Liquid Cooling in graphics cards (and PCs) has long been the preserve of obsessive gamers burning with an unquenchable yearning to achieve the very best performance levels, regardless of expense or inconvenience.
Because water-based coolants can divert hot air away from key components (like GPUs) with much greater efficacy than more conventional cooling systems, liquid cooling has been the most effective route to colder graphics cards – these, in turn, can be clocked to higher speeds, while generating less noise.
Traditionally, these intricate liquid coolers haven’t come cheap, and installing and maintaining them has frequently been a task as fiendish as playing any first-person-shooter.
PNY’s luxury-branded PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled, though, comes with what’s called closed-loop liquid cooling (manufactured in this case by Asetek).
These self-contained systems require less setup - indeed, the PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled wasn’t much harder to install than a standard graphics card. However, to those unfamiliar with these types of technology, the XLR8 will look a strange product indeed, and the small radiator attached to it by cables makes it seem as though a rather crazed enthusiast has intercepted the graphics card, and has been busily making a number of modifications before sending it back on its way.
But the difference it makes to the card’s specifications are immense. This enhanced version of the nVidia GTX 580 (already an incredibly powerful card) goes far beyond the remit of the unenhanced PNY version.
The original core clock speed of 772MHz has been pushed up to a rather more dramatic 857MHz – a huge difference in graphics card world.
The 1536MB of GDDR5 memory has been retained, but it gets a pleasing speed nudge, from 1002MHz (4008MHz DDR effective) on the original PNY, to 1053MHz (4212MHz DDR effective) here. Aided by the 384-bit interface, the memory bandwidth moves up from 192.4GBps to 202.2GBps.
PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled: Performance
The performance of the PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled card is really very good. It edged just ahead of the standard GTX 590, but the Radeon 6990 is probably marginally faster.
In Crysis, it scored 56.0 and 48.2fps at 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 pixels, rather than the 58.3 and 49.5fps of the 6990. The GTX 590, though, slipped behind with 55.2 and 47.1fps.
In the Heaven engine, the PNY was again marginally ahead of the standard 590, scoring 62.4 and 57.7fps to the GTX 590’s figures 60.9 and 57.3fps. The 6990 was once more ahead, notching up 63.9 and 58.0.
In BattleForge, the PNY established itself as the fastest card of all, and its 95.6fps at 1920x1200 rather destroyed the 91.0 and 87.7fps of the GTX 590 and Radeon 6990 respectively.
In STALKER: Call of Pripyat, the PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled’s figure of 83.2 at 1920x1200 was identical to that of the 6990, but some way ahead of the GTX 590’s 75.6.
Just because the PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled card has liquid cooling, though, this doesn’t mean that the entire card operates at a low temperature. The system is very good at protecting the GPU, although parts of the board became rather hot to the touch during testing. However, the card seemed very stable, and even an overclocking test wasn’t able to trip it up.
PNY promise a 30% cut in operating noise. However, while a standard 580 in our testbed produced a noise rating of 43dB, the XLR8’s figure was a more modest 39dB. A 4dB drop suggests less than half the acoustic sound power, although we still found it loud in operation.
You’ll need to find room in your case for the radiator, and of course you’ll need two spare PSU connectors (one 6-pin and one 8-pin).
Considering the size, the PNY XLR8 GTX 580 Liquid Cooled doesn’t come with many output connectors – just two DVIs, and a Mini-HDMI.