When we last saw Gigabyte's GTX 980 WaterForce 3-Way SLI Kit, we were puzzled about exactly who the company hopes to sell it to, but we decided to withhold judgement until we knew more about what it would actually cost. Well, now the kit has been officially announced and listed on NewEgg, so it's time to re-evaluate it.
The GTX 980 WaterForce 3-Way SLI Kit is a set of three GTX 980 graphics cards that comes with an external liquid cooling box. The idea is that you place this box on top of your tower PC and route the water tubes for the graphics cards into your PC through the top optical drive bay with an adapter. (It kind of makes your PC look like Bane.) Inside the external water box are three 120 mm radiators with fans, each of which cools a single graphics card.
For multi-GPU performance, it brings an interesting proposition to the table: You have three liquid cooled graphics cards, meaning they won't suffer from suffocation like air-cooled graphics cards may in multi-GPU setups, and the heat is dissipated outside of the PC enclosure, meaning that it won't affect the other components in your PC. It is, however, a rather bulky and space-eating solution.
The GTX 980 graphics cards in the kit are clocked at 1228 MHz base, with a GPU Boost 2.0 frequency of 1329 MHz. The 4 GB of memory on each card runs at the reference frequency of 7.0 GHz. To power them, Gigabyte recommends that you have at least a 1200 W PSU.
But the big question is what will this thing cost? Currently, it's listed on NewEgg.com for $2999.99.
Let's break this pricing down. Without even looking for the best price on the market, you can grab yourself a GTX 980 for $550, so that's $1650 total for three cards. Subtracting that from the original $2999.99 means Gigabyte is charging you $1350 to liquid cool these GPUs, which is a huge premium, especially considering each card only gets a single 120 mm radiator.
Building your own custom loop to cool these cards costs less than that premium. Heck, you can get an entire computer with three air-cooled GTX 980's from many custom PC manufacturers for less than three grand. Sure, that doesn't necessarily include liquid cooling, but that's the cost for an entire computer.
Would the price have been closer to $2000, we might have been able to understand this product, maybe even recommend it because it would mean water cooling with a warranty. At $3000, though, we just don't see it making sense for anyone at all from a cost perspective, unless you really need that suitcase it comes in.