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The Corsair/MSI Hydro GFX: Taking the Brakes Off the GeForce GTX 980 Ti

CORSAIR Technical Marketing

NVIDIA’s second generation Maxwell architecture has turned out to be beyond formidable. Their engineers have a habit of leaving gas in the tank for partners, enthusiasts, and overclockers; the card is fast out of the box, and if you’re willing to play with it a bit, it can be even faster.

Speaking of partners, we partnered with MSI and licensed our HG10 technology to them to bring to you the Hydro GFX, one of the fastest and most overclockable GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards on the planet.


The Hydro GFX comes out of the gate with boundary-pushing factory overclocks, and impressively, there’s still substantially more performance to be had for users willing to push the limits of their card.


Reference GTX 980 Ti

Hydro GFX



NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti


CUDA Cores




Default Clock

1000 MHz

1190 MHz


Boost Clock

1075 MHz

1291 MHz






Memory Clock

7000 MHz

7096 MHz


Memory Bus




Rated TDP




Maximum TDP

275W (10%)

280W (7%)



As you can see, the Hydro GFX carries a massive core clock speed increase above the stock GTX 980 Ti that catapults it well past even Titan X performance. The increased TDP headroom helps to cover the higher clocks, but liquid cooling does even more. While a reference 980 Ti will hit 83C and then thermally throttle, reducing boost clocks to keep thermals in check, a Hydro GFX never hits that throttle point. It’s solely power limited. Yet because the Hydro GFX uses a closed loop liquid cooler to cool the GPU, the blower fan and baseplate – licensed from us – only have to cool the power circuitry and video memory. Bottom line: Everything runs cooler. Everything runs more efficiently. Power limits are hit less frequently as a result.


We ran the 980 Ti and the Hydro GFX through three benchmark runs in Unigine Valley at 4K resolution. You can see the reference 980 Ti plateaus at about 83C and then clocks drop a couple of bins and never hit the same peaks. Meanwhile, Hydro GFX’s core temp doesn’t really plateau until about 50C, but clocks stay within the same tight band for most of the run.

The Hydro GFX still has some headroom beyond that, though. The sample we used for testing was able to do offsets +100 on the GPU and +500 on the GDDR5 with TDP set at 107%. Resulting peak clock was a very healthy 1467 MHz on the GPU and 8.1 GHz on the GDDR5.

For our testing, we used the following system:

•             CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K @ 4.6 GHz
•             CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H110i GT
•             DRAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX 4x4GB DDR4-3600MHz C18
•             Motherboard: ASUS Z170-DELUXE
•             Storage: Corsair Force GT 480GB
•             Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
•             Enclosure: Corsair Carbide Series Air 540
•             Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit

So how does the Hydro GFX work out in practice? A stock Hydro GFX can get you as much as 15% more performance over a reference 980 Ti depending on the title – well ahead of a Titan X – but our overclocked settings bumped that up to more than 20%. We ran our tests at three resolutions: 1920x1080 (1080p), 2560x1440 (1440p), and 3840x2160 (4K).


Our least graphically intensive game, we tested GRiD: Autosport as kind of a baseline with 4xMSAA and all settings maxed out. Each card produced fluid framerates even at 4K, so the Hydro GFX’s victory is mostly academic here. At lower resolutions, overclocking doesn’t earn us a whole lot and we’re really fairly platform limited, but once you hit 4K and the workload hits the GPU, the cards start to spread out.


We tested Grand Theft Auto V with almost all settings maxed, except for FXAA only (no MSAA) and grass was set as Very High instead of Ultra. Because of how variable GTA’s framerate is, every additional average frame can really matter. A stock 980 Ti sits at 41.7 fps at 4K – not terrible and certainly playable, but a little choppy. Meanwhile, the stock Hydro GFX can bring that up to 44.8 fps, and overclocking will get you an even bigger gain: 48.4 fps.


Finally, Shadow of Mordor was tested with all of its settings maxed, and it showed some of the biggest gains from going to the Hydro GFX. This is a heavily GPU-limited game, and at 4K, the Hydro GFX can run it as much as 22% faster with our overclock.

We’ll be clear: the Hydro GFX is among the fastest graphics cards you can buy, and overclocking makes it faster still. That, and even with a heavy overclock and TDP jump, the integrated Hydro Series cooler can keep the GPU running well below 60C. If you simply must have the highest performance you can get in a single-GPU package, Hydro GFX is certainly a way to go. To learn more or pick up one of your own, you can visit our product page here.


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