EVGA GTX 980 HYBRID Review
As NVIDIA’s GTX 980 gradually matures, their board partners are starting to take a few more chances with their custom designs. While cards like the Matrix and Classified series have pushed air cooled options to their max, water cooling has remained persona non grata for the most part. EVGA’s GTX 980 Hybrid is meant to bridge the gap between classically cooled options and those which require a pre-existing water cooling loop for optimal performance.
In the grand scheme of things, the Hybrid isn’t really unique since ASUS’ Poseidon series and EVGA’s own HydroCopper attempt to harness the inherent efficiency of water cooling but they require quite a bit of plumbing to get working. EVGA’s Hybrid on the other hand takes a page from AMD’s R9 295X2 by combining a closed loop 120mm water cooler with a secondary air cooling setup so it boasts a simple, drop-in installation in most cases. While setting up a whole custom water cooling loop may be a bit daunting for some, EVGA’s design should allow for the best of both worlds.
Instead of just slapping on a closed loop water cooler and calling it a day, EVGA set out to make the GTX 980 somewhat unique. Alongside the Classified and HydroCopper, this is one of the highest clocked Maxwell cards on the market, surpassing the likes of ASUS’ Matrix Platinum and PNY’s new XLR8 Pro OC. While the memory remains at its stock speeds, both Base and Boost clocks are supposed to hit levels which are more than 150MHz above reference. This should allow it to become one of the most sought-after GTX 980’s on the market for those who want silence and high performance.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Hybrid is its price. This may actually sound insane but with a going price of $649 USD, it is significantly cheaper than competing similarly clocked options. Back that up with EVGA’s iron-clad 3 year warranty and excellent customer support and you have a something of a frontrunner in this category. Perhaps that’s why actually finding one for sale isn’t easy.
Due to the weight of the graphics card and its associated water cooling components, EVGA has opted for an absolutely massive box which is filled to the brim with protective foam. This layout allows all of the items to be kept apart from one another, minimizing the possibility of any potential shipping damage.
In order to minimize the complexity of installing the Hybrid into systems, its 120mm radiator, water block and all associated tubing is fitted together. The end result resembles a simple reference-based GTX 980 with an AIO water cooling unit stuck onto its side. The fan cable isn’t particularly well integrated but that can be taken care of by wrapping it around one of the water tubes.
One thing we have to mention is fan speeds. Since the fan is controlled based on the GPU’s real-time temperatures, it ran at a constant speed in our tests but that may change in certain higher ambient temperature scenarios. If you want enhanced cooling or simply more control, the motherboard’s onboard fan controller should be able to increase and decrease RPMs accordingly. Provided you install a female to male 3-pin fan extension cable.
The card itself utilizes a full-coverage shroud under which is the GPU block and a secondary heatsink for cooling the VRM and memory. It may look basic but the shroud allows the single fan to better direct its airflow over critical components since the water block only cools the GM104 core. Plus, it looks sleek and clean.
Water cooled cards have been done before but EVGA’s GTX 980 Hybrid takes quality to another level. The well-braided tubes fit perfectly into their precision-cut openings within the shroud and the blending between materials is seamlessly done everywhere we looked. $100 more than the reference card may be a bit too much to stomach for some buyers, at least EVGA didn’t throw this thing together and expect you to pay a premium for it.
The water cooling unit itself is a fairly basic affair which is provided by Asetek and based on their CPU-centric designs. It boasts a 120mm fan and a relatively thin radiator which should be more than enough to handle GTX 980’s core.
Around back, EVGA has installed a full-coverage backplate which is supposed to lower overall component temperatures provided there’s adequate in-case airflow.
With a dual 6-pin power input and DVI + three DisplayPort + HDMI inputs, the GTX 980 Hybrid sticks to the tried and true reference layout for its I/O connectors. EVGA has opened up the I/O plate for increased airflow though.
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