ECS is very popular on the low-end segment, so we were really surprised to see this company launching a good high-end solution. The Hydra kit contains two GeForce 9800 GTX+ running at their default clock configuration and one Thermaltake BigWater 760is water cooler. The video cards come with the cold plates already assembled, so the only work you will have to do is to connect the hoses coming from BigWater to the video cards and fill the water tank with the coolant liquid that comes with the kit. We took an in-depth look at Hydra, check it out.
Figure 2: ECS Hydra components.
As we mentioned, the water cooler that comes with Hydra is a BigWater 760is, and we have already posted an article about this product. This water cooler uses two 5.25” bays and comes with everything pre-assembled: water tank, radiator, water pump, 120 mm fan and hoses. The only thing you will need to do is to install the hoses coming from the video cards and add liquid coolant, which comes with the kit. BigWater 760is has a potentiometer where you can control the fan speed – the fan glows blue when the system is turned on. On Thermaltake’s website you can find the complete specs for this water cooler.
Each card comes with a copper coldplate already installed. This coldplate is also manufactured by Thermaltake, being called TMG ND 3 LCS (or CL-W0119). On top of the coldplate there is a transparent duct with a 60-mm fan, which glows blue when it is turned on. Full information about the coldplates can be found on Thermaltake’s website.
Figure 4: One of the video cards that come with Hydra.
[nextpage title=”Introduction (Cont’d)”]
As you may already know, GeForce 9800 GTX+ is simply an overclocked GeForce 9800 GTX. On GeForce 9800 GTX the graphics chip runs at 675 MHz, while on GTX+ it runs at 738 MHz (a 9.33% overclocking). On both cards the memory runs at 1.1 GHz (2.2 GHz DDR) and is accessed through a 256-bit interface, achieving a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 70.4 GB/s.
Hydra system comes with two GeForce 9800 GTX+ to be connected under SLI configuration.
Figure 5: One of the video cards that come with Hydra.
Figure 6: One of the video cards that come with Hydra, back view.
We removed the video card coldplate to take a look. As explained, this part is all made of copper.
Figure 7: Video card coldplate.
On Figures 8 you can see the video card without its coldplate. It uses eight 512-Mbit Samsung K4J52324QE-BJ08 GDDR3 chips, making its 512 MB memory (512 Mbit x 8 = 512 MB). These chips can officially work up to 1.25 GHz (2.5 GHz DDR) and on this video card they are running at 1.1 GHz (2.2 GHz DDR), so there is 13% headroom for you to overclock the memories keeping them inside their specs. Of course you can always try to push them above their official specs.
Figure 8: GeForce 9800 GTX+ with its coldplate removed.
This video card requires the installation of two auxiliary 6-pin power connectors, so in theory you need to have a power supply with four auxiliary cables for video cards. The product, however, comes with four adapters for you to convert standard peripheral power plugs into 6-pin power plugs, so if you power supply doesn’t have enough power plugs for video cards this won’t be an issue.
In Figure 8, you can see all accessories and CDs/DVDs that come with this video card. With the accessories that come with this card you can convert the video output to VGA and HDMI, plus the DVI and S-Video connectors already present on the product.
Hydra system comes with one full game, Tom Clancy’s Rainbowsix Vegas 2.
Now let’s compare GeForce 9800 GTX+ specifications to its main competitors.
[nextpage title=”More Details”]
To make the comparison between the Hydra system and the other video cards we included in this review easier, we compiled the table below comparing the main specs from these cards. If you want to compare the specs of the reviewed video card to any other video card not included in the table below, just take a look at our NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table and on our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table.
|GPU||Core Clock||Shader Clock||Processors||Memory Clock||Memory Interface||Memory Transfer Rate||Memory||Price|
|GeForce GTX 280||602 MHz||1,296 MHz||240||1,107 MHz||512-bit||141.7 GB/s||1 GB GDDR3||USD 420 – 475|
|GeForce GTX 260||576 MHz||1,242 MHz||192||1,000 MHz||448-bit||112 GB/s||896 MB GDDR3||USD 27
0 – 300
|GeForce 9800 GX2||600 MHz||1,500 MHz||128||1,000 MHz||256-bit||64 GB/s||1 GB GDDR3||USD 290 – 470|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||738 MHz||1,836 MHz||128||1,100 MHz||256-bit||70.4 GB/s||512 MB GDDR3||USD 200 – 210|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||675 MHz||1,688 MHz||128||1,100 MHz||256-bit||70.4 GB/s||512 MB GDDR3||USD 187 – 200|
|Palit GeForce 9800 GT 1 GB||600 MHz||1.5 GHz||112||900 MHz||256-bit||57.6 GB/s||1 GB GDDR3||N/A|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||750 MHz||750 MHz||800||900 MHz||256-bit||115.2 GB/s||1 GB GDDR5||USD 560 – 580|
|Radeon HD 4870||750 MHz||750 MHz||800||900 MHz||256-bit||115.2 GB/s||512 MB GDDR5||USD 280 – 290|
|Radeon HD 4850||625 MHz||625 MHz||800||993 MHz||256-bit||63.5 GB/s||512 MB GDDR3||USD 170 – 190|
|Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2||857 MHz||857 MHz||320||927 MHz||256-bit||59.3 GB/s||1 GB GDDR3||–|
|Radeon HD 3870||776 MHz||776 MHz||320||1,125 MHz||256-bit||72 GB/s||512 MB GDDR4||USD 123 – 160|
It is important to note that this table reflects the current prices for the listed video cards at Newegg.com, which are lower than the prices we published in other reviews, since prices tend to drop every day.
Since this system comes with two GeForce 9800 GTX+ cards, we are going to compare the performance of these two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI mode against a single GeForce 9800 GTX+ and all the other high-end video cards listed on the above table.
According to ECS Hydra should arrive on the market by the end of August costing “below USD 600,” whatever that means. Of course it will cost more than two GeForce 9800 GTX+ as it also comes with BigWater 760is water cooler.
Some important observations regarding this table:
- All NVIDIA chips are DirectX 10 (Shader 4.0), while all AMD/ATI chips are DirectX 10.1 (Shader 4.1).
- The memory clocks listed are the real memory clock. Memory clocks are often advertised as double the figures presented, numbers known as “DDR clock.” Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 use GDDR5 chips, which transfer four data per clock cycle and thus the “DDR clock” for these video cards is four times the value presented on this table (i.e., 3.6 GHz).
- GeForce 9800 GX2, Radeon HD 3870 X2 and Radeon HD 4870 X2 have two GPU’s. The numbers on the table represent only one of the chips.
- All video cards included on our review were running at the chip manufacturer default clock configuration (i.e., no overclocking), except Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2. The official core clock for Radeon HD 3870 X2 is 825 MHz, while the official memory clock is 900 MHz. So this card was a little bit overclocked. We couldn’t reduce these clocks to their reference values and since we hadn’t any other Radeon HD 3870 X2 available we included this video card anyway.
- Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
- We couldn’t find Sapphire Atomic HD 3870 X2 for sale. This model will be more expensive than cards from other vendors based on the same GPU because it features water cooling. Just for you to have an idea, prices on the regular Radeon 3870 X2 are quoted between USD 240 and USD 370.
Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from ECS Hydra system.[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra system main features are:
- Two GeForce 9800 GTX+ video cards running in SLI.
- Graphics chip (each card): GeForce 9800 GTX+, running at 738 MHz.
- Memory (each card): 512 MB GDDR3 memory (256-bit interface) from Samsung (K4J52324QE-BJ08), running at 1.1 GHz (2.2 GHz DDR).
- Bus type: PCI Express x16 2.0.
- Connectors: Two DVI and one S-Video output (with component video support).
- Video Capture (VIVO): No.
- Cables and adapters that come with the product: Two DVI-to-VGA adapters, two DVI-to-HDMI adapters, two SPDIF cables, four standard 4-pin peripheral power plug to 6-pin PCI Express auxiliary power plug (PEG) adapters and SLI bridge.
- Number of CDs/DVDs that come with this board: Two.
- Games that come with this board: Tom Clancy’s Rainbowsix Vegas 2.
- Programs that come with this board: None.
- Extra Features: Thermaltake BigWater 760is water cooler and two Thermaltake TMG ND 3 LCS (CL-W0119) coldplates.
- More information: https://www.ecsusa.com
- Average price in the US: This product will only reach the US market by the end of August. According to ECS, it should cost “below USD 600.”
[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.
- CPU: Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (3.2 GHz, 1,600 MHz FSB, 12 MB L2 memory cache).
- Motherboard: EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI (P05 BIOS)
- Memories: Crucial Ballistix PC3-16000 2 GB kit (BL2KIT12864BE2009), running at 2,000 MHz with 9-9-9-28 timings.
- Hard disk drive: Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS (300 GB, SATA-300, 10,000 rpm, 16 MB cache).
- Video monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 305T (30” LCD, 2560×1600).
- Power supply: OCZ EliteXStream 1,000 W.
- CPU Cooler: Thermaltake TMG i1
- Optical Drive: LG GSA-H54N
- Desktop video resolution: 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz
- Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit
- Service Pack 1
- nForce driver version: 15.17
- AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.5
- AMD/ATI video driver version: Catalyst 8.6 + hotfix (8.501.1.0, 6/21/2008) (Radeon HD 4850, HD 4870)
- AMD/ATI video driver version: 8.520.0.0 (Radeon HD 4870 X2)
- NVIDIA video driver version: 175.16
- NVIDIA video driver version: 177.34 (
GeForce GTX 260, GTX 280)
- NVIDIA video driver version: 177.79 (GeForce 9800 GT, 9800 GTX+)
- 3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 + October 2007 Hotfix
- 3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1
- Call of Duty 4 – Patch 1.6
- Crysis – Patch 1.2.1 + HardwareOC Crysis Benchmark Tool 22.214.171.124
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two – Patch June 9th 2008 + HardwareOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two Benchmark Tool 126.96.36.199
- Unreal Tournament 3 – Patch 1.2 + HardwareOC UT3 Benchmark Tool 188.8.131.52
Resolutions and Image Quality Settings
Since we were comparing very high-end video cards, we ran all our tests under three 16:10 widescreen high resolutions: 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. We always tried to run the programs and games in two scenarios for each resolution, one with low image quality settings and then maxing out the image quality settings. The exact configuration we used will be described together with the results of each individual test.
We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”3DMark06 Professional”]
3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with no image quality enhancements enabled – results we call “low” on the charts and tables below –, then setting 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering. See the results below.
|3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||17557||8.24%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||16260||0.24%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||16221|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||15623||3.83%|
|GeForce GTX 280||14904||8.84%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||14215||14.11%|
|GeForce GTX 260||13701||18.39%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||13355||21.46%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||12759||27.13%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||11842||36.98%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||11471||41.41%|
|Radeon HD 3870||10694||51.68%|
|3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||17414||12.45%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||15547||22.50%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||15489||33.78%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||15486|
|GeForce GTX 280||14215||8.94%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||13017||18.97%|
|GeForce GTX 260||12668||22.25%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||12206||26.87%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||11631||33.14%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||10691||44.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||10253||51.04%|
|Radeon HD 3870||9454||63.80%|
|3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||15920||12.54%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||14146|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||13015||8.69%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||12315||14.87%|
|GeForce GTX 280||11766||20.23%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||10159||39.25%|
|GeForce GTX 260||9894||42.98%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||9365||51.05%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||8743||61.80%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||8077||75.14%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||7679||84.22%|
|Radeon HD 3870||6823||107.33%|
|3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1680×1050 – High||Score||Difference|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||16260||16.59%|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||16134||15.69%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||13946|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||13900||0.33%|
|GeForce GTX 280||12157||14.72%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||11063||26.06%|
|GeForce GTX 260||10617||31.36%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||9391||48.50%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||8981||55.28%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||8881||57.03%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||7899||76.55%|
|Radeon HD 3870||6915||101.68%|
ark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 1920×1200 – High
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||15489||18.32%|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||15313||16.97%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||13091|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||12213||7.19%|
|GeForce GTX 280||10991||19.11%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||10014||30.73%|
|GeForce GTX 260||9450||38.53%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||8144||60.74%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||7972||64.21%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||7811||67.60%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||6826||91.78%|
|Radeon HD 3870||6114||114.12%|
|3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 – 2560×1600 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||12479||14.56%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||12315||13.05%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||10893|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||9829||10.83%|
|GeForce GTX 280||8704||25.15%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||7550||44.28%|
|GeForce GTX 260||7285||49.53%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||6065||79.60%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||5896||84.75%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||5774||88.66%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||5045||115.92%|
|Radeon HD 3870||4319||152.21%|
[nextpage title=”3DMark Vantage Professional”]
3DMark Vantage is the latest addition to the 3DMark series, measuring Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supporting PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Notice that we didn’t upgrade the PhysX to the latest version, which would make the physics calculations for CPU Test 2 to be made by the GPU instead of the CPU on NVIDIA video cards (since we aren’t considering CPU or 3DMark scores this change wouldn’t produce any increase in our results anyway).
We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” value. The combination of 2560×1600 resolution with extreme settings didn’t produce reliable results according to the program, so we aren’t going to add them here. The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.
|3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Performance||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||11697||34.06%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||8725|
|GeForce GTX 280||7695||13.39%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||6990||24.82%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||6193||40.88%|
|GeForce GTX 260||5898||47.93%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||5651||54.40%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||4797||81.88%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||4499||93.93%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||3805||129.30%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||3691||136.39%|
|Radeon HD 3870||2977||193.08%|
|3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Performance||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||9472||44.72%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||6545|
|GeForce GTX 280||6106||7.19%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||5379||21.68%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||4880||34.12%|
|GeForce GTX 260||4582||42.84%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||4336||50.95%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||3725||75.70%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||3370||94.21%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||2951||121.79%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||2891||126.39%|
|Radeon HD 3870||2269||188.45%|
|3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 2560×1600 – Performance||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||5542||59.16%|
|GeForce GTX 280||3549||1.92%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||3482|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||2910||19.66%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||2728||27.64%|
|GeForce GTX 260||2640||31.89%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||2382||46.18%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||2050||69.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||1815||91.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||1638||112.58%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||1557||123.64%|
|Radeon HD 3870||1244||179.90%|
|3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1680×1050 – Extreme||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||8405||35.67%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||6195|
|GeForce GTX 280||6005||3.16%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||4858||27.52%|
|GeForce GTX 260||4531||36.72%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||4360||42.09%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||3567||73.68%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||3445||79.83%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||3201||93.53%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||2741||126.01%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||2703||129.19%|
|Radeon HD 3870||1855||233.96%|
|3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 – 1920×1200 – Extreme||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||6916||56.65%|
|GeForce GTX 280||4732||7.18%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||4415|
|GeForce GTX 260||3576||23.46%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||3508||25.86%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||3490||26.50%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||2753||60.37%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||2669||65.42%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||2399||84.04%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||2136||106.69%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||2038||116.63%|
|Radeon HD 3870||1439||206.81%|
[nextpage title=”Call of Duty 4″]
Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.
We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.6. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.
|Call of Duty 4 – 1680×1050 – Maximum||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||134.6||5.40%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||127.7|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||106.2||20.24%|
|GeForce GTX 280||105.3||21.27%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||93.4||36.72%|
|GeForce GTX 260||91.0||40.33%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||75.7||68.69%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||72.4||76.38%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||72.2||76.87%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||69.1||84.80%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||61.3||108.32%|
|Radeon HD 3870||43.0||196.98%|
|Call of Duty 4 – 1920×1200 – Maximum||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||120.6||8.94%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||110.7|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||94.5||17.14%|
|GeForce GTX 280||91.7||20.72%|
|GeForce GTX 260||77.1||43.58%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||76.4||44.90%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||61.3||80.59%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||59.5||86.05%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||59.1||87.31%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||57.7||91.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||50.8||117.91%|
|Radeon HD 3870||35.4||212.71%|
|Call of Duty 4 – 2560×1600 – Maximum||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||83.8||12.79%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||74.3|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||64.8||14.66%|
|GeForce GTX 280||64.8||14.66%|
|GeForce GTX 260||53.5||38.88%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||48.1||54.47%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||40.6||83.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||39.7||87.15%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||38.3||93.99%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||36.7||102.45%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||33.3||123.12%|
|Radeon HD 3870||22.4||231.70%|
Crysis is a very heavy DirectX 10 game. We updated this game to version 1.2.1 and used the HOC Crysis Benchmarking Utility to help us collecting data. Since we don’t think the default demo based on the island map stresses the video card the way we want, we used the HOC core demo available with the abovementioned utility. We ran this demo under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, first with image quality set to “low” and then with image quality set to “high.” Since all video cards achieved a number of frames per second below 10 at 2560×1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discard
ed the first result, as usually the first run achieves a lower score compared to the subsequent runs since the game loses time loading files. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.
|Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||125||37.36%|
|GeForce GTX 280||125||37.36%|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||120||31.87%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||101||10.99%|
|GeForce GTX 260||99||8.79%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||91|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||91||0.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||84||8.33%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||84||8.33%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||75||21.33%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||75||21.33%|
|Radeon HD 3870||71||28.17%|
|Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||119||56.58%|
|GeForce GTX 280||115||51.32%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||108||42.11%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||84||10.53%|
|GeForce GTX 260||83||9.21%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||76|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||76||0.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||69||10.14%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||67||13.43%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||63||20.63%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||61||24.59%|
|Radeon HD 3870||58||31.03%|
|Crysis 1.2.1 – 2560×1600 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||103||110.20%|
|GeForce GTX 280||95||93.88%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||71||44.90%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||53||8.16%|
|GeForce GTX 260||52||6.12%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||49|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||49||0.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||44||11.36%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||43||13.95%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||42||16.67%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||39||25.64%|
|Radeon HD 3870||35||40.00%|
|Crysis 1.2.1 – 1680×1050 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||57||103.57%|
|GeForce GTX 280||42||50.00%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||37||32.14%|
|GeForce GTX 260||32||14.29%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||29||3.57%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||29||3.57%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||29||3.57%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||28|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||26||7.69%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||25||12.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||25||12.00%|
|Radeon HD 3870||19||47.37%|
|Crysis 1.2.1 – 1920×1200 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||47||123.81%|
|GeForce GTX 280||34||61.90%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||30||42.86%|
|GeForce GTX 260||26||23.81%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||23||9.52%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||23||9.52%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||22||4.76%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||21|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||21||0.00%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||20||5.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||20||5.00%|
|Radeon HD 3870||16||31.25%|
[nextpage title=”Half-Life 2: Episode Two”]
Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmark the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game in three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, and 2560×1600, under two scenarios. First with quality set to maximum, bilinear filtering and anti-aliasing set to x0. This configuration we are calling “low” on the charts and tables below. Then we maxed out image quality settings, enabling x16 anisotropic filtering and 16xQCS anti-aliasing. This configuration we are calling “high” on our charts and tables. We updated the game up to the June 9th 2008 patch. The results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each card.
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1680×1050 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||170.0||12.58%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||1
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||160.4||6.23%|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||160.0||5.96%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||160.0||5.96%|
|GeForce GTX 260||157.0||3.97%|
|GeForce GTX 280||156.3||3.51%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||156.0||3.31%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||153.8||1.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||151.0|
|Radeon HD 3870||145.7||3.64%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||136.8||10.38%|
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1920×1200 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||165.0||10.74%|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||158.0||6.04%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||156.7||5.17%|
|GeForce GTX 280||156.3||4.90%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||155.0||4.03%|
|GeForce GTX 260||153.0||2.68%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||149.8||0.54%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||149.0|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||146.9||1.43%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||143.0||4.20%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||135.2||10.21%|
|Radeon HD 3870||120.1||24.06%|
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 2560×1600 – Low||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||156.0||6.12%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||147.0|
|GeForce GTX 280||145.1||1.31%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||130.6||12.56%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||129.7||13.34%|
|GeForce GTX 260||124.0||18.55%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||119.0||23.53%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||117.0||25.64%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||107.9||36.24%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||96.0||53.13%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||93.9||56.55%|
|Radeon HD 3870||72.8||101.92%|
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1680×1050 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||157.0||8.28%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||145.0|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||144.0||0.69%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||137.9||5.15%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||126.1||14.99%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||125.4||15.63%|
|GeForce GTX 260||121.0||19.83%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||116.2||24.78%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||94.0||54.26%|
|GeForce GTX 280||89.3||62.37%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||80.0||81.25%|
|Radeon HD 3870||68.3||112.30%|
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 1920×1200 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||157.0||19.85%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||131.0|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||124.0||5.65%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||116.3||12.64%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||111.1||17.91%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||106.5||23.00%|
|GeForce GTX 260||101.0||29.70%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||97.2||34.77%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||74.0||77.03%|
|GeForce GTX 280||70.3||86.34%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||63.0||107.94%|
|Radeon HD 3870||56.8||130.63%|
|Half-Life 2: Episode Two – 2560×1600 – High||Score||Difference|
|Radeon HD 4870 X2||130.0||182.61%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4870||75.0||63.04%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX||71.3||55.00%|
|GeForce GTX 260||61.0||32.61%|
|Sapphire Radeon HD 4850||58.4||26.96%|
|Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2||50.6||10.00%|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI||46.0|
|GeForce 9800 GTX+||39.0||17.95%|
|GeForce 9800 GX2||37.5||22.67%|
|GeForce 9800 GT||36.0||27.78%|
|GeForce GTX 280||35.5||29.58%|
|Radeon HD 3870||34.9||31.81%|
It is really interesting to see ECS finally entering the enthusiast market with a good solution. If you follow our reviews, you must remember that ECS is trying to enter the enthusiast market for some years now, but unfortunately their previous attempts were products that looked cheap – the Chinese idea of a “fancy” product is a board that looks like a parade float. But this definitely isn’t the case with Hydra, which surprised us with its overall quality and presentation.
Let’s talk a little bit about the GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI mode before talking specifically about the ECS Hydra solution.
According to our tests with two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI you get a per
formance increase between 21% and 80% on 3DMark06 (which simulates Shader 3.0, DirectX 9.0c games) compared to a single GeForce 9800 GTX+, a performance increase between 84% and 94% on 3DMark Vantage (which simulates Shader 4.0, DirectX 10 games) and a performance increase between 77% and 87% on Call of Duty 4. On Half-Life 2: Episode Two, two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI achieved the same performance as a single GeForce 9800 GTX+ at 1680×1050 and 1920×1200 with no image quality settings enabled, but under other video configurations the performance difference was between 18% and 77%. On Crysis, however, we saw no performance increase, with two GeForce 9800 GTX+ achieving the same performance as a single GeForce 9800 GTX+.
Unfortunately the Hydra system failed to run Unreal Tournament 3 under SLI mode. We tried rebooting our system and running the benchmark again for six times to no avail.
Today with the price of two GeForce 9800 GTX+ you can practically buy a GeForce GTX 280, so which is better, two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI or a single GeForce GTX 280?
On 3DMark06 the two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI were between 9% and 25% faster than GeForce GTX 280 and on 3DMark Vantage the two GTX+ in SLI were up to 13% faster. The two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI were also between 15% and 21% faster on Call of Duty 4 and on Half-Life 2: Episode Two our SLI configuration was up to 86% faster than GTX 280. Not bad at all! On Crysis, however, GeForce GTX 280 was between 37% and 94% faster.
So in most cases it is better to have two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI than a single GeForce GTX 280.
We like the idea of bundling two video cards and a water cooler on a single package. But the success of Hydra will depend on the price it will reach the market. ECS wasn’t specific enough, saying “below USD 600” to us. Problem is that today each GeForce 9800 GTX+ costs USD 200, BigWater 760is has an official price of USD 190 (but can be found for USD 150 on the market) and each TMG ND 3 coldplate has an official price of USD 50. So if you’d buy these parts at retail you would spend… USD 600! So Hydra has to come with a price tag below that to make sense. Also keep in mind that the BigWater 760is that is sold on the market is more complete that the one that comes with Hydra, since it comes with the CPU block and required clips, another reason for Hydra to cost less than the cost of the parts separately.
ECS Hydra will be a good product if you want to have a water cooling solution for a cool and silent PC and are thinking about a system on the performance level under most circumstances above GeForce GTX 280.
If, however, you think only about price, than the new Radeon HD 4870 X2 will be a better choice, for being faster than two GeForce 9800 GTX+ in SLI, costing today around USD 560 – the same price range Hydra is targeted.
Radeon HD 4870 X2 was between 8% and 17% faster than Hydra on 3DMark06, between 34% and 59% faster than Hydra on 3DMark Vantage, between 5% and 13% faster on Call of Duty 4, between 32% and 124% faster on Crysis and between 20% and 183% faster on Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
The problem, however, is that the standard Radeon HD 4870 X2 heats like hell, and if you are really serious about build an excellent gaming machine you will need to buy a water cooler for it, making the final price of your video system higher than Hydra.
So whether or not ECS Hydra is a good system depends on the price it will reach the market, your budget to meet this price and your performance expectations in both gaming and thermal management. For the serious gamer it surely is a good product, but it isn’t a product that will please all users, especially for those that price is more important than heat.
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