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Nvidia RTX 3080, 3090 Share Reference Board Design, EKWB Confirms

(Image credit: EKWB)

EK Water Blocks has long promised that it would be shipping water blocks for the RTX 30xx series GPUs upon launch, so it's not a total surprise to see the Slovenian watercooling manufacturer list those products. However, what is surprising is what the listings tell us: the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 share the same board design.

Of course, before you shout at me that this isn't possible because the RTX 3090 is a triple-slot behemoth with a wide board, and the RTX 3080 isn't, EKWB is unintentionally also confirming another bit of information: the Founder's Edition boards are not equal to the reference boards. 

EKWB's water blocks are specifically built for the reference boards, and it highlights that the Founder's Edition cards don't have reference boards. That's no surprise, as Nvidia built a wild new flow-through cooler for its FE cards, which required a total board redesign. The reference boards feature a more traditional design.

(Image credit: EKWB)

With the RTX 2000-series cards, the FE boards and reference boards used by manufacturers were identical -- the only difference was which cooler was mounted on the board. For watercooling enthusiasts, this meant that they could optionally skip the FE card with its expensive cooler and opt for a card from Nvidia's AIBs with a cheaper cooler, but that has the same board design.

Naturally, the option of looking out for a card with a cheaper cooler doesn't change with the RTX 3000 series -- except, there is no sign of water blocks for the Founder's Edition boards. That means that this time around, if you're looking for a GPU to watercool, you'll expressly have to look for a reference board card from the AIBs, or wait for water blocks to come out that are specifically built for the FE card or cards with custom board designs. That's not a problem or a bad thing, but just something to keep in mind. 

Other than that, EKWB's blocks feature the usual design, covering the GPU, VRM circuitry and memory. They'll be available in bare copper with an acrylic top, and nickel-plated copper with Acetal and acrylic tops. Pricing ranges from $140 to $160, and naturally, backplates will be available too. 

  • wr3zzz
    I don't understand. Why would Nvidia want to use a different board for FE? Are both 3080 and 3090 FE boards differ from reference board or just the monstrous 3090?
    Reply
  • AnimeMania
    Any mention of how long or how many slots wide the the cards with water blocks will be. Current air cooled RTX 30XX cards appear to be ginormous, incapable of fitting into anyone's case.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    This makes no sense , because it means that people who want to watercool their FE cards will be out of luck ?

    I will give you an advice : dont make your own Judgement before looking at the products and see if they fit on the FE cards or not.

    and dont make fast conclusions that the FE PCB is different Just by looking at watercooling block.
    Reply
  • RojoNinja
    Seems like Aqua Computer plans to have blocks for the FE cards.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    wr3zzz said:
    I don't understand. Why would Nvidia want to use a different board for FE? Are both 3080 and 3090 FE boards differ from reference board or just the monstrous 3090?
    Most likely so they can use their unique cooler. The FE board features a triangular cutout at the end to allow the fan on the top side of the board to draw air through the fins on the underside. If they went with a traditional rectangular board, the fan would need to completely hang off the end, making the card longer, and more likely to run into case compatibility issues. On cards with more traditional cooler designs, that triangular cutout would just be wasted space though.
    Reply
  • wr3zzz
    cryoburner said:
    Most likely so they can use their unique cooler. The FE board features a triangular cutout at the end to allow the fan on the top side of the board to draw air through the fins on the underside. If they went with a traditional rectangular board, the fan would need to completely hang off the end, making the card longer, and more likely to run into case compatibility issues. On cards with more traditional cooler designs, that triangular cutout would just be wasted space though.

    That explains the what but not why. Nvidia is not in the business to compete with its AIB partners and the point of FE is basically reference boards as a sellable product. Separate FE from reference board could give the impression that FE "might" be better because Nvidia knows something that its AIB partners don't.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    wr3zzz said:
    That explains the what but not why. Nvidia is not in the business to compete with its AIB partners and the point of FE is basically reference boards as a sellable product. Separate FE from reference board could give the impression that FE "might" be better because Nvidia knows something that its AIB partners don't.
    That's not really the case if you look at the 20-series cards though. The FE models were factory overclocked above reference specs, and featured dual-fan coolers more like those found on partner cards, not the traditional blower-style coolers of previous generations. Nvidia undoubtedly wants their FE models to be viewed positively, and with AMD also moving away from blower coolers on their reference models, they likely wanted something that would make their FE cards stand out a bit more.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    AnimeMania said:
    Any mention of how long or how many slots wide the the cards with water blocks will be. Current air cooled RTX 30XX cards appear to be ginormous, incapable of fitting into anyone's case.
    Spec page:

    https://www.ekwb.com/shop/ek-quantum-vector-rtx-3080-3090-d-rgb-nickel-plexi
    230x124x16.5mm

    It's a single slot cooler. But their blocks never come with replacement end brackets. So if it's a triple slot card, it's still going to take up 3 slots at the back of your case.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    spongiemaster said:
    But their blocks never come with replacement end brackets. So if it's a triple slot card, it's still going to take up 3 slots at the back of your case.

    Not a big deal , we always cut the brackets of three slots into two slots cards when we changed to water cooling ... one of the easiest mods. Three to one slot is also possible to cut in case all the ports are on the first slot.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    nofanneeded said:
    Not a big deal , we always cut the brackets of three slots into two slots cards when we changed to water cooling ... one of the easiest mods. Three to one slot is also possible to cut in case all the ports are on the first slot.
    That's not a reversible mod, and not one I would do as a result. I have an EK block on a 2080 now. When I replace it with a 3000 series card, I may reuse the 2080 in a system that isn't water cooled which would require me to put the stock cooler back on.
    Reply