A few months ago we looked at the reference design products from ATI (X800XTPE) and Nvidia (6800 Ultra), both cards proved to be very fast and were capable of excellent image quality. It’s taken a while for both to make it to market in volume however now those cards have started to appear we have the opportunity to look at some retail products and see how they fair. The first card we have in this article is the Gainward CoolFX 6800 Ultra. Gainward cards have always been of a high quality and even higher performance compared to other brands of Geforce products, the Gainward 5900XT is a prime example of this so we had high hopes going into the review of how the CoolFX would perform. Our second product is Connect3D’s X800 XT PE, the first Connect3D product we have looked at on Driverheaven however not the first I’ve used. My previous experience with Connect3D products has been good; the 9700non pro I once owned was an excellent performer and modded nicely to pro speeds.
As this is the second time we’ve looked at the X800 and 6800 products we’re going to mix it up a little in terms of the benchmark settings we use. In the previous article we looked at 1024x768, 1280x960(or 1024) and 1600x1200 followed by 1600x1200 and 4xaa 16xaf. This time we’re going to look at the higher resolutions only and throw in more AA/AF settings such as 2aa/2af and 4aa no-af to give a wider idea of how each card performs under different settings.
As you can see from the above picture the CoolFX is no ordinary video card. This is Gainwards flagship model which comes equipped with an Innovatek water-cooling system. The card itself is currently following the Nvidia reference design however we’d imagine it wont be long before it moves to the nicer Gainward red PCB. Because it’s the reference design we have the usual 2 DVI outputs and the requirement for 2 Molex connectors. The memory on the CoolFX is Samsung 1.6ns ddr3 rated to 600 MHz. Because this is a gainward product we expect it to be clocked faster than the normal Ultras you buy from other manufacturers and Gainward don’t disappoint, the CoolFX is automatically set to 450/1200 when Expert tool is installed which is 50mhz core and 100mhz memory over the reference spec.
In comparison to the reference design the CoolFX is similar in size though doesn’t extent as far over the PCI slots.
Included with the card are al the components you need to get your water-cooling up and running, 2 instruction booklets (English and German) the 6800 manual a driver/software disk (61.21 + Expert tool) and the various s-video cables
In most reviews this section gets a “yeah, it plugged in and went...no probs” however the product we’re looking at here is a little more complex than your average video card so many people would expect things to be a lot harder. Having used water-cooling before I was quite happy to batter in to the installation and it was easy, other than cutting the pipe to the desired length and tightening a few screws there were no tools required. The connectors are push fit which are then tightened by hand and to be honest there isn’t much more to it.
In more detail, the first step was to install the card in the AGP slot, a lot of the time AGP cards are relatively lightweight and I don’t have a problem with not screwing them in however the CoolFX is a heavy beast and you’ll want to make sure that you secure it properly. As this was a review sample I didn’t go as far as to install the radiator and pump in my case however this would be advisable for normal usage, its more tidy and can reduce noise in the room. Following the install of the AGP card I assembled the pump/reservoir and then radiator/fan and connected them up in sequence. There were some interesting comparisons to be made to the Asetek water-cooling I recently reviewed. Firstly the Eheim pump used in this kit is much quieter than the Asetek pump, when running you really wouldn’t know it was there. Power connectors were also a lot more convenient in the CoolFX unit than the Asetek. The pump is run of a single Molex compared to a pass-through to the mains in the Asetek design and the Papst fan runs of the normal 3 pin fan connector rather than a breakout box with Asetek. I connected our CoolFX radiator fan through the A8V case fan connector on the motherboard and it functioned absolutely fine. Overall I feel the Innovatek/Gainward solution, whilst not as powerful as the Asetek, is an easier product to install as far as water cooling goes. Our only criticism is that the reservoir in this kit looks a bit plasticy and not as cool as the rest of the system.
Once the system was set up it was time to add
the water. Gainward provide a plentiful supply of anti-algae liquid
to add to your water and the system takes about 1 litre to fill.
There you have it, it’s as simple as that. Having installed
the system I then turned to the instructions and checked them
out. Gainward have done a good job of describing each step in
detail with pictures where required. As long as you have an ounce
of common sense you’ll be able to install the unit using
them, just take your time and double/triple check your connections.
Next: Connect3D X800XT PE