Cool & Powerful: The Best Water-Cooled Graphics Cards in 2021

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best water cooled graphics cards in 2021
best water cooled graphics cards in 2021
best water cooled graphics cards in 2021
 

Shopping around for the best graphics card can be daunting. A single search can yield dozens of results, and each unit has its share of strengths and weaknesses. If you’re eager to find the best unit, you should check out some of the best water-cooled graphics cards on the market:

ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 6900 XT

Stylish & Efficient

asus rog strix radeon rx 6900 xt

Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Efficient onboard cooling system
  • High-grade components
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Limited stocks

It can be to find a high-end graphics card that looks as well as it performs. The ASUS ROG Strix RX 6900 XT is one of the few cards that manage to strike a balance between aesthetics and performance. 

Featuring a durable cold plate, the ROG Strix RX 6900 XT provides consistent cooling for the dye and onboard memory to prevent temperature spikes. It lets you enjoy stunning visuals and smooth gameplay at high resolutions.

The ROG Strix RX 6900 XT has a dynamic cooling system that allows it to perform efficiently and silently – even when under load, you’ll barely hear a murmur. The 240 mm radiator can handle high static pressure because of two powerful and stylish fans. 

Compatibility is another key strength of the ROG Strix RX 6900 XT. It has a built-in 600 mm tubing system that you can adjust based on your build.

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid 

Easy All-Around Option

evga geforce gtx 1080 ti sc2 hybrid 

Pros
  • Consistent performance
  • Silent operation
  • Ideal for any build
Cons
  • Cables dangle easily

Optimized for performance, the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti SC2 Hybrid solves frame rate drops, resolution issues, and temperature spikes. This card is equipped with nine thermal sensors to give you a good understanding of its operation. 

One factor that contributes to this card’s power is its hybrid cooling system. It combines liquid cooling and continuous heat dissipation to provide sustained cooling, making it ideal for overclocking. It also has a dedicated memory plate near the liquid cooling block for passive temperature control. Whether you’re playing an intense game or rendering a high-definition video, you won’t experience frame rate drops or temperature spikes.  

On the downside, this card requires delicate cable management to optimize coolant distribution. You should secure the cables near the fan and radiator to prevent performance issues.

EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Super FTW3

Next-Level Liquid Cooling

evga geforce rtx 2080 super ftw3

Pros
  • Exceptional liquid cooling system
  • Sturdy metal backplate
  • Consistent performance
Cons
  • Fragile water block

Water-cooled graphics cards are generally more efficient than hybrid alternatives, as proven by the EVGA RTX 2080 Super FTW3.  With a boost clock of 1845 MHz and a comprehensive water cooling system, this card can run virtually any game you throw at it without frame rate drops or temperature spikes. 

The only drawback of the RTX 2080 Super FTW3 is its fragile water block. Make sure to select a secure shipping option when you order this card online to prevent problems during installation.

EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Super XC Hybrid

Unlimited Hybrid Cooling

evga geforce rtx 2080 super xc hybrid

Pros
  • Well-tuned performance
  • Easy to assemble
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Basic design
  • Loud pump

The EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Super XC Hybrid is a testament to the brand’s dedication to innovation. This card provides superior cooling, enabling it to perform the latest developments in gaming technology like deep learning super sampling and ray tracing.

The RTX 2080 Super XC Hybrid utilizes advanced temperature control and hydrodynamic bearing fans to supply exceptional airflow. Moreover, the cooling coverage extends to the other components of your system.

Although there are more visually-appealing alternatives, very few can match the cooling capabilities of the RTX 2080 Super XC Hybrid. However, the pump on this card is notoriously loud. The noise slightly increases under heavy load, but it isn’t overly bothersome.

GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming Waterforce

User-Friendly & Reliable

gigabyte geforce rtx 2080 super gaming waterforce

Pros
  • Excellent overclocking potential
  • Advanced water flow design
  • Customizable lighting
  • Compact and durable build
Cons
  • No radiator, reservoir, fittings, and tubes

The GIGABYTE GeForce RTX 2080 Super Gaming Waterforce is all about performance. It highlights the importance of persistent water cooling to maintain peak system efficiency.

Utilizing a proprietary water flow system, this card dissipates heat expeditiously. This cooling system also extends to other components to keep internal temperatures under control.

If you want customizable lighting, this card lets you choose among several lighting effects to complement your gaming rig. The unit itself also looks very elegant with sleek and distinct contours and ridges. 

Here’s an important reminder: the RTX 2080 Super Gaming Waterforce doesn’t come with a radiator, reservoir, fittings, and tubes. You need to order these parts separately because the package only includes the card attached to a water block.

A Simple Buying Guide for a Water-Cooled Graphics Card

When shopping for a water-cooled graphics card, you should know which features to prioritize based on your budget and preferences. Check out these buying tips to ensure you make an informed purchase.

Water-Cooled, Regular, or Hybrid Graphics Card?

You may be determined to get a water-cooled graphics card, but knowing how it differs from other cooling types benefits your budget and your system. You might even gain new insights for your new build. 

Water cooling or liquid cooling is arguably the most effective cooling solution because of conductivity. Through the liquid coolant, heat gets transferred efficiently and quietly. Moreover, the effectiveness of water cooling is not limited to the graphics card because a loop extends to other components.

The only significant risk of water cooling is leakage. If the water block cracks, water might leak onto the hardware and cause irreversible damage to your system. That is why it’s important to triple-check the water block before pressing the power button. 

Regular cooling or air cooling is the easiest to comprehend and install. Some cases even have built-in exhaust fans, which are more than adequate for casual or office use.

What if you want to play Doom Eternal or any other modern game at ultra-high settings? The solution is to get high-speed system fans and a processor air cooler. The downside is that efficient air coolers take a lot of space in your chassis. Also, air coolers are generally noisy! 

The last type is hybrid cooling. This cooling system combines elements of water cooling and air cooling to provide varying levels of temperature control. Custom hybrid coolers are popular with benchmarkers or enthusiasts who measure hardware performance regularly. Hybrid cooling is the most versatile option because it lets you tweak the cooling system as often as you want. 

The downside of a hybrid cooling loop is the cost. This system requires you to spend a lot of money on fans, components, cables, and fittings.

Aesthetics and Performance

Water-cooled graphics cards strike a balance between aesthetics and performance. They can give your gaming rig some character and help maintain decent internal temperatures. If you want to build a flashy system, you can order an affordable lighting kit and some light strips online. 

You should also consider your case or chassis. A heavily-shrouded case could cover some of your components and obscure the internal lighting. Your case should also have enough space for cable management.

Discounts, Promos, and Time

Water-cooled graphics cards are always in demand, which is why their prices have skyrocketed over time. The best way to save money is to keep posted on promos and discounts. Time is also against you because graphics card prices tend to climb after some time on the market.

You can join forums online to gain insider newsletters linked to hot promos. This approach is not always fruitful, but it is free, and you may learn a thing or two from these communities. You can also scour social media networks for discounts – so it really pays to be vigilant!

An Important Note About Brands

Brands matter in the world of water-cooled graphics cards. Some consumers even rely on brand identity to direct their purchasing power. However, you should be extra cautious! Brand identity can lead to a cost trap and hurt your wallet. Instead of clinging to one brand, compare its product features to those of the competition and make an educated decision.

EVGA is one of the market titans in the water-cooled graphics card industry. They have several offerings for beginners and professionals alike. Next to EVGA is MSI – a company known for its high-end gaming components with excellent designs. 

Water Cooling A Graphics Card – Important Stuff You Must Know

If you want to build a custom water cooling loop from scratch, you must remember this important truth: it is not easy to build!

First, a decent budget is necessary for the project. Don’t worry – the expenses should stay below $300 if you do everything correctly. Second, you need to have a basic understanding of the PC-building process. Also, don’t forget your tools! 

Here are some tips to help you get started on a water cooling project:

Prepare Decent Space for Your New Rig

Building and testing a custom water cooling loop requires a spacious area. You need a long table that will fit your chassis, monitor, and water cooling components. The table should also be sturdy enough to secure your rig during assembly. If your table has an inclined corner, you can position your monitor there so that you can observe your system’s performance.  If your table has an extra drawer, it can be used to put away your tools after use.

Know Your Water Blocks

While all parts of a water cooling loop are important, the water block takes center stage. This block houses the cooling mechanism and comes in numerous styles and types. Some blocks have flashy lighting, while others have a more subdued design.

If your budget is tight, you can check out the BXQINLENX water cooling block. This durable water block is made of stainless steel and copper and is designed for Intel sockets. The Thermaltake Pacific is another affordable alternative tailor-made for budget builders who want to incorporate some lighting into their rig.

Get the Best Thermal Paste

Maintaining a water cooling loop requires copious amounts of thermal paste. Don’t hoard thermal paste, though – just one or two tubes are enough!

If you plan to overclock your system, the Noctua NT-H1 is the ideal thermal paste. This paste can lower internal temperature by as much as two degrees!

The Arctic MX-4 is a wallet-friendly alternative that contains a little more paste than the NT-H1. It doesn’t conduct electricity, which contributes to its cooling capabilities. However, the MX-4 is not the best option for overclocking.

The most popular paste among rig-builders is Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut. This paste is NOT recommended for beginners because of its complexity. You can’t apply it on aluminum surfaces, and you also need a high-quality brush to take full advantage of its cooling ability. If applied correctly, the Conductonaut can lower internal temperature up to a whopping ten degrees! 

Be Mindful of the Other Water Cooling Components

A pre-built water cooling loop is easy to install since it requires minimal assembly. On the other hand, a custom water cooling project is a very intensive endeavor. You should have a good grasp of the process to avoid overspending or damaging your system.

The water block and radiator are the most essential parts of a water cooling loop. The market offers a wide range of radiators with varying cooling capabilities, sizes, and aesthetics. In terms of size, the most popular options are 120 mm radiators because of their ability to cool the other components in your system. EK and Alphacool radiators are also growing in popularity because of their affordability.

Another important component of a water cooling loop is the pump. The mechanism of a pump is simple – it distributes the coolant all over the loop to deliver consistent cooling. D5 and DDC pumps are the most preferred pumps among consumers, and each type has its respective strengths and weaknesses.

Next in line is the tubing system. The tubing system connects everything in the loop. Make sure to pick tubes that are thick and durable and pair them with high-quality barb fittings. Most tubes are made of plastic, but some have copper and acrylic materials for added stability. If you have cash to spare, you can also order custom-made tubing and fittings. 

The reservoir is an optional component in a water cooling loop. It essentially stores the coolant to ensure steady yet rapid distribution. A reservoir can help your system maintain acceptable temperatures even under heavy load. Bay reservoirs and tube reservoirs are the common types on the market.

You should also pay attention to the coolant. Coolants are the liquids used in the water blocks. Deionized water is the common option, and it is often paired with biocides and additives. Some of the most popular coolants on the market are Mayhem and PT Nuke.  

Assembly Disciplines

After ordering a water cooling kit, you’ll have the strong urge to assemble it right away. This mindset is acceptable with pre-built kits, but not if you’re installing everything from scratch. If you’re aware of the basic assembly disciplines, you should go through the entire process without a problem. 

The loop-based discipline is the most common approach to building a water-cooled project. Under this discipline, you need to install the water blocks and set the tubing along the way. Your looping style doesn’t affect the rig’s efficiency, but it matters in terms of design. 

If you’re a beginner, you should set up the loop using the straightforward step-by-step discipline. This method works best if you follow a comprehensive video or guide on water cooling loop assembly. The only downside of this discipline is the amount of time that it takes to finish. Since every step is crucial, you have to double-check all the connections to prevent issues.

Leak testing is not an assembly-focused discipline, but it’s one of the most vital steps in the entire process.  The goal is to spot leaks before they damage your system. If you find leakage, then you need to make some adjustments. You should also check if the leak is coming from the water block or the tubing.

Bonus: Cool Games for Your New Water-Cooled Graphics Cards

After installing your water-cooled graphics card, it’s time to test its capabilities with graphically-demanding games.

These are our suggestions:

Control

Control is one of the first games that tested the capabilities of ray tracing. The game’s action-packed battles and mesmerizing environmental effects can push any graphics card to the limit. It also has a unique story that will keep you hooked for 30 hours or more.

Metro Exodus

The third installment in the franchise, Metro Exodus, offers a new range of experiences for first-person shooter fans. With various reactive sandbox elements, you’ll feel a deep sense of immersion while playing this game.

Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt’s masterpiece, Cyberpunk 2077, graced the world with immersive gameplay, a stunning dystopian environment, and excellent character design. It is a great game to test your new graphics card, though you’ll have to look past some bugs. If you don’t experience significant frame rate drops or temperature spikes, then you have a five-star build!

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator is one of the best games to gauge a graphics card’s power. The detailed cockpit and realistic environment will make you feel like a real pilot, and the game creates an accurate simulation of the entire world. Every location is vivid, and you can even take beautiful screenshots. Run the game now (on ultra-high quality if possible) and see if your graphics card can maintain decent temperatures!

Conclusion

A water-cooled graphics card can help keep the overall temperature of your gaming rig at bay. Many experts also believe that water-cooled graphics cards are better than air-cooled alternatives because of their more consistent mechanism. However, you shouldn’t disregard some of the benefits of air cooling, such as affordability and simplicity. If you prefer water cooling over air cooling, prepare your wallet and tools!

So, what do you think about water-cooled graphics cards? Drop your comments below!

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