ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra, Liquid Cooled SLI

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It's almost hard to believe the size of the ECS Hydra box, which almost as big as a small ATX case.  The front is adorned with a huge metallic Hydra logo, although there is much more emphasis on the graphics than the product details.  For example, we feel that the SLI aspect of the setup isn't promoted well enough - something that should be prominently displayed to a would-be buyer.  A sticker does mention that a full retail version of the game Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 is included. 

    

Inside the box is an oversized Quick Installation Guide that covers the basics of the entire setup, from installing the cards themselves to operating the water-cooling kit.  The manual is generic and outdated with 6800 GT screens taken from a Windows XP box, and doesn't cover anything specific regarding the setup of the water-cooling kit.  This is relegated to the Quick Installation Guide, but we feel that a kit like this deserves better.  Thermaltake's online manual does the job for the most part, but is more geared towards CPU blocks rather than graphics and the onus is on ECS to make the user feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about their installation, especially when water and electricity are involved.

Under the foam cover we got our first glance at the two large 9800GTX+ cards and the ThermalTake BigWater 760is, as well as four MOLEX to 6-pin PCI-E power adapters, two DVI-to-VGA adapters, two S/PDIF cables, two DVI-to-HDMI adapters, an SLI bridge, and finally a bottle of coolant with a squeeze bottle applicator.  Even though the box is large, we quickly noted that one of the two neon green UV-reactive tubes had a slight kink in it from being coiled in too tightly.

        

GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards are as long as it gets, with two 6-pin power connectors at the end, and dual DVI-I ports with S-Video at the other.  Although lengthy, the cards are deceivably light thanks to the ThermalTake TMG ND4 VGA Coolers that were used, consisting of a small copper block and quiet 60mm fan.  A clear plastic shroud with a small impeller fan lit by a blue LED pushes some air over the top of the copper block and out the vent at the end, although the plastic shaft does not reach all the way to the end of the case, allowing air to remain inside the case.
 
Each fan requires it's own 4-pin MOLEX power connector, increasing the number of outputs needed from the PSU.  This is clearly something that should have been handled by the slot itself, and it's doubtful that the fan serves any real purpose here as the water blocks provide all of the real cooling.  If, let's say, the block failed for some reason, there's almost no way this small fan could prevent overheating. At least the MOSFETs receive some passive cooling from four aluminum heatsinks attached directly on top, however, these are attached using flimsy thermal tape. 

   

Water cooling consisted of a large copper plate sitting atop the GPU with adhesive pads between it and the memory and two marked rubber hoses protruding from each block, clearly labeled as IN or OUT.  An issue that most users will run into is the total number of power connectors that the Hydra needs to run properly.  Each card requires two 6-pin power connectors, while most modern PSU's probably only have two.  To get the other two, you'll wind up using the power cables provided in the bundle.  Each of these takes up two MOLEX plugs, four in total.  Then add in the two fan cables and finally one more for the BigWater itself and you're looking at a total of 7 4-pin MOLEX and two 6-pin power cables.  This is on top of any other fans or devices that are being powered.

    

The 9800 GTX+ supports two SLI connectors, allowing for 3-Way SLI (or more) with a compatible motherboard and drivers.  A small cable runs from the card to the bracket, to light a small LED there alerting the user that the card is powered.  A major problem we found when inspecting the cards concerned the front end of the copper plate.  Seen on both cards, the plate curls away slightly towards the front, lacking any contact with the chips at all.

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 can't say that I have ever had a trust in ECS products. They are definatley not in the top 5 companies and not worth the risk for me. However if a larger number of people give them a chance and they're reputation for reliability increases then maybe I might consider them in the future. As of right now I consider them an off brand version so to say. I am also not a fan of watercooling kits but for someone who doesn't want the hassle but wants the extra's this may be a very good option. Kudos for trying to target to a certain category of enthusiats but I don't think this will take hold for most enthusiats who already have their list of companies they trust and who usually prefer to do it themselves anyway. Who knows what the future brings though

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My girlfriends 9600gt is a ECS. I also had a ECS motherboard a few years back that was alright. Not a great overclocker, but it was a solid board. I think they have stepped it up a notch in the last few years. That said I'm not sure about these cards. They still take up 4 slots on the motherboard. They just seem to take up way to much space and do not provide the performance to justify such time consumption.

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Well he has it pretty well right about the shoddy workmanship,copper plate peeling away from the chips is not my idea of a try out.Try having a review of EVGA's GTX 280 HC16 of the clear or the plain black.I've seen that what's his name gurus site with his review and I reckon you can out do his review.http://www.clicksmilies.com/s0105/mittelgrosse/medium-smiley-064.gif

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Sorry about the ending of my last reply,I have not learnt how to use smiley yet.

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It's ironic that Elite Group has trouble making elite products... let alone those of the standard variety. lol 

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Ive used Elited Group in the past but more geared toward customers basic needs than a performance PC.Im supprised than they went out on the limb to create a performance based component in addition throwing in a thermaltake product and doing a less than adequate job on the card itself!Kinda of useless even to go through the paces!Usally cutting corners like that means NO Sale!

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i had an ecs motherboard long ago in the socket a times. it was good imo, i falshed the bios to a hacked version, overclocked my athalon and was more than happy for the overclock the budget board gave me!!! it did not fail me and last many years 

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