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What gaming graphics card should I buy (possibly water cooled)?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
June 19, 2010 12:02:31 PM

Hi, I'm replacing my GTX 280 which was rather disappointing as it became hot enough to fry eggs on (presumably - I didn't actually try this!) and eventually died, presumably from overheating. I hear the 280 is outperformed by the GTX 275 and hotter than the 285 anyway, so I don't want more of the same.

I've always been NVidia but am open to ATI cards, I heard the Radeon 5830 is powerful but haven't found it on sale anywhere. I'm looking for a very powerful graphics card for gaming on the highest graphics settings and one that will last a few years into the future. I don't need the absolute best but it does need to run reasonably cool due to my case being full of wires and despite 4 clean case fans I've had problems with overheating.

My system is currently water-cooled and runs through an old VGA water block anyway so I am open to a water-cooled graphics card, ideally one that is sold together with a dedicated water block. So I have two questions to anyone kind enough to throw some suggestions my way:

(1) What's a good gaming graphics card that is at least as powerful as the GTX 280 but runs cooler?

(2) What's a good alternative as a powerful water-cooled graphics card for which dedicated water blocks are sold (or even better if retailers ship it with the water block)?

Thanks and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
June 19, 2010 12:04:17 PM

Oh and for system information, it's to go with an Asus M4A79T Deluxe motherboard and AMD Phenom 2 X4 955 Black Edition processor together with 8 x 2 Gb Corsair DDR3 1333 MHz RAM, running Windows 7 64-bit OS.
June 19, 2010 12:08:15 PM

Oh forgot PSU, it's 850W Coolermaster. Price-wise anything £200-400 would be best, though can go either side of that - I don't want the best but I do want better than my existing GTX 280. I'm in the UK. Think that's all the info needed!
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a c 1378 U Graphics card
a c 279 4 Gaming
June 19, 2010 12:32:56 PM

HD5970 is outside your budget. HD5850 is more powerful than GTX280 but HD5870 would be a better upgrade. Both run cooler than GTX280. A GTX470/80 would be an upgrade but runs hotter than the GTX280. Those are the cards that are better than your GTX280 every thing else is less powerful (leaving out cards like GTX285 GTX295)
June 19, 2010 12:50:32 PM

Thanks, so if I go air-cooled it sounds like the HD 5870 would be the one to go for. I heard that the GTX 285/295 are cooler than the 280 and more powerful, but as you point out not much of an upgrade.

If anyone has an idea as to water-cooled I'd love to know. The only card I've ever seen sold with a water-cooled block attached was the GTX 280. I'd love to know if there are more cards sold with water blocks out there (or where to find this out?)
a c 125 U Graphics card
June 19, 2010 12:55:21 PM

I've got a 5850 under water, however I brought the water block and card seperately and assembled it myself

You'll need a reference HD5850/70 if you want to add a waterblock to it. One like this

And the waterblock

Personally I dnt think the HD5870 is worth an extra £90 above the HD5850, especially if you intend to overclock (which I gather you do).
June 19, 2010 12:57:19 PM

Thanks, it's good to know someone with a working water-cooled combination.

I don't intend to overclock it, I'd just like to have a working PC for once :) 
a c 125 U Graphics card
June 19, 2010 1:57:16 PM

Oh then there's not much point in watercooling for you. The stock cooler is fairly good and quiet under 35% fan speed (which is enough to keep it cool at stock speed.)
June 19, 2010 1:59:32 PM

True, the water cooling is rather a long story, but it's there now and the tube loops through a VGA block so it's actually going to be simpler to install a water cooled graphics card now than an air cooled one. I guess it gives me the option to overclock at some point in the future.

Incidentially the four 140mm case fans on the radiator more than counteract the quietness of the water cooling!
a c 125 U Graphics card
June 19, 2010 2:10:36 PM

Fair enough, like you said, if you ever want to overclock then you can very easily, my 5850 @1000 Core and 1200Mem idles at 25C and loads at 39C :) 

I just brought 3 120mm fans for my rad, but there really loud! :(  mean't to be 20DB, sounds more like 60DB

If your not overclocking then I guess you could get some silent fans, your temps will still be better than air, and your PC will be pretty much silent!
June 20, 2010 9:45:19 AM

Omgitzfatal - what do you mean by a "reference" ATI card? Is that a specific type compatible with water blocks?
June 20, 2010 10:03:49 AM

Ok I've worked out it's a design type. But apparently the HD 5870 has an epoxied heatsink which from what I've read is tough to remove and can damage your board in the process! I think it would be a lot easier if one of these retailers shipped out water block ready cards! Do the GTX 295 and 470+ have epoxied resin heatsinks to remove too?
a c 125 U Graphics card
June 20, 2010 1:19:30 PM

You got a picture or link that shows the "expoxied resin heatsinks" as I've never heard of that before....

A reference card is a card that hasn't been changed at all, for example some brands like sapphire or XFX may design their own heatsink/cooler or their own PCB, the waterblocks are designed for reference cards only and so are only compatible with reference cards.

This is a reference card:

See how it has the original cooler on it, everything about it is stock.

This is a non-reference card:

Note the aftermarket cooler made by ASUS.