To better cool a video card, water cooling is the way to go. Sure, you can go for an all-out water cooling solution by getting your own tubing, radiators, pumps, reservoirs, water blocks, and more. The issue with that is that it can get quite costly, and it’s also a bit of a hassle. A much easier and cost-effective route would be to get a closed-loop CPU cooling system by the likes of Antec or Corsair. I decided to give the H80 a try on my MSI GTX 560 (TwinFrozr II/OC/non-Ti). The process itself is fairly straightforward, and anyone can do it (thanks to zip-ties!). How are temperatures afterwards, and is it even worth it? Be sure to watch the video below.
Straight to it: The before & after temperatures.
Using FurMark, I did a 15-minute extreme burn-in torture test. Idling, the video card will get about 31C (waited two minutes after booting up; idle temps were monitored with MSI Afterburner). During most of the test and at the end, the GPU hit 86C. While that is quite a high temperature, it’s nothing to really be worried about considering, when gaming, your GPU will most likely never go over 70C, which is nothing to worry about anyway.
After the stock heatsink/fan was replaced with the H80 water block, the idle temps were the same (was idling for at least half an hour; idle temps were monitored with MSI Afterburner). During most of the test and at the end of it, the GPU his 64C. That’s a 25.6% temperature decrease. While that’s all fine and dandy, I was expecting better. Most forum posts I’ve read had much better results, even when using lower-end water cooling systems.
I believe that the rather large water block is the cause of the not-so-awesome temperatures. The mounting holes on the water block are further away from the mounting holes on the video card. This results in a zip-tie solution that isn’t as tight onto the GPU when compared to using a smaller water block. Using a smaller water block would’ve had more optimal hole positions for the zip-ties so that you could get better pressure onto the GPU. Using something like an Antec 620 or a Corsair H50/60, most likely, would’ve been better.
How to do it?
As mentioned above, the procedure is fairly straightforward. After removing the 4 screws that keeps the heatsink mounted on the video card, the heatsink/fan can easily come off. After that, take the H80′s water block and position it above the GPU. The tubes connecting to the radiator might be an issue. Take your zip-ties and route them through the holes on the water block and through the video card. Take other zip-ties to securely mount everything into place. You can then use scissors to cut off the excess ends.
The hardest part is probably finding a good spot to mount the radiator. While my Armor A60 has ample room available for things, the VRM heatsink on my MSI Z68A-GD80 motherboard caused some issues when trying to mount the radiator to the top of my case. My CPU heatsink/fan, the Cooler Master Hyper 212+, was causing issues when trying to mount it to the back of the case. I went ahead and mounted it to the bottom of the case next to the power supply. This isn’t really a recommended spot, especially if your case sits just right above your floor, as there won’t be enough room for air flow.
During my testing, I lifted the computer case up a bit so that the fan can get some more air. Not doing so will result in higher temperatures and much higher fan speeds/noises. During the tests themselves, a large amount of warm air was being pushed through the radiator and onto my carpet. Because of this, mounting the radiator to the bottom of your case isn’t recommended.
While this was an interesting experiment, I’ll be returning the H80 soon. As mentioned earlier, using a cooler with a smaller water block will probably result in better temperatures. Regardless, the before and after results are still impressive, and really shows what a simple water cooling setup can do.
So, the answer to the question in the beginning (Is it worth it?) is: Sort of… If you have a cooler with a smaller water block and an appropriate area to mount it within your case, then go for it. It’s still cheaper and easier than manually water cooling your components. Real enthusiasts will probably go with the latter route, as I hope to do soon.