Skip to main content

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.

Conclusion

Going into this review, I expected Corsair's closed-loop cooler to maintain low core temperatures. But given an almost 200MHz overclock from the factory on what appeared to be a reference card, I didn't think we'd be seeing significant gains from our own tuning efforts.

In the end, Corsair's cooler on MSI's GeForce GTX 980 Ti proved very effective, and the familiar PCA design didn't appear to hold back performance in any way. It's a shame that Corsair won't be doing any more work in the graphics card space. Company spokesman Harry Butler explains that Corsair only wanted to sell high-end boards, but was unable to secure allocation of the GPUs unless it made cards up and down the entire line-up. Sadly, this will be the only Corsair-branded graphics card.
[Update March 18, 2016: After publishing our review, we received word from Corsair that there may actually be a future with Corsari branded graphics cards after all: "Don't count follow ups out just yet, said Harry Buttler, Senior Manager - Public Relations for Corsair. "While there are no plans for any more 9-series cards, we're always considering upcoming technologies."]

The H55 closed-loop cooler installed on Nvidia's GM200 proved to be a great asset. GPU Boost responds well to cool temperatures, as evidenced by the 1418MHz frequency we observed before even trying our hand at overclocking. Of course, from there, tuning the Hydro GFX was rewarding, to say the least. Its liquid cooler maintained low temperatures, even in the face of a voltage offset. We squeezed an extra 70MHz from the GPU's base clock, and the GDDR5 proved stable 400MHz (1600 GT/s) higher. Those higher GPU and memory clock rates give the Hydro GFX a tidy performance boost. In every one of our six game benchmarks, the overclocked Corsair card emerged as the fastest single-GPU card we've tested. Gigabyte's reign on top didn't last very long at all.

When I took the Hydro GFX out of its box, I was admittedly a little underwhelmed by its pedestrian reference-like appearance. But after playing with the card, I realized that all of Corsair's (and MSI's) effort went into what really counts: gaming performance. In stock form, we think there are better options available. But if you enjoy overclocking, this card is a stellar option. It runs quietly, even under heavy load and aggressively tweaked, it maintains modest temperatures and, if the gains we saw apply to all Hydro GFX boards, there is ample opportunity to procure a lot of extra performance.

I'm digging the Corsair Hydro GFX GeForce GTX 980 Ti more now than when the review began. It serves up better performance than I expected. But because it doesn't appear commercially available, we can't consider it much more than an exhibition. MSI's GeForce GTX 980 Ti Sea Hawk has a few more listings, but it's hard to come by as well. At the end of the day, you're best off choosing between any of the similar-performing, less expensive and more widely available GeForce GTX 980 Tis out there.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards For The MoneyMORE: All Graphics Content

MORE: Graphics Cards in the Forum

Follow Kevin Carbotte @pumcypuhoy. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube

  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • clonazepam
    17675998 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • ern88
    Hope to see the GPU hierarchy again soon
    Reply
  • 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%.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply