First look at Asetek’s 9800GX2 waterblock: Water-cooling for the masses

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First look at Asetek’s 9800GX2 waterblock: Water-cooling for the masses

San Jose (CA) – Water-cooling and mainstream are words you typically don’t mention in one sentence. But what is typically an expensive technology for enthusiast is getting much more interesting for a greater range of gamers with an affordable waterblock that will be offered by Asetek soon, TG Daily learned.   

Asetek is mainly known for its VapoChill series of products, but there is also a cheaper water-cooling series dubbed “LCLC” (Low-Cost Liquid-Cooling). This design has enabled OEM and ODM vendors such as HP to offer water-cooling in computers by default. Now the company is moving into graphics card cooling with a new water-cooling product for Nvidia’s GeForce 9800GX2.

 

Asetek claims that the existing systems are easily upgradeable from their previous ATI/Nvidia solutions to this one. Given the fact that majority of GPU waterblocks are a “one-off design“ and not reusable for future graphics cards, OEMs are not keen on implementing water-cooling products in their products. Sadly, this fact also isolates the majority of users: If you are not a hardcore overclocker or a deep-pocketed enthusiast, the motivation and finances to purchase a new waterblock for every graphics card will come to an end sooner or later.

Asetek’s idea is to cool down the GPUs with water in combination with a slow-spinning fan to produce airflow over the memory and the PWM parts of the card. This could turn out to be a great solution as this approach pushes hot air from the inside to the outside of the case.

 

To find out more about this new product, TG Daily sat down with Andre Sloth Eriksen, founder and CEO of the Danish company. What we saw is an off-the-shelf HP Blackbird 002 system equipped with an Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9650 processor, 8 GB of system memory, a couple of hard drives and other components you can order from HP’s website. However, Asetek had replaced the standard water-cooling core for the 8800GTX/Ultra card with its dual-GPU 9800GX2 cooler. The setup was SLI-ready, which means you could run four GPUs in this PC.

In order to fully load the both GPUs, we started 3DMark06 in 1920×1200 resolution, 8x AntiAliasing (Transparency SuperSampling, Gamma Correction on), 16x Anisotropic Filtering and full precision mode. All optimizations in the Nvidia driver panel were disabled. We ran several tests with an air-cooled 9800GX2 board, and then repeated them with the same card, but this time with the LCLC water-block.

The air-cooled EVGA 9800GX2 heated up in idle mode to 59 degrees Celsius (C) for the lower GPU, and 68 degrees C on the top GPU. Running 3DMark06 resulted in a temperature jump to 78 degrees C for the lower GPU and 92 degrees for the second one.

After seeing the heated performance of the air-cooled card, we removed it from the system, waited until it cooled down, disassembled it and installed the water-cooling system. Yours truly had the honor of assembling the card, and I have to admit that it is a really straightforward and easy process. After mounting was done, we installed the card back into the system and ran the same tests again.

Read on the next page: 30 degrees improvement with the water cooler.

 

The water-cooled card had GPU1 idling at 38 degrees C, while GPU2 was idling at 47 degrees C. After completing several 3DMark06 loops, the temperatures jumped to 50 degrees C and 66 degrees C, respectively.

Since Asetek has a sound room, we were able to compare the sound levels produced by the two setups as well. The air-cooled system created a noise level of 34 dBA in idle mode, which jumped to 40.2 dBA due to increased fan noise. If you were to continue to load the card, the noise output tops out at 48 dBA. We did not notice an increase in system level noise during that procedure with the water-cooled system. 28 dBA came from the system, while the fan on Asetek’s 9800GX2 water-block produced 20.8 dBA. The Blackbird comes with a relatively noisy fan by default, which should be considered for a replacement by users with something more… silent.

 

At the end of the day, we cannot say that we were not impressed by Asetek’s water-cooling solution. It is silent, and is able to keep the 9800GX2 at bay, without outputting excessive heat inside the system (9800GX2 cannot push all of the heat to the outside, but features gills that heat the air inside the case).

The OEM volume pricing for the whole setup is flowing around $45-50; Asetek guarantees no-leaks and no-water-evaporation for 50,000 hours.

If Asetek is able to keep the price down, we could be seeing see much more LCLC systems coming to the market. As a retailer, you won’t find this setup attractive from a visual standpoint (unless you paint it), but if you’re an OEM that wants to build a low-noise solution, this setup is able to cool the hot 9800GX2 by a massive 30 degrees. And the best of all is that you can get a complete setup for the price of one high-end waterblock.

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