EVGA GTX 295 Hydro Copper (2x896 MB)
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This dual-chip card is a real monster (more so than even the reference version). The massive heatsink completely fills the space between the two circuit boards. This also makes the card heavy, which incidentally raised our expectations of cooling performance from such a massive piece of gear.
In order to test the Hydro Copper from EVGA, we used the HyrdroGen cooling rig from MSI because EVGA includes no additional water-cooling parts with this card to help keep costs down. Fortunately, once the GeForce GTX 295 is connected to the water hoses and the liquid starts circulating, the card remains quiet. There's naturally no fan noise at all, even though we're used to lots of racket from cards in this performance class.
After you get used to the relative quiet, you can take a deep breath and enjoy the unusual sensation of an ultra high-end graphics card that runs almost silently. Then, we compared the clock rates for the reference board to those for this EVGA board and our jaws dropped. The standard clocks on a GTX 295 are: 576 MHz on the GPU, 1,242 MHz shaders, and graphics RAM at 2 x 999 MHz. But EVGA raises those specs substantially to 720 MHz for the GPU, 1,548 for the shader clock, and 2 x 1,080 for the graphics RAM.
In our very first benchmark, the 3D power of the dual-GPU card hits a CPU bottleneck in Fallout 3. This overclocked board enables frame rates of nearly 90 frames per second (FPS) for all test resolutions. But the best thing about the EVGA Hydro Copper is that it always stays quiet. Only the two 120 mm, seven volt fans on the MSI HydroGen Radiator make any sound at all. Anybody who has experienced the typical noise levels from an air-cooled Radeon HD 4870 X2 or a GeForce 9800 GX2 will appreciate how well-suited the GTX 295 is for water cooling.
EVGA's package here is nothing short of impressive. Compared to a GeForce GTX 295 running reference frequencies, overclocking delivers a 10.5% performance improvement across the board. Using the normal Radeon HD 4870 X2 as a baseline, the EVGA GTX 295 Hydro Copper is 29.8% faster, which makes a world of difference. At a resolution of 1920x1200, it is nearly impossible to exhaust available 3D performance without hitting a platform ceiling, while at higher resolutions, the differences are even more noticeable. It's going to take awhile for another chip class or test card to match these results. Until then, EVGA and Nvidia will lead our pack of high-end graphics cards.
Our water cooling setup also enables great control over operating temperatures. At idle, the card runs at 39 degree Celsius. At heavy extended 3D load levels, those temperatures climb to a modest 68 degrees Celsius for the GPU core. The cooling system circulates 500 cc of liquid, and the seven volt fans spin relatively slowly. Power consumption also offers some good news: 188 W in 2D mode and 532 W in 3D mode (measured from the wall socket for the entire system). Also, the card clocks down to 300/100 MHz (GPU/graphics RAM) in desktop mode.
The graphics chip supports DirectX 10, PhysX, and CUDA. Both of its PCBs measure 10.4" (26.5 cm) long. Providing ample power necessitates attaching one six-pin and one eight-pin PCIe auxiliary connector, also available on the edge of the board. Thanks to a compact design (relatively), the card covers two expansion slots, just like the reference design and its cooler. Bundled accessories include a cable splitter for power, an HDMI port on the card itself, and an S/PDIF cable for HDMI audio.
As mentioned, there is no water-cooling gear (hoses, connectors, pump, and so forth) included. The cooler on the graphics card is, however, anodized both inside and out. The copper contacts on the GPUs are also nickel-plated to limit corrosion. For long-term use, EVGA recommends a non-conductive coolant to block corrosion and algae growth.