Corsair Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 980 Ti Review

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).

Specifications

MORE: Best Graphics Cards For The Money
MORE: All Graphics Content
MORE: Graphics Cards in the Forum

Product 360

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.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
27 comments
    Your comment
  • envy14tpe
    These liquid cooled GPUs are cool, but why are they so fugly? I have yet to see one where the cables and style look good for the price. I'd rather slap a custom loop on a non liquid cooled GPU.
    0
  • toddybody
    These hybrid coolers are just plain ugly.

    Why can't nVidia/board partners design a conventional block/pump as with the FuryX?

    For the money, I'd rather buy a KINGPIN 980ti or CLASSIFIED...and would probably reach a higher OC because of it's improved PCB and power delivery.
    2
  • clonazepam
    Kevin Carbotte, thank you so much for the article.

    I'm really curious about this cooler. It's funny, I was just thinking about these Corsair coolers and what it might do for my reference Titan X. I've obviously hit the exact same clocks and performance level as the card in the article, prior to the voltage increase. I hit the power limit wall of 1370Mhz boost, with +390 on the memory, and being reference, less than 10 degrees to spare.

    What I'm curious about is the additional performance gained from the voltage increase and hitting that boost of 1500Mhz. The gain from a Firestrike score of like 19500 to 20300 or something doesn't seem like much. The nerd in me though would probably justify the upgrade price just as an excuse to tinker with the card and all that.

    How much do you think you gained from a power limited overclock to going all out?
    2
  • junkeymonkey
    I thought them seahawk cards were pulled due to the Asetek lawsuits ??

    that card been long gone
    https://pcpartpicker.com/part/msi-video-card-gtx980tiseahawk

    any updates on that would be nice to update me ....


    toms OLD review of this card from 2015

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/msi-corsair-gtx-980ti-announced,30104.html
    0
  • clonazepam
    Anonymous said:
    I thought them seahawk cards were pulled due to the Asetek lawsuits ??

    that card been long gone
    https://pcpartpicker.com/part/msi-video-card-gtx980tiseahawk

    any updates on that would be nice to update me ....


    Its sold as a Corsair graphics card, directly from Corsair's own store.
    -1
  • sillynilly
    I'm so confused - you say: "But because it doesn't appear commercially available, we can't consider it much more than an exhibition."

    However, it is listed for sale on Corsair's site for direct sale at $699.99.
    0
  • ern88
    Hope to see the GPU hierarchy again soon
    0
  • JackNaylorPE
    I really don't see the "surprise" here with the card being made by MSI .... someone else makes most of Corsair's products. It's disappointing to see a cooler review without a discussion of radiator material, presence of mixed metals nor fan rpm.

    In addition, the comparison between an overclocked Corsair / MSI card that manages beats down the Gigabyte G1 "outta the box" is not exactly "apples and apples". Head to head, both overclocked or both "outta the box", the G1 (and numerous other cards) take the performance crown and they do so while running quieter.

    "Ultimately, we found a compromise with the GPU set to 1260MHz, GPU Boost at 1361MHz"

    Gigabtye G1 1310 / 1399
    http://tpucdn.com/reviews/Gigabyte/GTX_980_Ti_G1_Gaming/images/gpuz_oc.gif

    MSI Gaming 1280 / 1381
    http://tpucdn.com/reviews/MSI/GTX_980_Ti_Gaming/images/gpuz_oc.gif

    "Gigabyte's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Xtreme Gaming is slightly less noisy, but Corsair's temperature advantage **justifies** its slight deficit in our acoustic measurements."

    Justifies ? In what way ? The user is impacted in a real and measurable way by the additional noise. In what way does the user benefit, other than bragging rights at 50C ? Let's keep in mind that many 9xx series fans turn off their fans below 65C because manufacturers so need to have the noise below this temperature and the air cooled, overclocked G1 tops out at just 71C OC'd at load. A 2,000 pound rated hoist will get the same job done lifting a 1,000 pound load as a 5,000 pound rated hoist.

    http://tpucdn.com/reviews/Gigabyte/GTX_980_Ti_G1_Gaming/images/temp.gif

    If the OC will be limited in any way by temperatures, it's going to be via the conventionally cooled VRM rather than the 50C GPU. While 50C is a testament to the cooler design, as a "whole card", the hybrids bring nothing to the table for the additional $110, No performance throttling will occur until the card hits the 85Cthrottling point. It should also be noted that the G1 idles at 27C almost half as loud as the Hybrid.

    I'm not against water cooling. I'm against consumers being duped into buying an C:LC type cooler for implied gains that are never materialized. I make these comments typing from a box with two watercooled cards (EK Blocks), 5 x 140m of rad in push / pull, and dual DDC pumps, I did it because I wanted a dead silent system, not because I expected better performance out of the video cards. The cards GPU runs about 44C under Furmark while fans remain inaudible... at 1200 rpm, I can hit 39C but as there is nothing to be gained from going so, I'll take the silence. The cards are overclocked 26% which is the max stable OC I was able to obtain with these particular cards. Best we have done on air with this card series was 28%.
    1
  • hardarse7
    The GTX 1080 is *RIGHT* around the corner (April/May), with 2x performance per watt over the current cards. And the 1080Ti is going to have HBM2, probably in June. Why would anyone buy a GPU now with Pascal about to drop?
    1
  • JackNaylorPE
    I think those expectations are extremely optimistic. While we expect the announcement in May / June ... we will 1st see the reference cards some time after that and then the non-refernce ones we actually want to buy some time again after that. The 980 Ti was released 9 months after the 980 ... I'd expect no faster delivery of the next Ti.
    2
  • hardarse7
    Anonymous said:
    I think those expectations are extremely optimistic. While we expect the announcement in May / June ... we will 1st see the reference cards some time after that and then the non-refernce ones we actually want to buy some time again after that. The 980 Ti was released 9 months after the 980 ... I'd expect no faster delivery of the next Ti.


    "The rumors has finally been confirmed - NVIDIA Pascal GTX 1080 will be announced at GPU Technology Conference (GTC) 2016 which is scheduled this April 4 to 7, and will be made available to the public the following month at Computex 2016." - article I found via google.

    The only thing they are waiting for (for Ti) is HBM2 and Samsung started mass manufacturing it in January. Why would they do that if the release is nine months away?
    0
  • JackNaylorPE
    "will be announced" does not equal release... available to the public is code for what is oft called "paper release" ... some will be released but in extremely small quantities. These are the ones that you don't wnat to buy as:

    a) Most will be reference cards
    b) They will all be "1st steppings", in response to user issues, later revisions will follow
    c) why did they wait so long with the 7xx and 9xx series ? They had the Ti designs ready to go from the getgo.

    It was widely rumored that nVidia renumbered their lineup with the 7xx series after seeing what AMD released. The original 760 became the 770, the 770 became the 780 and the 780 sat in the shelf until AMD released their R9 290x... which is why the 780 Ti was dropped so quickly thereafter. I see nVidia following the same strategy here ... just as they did with the 7xx and 9xx series. If your 2nd tier card outperforms the competition's top tier card, why compete with yourself ? I see nVidia hanging on to their "ace in the hole" until such time as they **need** to pull it out.
    3
  • 10tacle
    Anonymous said:
    "The rumors has finally been confirmed - NVIDIA Pascal GTX 1080 will be announced at GPU Technology Conference (GTC) 2016 which is scheduled this April 4 to 7, and will be made available to the public the following month at Computex 2016." - article I found via google.

    The only thing they are waiting for (for Ti) is HBM2 and Samsung started mass manufacturing it in January. Why would they do that if the release is nine months away?


    Micron has a corporate statement saying they are only just in the beginning the phase to ramp up GDDR5x memory production. It is all but carved in stone that the first releases of Pascal will use that memory due to HBM2 fab delays. There is no logistical way Micron can crank out the memory necessary having only just now started ramping up fabs to make a GTX 1080 (or whatever) available in mass production in two months.

    In any event, these high end 980Ti all-in-the-box water solution GPUs are really not a bad idea considering we are likely still a year or so away from the replacement of it with Pascal (based on the 980Ti and 780Ti release patterns from Nvidia). Nice to see these reviews, and these products, are still out there for the interest as the sunrise of an entire new generation is on the horizon.

    Thanks again for a great review Kevin!
    1
  • hardarse7
    Anonymous said:
    "will be announced" does not equal release... available to the public is code for what is oft called "paper release" ... some will be released but in extremely small quantities. These are the ones that you don't wnat to buy as:

    a) Most will be reference cards
    b) They will all be "1st steppings", in response to user issues, later revisions will follow
    c) why did they wait so long with the 7xx and 9xx series ? They had the Ti designs ready to go from the getgo.

    It was widely rumored that nVidia renumbered their lineup with the 7xx series after seeing what AMD released. The original 760 became the 770, the 770 became the 780 and the 780 sat in the shelf until AMD released their R9 290x... which is why the 780 Ti was dropped so quickly thereafter. I see nVidia following the same strategy here ... just as they did with the 7xx and 9xx series. If your 2nd tier card outperforms the competition's top tier card, why compete with yourself ? I see nVidia hanging on to their "ace in the hole" until such time as they **need** to pull it out.


    You (apparently) didn't read the second half of that sentence: "... and will be made available to the public the following month [May] at Computex 2016."

    Everything else you said is speculation and history. There HAS to be a lot of pent-up demand for the new generation, and in terms of corporate life, every quarter's return is crucial so there isn't going to be a delay unless there *has* to be a delay. Nvidia can (and most likely will) absolutely crush AMD with Pascal. There is absolutely no reason why they should or will use some kind of strategic delay for that. Again you have to reason that sales of existing boards is dropping off as more and more rumors of Pascal circulate. And with every quarter's revenues a live-or-die moment for the stock price (and executives' bonuses), no rational company would wait when they don't have to.

    I have a dead PC right now as we speak because the HD5700 in it died last month. But I haven't bought a replacement board because I want to go to pascal for 4k gaming, and anything I spend on a crappy holdover board is just money thrown in the garbage. My budget for the replacement is at the ~$1000 level since technically I have been waiting many years to upgrade my PC because I didn't want to upgrade until the next gen drops. I went so far as to buy a PS4 to stave off GPU lust while I waited. I bet I am not alone, and the 10xx boards are sure to be huge sellers.

    By the way, anyone who's seen the GTX 980 through Titan reference boards knows there is NOTHING wrong with Nvidia's reference designs. As far as later revisions, that is natural but says nothing against the initial launch (actual sales) starting in May.
    -1
  • junkeymonkey
    you can see at pc part picker and here at toms in another older ''review'' article the cards been out now not public sold and been pulled

    one guy above said ''Its sold as a Corsair graphics card, directly from Corsair's own store. '' see that MSI on it ?? I guess there just selling whats left over in there stock cause of the Asetek lawsuits -- ??

    just seems a bit of funny business been going on

    knowing all that it would be hard to buy one not knowing how its warranted ?? by corsair ??? by msi ??? 1/2 and 1/2 ??

    thing is and not to say its best is just get the evga hybrid there cards are licensed with Asetek to be used on there cards and are made ffor gpu use not a cpu cooler on a gpu as the corsair is and you get full evga support ..

    ''The cooler’s layout underneath the shroud departs quite drastically from MSI’s Sea Hawk. Whereas MSI has used Corsair’s CPU-centric H55 AIO (basically Asetek’s 550LC), EVGA has decided to utilize a version of the GPU-specific Asetek 740LC''

    if you start to look you may see the giga water force head down the same road with that AMD furyx cooler on it ..

    Asetek don't seem too happy with all that

    and then with this ''and will be made available to the public the following month [May] at Computex 2016."

    now they may of settled the lawsuit with corsair and got there licensing agreements in order and could rerelease the cards .. that's a good possibility

    just a little pay off here and paperwork there things for that card may just be back in order once again??

    anyway I would just go with the evga and at least have something one company stands behind fully , any part of the card fails just send it back to evga its all there baby


    the ''OLD'' toms review on that card

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/msi-corsair-gtx-980ti-announced,30104.html
    -1
  • pezonator
    Everyone bagging on the looks of these cards, who cares?????

    I'm lucky enough to own an MSI 980ti Sea Hawk and I think it looks great! Out of the box 1408Mhz boost speeds, I couldn't be happier with it, super quiet too. Also, people saying the new 1080ti cards coming out soon, I don't think so. Stuff always gets delayed, then reference only designs, it will be end of year at least.
    1
  • 17seconds
    If the MSI Seahawk was pulled due to a lawsuit, then the AMD FuryX would have also been pulled. I think they just plain sold out of them.
    http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/218987-asetek-demands-amd-suspend-sales-of-fury-x-goes-after-gigabyte
    0
  • JackNaylorPE
    Anonymous said:

    You (apparently) didn't read the second half of that sentence: "... and will be made available to the public the following month [May] at Computex 2016."

    Everything else you said is speculation and history. There HAS to be a lot of pent-up demand for the new generation, and in terms of corporate life, every quarter's return is crucial so there isn't going to be a delay unless there *has* to be a delay. Nvidia can (and most likely will) absolutely crush AMD with Pascal. There is absolutely no reason why they should or will use some kind of strategic delay for that. Again you have to reason that sales of existing boards is dropping off as more and more rumors of Pascal circulate. And with every quarter's revenues a live-or-die moment for the stock price (and executives' bonuses), no rational company would wait when they don't have to.

    I have a dead PC right now as we speak because the HD5700 in it died last month. But I haven't bought a replacement board because I want to go to pascal for 4k gaming, and anything I spend on a crappy holdover board is just money thrown in the garbage. My budget for the replacement is at the ~$1000 level since technically I have been waiting many years to upgrade my PC because I didn't want to upgrade until the next gen drops. I went so far as to buy a PS4 to stave off GPU lust while I waited. I bet I am not alone, and the 10xx boards are sure to be huge sellers.

    By the way, anyone who's seen the GTX 980 through Titan reference boards knows there is NOTHING wrong with Nvidia's reference designs. As far as later revisions, that is natural but says nothing against the initial launch (actual sales) starting in May.


    I most certainly did read the sentence and even took pains to address it. You apparently did not read my 1st sentence because it very clearly states"

    "available to the public is code for what is oft called "paper release" ... some will be released but in extremely small quantities." ... in other words, they can say it's on sale cause newegg had 3... but weeks go by before most of us can get their hands on one.

    780 - 23rd May, 2013
    780 Ti - 7th November, 2013 ... 7 months later

    980 - 19th September, 2014
    980 Ti - 1st June, 2015 .. 8 months later

    Every heard the expression "history repeats itself"... talk about speculation ? What evidence do you have that all of a sudden the industry will break from what we always see generation after generation and this release will be somehow different than all the previous ones ? The 970 has outsold and continues to outsell all AMD R7 / R9 2xx and 3xx series combined ... they need a new card why ? I don't have to **reason** that sales are dropping off because real information to the contrary is readily available.

    I have been watching this industry for 30 years, building PCs for 25 years and its the same old tired story. Cards get announced / released to build up excitement ... the same way game and movie trailers arrive months before release. A new card comes out... you can't actually buy it anywhere ... then they start appearing on the shelves and sell out within minutes and it's 3 - 9 weeks before you can but them with any regularity.

    While there's always the crowd that needs to be the first on their block to have the latest and greatest thing, those w/ patience are sitting there smirking saying "let them live on the bleeding edge".

    Those w/ patience never get stuck with 1st stepping woes and even if there are no major issues, they invariably wind up with a "new and improved" product. Or are you suggesting that manufacturers do these redesigns to create a worse product ?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepping_level

    Cases in Point ...

    -EVGA 970 SC where one of the 3 heat pipes missed the GPU (see article below)
    -1st round of MSI 970s that had a problem related to adhesive used on sticker and damage caused sometimes by removing it
    -Asus Z87 ear;ly steppings where if system went to sleep, connection to external drives were lost
    -Every board made by every manufacturer prior to B3 steeping on P67 boards

    As for pascal and 4k, it won't be enough... At best, 4k gaming at 60+ fps in 144 hz screens won't arrive at least until 2017. We don't even have a cable that can handle the bandwidth.

    Where did anyone say anything is wrong with the reference design so lets stick to what was actually said. There's nothing "wrong" with the Toyoto Corolla but that doesn't make me **want** to go out and drive one. What anyone who bothers to read a performance reviews knows that there are drastic differences between reference and non reference designs. Such as the 15% faster out of the box performance we see at 1440p here:

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Gigabyte/GTX_980_Ti_G1_Gaming/30.html

    Which card do you want ? The reference card that comes outta the box at 102.6 and OC's only 9.4% or the one that comes outta the box a whopping 15.5% faster at 118.5 fps and OCs 13.8% beyond that.


    Read a good tear down article as the one with bit-tech and understand why cards do not perform the same ... because they are not built the same, they do not have the same componentry and they are not cooled in the same way. Read the bottom third of pages 2-4 and see why the cards always finish in the same order performance wise.

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/graphics/2014/09/19/nvidia-geforce-gtx-970-review/2

    When the 980 came out (reference) it was 5% faster than the 780 Ti (reference). So if you are sitting with the choice of waiting cupla months for that reference 980 or buying the 780 Ti, do ya

    a) Wait and buy the reference 980 and be 5% faster than the 780 Ti reference
    b) Buy the non reference 780 Ti (at a reduced price) because of impending new generation and be 10% faster than the 780 Ti reference.

    Ya wanna know when Pascal is about to drop... retailers will have significant price cuts to clear stock ... we haven't seen this happen yet. The 970 for example is at the same price it was on release day.


    Rumor has the release date of the "no HBM 1080" ... meaning someone, somewhere will be able to buy a card, is may 27th. The rumored release date of the 960 Ti was January ... I haven't seen it yet, that should give you an idea on the reliability or rumors.

    http://videocardz.com/57886/nvidia-preparing-geforce-gtx-960-ti (6 days ago)

    You should also be aware, contrary to what was stated, that HBM2 will not go into mass production until 3rd quarter

    Quote:
    Before we begin I want to make clear it that I’m only posting this story because BenchLife stories are usually correct (in the past they released many Intel and AMD slides, which turned out to be true). However I’m still not convinced, especially about the name: GTX 1080 (I would rather expect GTX 1800, which corresponds to Quadro naming schema).

    Most importantly though the new flagship would not have HBM2 memory. Card is allegedly equipped with 8GB GDDR5X memory, which basically means HBM2 will have to wait for Pascal GP100. Now does it make sense? Technically yes, because mass production of HBM2 modules is not expected to begin sooner than third quarter.

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (GTX 1800) would launch on May 27th, which is just 4 days before Computex, allowing AIB partners to show their cards at the event.


    Read carefully .... "made available to partners to show the card" and "being made available to the public to buy the card" are two very, very different things.

    http://videocardz.com/nvidia/geforce-1000/geforce-gtx-1800 (today)

    Quote:
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1800 Specifications
    Release Date = Q3 2016


    I see nothing to indicate that this round will be any different than the last two ... and with everyone expecting HBM2 and it obviously not being available for the 2nd quarter cards at least until 3rd quarter mass production, how many will sit tight waiting for HBM2 ???

    I don't see a HBM2 equipped successor to the 980 Ti arriving till fal ... just in time Xmas 2016 XMas holiday shopping.
    5
  • Mike Coberly
    I'm disappointed there wasn't a Fury X on hand for more comprehensive side-by-side comparison. With this being a closed-loop liquid cooled card, it would be a far better match.

    Sidenote: AMD/Hynix did a great thing with HBM, licencing fees should pay dividends.
    2