Overclocking GeForce GTX 1080 Ti To 2.1 GHz Using Water

Our launch coverage showed that Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition is held back by its stock cooler. So, we replaced the vapor chamber and centrifugal fan with a custom water-cooling loop. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

We took a look at Nvidia’s supposedly improved stock cooler in last week's launch coverage (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Review) and came away unimpressed. Although the thermal solution serves its purpose, the 1080 Ti is still temperature-limited and uncomfortably loud under extended loads. Wasting some of GP102's potential while suffering through that whooshing noise at the same didn't seem like the best application of a flagship graphics processor, so we decided to take some action.

Our initial review of GeForce GTX 1080 Ti should have included overclocking results. However, the stock cooler just wouldn't allow the headroom we were looking for. Eager to push this well-built card as far as it can go, we skipped third-party and hybrid coolers altogether and went straight for a custom water-cooling loop.

We snatched up a Titan X (Pascal)-compatible full copper block before it went out of stock, and installed it on our GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. The idea was to exceed that 2 GHz GPU frequency Jen-Hsun bragged about during his GDC unveiling, which we were unable to sustain using the stock cooler.

The block we used may take home a trophy for the longest name ever: Aquacomputer's kryographics Pascal for Nvidia Titan X. Though it's obviously intended for Titan X, this block is fully compatible with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition (except for one small detail we'll cover in a moment). After all, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and Titan X (Pascal) use the exact same PCB. The only differences relate to surface-mount components, which don't interfere with the cooler itself.

The memory modules are covered in thermal paste that you'll need to source on your own. Of course, the 1080 Ti only has 11 GDDR5X ICs, compared to Titan X's 12. Due to its high viscosity, we use Kryonaut by Thermal Grizzly. It’s easy to spread and allows for further distribution by applying pressure. The same goes for a blob we drop on the GPU.

Aquacomputer does include a thin thermal pad meant to cover most of the area over the VRMs. Since it’s a bit long, we shortened it and used the remainder to cover the spot where Titan X's twelfth memory module would have been.

The entire installation process, including removal of the stock cooler, can be completed in under 30 minutes. Not that this is a race or anything.

After filling the card’s block and tubing with fluid, we connect it to our bench table using quick-connects. If you'd like to know more about our test setup, check out How We Test Graphics Cards.

We’re happy we took water cooling into account when we designed the new test system. All we had to do was thread the tubing through the holes, connect it, and top off the reservoir.

Before we get to the overclocked settings and measurement results, here are the system's main components:

Test System
System Components
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition
Intel Core i7-5930K @ 4.2GHz
MSI X99S XPower Gaming Titanium
Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200 @ 2400 MT/s
be quiet Dark Power Pro 11, 850W PSU
Windows 10 Pro (All Updates)
Storage1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System SSD)
2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)
Water Cooling
Aquacomputer Kryographics Pascal Nvidia Titan X
Alphacool Eispumpe VPP755
Alphacool NexXxoS UT60 Full Copper 360mm
Alphacool Cape Corp Coolplex Pro 10 LT
5x be quiet Silent Wings 3 120mm PWM
Temperature Measurement
Optris PI640 80Hz Infrared Camera + PI Connect
Real-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording
Digital Sensors for Water and Air Temperatures in the Bench Table
Power Consumption Measurement
Contact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card)
Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable
Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply

2 x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100kHz, DC)
4 x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500MHz)
1 x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function
PC Case
Lian Li PC-T70 with Expansion Kit and Mods

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

MORE: All Graphics Content