Well, the GigaByte WindForce cards have returned from whence they came! I decided that I just didn’t like the impact they were having on the case thermals. The non-reference cooler, with its dual intake and center exhaust, is a great idea for a single card, but it wreaks havok in tri-SLI. The heat of the bottom two cards flows up into the top cards intake and all of that heat is exchanged right into the case where you would need some pretty impressive negative pressure to deal with it. Temps for the top card (the “hot” card) were running a solid 20-30C above the bottom card (pushing into the mid 80s on Furmark). It was limiting OC potential, was too hot for my tastes, and I really didnt like the uneven temperature spread. Especially since part of my rationale for the new cards was improved thermals and noise!
So courtesy of Micro Centers liberal return policy, back they went. In their place? Two EVGA GTX 680 4GB and one ZOTAC GTX 680 4GB (long story there… I don’t like mixing and matching, but it seems to be my fate with every generation). I never ran into a situation where I was VRAM starved at 5040, but since the 4 giggers were in stock, and were actually cheaper than the factory OC Giga’s, it was a no brainer. My main goal, though, was to get back to a reference cooler design and get the heat exhausting out the back where it belongs. Because of the temp issue I was never able to push the Giga’s beyond 1200Mhz (RAM at stock clock), so I am confident that the reference boards will at least match that. I’m not expecting any performance delta, but will still be interesting to see!
I also ordered a modified Lian Li PC-A77F side panel (modded for 2 120mm fans) from FrozenCPU. I think this is a really cool product offering that they have – custom modifications for popular cases. They’re sort of like the PC equivalent of a tuner. Since I neither own, nor want to own, a dremel (and if I did own a dremel I’d have no skill with it) this was right up my alley at $80.
Once my door arrives I will throw in the new cards, make some (re)adjustments to airflow, closer her up and start testing. Stay tuned!