Review: The fastest and priciest GTX 280 we've tested
EVGA Hydro Copper 16 is an overclocked and water-cooled GTX 280 card partly named by the large copper block that replaced reference cooling. Water cooling is the most efficient way to cool the GPU, and we all know that appropriate cooling will lengthen your card’s life. However, due to complexity of production water-cooling isn’t at all cheap,so water cooled cards were always something special. EVGA Hydro Copper 16 isn’t an exception to that rule, as it costs $629.99. Since a water block for GTX 280 will set you back €100, Hydro Copper 16’s price is not too high compared to EVGA GTX 280 FTW card with reference cooling – this card is overclocked to 670MHz and priced at $519.99. If this is all too much for you EVGA also offers reference GTX 280 at $449.99. On their Hydro Copper 16 card, EVGA guarantees stability up to 691MHz.
The core is overclocked by 89MHz (602MHz to 691MHz), memory by 108MHz (reference 1107MHz to 1215MHz) and the shaders are up from 1296MHz to 1458MHz.
Geforce GTX 280 has a 1GB frame buffer using 512bit memory interface, coupled with fast GDDR3 memory running at 2214MHz. By increasing the clocks EVGA increased the memory bandwidth from 140GB/s to about 155GB/s.
GT200 chip (the heart of GTX 280 and GTX 260 cards) is built in 65nm, packs 240 stream processors and is the largest chip Nvidia has ever made. 1400 million transistors managed to fit on almost 600mm2. Compared to the last generation GT200 brings more threads, stream processors, better shading and texturing and more memory and memory bandwidth.
240 stream processors are connected to 32 ROPs, which further connect to 512bit memory interface. Here we have 8 ROP partitions, each packing 4 ROP units (8x4 = 32 ROP), where each partition has a 64bit connection with the memory. 8 ROP partitions x 64bit interface totals to 512bit memory interface. Let us remind you that the last generation of cards had 128 stream processors so the current number of 240 stream processors on GTX 280 speaks for itself.
The card features PCIe 2.0 interface and PhysX acceleration. Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) is also supported, and its purpose is to communicate with the GPU and receive processed data. Multipurpose GPU is a reality, and we’ve seen the first result using Badaboom app, which enables transcoding video using the GPU.
EVGA Hydro Copper 16 is a dual-lot design, and just like the reference cards, it features two power connectors at the end of the card. You’ll need one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connector to power this card, as two 6-pin connectors won’t do the trick. Maximum consumption is 236W in worst case scenario. If you’re not using 3D, HybridPower technology kicks in (with an appropriate chipset) and powers down the card, passing the non-demanding tasks to onboard integrated graphics.
The following picture shows the large copper block covering the most of the card’s front side. It’s in direct contact with the block on the back. The block on the back is basically a heatsink with a heapipe, whose secondary function is to hold the front block firmly in place. The cooler is designed in a way to have just one mounting option.
The water block is elongated in order to touch the heatsink on top of the PCB. These two components aren’t physically connected but rather linked with thermal paste. The heatpipe is a bit hidden from view, both from the front and the back.
The block features water valves located on top, in order to enable hassle-free chaining of one or two more Hydro Copper 16 cards in SLI mode.
A side-view reveals a piece of U-shaped heatpipe. In order to fully see it we had to take off the back plate, and you can see that on the following picture.
The memory is cooled via thermal pads, whereas the heatpipe, passing next to the memory, is a bit wider at the top. This is done to provide larger contact surface with the water block. The block is made of copper and is quite heavy.
GTX 280 has 1204MB of memory in 16 memory chip, each side of the card featuring 8 chips.
If you’re planning to use just one Hydro Copper 16 card in single mode, you must use the supplied caps to close one side of the water block. Apart from the caps, also supplied are 1/2'’ and 3/8’’ fittings for different types of water cooling.
Mounting is easy and although you might not need additional tools, you still want to make sure everything is screwed tight in order not to have water leaking all over your beloved equipment.
One is “in” and the other “out” although the flow direction is less important. Still, you might want to direct the flow from the card to the water-cooling radiator so that cold water is pumped out on the card.
Once you set up all the components you should fill up the reservoir before strapping the cooling onto the card. That procedure is best done out of the case – you turn on the pump and when the water starts moving you’ll be able to see whether the reservoir needs more or not. The manual explains this portion quite nicely. Of course, different systems require different steps to make it work, but it’s more or less the same as our process.
If you have two or three cards, chaining them together is a breeze. The block is designed to provide hassle-free upgrades so SLI or Tri-SLI installation is as easy as installing just one card.
A two-card setup will require using a short pipe to connect them.
Three installed cards will make it even easier because metal rings will be long enough. Water enters the first card and cools all three in rotation. We haven’t tried this so we’re just hoping that three GTX 280 cores aren’t too hot for average water-cooling systems.
In the box you’ll find everything you need for installing this card.
The box is standard with not so much info, but this time it’s reinforced from within to bear the weight of Hydro Copper 16.