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EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 Review
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Date: Jan 19, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

Once you've been bit by the enthusiast bug, a funny thing happens. Graphics cards are never fast enough. Processors will never be too powerful. And motherboards will never have too many features. Manufacturers continue to push the envelope and make enthusiast level products because of demand. Along with the goal of being the best in their respective markets, many hardware companies continue to improve their product line up to stay competitive, while also offering consumers options at different price points and performance levels.

Located in Brea, California, EVGA has a solid reputation in the industry. Their customer service support is top notch with an exclusive Step-up Program and lifetime warranties on many products. As an NVIDIA add in board (AIB) partner, EVGA regularly modifies reference design models in order to accommodate consumers who desire products that perform faster, run cooler, and operate with less noise. In general, they achieve this by aggressively binning GPUs to provide factory overclocked options and substituting the stock cooler with an advanced aftermarket solution.

EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 Videocard

The EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 is made for a specific type of enthusiast. It comes with a custom, pre-installed water block that eliminates two of the biggest concerns associated with high end graphics cards: heat and noise. When interconnected to a liquid cooling loop, the HC2 makes no sound and operates at relatively frigid temperatures. The lower operating conditions inherently lead to increased overclocking ability and the performance edge that goes along with it. Keep reading as we install this monster in our liquid cooled test bed to see how fast it can really go.   

EVGA GeForce GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2
Specifications and Features

Core Clock
850 MHz
Memory Clock
1049 / 4196 MHz (Clock Rate / Effective Rate)
Shader Clock
1700 MHz
CUDA Cores
512
Total Memory
1536 MB GDDR5
Memory Interface
384 bit
Memory Bandwidth 201.4 GB/s
Output Connectors
1 x Mini-HDMI, 2 x Dual Link DVI-I connectors
Key Features

Microsoft DirectX 11 Support
NVIDIA CUDA C/C++, DirectCompute 5.0, OpenCL Support
NVIDIA PhysX Technology
NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology
NVIDIA 2-way, 3-way, 4-way SLI Ready
NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround Ready
OpenGL 4.1 Support
Dual Link DVI-I HDCP Capable
One Mini-HDMI 1.4a Connector
Power Requirements 1 x 6 pin , 1 x 8 pin PCI-E power connectors
Minimum 600 Watt power supply
Dimensions

Height - 4.376 in / 111.15 mm
Length - 10.5 in / 266.7 mm
Weight - 3 lbs
Single slot form factor
Warranty

Limited Lifetime Warranty
Must register within 30 days
Price
$699


 

Let's get this out of the way first. The GTX 580 FTW HC2 is really expensive. While it's not the most expensive consumer gaming card out there (Asus HD 5970 Ares 4GB sells for $1099), buying the HC2 will leave a considerable hole in your wallet. But if you're seriously interested in this card, it's a safe bet that price is not the deciding factor in your purchasing decision. There are plenty of mainstream models that offer better bang for your buck. This card targets the ultra high end of the market and was designed for the handful of enthusiasts that want no comprimise solutions.

With that said, the Hydro Copper 2 delivers the highest clock speeds of any GeForce GTX 580 in the market. Since the 580 is the flagship card from NVIDIA, the HC2 is currently the fastest GeForce video card available. At 850MHz core, 1700MHz shader, and 1049MHz memory, it's rated well beyond reference specifications (772MHz core / 1002MHz memory). We can't wait to see just how well this baby performs, but first let's look at the details of the card and what comes in the box.

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Closer Look

Watercooling has seen greater mainstream acceptance in recent years. As a result, manufacturers have acknowledged the trend and expanded their product lineups to include these more exotic parts. But what's the big draw for video cards, motherboards, or memory pre-installed with liquid cooling options? Simply put, increased cooling potential nets higher overclocking headroom which translates into higher, stable operating frequencies and ultimately, greater performance. In this particular case, performance is anchored by lower component temperatures and a quieter computing environment as well.



With help from the folks over at Swiftech, EVGA came up with a single slot, full cover watercooling solution you see here. It transfers heat from all the components that generate high temperature, specifically the GPU, VRM, and memory chips. The Hydro Copper 2 measures 10.5" (266.7mm) in length and stands 4.4" (111.2mm) tall. With the full card waterblock, it's also a heavy card, weighing in at 3 lbs. In comparison, the Hydro Copper 2 is the same length as other GTX 580s, but still shorter than the 12" Radeon HD 5970.



A look along the top edge of the card reveals some important connections. The Hydro Copper 2 requires two power jacks, one 6-pin and one 8-pin connector from the power supply. There are also dual SLI connectors which enable multi-card gaming, making it possible to link two, three, or four of these behemoths on the same motherboard. Look closely and you'll see a small EVGA logo next to the 8-pin power connector which lights up during normal operation.


An EVGA GTX 580 backplate comes pre-installed on the Hydro Copper 2. Besides protecting the card, it helps to cool the components found on this side of the PCB. And we think it adds to the overall aesthetic of the product, making it obvious this isn't a standard GTX 580. You can actually buy the backplate separately for $20.

 



Like the reference design, the Hydro Copper 2 comes with three connections on the PCI bracket. You get a mini-HDMI port along with two dual-link DVI connectors. The HDMI port is version 1.4a, which was released March 2010 and supports all of the latest 3D formats.



With a high end product, one would expect the accessory bundle to include everything required for installation. In this regard, the Hydro Copper 2 did not disappoint. There is a quick start guide, driver disc, DVI-to-VGA adapter, PCIe power adapters, and HDMI-to-mini HDMI cable. Moreover, EVGA threw in a set of 1/2" and 3/8" stubby fittings with corresponding hose clamps. The disk contains NVIDIA graphics drivers, EVGA Precision, OC Scanner, and EVGA SLI Enhancement.


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Test System and 3DMark

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: In order to provide comparable results, the graphics cards tested here were installed on the same, high end X58 based test system. The components we used consisted of an Asus Rampage III Extreme motherboard, Core i7 980X Extreme Edition processor, and 6GB of OCZ Blade memory. Within the BIOS, we configured the processor to an overclocked speed of 4.27GHz and memory to 1857MHz.

We feel these settings will minimize the occurrences of CPU performance bottlenecks during benchmark runs and allow the graphics cards to show their true potential. Furthermore, our Crucial M225 solid state drive entered the testing process with a clean copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit installed. Once installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest drivers and applications relevant to the review article.

HotHardware's Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition
Overclocked 4.27GHz

Asus Rampage III Extreme Motherboard
X58 Express Chipset

EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2
XFX HD 5970 Black Edition
Gigabyte Super OC HD 5870
MSI N580GTX OC
Zotac GTX 570 Amp! Edition
HIS HD 6870 Fan Turbo

6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-1857
(3 X 2GB) 7-8-7-20 1T


Crucial M225 128GB SSD
Firmware 1916

Watercooling Loop:
Laing MCP655 D5 12V DC Pump
Thermochill PA120.3 Triple Radiator
EK-RES400 v2 Multi-Option Reservoir
1/2" ID / 3/4" OD Tygon R3400 Tubing
Bitspower 1/2" Compression Fittings
Six 120mm Yate Loon D12SL-12 Fans

Display:
Dell 3008WFP LCD Monitor
2560 x 1600 Resolution

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
NVIDIA GeForce Driver Release 263.09
ATI Catalyst Display Driver 10.12

Benchmarks Used:

3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Aliens vs Predator
Metro 2033
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat
FarCry2

To see where the GTX 580 FTW HC2 stands against the competition, we gathered several of the fastest cards we could get our hands on. From AMD, we tested the XFX HD 5970 Black Edition, Gigabyte Super Overclock HD 5870, and an HIS HD 6870 Fan Turbo. We also ran numbers from an MSI N580GTX OC and Zotac GTX 570 Amp! Edition. Every single one comes factory overclocked to provide additional performance. For reference, we tested the MSI 580 at stock speeds as well. Unfortunately, we did not have either the HD 6970 or 6950 card available for testing. They happen to be AMD's fastest single GPU cards at the moment (HD 5970 is still more powerful) but keep in mind that they are comparable to the GTX 570 in performance. Nevertheless, the group of GPU's we're comparing in this article represent some of the biggest and baddest models available from both camps.


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DX10 Performance


3DMark Vantage

Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated new graphics tests, CPU tests, several feature tests, and support for the latest PC hardware. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme and Performance preset options.

Well, we're off to a good start. The GTX 580 FTW HC2 hit a score of P32823 and X14569, beating the other overclocked GTX 580 from MSI for the top spot in Vantage. In fact, it even led the HD 5970 Black Edition by 11% in this particular benchmark.


Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


 
3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows 7-based systems because it uses the advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 11, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme and Performance preset options.

3DMark11 is a vicious benchmark and really puts a hurting on the current crop of DX11 hardware. With that said, the HD 5970 flexes its muscles and leads the GTX 580 FTW HC2 by a 14% margin. But the EVGA card easily outpaces the rest of the pack.

At the end of the day, you really can't do much with 3DMark besides running the test and compare your score with others on discussion forums. The following pages consist of our real world gaming tests, so let's find out how the EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 performs in that environment.

 

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Aliens vs Predator - DX11

Alien vs Predator
DX11 Gaming Performance


AvP

Alien vs Predator is a DX11 title from British developer Rebellion, the same team behind the 1999 original PC game. It brings the war between two of science fiction's most popular characters to the first person shooter gaming world. AvP delivers three single player campaigns and provides unique 3-way multiplayer gaming as well. For our testing, we used the AvP stand alone benchmark using a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and maximum image quality settings.





With the settings cranked up, it's a close race for the top spot in this benchmark. The GTX 580 FTW HC2 edges out the other 580's we looked at, but can't catch the overclocked HD 5970 Black Edition. But unlike 3DMark11 where the difference was substantial, the HC2 trailed by only 1 to 3 frames per second (3% to 5% depending on resolution). 

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Metro 2033 - DX11

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. We tested multiple game resolutions and in-game image quality options set to High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.



 





Here we get some mixed results. At 1920x1080 and 1680x1050, the GTX 580 FTW HC2 achieves the top spot among the comparison group. But at 2560x1600, the dual-GPU HD 5970 pulls ahead of the EVGA card by 4 FPS (9%).
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat - DX11

S. T. A. L. K. E. R. - Call of Pripyat
DX11 Gaming Performance


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Call of Pripyat is the third game in the STALKER series and throws in DX11 to the mix. This benchmark is based on one of the locations found within the latest game. Testing includes four stages and utilizes various weather conditions, as well as different time of day settings. It offers a number of presets and options, including multiple versions of DirectX, resolutions, antialiasing, etc. SunShafts represents the most graphically challenging stage available. We conducted our testing with DX11 enabled, multiple resolutions, and Ultra settings.

 

 





STALKER obviously favors NVIDIA as all the GeForce cards we tested provided higher scores than the HD 5970, including the GTX 570 from Zotac. At any rate, the GTX 580 FTW HC2 was 20% faster than the HD 5970 in average FPS.
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Far Cry 2 - DX10

FarCry 2
DX10 Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using a built-in demo run recorded in the Ranch Map. The test results shown here were run at multiple resolutions and maximum image settings.





There's no question which card tops our Far Cry 2 test results. The GTX 580 FTW HC2 consistently leads leads the pack, with the HD 5970 trailing by 32% at the 2560x1600 resolution. Granted, Far Cry 2 is a DX10 title with no tessellation features but it's still a good indicator of graphics performance.

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Overclocking Performance

Overclocking is not an exact science. When it comes to overclocking headroom, every GPU is different. And just because your friend's GTX 580 hit 1000MHz doesn't mean that yours will, even using the same settings and hardware. Many factors can influence what a video card is capable of, starting with the unique capability of each GPU. These factors may also include complementary components within the system, but we find the primary influence is the type of cooling used on the graphics card.
 
Overclocking 
Push it to the limit




To overclock the GTX 580 FTW HC2, we used some utilities from EVGA: Precision, E-LEET, and OC Scanner. Precision is a GPU overclocking and real-time monitoring utility that allows fine tuning of the core, shader, and memory frequency. It also provides independent or synchronous fan controls for multi-GPU systems. You're able to save up to 10 profiles with the ability to assign hotkeys for in-game access. We also used EVGA E-LEET v1.08.8 tuning utility which allows for GTX 580 voltage adjustments. OC Scanner v1.5.0 offers a built-in artifact scanner, benchmark functionality, and a logging feature.

With some effort, we reached stability at a blazing 1005 MHz core and 1075 MHz memory frequency with voltage set at 1.143V. For those keeping track at home, that's an 18% GPU overclock over the rated speed of the GTX 580 FTW HC2, and a 30% increase over the reference design speed clock

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Power Consumption and Temps


Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and temps. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Power Consumption and Operating Temperatures
How low can you go?



We have good news and bad news here. The bad news should not come as a major surprise as the GTX 580 in its stock form is one power hungry video card. Our results show the overclocked EVGA HC FTW GTX 580 uses even more juice due to higher operating frequencies. But if you're considering this monster card, we can't image a few extra dollars on your electricity bill over the course of a year being a deal breaker. 





The biggest advantage a water-cooled video card has over its competition is operating temperature. Of course, it commands a price premium and requires additional hardware to implement, but water cooled models will always operate at much lower temps than their air cooled siblings, when installed and setup properly. When looking at our results, keep in mind that every liquid cooling loop is different and ambient temperature is an important factor that affects operating levels of the card.

Here, we utilized Furmark to stress the cards and saw remarkable temps in both idle and load states. How so? With the exception of Gigabyte's HD 5870 SOC, the EVGA GTX 580 FTW HC2 ran cooler at full load than the rest of the cards in an idle state. In other words, the cooling performance of the Hydro Copper 2 waterblock is outstanding.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: With the launch of the GTX 580, NVIDIA continued to lay claim to the fastest single GPU video card available. The EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 simply takes the lead up a few notches. Going into this review, we took note of the higher GPU and memory frequencies offered on the card and expected to see a performance boost relative to the increase in graphics horsepower. What we saw was a complete domination of our benchmark suite. The factory overclock resulted in FPS increases in every test we ran when compared to the stock GTX 580. On average, we saw an 8% performance jump. Furthermore, the HC2 eclipsed the overclocked HD 5970 by 5%, making it the fastest card in our comparison group.   


 

In the past, we've found that one advantage of buying a graphics card with a pre-installed GPU water block is a cost savings for the total package compared to purchasing the card and water block separately. This was the case with the GTX 480 FTW Hydro Copper we reviewed last summer and previous water cooled graphics cards before it. Does that hold true for this product? Unfortunately, not this time around. The GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 goes for $699. Since EVGA doesn't offer an air cooled FTW GTX 580, we'll take the next best thing and use the SuperClocked GTX 580, which retails for $519. The Swiftech / EVGA full cover water block is not sold separately so we don't have exact pricing on it, but we found comparable water blocks for about $140. Going the do-it-yourself route, the total comes out to $659, which is $40 less than the HC2. But the cost savings does not take into account the time and effort it requires to replace the stock heatsink with a water block. Furthermore, the HC2 arrives with a guaranteed 850 MHz overclock versus the uncertain speed you would reach using another model.



To wrap things up, let's look at the options available in the ultra high end market. The most expensive consumer graphics card you can buy is the Asus Ares HD 5870 X2 4GB, which retails for $1099. The next best thing from AMD's camp is the XFX HD 5970 Black Edition, a slightly overclocked version of the 5970 which sells for $719. On the other side of the fence, the only competition for the HC2 comes from similarly overclocked GTX 580s. The card we used in the comparison group from MSI held up pretty well in the benchmarks and retails for only $509 online. It's worth noting that EVGA is currently the only company that offers a liquid cooled GTX 580 model. Until we see what the upcoming dual-GPU GTX 5-series card can do, the GTX 580 FTW HC2 is the fastest GeForce card you can buy today.

With higher frequencies and lower temperatures, EVGA gives enthusiasts and gamers a product that provides dominating performance in one neat package. Yes it's extravagant and expensive, but those willing to spend this much money on a video card will not be disappointed. For example, our retail sample hit a rock solid stable 1005 MHz with only a slight voltage increase and minimal effort. From a performance standpoint, we couldn't be more pleased. With a lifetime warranty, attractive design, single slot form factor, extraordinary performance, and low temps, we highly recommend the GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 from EVGA.

 

 

  • Very low operating temps
  • Runs dead silent
  • Plenty of overclocking headroom
  • Single slot form factor
  • PhysX and CUDA Support
  • OC utilities included
  • Lifetime warranty

  • Expensive
  • Requires additional liquid cooling hardware
  • Heavy



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