ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra, Liquid Cooled SLI
Installing the ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra
We used an Antec Nine Hundred as the base for our installation of the Hydra. Our first step was to remove the Thermaltake BigWater 760is from the foam packaging, and lay out the tubes to unkink one of the lines. Power ables and tubes we pulled straight out and the clamps checked. Although not mentioned, you'll also want to place the clamps that come separately with the unit onto the black hoses on each card - an oversight we made when connecting them later on.
Thermaltake recommends installing the unit in the upper bays of a case in order to keep the reservoir higher than the waterblocks, but with a full assortment of drives already installed, we had to think otherwise. Thus, we removed the top one of the two drive cages in the Nine Hundred to seat the BigWater 760is - a tedious routine that we clamored about in our earlier review. This led us to our first problem: the length of the BigWater plus the length of the 9800GTX+ cards made installation along the middle cage impossible. We decided to try the bottom cage and also ran into similar issues with the BigWater running into the motherboard's headers there.
In our third rebuild, we finally settled for removing all but one of the 5 1/4" drives from the uppermost section of the chassis and placing the BigWater up there. In the process, we also had to remove the Corsair Dominator fan we use to cool our memory, and still found it to be a tight fit with the edge of the BigWater almost making it to the memory chip itself. The video cards come completely pre-assembled, so the only trick here is to match the correct hoses to the tubes leading from and to the pump.
Finally, once everything was squared away - both cards installed, cables plugged in and hoses connected - we finally filled the reservoir with coolant. Powering up the system for the first time is always the hardest step as it requires a good deal of faith that everything will work as expected. Nothing could be worse that not noticing a loose tube and having coolant shooting all over your board, cards, etc. For us, everything was fine and we continually added more coolant until a steady inward and outward flow was observed.
Blue LEDS on both cards and the BigWater plus UV-reactive coolant can really add some bling to even the most tricked-out PC, but we have to say that a kit like this really isn't for the faint of heart. Between installation conflicts and the concerns dealing with water-cooling, you really have to ask yourself if it's really worth all of the hassle.