EK-FC8800 GTS Full Cover Waterblock Page: 1
Introduction

EK Water Blocks
really need no introduction. In fact, their reputation for stringent quality control and production of gorgeous looking, and equally well-performing waterblocks precedes them.

In 1999, Edvard König had a dream to produce functional watercooling blocks whilst retaining a goal that every series of waterblocks there-after were to be better than the previous - in cooling performance and quality. Now, in 2007 EK's vision for quality watercooling components is now stronger than ever. But enough from me, I'll let 'Eddie' tell it how it is:

From the beginning Company’s most important role is to keep close contact with customers and listen to their needs and comments. To supply water cooling enthusiasts with products they want. Company’s main aim is to continuously develop extreme high performance and esthetic water blocks.

Company is planning to set distribution channels into EU countries. Although company is getting a lot of enquiries, policy of company is to get resellers and distributors which can offer quality service to customers, which is company’s primary value.

I must say, it's quite a valuable set of ethics to have in this day and age of mass production. Ethics, which will no doubt hold EK Water Blocks in good stead for many years to come.

Anyway, without further delay let's have a look at our review specimen the EK-FC8800 GTS waterblock. The 'FC' in the naming scheme denotes that this is part of EK's 'Full Cover' range, and this can be seen from the image below.

EK-FC8800 GTS

Packaging and contents

I must say that the packaging chosen by EK Water Blocks is minimalist and un-assuming to say the least. A small rectangular cardboard box with an equally simplistic sticker is all that consumes the box's real-estate. The sticker states that this is in fact the EK-FC8800 GTS waterblock; that it is SLI ready and comes with an aluminium tail-piece for the mosfet's.

EK-FC8800 packaging EK-FC8800 contents

Inside the box the minimalist theme continues. The block itself is loosely encased in bubble wrap; the one page istallation manual has been photocopied, and the necessary installation hardware simply placed in a zip-lock bag.

EK-FC8800 GTS contents

EK-FC8800 GTS manual EK-FC8800 GTS manual P.2

Not that installing a GPU waterblock is inherently difficult, but the installation manual could have been a little better written. With watercooling now becoming a decidedly mainstream method of cooling and not just the past-time of a select few enthusiasts; a better written manual would ensure an easier passage for the new user. This couldn't be more compelling when installing after-market cooling on such an expensive piece of kit.

Specifications

The following specifications for the EK-FC8800 GTS block have been taken directly from EK's website :

EK-FC8800 GTS
[GF 8800]
 
 
 
High performance VGA water block for GeForce 8800 GTS series graphic cards. Base is made of electrolytic copper. Top is made of quality acrylic glass. The sealing is preformed by quality rubber washer. Aluminium part is made for cooling the mosfets of 8800 GTS series. Block is mounted with enclosed M2 and M2,5 screws.
Fittings are included in price!

Prepared for SLI means, that fittings can be used on both side of the block (up and down)!

Technical data:
- dimensions of copper base: 143 × 118 × 9mm
- dimensions of acrylic top: 120 × 118 × 8mm
- threads: 4 × G1/4
- fittings: optional
- weight: 690 g

EK Water Blocks provide both 1/2" and 3/8" ID fittings for the FC8800 GTS; simply specify your prefered size when ordering on the website.

Let's head over the page and have a little closer inspection of the block itself.


EK-FC8800 GTS Full Cover Waterblock Page: 2
A Closer Look

When you really take a long hard look at the EK-FC8800 waterblock, it is nothing short of a work of art. The attention to detail and overall finish of the product is impeccable.

EK-FC8800GTS mosfet cover EK-FC8800GTS mosfet cover attached
EK-FC8800GTS finish EK-FC8800 GTS finish

One thing that I will say about the EK-FC8800 GTS's finish is that it absolutely loves fingerprints. Regardless of how clean your hands are, if you handle it you will have tarnished fingerprints all over your block. If you're going to ogle at it and handle often, then use cotton gloves.

Now there is something that I did find, that disturbed me a little and I'm sure that it should have been picked up by quality control.

EK-FC8800 GTS copper tailings EK-FC8800GTS copper tailings

In total I found 5 copper filings left over from the block machining process. I don't really need to state how much damage these could do to to your pump, but it is certainly a reminder to ensure that you thoroughly flush all watercooling components before installing them into your loop. Some of you may have noticed there is a silver washer present under each barb, the washer has a rubber O-ring inside and is actually a spacer. If installing this block on your pride and joy, be sure to include the spacer otherwise the barb protrudes too far into the block and will hurt your loop's flow.

Eddie has also included threaded caps which incorporate the same O-ring system and are designed to allow these blocks to be incorporated into an SLI setup. I really like the way that this has been done because it provides the end user a vast amount of flexibility and compatibility when designing your loop. Just remember not to forget to include the plugs before leak testing, and don't over-tighten them or you run the risk of compressing the rubber ring too much and drowning your rig as a consequence in the long run.

Pitted hole2 Pitted hole

Moving on...I proceded to give the EK FC8800 GTS block another thorough flush before installation.

8800 GTS flush1 8800 GTS flush2

8800 GTS flush3 8800 GTS flush4

8800 GTS after flush

Now that the block has been thoroughly flushed with demineralised water, it's ready to be installed onto my ASUS EN8800 GTS (640Mb) graphics card. But before I show you that, here are a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure.

8800 GTS front 8800 GTS rear

Let's head on over to the next page to see how easy/hard the EK FC 8800 GTS waterblock is to install...


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Installation

The installation of the EK FC8800 GTS block is relatively simple, but has the potential to be quite fiddly. As a precautionary method, it's a good idea to work on your graphics card with some sort of anti-static sheeting underneath, or make sure that you remove static charge by grounding yourself thoroughly. Firstly you'll need to prepare your Nvidia 8800 GTS for installation by removing all traces of the manufacturers TIM (Thermal Interface Material). I use ArctiClean as my cleaner of choice.

Bare 8800 GTS 8800 GTS cleaned

EK WaterBlocks supply 12 small thermal pads for the MOSFETS at the rear of the card, these simply stick straight on.

Thermal pads

The MOSFET cooler heatsink can now be attached to the main body of the waterblock using the included screws. Before fixing though, you need to run a bead of TIM along the underside of the waterblock where the MOSFET cooler will be attached. This is to facilitate heat transfer from the MOSFET cooler to the main body of the waterblock. Just be careful not to over-tighten the screws as you run the risk of stripping the thread when going into the copper waterblock.

8800 GTS mosfet tailpiece MOSFET tailpiece attached

Now the graphics card is almost ready to receive the EK FC8800 GTS waterblock. But first we must add some TIM ourselves. I have chosen to use Arctic Silver Ceramique for the RAM modules and Arctic Cooling MX-1 for the GPU.

TIM applied

Now comes the fiddly part. Next you need to carefully align the holes in the waterblock with those on the graphics card itself and gently spread the TIM that was applied earlier. Before placing screws into the holes you need to first place the 8 cardboard gasket washers down, and then the smaller metal washers.

When you have all the screws fitted in finger tight, start by tightening the screws around the GPU first in a diagonal fashion. Head to the MOSFET tailpiece and do the same, then tighten the screws around the HD chip last. Be careful not to overtighten around the HD chip. When all the screws are tight, you should get something like this...

EK FC8800 GTS front EK FC8800 GTS rear

Let me tell you now, you can feel every bit of the waterblock's 690g of weight. It'll be interesting to see if it causes any bows once it is installed.

EK FC8800 GTS installed EK FC8800 GTS installed_2

Nope! It looks fine to me...although time will tell.

Now that you've seen how easy the installation of the EK FC8800 GTS is, I'm sure that you're eagerly wanting to see how it performs. Well let's head over to the next page to see how the testing phase will be conducted.


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Testing Method

I have decided to impliment a control setup for the testing phase of this review. In doing so I have replicated a watercooling loop similar to that in conventional water cooled setups, but one that would return consistant and unbiased performance results. The first test conducted was for assessing the EK FC8800 GTS's capapacity for unhindered flow; the second test was to ascertain how efficiently the EK FC8800 GTS performed at cooling under real-life operating conditions.

The flow test was conducted outside of the case on a flat surface to reduce the possibility of 'siphoning' affecting the end result. Siphoning is essentially out of the scope of this review, and as such, I won't go into detail here but if you are interested in the theory then feel free to read about it here.

watercooling loop setup

Flow Test

As I have stated above the flow test involved setting up a replica of a common, but restrictive watercooling loop. In order to gain a comparison between the EK FC8800 GTS waterblock, a Swiftech MCW60 GPU block was used. The components used in the test are listed below:

* 3 Litre capacity home-made reservoir
* 1 x DDC Ultra pump with Petra's top (run @ 12V)
* 1 x Swiftech Storm G4 Rev 2 CPU block
* 1 x Toyota Camry Heater core (fittings modded to take 1/2" ID tubing
* 1 x 'B-Meter' analogue dual jet flow meter / 90 deg C max watertemp capable: ISO 4064 compliant
* 1 x EK FC8800 GTS GPU waterblock
* 1 x Swiftech MCW60 GPU waterblock
* 1/2" ID tubing and barbs

For the flow test setup the reservoir and loop were filled with de-ionised water and the pump allowed to run for 1 hour to purge as much air from the loop as possible. Prior to the start of the test the number on the analogue counter was recorded and then the pump was allowed to run for 5 minutes and the number recorded again.

Laing DDC Ultra Laing DDC Ultra

B Meter water flow meter

Three runs in total were made and an avarage taken to ensure uniformity of the results. After the conclusion of the third run, the loop was drained and the GPU blocks were switched over. After re-filling the loop and purging the air from it, the test began again, with the numbers recorded and averaged as before.

Real Life Test

In order to gauge the cooling performance of the EK FC8800 GTS block, this phase of the testing was conducted from within the confines of my PC case. The same loop was utilised for both waterblocks (FC8800 GTS and MCW60 respectively). During testing on the MCW60 waterblock, Swiftech MC14 BGA memory heatsinks were used to cool the memory (not ideal, but the only other block I had around at the time).

Both blocks received fresh applications of MX-1 TIM after each testing phase, and the loop was allowed to purge itself of air for an hour. A mixture of 90% de-ionised water and 10% Prestone coolant concentrate was used as the cooling medium for the loop. A list of the components used are listed below:

* CoolerMaster Stacker 830 case
* Intel C2D e6600 CPU
* ASUS P5B Deluxe wifi/app
* ASUS EN8800 GTS 640MB
* 2 x Seagate SATA II 250GB 7200.10 HDD's (RAID 0)
* D-Tek FuZion cpu block
* EK FC8800 GTS and Swiftech MCW60 gpu blocks
* 2 x Swiftech MCP600's (parallel)
* Radiical 120.3 radiator
* Xinruillian 120mm fans
* Custom reservoir
* 1/2" ID Clearflex tubing and 1/2" barbs

Prior to each testing run the water temperature was taken from within the loop via the 'T'. Each test run was given 30 minutes of idle time to reach uniform operating temperatures; idle GPU temperatures were taken along with the ambient air temperature from within the room at 30 minute intervals and again an average taken.

In order to simulate load temperatures for both the CPU and GPU, Stanford's Folding @ Home console (2 instances) and FutureMark's 3DMARK06 (Advanced Edition) were run, and an average taken after 3 complete runs of the benchmarking program. Riva Tuner (version 2.01) and the Nvidia Classic Control panel (driver version 97.94) were used to determine GPU temperatures at idle and load.

Let's move onto the testing phase....

EK-FC8800 GTS Full Cover Waterblock Page: 5
Performance

As stated in the testing preamble, the first test was to ascertain any further restriction to a watercooling loop if the EK FC8800 GTS waterblock were used.

flow performance

You can see from the above graph that the Swiftech MCW60 definitely is the better block for unhindered flow. That being said, the EK FC8800 GTS doesn't fall behind by much.

Swiftech idle EK FC8800 GTS idle

At idle temperatures the EK FC8800 GTS betters the MCW60 by 1 degree Celcius. The EK FC8800 GTS may be performing this little bit better simply because of the sheer size of the block. The greater surface area allows the heat output of the GPU to be drawen away more efficiently.

Swiftech load temps EK FC8800 GTS load temps

Once again we see an improvement on load temperatures from the EK FC8800 GTS. In the Swiftech MCW60's defense though, it was quite a warm Autumn day...hence the increased temperatures.

EK FC8800 GTS overclocked temps EK FC8800 GTS max overclock temps

The numbers that we see from the load tests were again a contributing factor when overclocking the card. Please remember that only the card was overclocked on these tests, as to ensure that additional heat output from the CPU wouldn’t cloud the blocks performance results.

Maximum overclock attainable

The full cover EK FC8800 GTS block allowed for a better memory-clock attainment in my watercooling loop over the Swiftech MCW60. This was the maximum stable overclock without artifacts. Certainly not a bad result all things considered.

Let's head over to the conclusion page to see how the EK FC8800 GTS performed as a whole...


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Conclusion

Well I must say that there is a lot to like about the EK FC8800 GTS waterblock. It's certainly won me with it exceptional good looks and performance. Admittedly, there were some issues with quality control at the beginning, but I'd like to assume that this is a once-off occurrence.

The EK FC8800 GTS waterblock is certainly a masterpiece in every way, and would make a worthy addition to an high-end rig without hesitation. The flawlessly finished copper block; the ability to change the barb orientation to to ensure compatibility and undeniable cooling prowess all make the purchasing decision so much easier. I can see what all the hype is about now.

If you would like to get your hands on one of these gorgeous examples of what a quality waterblock should look and perform like, then get in contact with the boys from SpecialTech, where they have them going for £ 52.39 , inc VAT 17.5% . For sure, the EK FC8800 GTS resides on the dearer end of the scale, but what is the price of perfection?

I have decided to award the EK FC8800 GTS the 'Innovation' and 'Recommended' award for producing such a fine example of a waterblock.

Pro's

+ Exceptional build quality;
+ Excellent performance;
+ Improved compatibility and loop routing options;
+ Bling;
+ Being a full-cover block it eliminates the need for additional RAM heatsinks

Con's

-
Expensive
- Heavy

Innovation Award Recommended Award

A special thank you goes out to SpecialTech for making this review possible.

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