 360 mm radiator, three Panaflo 120×38 mm ultra high speed fans, and a MCP35X pump, I figured that was enough to handle the situation. In fact, it may well represent how the vast majority of people would install the Hydro Copper Waterblock. However, if you have two or more of these cards outfitted with the Hydro Copper Waterblock, you probably want to consider a separate loop, or at least adding a second radiator to your existing setup. I chose to use some fittings I already had because a 90° elbow worked better on my bench station. Don’t think for a second that the included fittings are less than top quality though. They are excellent compression fittings that I wouldn’t hesitate to use where straight fittings are needed.
Testing will be short and sweet actually. I’m simply going to use the voltage manipulation utility that’s floating around and test cooling performance at three different voltages – stock, 1.25 V, and 1.35 V. I’ll also throw in the results at my 24/7 stable GPU overclock of 1396 MHz, also set to 1.35 V. All testing was performed in a 75 °F (24 °C) ambient environment and normalized accordingly. We’ll use EVGA’s own OC Scanner software and its built in “GPU Burn In” utility to measure temperatures. The GPU Burn In utility really heats up the GPU core, especially when additional voltage is added.
I ran each session of GPU Burn In for five minutes under each of the scenarios depicted in the graph below, which basically means idle and load testing. The fan control for the ACX cooler was set to 100%, and the water cooling radiator fans were also set to 100%. This will give us an idea of the maximum cooling effect each setup delivers. One other caveat to be aware of is the stock voltage testing, which starts at 0.8625 V, but ramps up to a little over 1.1 V once under load. Once we start using the voltage manipulation tool, the voltage stays constant throughout. As you’ll see in the graph below, the load temperature differences are quite staggering.
You’ll notice most tests showed the Hydro Copper Waterblock cutting the load temperatures darn near in half when compared to the stock ACX cooler. It definitely stopped the throttling I was encountering when the higher voltages were used. Amazing performance all the way around for the Hydro Copper Waterblock!
So, you may be asking if it helped with overclocking… The answer is a resounding YES! When I reviewed the GTX 780 Classified in its stock condition, I was only able to get up to 1345 MHz on the core; but that required dropping the memory speed back down to its stock speed of 1502 MHz (6008 Quad Pumped). A couple of weeks after the initial review was published, I found a pretty good BIOS that allowed a much higher power target. However, even with that I couldn’t get past 1396 Mhz, and I still had to leave the memory at stock speeds for it to be stable (Forum post here).
Now that the Hydro Copper Waterblock is installed, I’ve been able to get the GPU core speed up to 1436 MHz; and the memory now overclocks to 1802 MHz (7208 MHz Quad Pumped). That’s a pretty impressive bump in performance, which I think can be improved on even more when time permits. For now though, here is a run of 3dMark Fire Strike and HWBot Heaven at the new speeds.
The above overclock number are all fine and dandy, but what if you don’t want to use the voltage tool or a modified BIOS? If you remember back to the review of the card with the stock ACX cooler, the best overclock I could get without the voltage tool and a modified BIOS was 1293 MHz GPU and 1602 MHz memory. With the Hydro Copper Waterblock installed I was able to get a 1371 MHz GPU and 1752 MHz memory overclock. I did use the modified BIOS, but toned it down to match the stock LN2 BIOS that comes as a stock BIOS option. Anyone can duplicate these setting by simply using the available options within EVGA’s PrecisionX software. No BIOS or Voltage hacks required! Here is a quick run of 3DMark Fire Strike at these settings.
During the process of overclocking with the Hydro Copper Waterblock installed, I learned a couple of things many of you might find interesting. First, even though you can set the GPU temperature threshold up to 95 °C, that doesn’t mean you GPU will remain stable up to that temperature. I say this because GPU speeds that were unstable with the ACX cooler are now perfectly stable, even though the ACX cooler kept the temperatures well below the 95 °C threshold. Secondly, added cooling for the memory really helps to get the most from it. With the Hydro Copper Waterblock installed, big gains in memory overclocking with, and without, the modified BIOS and voltage tool were achievable. So, while the ACX cooler does a great job for an air cooling solution, it may not allow you to get the best clock speeds from your video card.
While this particular review was on the Hydro Copper Waterblock for the GTX 780 Classified, similar Hydro Copper units are available for the GTX Titan, GTX 770 Classified, and the non Classified GTX 780. I’m sure the same level of performance can be expected with any of those options too, as they are the same basic unit with only application differences. EVGA sells the Hydro Copper Waterblocks directly from their web store, and the GTX 780 Classified version reviewed here sells for $149.99. You will also want to pick up the backplate for an additional $19.99. It really finishes off the look of the card and also provides the needed support for a heavy waterblock like this. So, in the end, you’ll have a $170.00 investment… Is it worth it? In my opinion, when you spend $700 for a graphics card like this in the first place, what’s another $170, right? It provided improved overclocking with stock BIOS options and really allowed some great overclocking when the voltage tool and a modified BIOS were thrown in the mix. When available, the GTX 780 Classified Hydro Copper version is the way to go because it’s less expensive than buying the card and waterblock separately. However, if you were an early adopter and purchased one of the cards the Hydro Copper Waterblock fits, then I’d say it’s a worthy investment based on the cooling performance and added overclocking potential it affords.
The quality and workmanship of the Hydro Copper Waterblock is apparent from the moment you lay your hands on it. It truly is a finely crafted piece of hardware. If you’re looking to get the absolute most from your EVGA video card (short of going LN2), then you should seriously consider picking up one of the Hydro Copper Waterblocks – you won’t be disappointed!