Corsair doesn't like tackling a new market unless it can offer a premium product. So when the company wanted to make a graphics card, it partnered with MSI to create a high-end stunner.
Corsair is obviously a well-known company in the PC hardware space. The company started off making memory, but has expanded its portfolio to include cases, power supplies, closed-loop water coolers and peripherals. Most recently, Corsair added a graphics card to its line-up: the Hydro GFX, a liquid-cooled GeForce GTX 980 Ti born of a partnership with MSI.
Rather than simply providing its cooler to MSI (similar to what Cooler Master did with AMD's Radeon R9 Fury X), Corsair is branding the Hydro GFX under its own name. But for all intents and purposes, the card is identical to MSI's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Sea Hawk, right down to the MSI logos plastered all over it.
Nvidia's reference GeForce GTX 980 Ti is rated for a 1000MHz core clock rate. The Corsair Hydro GFX, with its hybrid air/liquid-cooler, ships at 1190MHz. Moreover, Corsair tells us that there should be plenty of room to overclock, too. Like other 980 Tis, the Hydro GFX includes 6GB of GDDR5. Corsair's implementation is tweaked slightly. Whereas the reference memory subsystem has a 7 GT/s data rate, this card is rated at 7.1 GT/s. Again, we're assured that there's plenty of room to go higher (8 GT/s was thrown around as a conceivable goal).
The Corsair Hydro GFX features a hybrid cooler that combines a standard blower-style fan with Corsair's H55 120mm closed-loop solution. While we're expecting impressive thermal performance, the result of this marriage is aesthetically boring. Both the Hydro GFX and MSI GTX 980 Ti Sea Hawk are some of the plainest-looking cards we've seen recently. Other than the two tubes leading from the card to the radiator, Corsair's Hydro GFX actually looks remarkably similar to Nvidia's reference design.
The shroud is made of a black plastic material that envelops most of the card. The only points of ingress are an opening on the back that exposes the heat sinks and the centrifugal fan's intake. There's also a clear window through the middle of the shroud, which gives you a view of the closed-loop cooler's pump.
Horizontally-oriented heat sink fins on the back of the card are cooled by air that exhausts out the rear. Heated air can actually escape from both ends, but there is a much larger opening that goes back into your case. Corsair and MSI tell us the blower fan is there to help cool the VRMs and memory modules, rather than leave their fate to passive heat sinks. Meanwhile, the H55 takes care of Nvidia's GM200 GPU. The back of the Hydro GFX's PCB is covered by an aluminum plate to help dissipate thermal energy.
The Hydro GFX's 1190MHz core frequency isn't the fastest we've seen (that honor still belongs to Gigabyte's GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming). Still, this is clearly an aggressively overclocked implementation. It's also likely that the effective cooling solution will allow for GPU Boost clock rates in excess of Corsair's advertised 1291MHz.
Despite the extra cooling, there is still just one six- and one eight-pin power connector feeding the Hydro GFX. On the other end of the card's top edge, you'll find two SLI interfaces, enabling two-, three- and four-way configurations.
The top edge of the card is also where you'll find two tubes leading to a 120mm radiator. Rather than bare rubber hoses, Corsair adds a braided weave that's soft to the touch and won't get snagged easily. It's also a lot prettier than black rubber.
The radiator measures 120x120x25mm, and it has a single Corsair SP120 fan attached to it featuring four white LEDs that illuminate the blades as they spin.
MSI and Corsair stuck with Nvidia's reference arrangement of video outputs, including one DVI-I connector, full-sized HDMI and three DisplayPort outputs.
The Hydro GFX measures 10.5 inches from the mounting bracket to the other end, and is just shy of four inches tall. The card is also fairly narrow. It fits well within the space afforded by two expansion slots, occupying 1.5 inches at its thickest point.
Weighing a liquid-cooled card is a little trickier than an integrated air-cooled board. In this case, the card and radiator together tip the scales at 1302 grams, which is less than Gigabyte's GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming. But without being able to disconnect the two parts, it's hard to isolate just the graphics card. With the radiator on a table next to the scale, we estimate the board alone weighs 898 grams.
Our sample came packaged in a Corsair-branded box, but you'd never guess this was a Corsair product by looking at the container's contents. There is an MSI sticker on the centrifugal fan's hub, a large MSI logo etched into the acrylic window and an illuminated MSI logo on the top edge, next to the SLI connectors. There's even a small logo stamped into the steel I/O bracket.
The only places you'll find Corsair branding are on the SP120 fan covering the radiator and on top of the partially-hidden pump. This isn't necessarily important, other than to suggest the design is predominantly MSI's. Even the driver disc, user manual and PCIe adapter packaging have MSI branding.
You won't find any extras bundled with Corsair's Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 980 Ti.