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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. 

Niels Broekhuijsen

Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.