Closed loop liquid cooled (CLLC) video cards have become an increasingly important part of the video card industry over the past couple of years. Though liquid cooling isn’t by any means new, it has until very recently been a true niche in the market, typically limited to aftermarket alterations of reference cards. More recently however we have seen the GPU vendors and their board partners embracing first and second party solutions, with companies like EVGA shipping complete liquid cooled solutions, and AMD going so far as to using liquid cooling on their reference cards such as the Radeon R9 Fury X. At the end of the day liquid cooling has allowed customers and system builders alike to put together denser and quieter systems, particularly when it comes to accommodating video cards over 250W.

Not surprisingly then, high-end CLLC-equipped video cards is a bright spot in an otherwise tepid video card market, offering an avenue of growth when other areas of the market are in decline. The potential for growth in turn attracts new competitors to the market, and that is particularly the case today for Corsair.

This evening the venerable PC components and cooling company is announcing that they are entering the high-end video card market. However rather than going into full video card manufacturing ala the traditional board partners, Corsair will be entering just the high-end segment of the market, and will be partnering with MSI to do so. The two companies will be combining their strengths – MSI’s board development expertise and Corsair’s cooler expertise – to develop high-end closed loop liquid cooled video cards to be sold under the Corsair brand.

GeForce GTX 980 Ti Specifications
  Corsair Hydro GFX Reference GTX 980 Ti
CUDA Cores 2816 2816
Core Clock 1190MHz 1000MHz
Boost Clock 1291MHz 1075MHz
Memory Clock 7.096GHz GDDR5 7.01GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 384-bit
TDP 250W 250W
GPU GM200 GM200
Length 10.5 Inches 10.5 Inches
Width Double-Slot +
120mm Radiator
Warranty 3 Years Varies
Launch Date 10/2015 06/01/2015
Launch Price $739 $649

The first video card developed under this partnership is the simply named Corsair Hydro GFX. The card is a CLLC-equipped GeForce GTX 980 Ti, combining an MSI card design with Corsair’s Hydro series 120mm H55 CLLC. Along with the integrated CLLC Corsair will also be shipping the card with a factory overclock – running the GPU at 1190MHz base clock and 1291MHz boost clock – in order to further boost the performance of the card. Overall Corsair estimates that the Hydro GFX should outperform the reference GTX 980 Ti by 15% by virtue of the CLLC eliminating thermal throttling combined with their factory overclock.

Meanwhile judging from the pictures and the specifications provided to us by Corsair, it looks like this card is a reference or near-reference board supplied by MSI, with the H55 and accompanying video card shroud taking the place of a normal cooler. This is notable since it means the card retains NVIDIA’s standard 250W power limit. Out of the box performance then is going to be limited to what Corsair and MSI can squeeze out of 250W – which is where the 15% number comes from – however with a CLLC attached there is clearly of potential for significant unofficial overclocking through BIOS modifications. I suspect having MSI handle the board will be helpful in that respect.

For Corsair getting into the high-end video card market is an interesting and initially unexpected move, though one that makes sense looking at their product portfolio. The company sells cases, coolers, and PSUs; everything needed to house and power a video card. And with the company increasingly focusing on small footprint cases such as the Bulldog, ensuring that there are suitable high-performance video cards to install in their cases makes all the more sense. Ultimately this move allows Corsair to dip their toes into a profitable segment of the video card market while ensuring that there is a supply of suitable cards for their small footprint cases, and of course that customers can buy it from Corsair along with their case and CPU cooler.

Meanwhile in the long term while the Hydro GFX is so far Corsair’s first and only card, the deal does leave the door open to further products from Corsair. I suspect that if the Hydro GFX is successful we’ll see further cards from Corsair and MSI once the next generation of cards lands later next year.

Finally, as for the Hydro GFX, Corsair will be releasing the card in October through their website. The MSRP will be $739, which is essentially a $90 mark up over a reference GTX 980 Ti in exchange for the factory overclock and integrated CLLC. Meanwhile Corsair is not the first vendor to get into selling CLLC-equipped GeForce cards, so the Hydro GFX will be going up against cards from vendors such as EVGA who are already shipping similar products.

Update: While this announcement originally came from Corsair, who only mentioned that they'd be selling the card as the Hydro GFX, we're now hearing that MSI will be selling the card as well. In MSI's lineup it will be known as the Sea Hawk, with the same specification and price.

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  • meacupla - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    Seeing as it has a fan on the card itself, it looks like they didn't bother with an extensively custom design to cool the VRMs.

    I do, however, like the fact they kept it to dual slot size, because most aftermarket CLLC blocks end up being 3 slots tall.
  • PPalmgren - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    Hmm, Corsair and MSI huh. These two companies fill the gaps each other has in their product line. Corsair makes everything in a computer except parts with PCBs like the motherboard and the graphics cards, whereas MSI focuses on PCB parts and all-in-one solutions like their PC and laptop lineup.

    What I'm saying is I think the two companies would make good partners for a merger. I think MSI is (surprisingly) the bigger of the two, and I don't think it would happen, but both companies bring a lot to the table and would likely make a very solid merger should they ever go that route.
  • TallestJon96 - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    Not totally surprising, but not expected.

    I trust corsair quite a bit. I recognize that they are basically only redistributing products from other companies, but they usually have a good combination of reasonable price, high (or high enough) quality, and value. At the end of the year, my new build will have a PSU, case, and possibly ran from corsair, and I would be interested in their pascal cards if they make some.
  • TallestJon96 - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    I'm going to join the ranks of those asking for an edit button.

    In my particular case, getting Safari to not auto correct gpu to "you" or ram to "ran" is quite bothersome, but at least on websites like toms I can fix it.
  • Assimilator87 - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    This is an unnecessary, already existing solution and a big missed opportunity. To make a noticeable splash and turn heads, Corsair and MSI should have made a CLLC cooled Lightning.
  • hammer256 - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    CLCs seem to make a lot of sense for GPUs (probably more so than CPUs), considering how much power they can pull and the limited amount of space they have for dissipating said power. Personally I would love to see some double slotted dual GPUs with CLCs, that way I can pack in 4 of them into a workstation and not have to worry about the tight spacing and inefficient cooling. Right now I pretty much have to ram air into the tiny gaps between the GPUs with 4 super loud fans (pushing 300+ CFM each). Even then the air flow is barely adequate. The 4 GPUs sandwiched in the middle gets to around 83C under load, which is just borderline acceptable right now.
  • SpartyOn - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    I'm not sure why OEM CLC designs for graphic cards haven't happened before now; there definitely has been a huge market for it at the enthusiast end. Back in 2012 I put a Dwood's bracket (before he sold out to NZXT) on my GTX 770 4GB and hooked it up to a Zalman LQ320 CLC and I'm still rocking it to this day.

    Even in a mITX case with lots of stuff crammed in, I was able to overclock to 1304 core with a maximum burst boost of 1398 (usually settles around 1350-something for more boost clocks) and hit 8 GHz on the VRAM; all told I'm getting about 25% more performance with this OC. Of course I modded the VBIOS as well, but this setup has allowed me to extend the lifespan of this card phenomenally. I even played the Witcher 3 with everything at maximum including HairWorks on this out-of-date setup at 30 fps lock on my 55" 1080p TV. It could actually get more around 40-something fps, but I found limiting it to 30 helped produce a more favorable visual experience when it did occasionally dip into the high 20's. I was pleasantly surprised from this 3 year old, not even top of the line, graphic card.

    I think OEM CLC is the future at the enthusiast end, and I'm ready to welcome it with open arms. It allows me a three year upgrade cycle instead of every two, which also seems to more align with technological advances anyway.

    Sure the GTX 770 is getting a little old in the tooth, but I'm gonna see this thing through until Pascal is released and HBM2 is outted.
  • garadante - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    I'm also in agreement that this is a good direction for GPU vendors to take their cards in. I've long wanted to do exactly what you did and slap a CLC on my GPU but it's tough to justify the $100~ cost of doing so on my current, dated card that has no overclocking headroom due to being a nonreference, no VCORE control card.

    But here's a thought: considering how there have been brackets on the market to use a CPU CLC on a GPU for awhile now, I wonder if the CLCs used in this graphics cards will be the same as a CPU variant. If so, that means when the card outlasts its useful life (or the card itself dies), you could pop off the CLC, buy a CPU mounting bracket or another GPU bracket, and reuse a potentially still strong CLC.
  • SpartyOn - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    By the time a video card dies, the pump in your CLC will either have failed or otherwise be on it's last leg.

    I think it'd be more practical for the OEMs just to release a universal bracket for their particular cards that at GPU update time could be dismantled from the outgoing GPU and transferred to the new. It'd be a win for consumers since at upgrade time, you'd buy a board-only card, and also a win for the OEMs because they'd be locking you into their bracket system, unless you ponied up more for a new full system from another manufacturer.

    Since people tend to update graphic cards more often than CPUs, this seems more beneficial, plus hardcore CPU clockers aren't going to use a 120x120x25mm rad on their CPUs anyway - which is probably what most of these would come with for practicality and budget purposes.
  • th3rdpartynation - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    Would really like to see them use their expertise to make a single slot high end graphics card. Seems to me many living room friendly mini-itx cases can fit a full length graphics card but almost never have 2 expansion slots.

    Give me a single slot graphics card that can handle 1080P with maxed out settings and I will gladly pay a premium for that.

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