It’s been just over two months since we first tested Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 480, but system builders have been hesitant about including it in their systems. This isn’t surprising when you consider that the GTX 480 hits over 90˚C at load using its stock cooler, and kicks up a painfully noisy racket into the bargain. Scan hasn’t let these unappealing traits prevent it from muscling Nvidia’s new top-dog graphics card into the 3XS Cyclone, however, although it has had to use a dedicated GPU water-cooling loop to do so.
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While Scan has chosen plenty of high-end components for the Cyclone, the graphics card is the centrepiece of this build. Scan has chosen an Asus GTX 480 so that it can use the Voltage Tweak software to get optimum performance from the GPU. The overvolt has allowed Scan to ratchet up the GPU core speed from 700MHz to 852MHz (a 22 per cent overclock), while the stream processors have been overclocked from 1,401MHz to 1,704MHz.
To accomplish this, the GPU’s voltage has been increased from 1.05V to 1.138V. However, the current version of Asus’ Smart Doctor software has problems overclocking the memory of the card, leaving the 1,536MB of GDDR5 memory at the usual 925MHz (3.7GHz effective).
As the GTX 480 is a hot card even before overvolting, water-cooling this card was the only way to keep it stable. For this, Scan has used an EK-FC480 waterblock, made from copper and transparent acrylic, and paired it with a 750 litre-per-hour pump that’s integrated into the dual-bay XSPC reservoir.
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Expelling the heat from the GPU out of the case is designated to a 47mm-deep, dual-120mm EK-CoolStream 240 Rad XT radiator fitted into the case’s roof. Two quiet 120mm Akasa Black Apache fans are fitted above the radiator in the Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced’s roof space, sucking air through the radiator and exhausting it out of the roof. Typically, radiators work most efficiently with fans blowing air through them rather than sucking it, but the CM 690 II’s compact interior doesn’t support this configuration.
Regardless of this, the loop worked very well indeed. A stock GTX 480 will reliably hit 94˚C under load, but the overvolted and overclocked card in the Cyclone idled at just 20˚C above ambient temperature, and peaked at just 44˚C above ambient under load. This is a 28˚C improvement over the stock air cooler, and the water loop was much quieter too.
CPU 2.66GHz Intel Core i7-920 overclocked to 4GHz
Memory 6GB of Corsair XMS3 DDR3 at 1,528MHz
Graphics Asus 1,536MB GeForce GTX 480
Motherboard Asus P6X58D-E
Sound Intel HD audio via Realtek ALC889 with 8-channel support
Hard disk 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black
Optical drives Sony Optiarc AD-7240S-B 24x DVD±RW Drive
Case Cooler Master CM 690 II Advance
Cooling CPU: Prolimatech Megahalems Rev B with Akasa Apache Black 120mm fan. Case: 1 x 140mm intake fan, 1 x 120mm exhaust fan. GPU: EK-FC480 GTX GPU waterblock, EK-CoolStream 240 RAD XT Radiator, XSPC X2O 750 Dual 5.25in Bay Reservoir Pump V2, 1L UV Blue Feser One Fluid, 2m 1/2in ID XSPC Black Hose
PSU Corsair HX650
Ports Front: 3 x USB 2, headphone, mic, SD/MMC/Memory Stick/Compact Flash, SATA 3Gbps mount. Rear: 4 x USB 2, 2 x USB 3, FireWire, mic, 2 x DVI, mini-HDMI, Gigabit LAN, 4 x surround sound audio out, mic, headphone, digital S/PDIF in/out