ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra, Liquid Cooled SLI

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When we think about ECS and their product lines, we typically expect a budget-minded approach.  Solid products at reasonable prices that don't exactly wow the consumer, but don't hit them hard in the wallet either.  The ECS X48T-A motherboard that we looked at a few weeks ago was one of the first steps by ECS to change that image, although a few missteps with the construction as well as some overclocking issues didn't overly sway us to their new way of thinking. 

Thus, we were a bit surprised when we first heard about the ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra - a twin pack of high-end graphics cards consisting of two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards combined with liquid-cooling.  The 9800 GTX+ is the upper level of the 9xxx series, with the plus denoting an extra bump in the clock speeds to get better peformance in the most demanding applications.  Two of these used in an SLI configuration would be a gamer's dream, although the noise and heat output could be an issue.  ECS has solved these problems by providing the customized liquid cooling unit from ThermalTake using the BigWater 760is.  ECS hopes to make a big splash here with the Hydra pack, possibly the first of its kind to include all three components in one box.  First, we'll take a look at the specs of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ and then move onto a closer look at ECS' take on it and finally the BigWater 760is.


NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX+
Features & Specifications
GPU Engine Specs:

Processor Cores 128
Graphics Clock (MHz) 738 MHz
Processor Clock (MHz) 1836 MHz
Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec) 47.2 

Memory Specs:
Memory Clock (MHz) 1100 MHz
Standard Memory Config 512  MB
Memory Interface Width 256-bit GDDR3 
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 70.4 
Feature Support:
NVIDIA SLI®-ready* 2-Way  / 3-Way
NVIDIA PureVideo® Technology* HD
NVIDIA PhysX™-ready*
NVIDIA CUDA™ Technology
HybridPower™ Technology*
GeForce Boost  
Microsoft DirectX 10 
OpenGL 2.1 
Bus Support PCI-E 2.0 x16 
Certified for Windows Vista
Display Support:
Maximum Digital Resolution 2560x1600 
Maximum VGA Resolution 2048x1536 
Standard Display Connectors Dual Link DVI
Multi Monitor
HDMI* Via adapter
Audio Input for HDMI S/PDIF 
Standard Graphics Card Dimensions:
Height 4.376 inches 
Length 10.5 inches 
Width Dual-slot 
Thermal and Power Specs:
Maximum GPU Tempurature (in C) 105  C
Maximum Graphics Card Power (W) 141  W
Minimum System Power Requirement (W) 450  W
Supplementary Power Connectors 6-pin x2 

Note that we included the basic specifications of the GeForce 9800 GTX+ above because ECS hasn't changed anything here.  In our eyes, we see that as a bit of a let-down.  With the availability of more advanced cooling methods, ECS could have really put out a killer product spec with the Hydra. Combining the power of running two of these cards in SLI and having a faster clocked product that's running along significantly cooler and quieter than the rest, would have put ECS and the Hydra more prominently on the map.  Of course, we can always set out on our own to overclock these cards, and we do later on in this review.  However, we'd like to see ECS as well as other manufacturers put their own engineering skills to the test as well. 

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