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One of the best things about the EVGA GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 is that the water-cooler is much smaller than any suitable air cooler. It's the only way to get a GTX 580 into a single slot space, and therefore not a bad option if you're looking to build an SLI system and can afford it.
Plus, it's only ever going to be as noisy as your water-cooling system (that is, not very), and reduces the amount by which the GPU heats up the components around it.
It's not for the faint hearted, though. Strangely, there are no instructions included in the box explaining what all the pipe connectors do or how they fit together, so if you're not absolutely sure of what you're doing, don't expect EVGA to help. Or your PC will be taking an early bath, and we wouldn't expect the lifetime warranty of the card to cover it.
We benchmarked the EVGA GeForce GTX 580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 at the highest possible detail settings we could. You'd see more of a pronounced difference between the scores at lower resolutions, but if you're not gaming on a 30-inch screen you'll need to ask yourself whether or not you really need a card like this.
On the bench
The scores were disappointing. In Just Cause 2, the GTX 580 is more than capable of reaching the CPU limit of the game at the highest resolutions, and more GPU megahertz make no difference at all. In fact, it performed better when underclocked to the speeds of its non-augmented peers.
The Shogun 2 benchmark shows that the GTX 580 does scale with speed at high resolution, just not very well. Paying almost £200 for an extra frame per second would be foolish beyond belief. What's worse is that even though the cooler itself never let the core temperature rise above 46°C, the card wouldn't clock above around 950MHz, hitting a wall as soon as it was pushed close to that number.
In a carefully tuned system you might be able to get a little more speed out of it, but not a great deal. Fermi is a big, complex design and there are limitations there you just can't go over.
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Shogun 2: Frames per second: Higher is better
Nvidia GTX 580: 17
EVGA GTX 580 Hydro: 19
DirectX 10 gaming performance
Just Cause 2: Frames per second: Higher is better
Nvidia GTX 580: 118
EVGA GTX 580 Hydro: 115
GTX 580 Hydro: Degrees Centigrade: Lower is better
Stock speeds: 46
Which leaves the EVGA card in a bit of a quandary. It looks lovely, and it's hard not to admire EVGA's determination to keep purist water-cooling alive, but with so many other options around multi-monitors and 3D gaming to consider at the moment, it's not the best way to blow nearly £600 on making games better.
A properly water-cooled system is about more than just money and performance, it's a hand-built work of nerd-art you'll be proud of in years to come. EVGA's FTW Hydro Cooler 2 is beautifully engineered to fit into such a system, and runs silently when fully plumbed in.
Unfortunately, though, there's just not always enough of a performance benefit to watercooling any more. Admittedly, keeping the GPU core temperature down to a fraction of what an air cooler can is an achievement. And it will also lengthen the life of your chip – but the actual in-game benefits are marginal.
Sadly then, there are just too many other things you could do with that cash to blow it on the FTW Hydro.
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