IntroductionThe title of "world's fastest graphics card" is a heady one. Reserved only for the cream of the crop, the outright expensive, the downright ludicrous. When used correctly, the title often applies all three superlatives to the product in question, at the same time. Simultaneously fast, expensive and slightly ridiculous, Gainward love those attributes and apply them liberally to their flagship graphics cards in the quest for speed, speed and more speed, hopefully obtaining the aforementioned title so lovingly coveted.
What marks out those flagship graphics cards from the staunch NVIDIA supporter is water cooling. Simple air cooling, no matter how effective, will only get you so far. The simple cooling rule of thumb applies. A semiconductor can run faster for a given voltage, the colder it is. Cool something down more than usual, run it faster. Pretty simple, overclockers understanding that first commandment since the beginning.
While any reference air cooler might be just fine in terms of noise and cooling performance, even allowing you a nice overclocking range depending on the GPU, water is almost always going to buy you something extra. It might even do that whilst being whisper quiet.
So since the introduction of NVIDIA's NV40 GPU over 2 months ago, Gainward have been busy building a water block for it, set to cool both GPU and memory modules, all 256MB of which lies on the same side of the PCB as the GPU. A few tweaks here, new clocks there, supporting hardware prepared and the water block primed and ready, Gainward's water-cooled GeForce 6800 Ultra is ready to rock.
As an amusing aside, I've attempted to cover CoolFX water-cooled Gainward cards in the past. Three of them to be exact, all 5950 Ultra parts. All three died, oops. One of them just as I was doing a 620MHz core run with 3DMark2001. Not bad for the 475MHz NV38, not bad at all. So high hopes abound for a water-cooled NV40, especially since the reference board I reviewed likes to play at 460MHz core, using its flimsy aluminium heatsink and fairly quiet blower.
As long as I don't manage to break it this time of course. Here goes.