ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on August 14, 2008


Introduction

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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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Figure 1: ECS Hydra package.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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Figure 3: BigWater 760is.

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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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Figure 4: One of the video cards that come with Hydra.

Introduction (Contíd)

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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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Figure 5: One of the video cards that come with Hydra.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+
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Figure 9: Accessories.

Now let’s compare GeForce 9800 GTX+ specifications to its main competitors.

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 270 - 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:

Before going to our tests let’s recap the main features from ECS Hydra system.

Main Specifications

ECS GeForce 9800 GTX+ Hydra system main features are:

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.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Software Used

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: 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. 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.

Error Margin

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.

3DMark06 Professional

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We run this software under three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, 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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2175578.24%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2162600.24%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI16221 
GeForce 9800 GX2156233.83%
GeForce GTX 280149048.84%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48701421514.11%
GeForce GTX 2601370118.39%
GeForce 9800 GTX+1335521.46%
GeForce 9800 GTX1275927.13%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48501184236.98%
GeForce 9800 GT1147141.41%
Radeon HD 38701069451.68%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X21741412.45%
GeForce 9800 GX21554722.50%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548933.78%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI15486 
GeForce GTX 280142158.94%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48701301718.97%
GeForce GTX 2601266822.25%
GeForce 9800 GTX+1220626.87%
GeForce 9800 GTX1163133.14%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48501069144.85%
GeForce 9800 GT1025351.04%
Radeon HD 3870945463.80%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X21592012.54%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI14146 
GeForce 9800 GX2130158.69%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21231514.87%
GeForce GTX 2801176620.23%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48701015939.25%
GeForce GTX 260989442.98%
GeForce 9800 GTX+936551.05%
GeForce 9800 GTX874361.80%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850807775.14%
GeForce 9800 GT767984.22%
Radeon HD 38706823107.33%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21626016.59%
Radeon HD 4870 X21613415.69%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI13946 
GeForce 9800 GX2139000.33%
GeForce GTX 2801215714.72%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48701106326.06%
GeForce GTX 2601061731.36%
GeForce 9800 GTX+939148.50%
GeForce 9800 GTX898155.28%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850888157.03%
GeForce 9800 GT789976.55%
Radeon HD 38706915101.68%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21548918.32%
Radeon HD 4870 X21531316.97%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI13091 
GeForce 9800 GX2122137.19%
GeForce GTX 2801099119.11%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48701001430.73%
GeForce GTX 260945038.53%
GeForce 9800 GTX+814460.74%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850797264.21%
GeForce 9800 GTX781167.60%
GeForce 9800 GT682691.78%
Radeon HD 38706114114.12%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark06 Professional 1.1.0 - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X21247914.56%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X21231513.05%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI10893 
GeForce 9800 GX2982910.83%
GeForce GTX 280870425.15%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870755044.28%
GeForce GTX 260728549.53%
GeForce 9800 GTX+606579.60%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850589684.75%
GeForce 9800 GTX577488.66%
GeForce 9800 GT5045115.92%
Radeon HD 38704319152.21%

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, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. 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 2560x1600 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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 - PerformanceScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X21169734.06%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI8725 
GeForce GTX 280769513.39%
GeForce 9800 GX2699024.82%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870619340.88%
GeForce GTX 260589847.93%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2565154.40%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850479781.88%
GeForce 9800 GTX+449993.93%
GeForce 9800 GTX3805129.30%
GeForce 9800 GT3691136.39%
Radeon HD 38702977193.08%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - PerformanceScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2947244.72%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI6545 
GeForce GTX 28061067.19%
GeForce 9800 GX2537921.68%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870488034.12%
GeForce GTX 260458242.84%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2433650.95%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850372575.70%
GeForce 9800 GTX+337094.21%
GeForce 9800 GT2951121.79%
GeForce 9800 GTX2891126.39%
Radeon HD 38702269188.45%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 2560x1600 - PerformanceScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2554259.16%
GeForce GTX 28035491.92%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI3482 
GeForce 9800 GX2291019.66%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870272827.64%
GeForce GTX 260264031.89%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2238246.18%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850205069.85%
GeForce 9800 GTX+181591.85%
GeForce 9800 GT1638112.58%
GeForce 9800 GTX1557123.64%
Radeon HD 38701244179.90%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1680x1050 - ExtremeScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2840535.67%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI6195 
GeForce GTX 28060053.16%
GeForce 9800 GX2485827.52%
GeForce GTX 260453136.72%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870436042.09%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2356773.68%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850344579.83%
GeForce 9800 GTX+320193.53%
GeForce 9800 GT2741126.01%
GeForce 9800 GTX2703129.19%
Radeon HD 38701855233.96%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

3DMark Vantage Professional 1.0.1 - 1920x1200 - ExtremeScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2691656.65%
GeForce GTX 28047327.18%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI4415 
GeForce GTX 260357623.46%
GeForce 9800 GX2350825.86%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870349026.50%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850275360.37%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2266965.42%
GeForce 9800 GTX+239984.04%
GeForce 9800 GT2136106.69%
GeForce 9800 GTX2038116.63%
Radeon HD 38701439206.81%

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, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, 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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Call of Duty 4 - 1680x1050 - MaximumScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2134.65.40%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI127.7 
GeForce 9800 GX2106.220.24%
GeForce GTX 280105.321.27%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487093.436.72%
GeForce GTX 26091.040.33%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X275.768.69%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485072.476.38%
GeForce 9800 GTX+72.276.87%
GeForce 9800 GTX69.184.80%
GeForce 9800 GT61.3108.32%
Radeon HD 387043.0196.98%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Call of Duty 4 - 1920x1200 - MaximumScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2120.68.94%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI110.7 
GeForce 9800 GX294.517.14%
GeForce GTX 28091.720.72%
GeForce GTX 26077.143.58%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487076.444.90%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X261.380.59%
GeForce 9800 GTX+59.586.05%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485059.187.31%
GeForce 9800 GTX57.791.85%
GeForce 9800 GT50.8117.91%
Radeon HD 387035.4212.71%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Call of Duty 4 - 2560x1600 - MaximumScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X283.812.79%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI74.3 
GeForce 9800 GX264.814.66%
GeForce GTX 28064.814.66%
GeForce GTX 26053.538.88%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487048.154.47%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X240.683.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX+39.787.15%
GeForce 9800 GTX38.393.99%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485036.7102.45%
GeForce 9800 GT33.3123.12%
Radeon HD 387022.4231.70%

Crysis

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, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, 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 2560x1600 with image details set to “high,” we are not including this test as the results aren’t reliable. We ran each test twice and discarded 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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X212537.36%
GeForce GTX 28012537.36%
Radeon HD 4870 X212031.87%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487010110.99%
GeForce GTX 260998.79%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI91 
GeForce 9800 GTX+910.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX848.33%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850848.33%
GeForce 9800 GX27521.33%
GeForce 9800 GT7521.33%
Radeon HD 38707128.17%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X211956.58%
GeForce GTX 28011551.32%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X210842.11%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48708410.53%
GeForce GTX 260839.21%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI76 
GeForce 9800 GTX+760.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX6910.14%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48506713.43%
GeForce 9800 GX26320.63%
GeForce 9800 GT6124.59%
Radeon HD 38705831.03%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Crysis 1.2.1 - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2103110.20%
GeForce GTX 2809593.88%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X27144.90%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870538.16%
GeForce GTX 260526.12%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI49 
GeForce 9800 GTX+490.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX4411.36%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48504313.95%
GeForce 9800 GX24216.67%
GeForce 9800 GT3925.64%
Radeon HD 38703540.00%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X257103.57%
GeForce GTX 2804250.00%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48703732.14%
GeForce GTX 2603214.29%
GeForce 9800 GTX293.57%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850293.57%
GeForce 9800 GTX+293.57%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI28 
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2267.69%
GeForce 9800 GX22512.00%
GeForce 9800 GT2512.00%
Radeon HD 38701947.37%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Crysis 1.2.1 - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X247123.81%
GeForce GTX 2803461.90%
Sapphire Radeon HD 48703042.86%
GeForce GTX 2602623.81%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850239.52%
GeForce 9800 GTX+239.52%
GeForce 9800 GTX224.76%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI21 
GeForce 9800 GX2210.00%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2205.00%
GeForce 9800 GT205.00%
Radeon HD 38701631.25%

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, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, 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.

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1680x1050 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870170.012.58%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850164.99.21%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2160.46.23%
Radeon HD 4870 X2160.05.96%
GeForce 9800 GTX+160.05.96%
GeForce GTX 260157.03.97%
GeForce GTX 280156.33.51%
GeForce 9800 GT156.03.31%
GeForce 9800 GTX153.81.85%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI151.0 
Radeon HD 3870145.73.64%
GeForce 9800 GX2136.810.38%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 - LowScoreDifference
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870165.010.74%
Radeon HD 4870 X2158.06.04%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2156.75.17%
GeForce GTX 280156.34.90%
GeForce 9800 GTX+155.04.03%
GeForce GTX 260153.02.68%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850149.80.54%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI149.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX146.91.43%
GeForce 9800 GT143.04.20%
GeForce 9800 GX2135.210.21%
Radeon HD 3870120.124.06%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 - LowScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2156.06.12%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI147.0 
GeForce GTX 280145.11.31%
GeForce 9800 GX2130.612.56%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2129.713.34%
GeForce GTX 260124.018.55%
GeForce 9800 GTX+119.023.53%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870117.025.64%
GeForce 9800 GTX107.936.24%
GeForce 9800 GT96.053.13%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485093.956.55%
Radeon HD 387072.8101.92%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1680x1050 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2157.08.28%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI145.0 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870144.00.69%
GeForce 9800 GTX137.95.15%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2126.114.99%
GeForce 9800 GX2125.415.63%
GeForce GTX 260121.019.83%
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850116.224.78%
GeForce 9800 GTX+94.054.26%
GeForce GTX 28089.362.37%
GeForce 9800 GT80.081.25%
Radeon HD 387068.3112.30%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 1920x1200 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2157.019.85%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI131.0 
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870124.05.65%
GeForce 9800 GTX116.312.64%
GeForce 9800 GX2111.117.91%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X2106.523.00%
GeForce GTX 260101.029.70%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485097.234.77%
GeForce 9800 GTX+74.077.03%
GeForce GTX 28070.386.34%
GeForce 9800 GT63.0107.94%
Radeon HD 387056.8130.63%

ECS Hydra GeForce 9800 GTX+

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - 2560x1600 - HighScoreDifference
Radeon HD 4870 X2130.0182.61%
Sapphire Radeon HD 487075.063.04%
GeForce 9800 GTX71.355.00%
GeForce GTX 26061.032.61%
Sapphire Radeon HD 485058.426.96%
Sapphire Atomic Radeon HD 3870 X250.610.00%
GeForce 9800 GTX+ SLI46.0 
GeForce 9800 GTX+39.017.95%
GeForce 9800 GX237.522.67%
GeForce 9800 GT36.027.78%
GeForce GTX 28035.529.58%
Radeon HD 387034.931.81%

Conclusions

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 performance 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 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 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.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/ECS-GeForce-9800-GTX+-Hydra-Video-Card-Review/605


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