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EVGA GTX 980 HYBRID Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,861
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Montreal
As NVIDIA’s GTX 980 gradually matures, their board partners are starting to take a few more chances with their custom designs. While cards like the Matrix and Classified series have pushed air cooled options to their max, water cooling has remained persona non grata for the most part. EVGA’s GTX 980 Hybrid is meant to bridge the gap between classically cooled options and those which require a pre-existing water cooling loop for optimal performance.

In the grand scheme of things, the Hybrid isn’t really unique since ASUS’ Poseidon series and EVGA’s own HydroCopper attempt to harness the inherent efficiency of water cooling but they require quite a bit of plumbing to get working. EVGA’s Hybrid on the other hand takes a page from AMD’s R9 295X2 by combining a closed loop 120mm water cooler with a secondary air cooling setup so it boasts a simple, drop-in installation in most cases. While setting up a whole custom water cooling loop may be a bit daunting for some, EVGA’s design should allow for the best of both worlds.


Instead of just slapping on a closed loop water cooler and calling it a day, EVGA set out to make the GTX 980 somewhat unique. Alongside the Classified and HydroCopper, this is one of the highest clocked Maxwell cards on the market, surpassing the likes of ASUS’ Matrix Platinum and PNY’s new XLR8 Pro OC. While the memory remains at its stock speeds, both Base and Boost clocks are supposed to hit levels which are more than 150MHz above reference. This should allow it to become one of the most sought-after GTX 980’s on the market for those who want silence and high performance.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Hybrid is its price. This may actually sound insane but with a going price of $649 USD, it is significantly cheaper than competing similarly clocked options. Back that up with EVGA’s iron-clad 3 year warranty and excellent customer support and you have a something of a frontrunner in this category. Perhaps that’s why actually finding one for sale isn’t easy.


Due to the weight of the graphics card and its associated water cooling components, EVGA has opted for an absolutely massive box which is filled to the brim with protective foam. This layout allows all of the items to be kept apart from one another, minimizing the possibility of any potential shipping damage.


In order to minimize the complexity of installing the Hybrid into systems, its 120mm radiator, water block and all associated tubing is fitted together. The end result resembles a simple reference-based GTX 980 with an AIO water cooling unit stuck onto its side. The fan cable isn’t particularly well integrated but that can be taken care of by wrapping it around one of the water tubes.

One thing we have to mention is fan speeds. Since the fan is controlled based on the GPU’s real-time temperatures, it ran at a constant speed in our tests but that may change in certain higher ambient temperature scenarios. If you want enhanced cooling or simply more control, the motherboard’s onboard fan controller should be able to increase and decrease RPMs accordingly. Provided you install a female to male 3-pin fan extension cable.


The card itself utilizes a full-coverage shroud under which is the GPU block and a secondary heatsink for cooling the VRM and memory. It may look basic but the shroud allows the single fan to better direct its airflow over critical components since the water block only cools the GM104 core. Plus, it looks sleek and clean.


Water cooled cards have been done before but EVGA’s GTX 980 Hybrid takes quality to another level. The well-braided tubes fit perfectly into their precision-cut openings within the shroud and the blending between materials is seamlessly done everywhere we looked. $100 more than the reference card may be a bit too much to stomach for some buyers, at least EVGA didn’t throw this thing together and expect you to pay a premium for it.


The water cooling unit itself is a fairly basic affair which is provided by Asetek and based on their CPU-centric designs. It boasts a 120mm fan and a relatively thin radiator which should be more than enough to handle GTX 980’s core.


Around back, EVGA has installed a full-coverage backplate which is supposed to lower overall component temperatures provided there’s adequate in-case airflow.


With a dual 6-pin power input and DVI + three DisplayPort + HDMI inputs, the GTX 980 Hybrid sticks to the tried and true reference layout for its I/O connectors. EVGA has opened up the I/O plate for increased airflow though.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,861
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Montreal
Clock Speed Consistency Over Time

Clock Speed Consistency Over Time


Since it is equipped with a water cooler, the EVGA GTX 980 Hybrid shouldn’t exhibit any problems with clock speed throttling. However, we still needed to run our typical gamut of testing to insure nothing was going on behind the scenes to artificially limit frequencies.


Temperatures were nothing short of incredible even though the card is overclocked to some impressive clock speeds. We never saw it go above the 37°C throughout testing and the card actually stabilized around 36°C


Naturally, these low temperature allow the Hybrid to increase its Boost frequencies to reasonably high levels. It hit a continual level of 1430MHz throughout testing, beating every other GTX 980 we’ve ever tested.


Moving on to actual performance, there’s actually not that much difference in Hitman due to architectural limitations but as you will see on the next pages, many games allow EVGA’s card to really stretch its legs.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,861
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Montreal
Thermal Imaging / Acoustics / Power Consumption

Thermal Imaging



Honestly, what’s there really to say about this? It looks like the water cooler is accomplishing exactly what it sets out to do: whisk all of the heat away to points outside the case so the confines around the card remain cool.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


Since the fans don’t have to spin up to compensate for increase thermal loads, the Hybrid becomes one of the quietest cards around. However, we would like to see lower idle levels but the fan runs at a continual speed unless you utilize motherboard-bound software or BIOS settings to modify its RPM curve.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.


These are somewhat different results than we are used to seeing since lower temperatures typically lead to more efficiently running cores. However, in this case the large fan and water pump add a bit of power overhead.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,861
Location
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Test System & Setup

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell U2713HM (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 15.3.1 Beta
NVIDIA 352.86


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 4 / Dragon Age: Inquisition

Battlefield 4


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In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.





Dragon Age: Inquisition


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Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most popular games around due to its engaging gameplay and open-world style. In our benchmark sequence we run through two typical areas: a busy town and through an outdoor environment.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Dying Light / Far Cry 4

Dying Light


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Dying Light is a relatively late addition to our benchmarking process but with good reason: it required multiple patches to optimize performance. While one of the patches handicapped viewing distance, this is still one of the most demanding games available.




Far Cry 4


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sC7-_Q1cSro" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest game in Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Hitman Absolution / Metro: Last Light

Hitman Absolution


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.




Metro: Last Light


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/40Rip9szroU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest iteration of the Metro franchise once again sets high water marks for graphics fidelity and making use of advanced DX11 features. In this benchmark, we use the Torchling level which represents a scene you’ll be intimately familiar with after playing this game: a murky sewer underground.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor / Thief

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


With its high resolution textures and several other visual tweaks, Shadow of Mordor’s open world is also one of the most detailed around. This means it puts massive load on graphics cards and should help point towards which GPUs will excel at next generation titles.




Thief


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When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider


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Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Overclocking…..what can we really say? It was absolutely awesome on our sample. While EVGA doesn’t actually allow you to increase the Power Limit or voltages beyond what other competitors offer, the amount of cooling on tap allows the card to utilize the extra headroom to great effect.


After some tweaking, we were able to achieve a continual core speed of 1620MHz which is nothing short of amazing without any additional voltage modifications. Meanwhile, memory frequencies hit a level just above 8Gbps which is also quite impressive considering only a few other cards have been able to achieve this without more GDDR5 voltage. These two factors allowed performance to come even closer to the TITAN X.


 

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