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ECS Hydra and Zotac Zone

Interesting liquid-cooled 9800 GTX / GTX+ solutions for PC enthusiasts.

October 24, 2008



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Today we'll examine a GeForce 9800 GTX graphics card from Zotac that has a unique cooling system and the Hydra kit from ECS that offers two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards, a customized liquid cooling system from Thermaltake and an expansion unit with a heatsink, liquid container, and pump. Note that the former solution is also available with the GeForce 9800 GTX+ modification.

So why these cards, not GTX 260/280? There are two likely answers:

  1. Thermaltake does not have a new modification of this cooling system for GTX 2xx cards yet (in case of ECS Hydra); and Zotac hasn't yet designed its cooling system for such cards.
  2. It's too expensive to sell two GTX 2xx cards as one kit (in case of ECS Hydra).

That's why they install liquid coolers on Mid-End products instead of High-End cards. But it's still interesting to compare a kit of 9800 GTX+ cards with GTX 280/4870 X2 and also see what Zotac's liquid cooling system can provide.

Graphics cards


ECS Hydra 9800 GTX+ 2x512MB (each card from the kit)
  • GPU: GeForce 9800 GTX (G92)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 738/1836 MHz (nominal -- 738/1836 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 1100 (2200) MHz (nominal -- 1100 (2200) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 128
  • Texture processors: 64 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 270x100x32 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).
Zotac GeForce 9800 GTX Zone Edition 512MB
  • GPU: GeForce 9800 GTX (G92)
  • Interface: PCI-Express x16
  • GPU frequencies (ROPs/Shaders): 700/1675 MHz (nominal -- 675/1688 MHz)
  • Memory frequencies (physical (effective)): 1125 (2250) MHz (nominal -- 1100 (2200) MHz)
  • Memory bus width: 256bit
  • Vertex processors: -
  • Pixel processors: -
  • Unified processors: 128
  • Texture processors: 64 (BLF/TLF)
  • ROPs: 16
  • Dimensions: 270x100x32 mm (the last figure is maximum thickness of the graphics card).
  • PCB color: black
  • RAMDACs/TDMS: integrated into GPU.
  • Output connectors: 2xDVI (Dual-Link/HDMI), TV-Out.
  • VIVO: not available
  • TV-out: integrated into GPU.
  • Multi-GPU operation: SLI (Hardware).


ECS Hydra 9800 GTX+ 2x512MB (each card from the kit)
Zotac GeForce 9800 GTX Zone Edition 512MB

Each graphics card has 512 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM allocated in eight chips on the front side of the PCB.

Samsung memory chips (GDDR3). 0.8 ns memory access time, which corresponds to 1200 (2400) MHz.



Comparison with the reference design, front view
ECS Hydra 9800 GTX+ 2x512MB (each card from the kit) Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX
Zotac GeForce 9800 GTX Zone Edition 512MB


Comparison with the reference design, back view
ECS Hydra 9800 GTX+ 2x512MB (each card from the kit) Reference card NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GTX
Zotac GeForce 9800 GTX Zone Edition 512MB

All cards have original TV-Out interfaces that require a special adapter to output video to a TV set via S-Video or RCA.

An analog monitor with a D-Sub (VGA) interface can be connected by means of a special DVI-to-D-Sub adapter. Also bundled are DVI-to-HDMI adapters (these graphics cards support video/audio output to HDMI receivers), so there should be no problems with such monitors.

Maximum resolutions and frequencies:

  • 240 Hz maximum refresh rate
  • 2048 x 1536 x 32bit @ 85Hz Max - analog interface
  • 2560 x 1600 @ 60Hz Max - digital interface (all Dual-Link DVIs)

As of MPEG2 playback (DVD-Video), we analyzed this issue in 2002. Little has changed since that time. CPU load during video playback on modern graphics cards does not exceed 25%.

As of HDTV, a review is available here.

All cards require additional power source, so each is bundled with a molex to 6-pin adapter, even though all modern PSUs have such cables.

Both cards (there are actually three of them) apparently copy the reference design and have the same layout. That is NVIDIA ordered them from third-party manufacturers. These cards are only different in clock rates coolers.


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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, graphics cards

Page 2: Cooling

Page 3: Bundles, boxes

Page 4: Performance tests, conclusions



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