When choosing a video card, most of us first of all look at the optimal combination of performance, price and availability of a good cooling system that can provide comfortable temperatures with moderate noise levels. But on the market periodically there are unique video cards with an unusual design combined with interesting engineering solutions, completely unlike a utilitarian electronic device. It is these models that will remain in history, becoming the object of collectors’ searches.
The heyday of video cards with an unusual design came in the 1990s and 2000s, when the industry was just groping for the path along which the development of video accelerators should go, and new technologies and standards appeared almost every year. In those years, everything grew rapidly: the frequencies of processors and video memory, the bandwidth of AGP buses, and then PCI Express, and, of course, heat generation and heating, which required more and more efforts to remove heat.
His x1600 Pro Dual is a flip-flop video card that allows you to use both AGP and PCI Express connectors, depending on your motherboard. In 2006, several similar models were released from different manufacturers.
And the flourishing of SLI and CrossFire technologies in the 2000s, whose roots grow from the SLI from 3dfx, which appeared in 1998 on Voodoo2 video cards, and allow the use of bundles of several video processors, contributed to the emergence of a large number of dual-chip models of video cards.
Nvidia’s GeForce 7950GX2 video card, made in the form of a two-deck sandwich of two printed circuit boards, was released in 2006Video cards of this period are insanely interesting from both a design and engineering point of view, but in this blog I wanted to focus on the newer video cards that still work in our computers.
And as a starting point, I propose to take the Nvidia GeForce GTX 6xx family on the Kepler architecture and their sworn competitors – AMD Radeon HD 7xxx on the Tahiti core, using the GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture, which turned out to be especially successful and was relevant on the market for a very long time.
Video cards of the period 2011-2013
Despite the fact that almost 10 years have passed since the advent of the GCN architecture, the Radeon HD 7970 supports DirectX 12 and will allow you to play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and even Far Cry: New Dawn with an acceptable frame rate in FHD resolution.
The reference models Radeon HD 7970 had a good design with AMD’s favorite combination of red and black colors, but the turbine cooling did not allow realizing the overclocking potential of the video card, which was quickly fixed by vendors with a mass of non-reference models
The Radeon HD 7970 had a rather big appetite of 250 watts for 2011 and at the same time had excellent overclocking potential, which prompted vendors to release models equipped with monstrous cooling systems focused on maximum overclocking. One of such models is Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock, equipped with a huge 64 mm cooler (3.5 expansion slots), blown by five (!) High-speed 40 mm fans standing on the side.
But MSI went the other way and released one of its Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition models in a version with a stylish full coverage water block. This made it possible to create a compact, fast, quiet and cold system, unless you are afraid of LSS.
The two-chip versions of the Radeon HD 7970 – Radeon HD 7990 were not long in coming, combining enormous performance with equally enormous power consumption and heat dissipation. One of the most successful models was the ASUS ARES II, which uses liquid cooling. Having inside two GPU HD 7970 GHz Edition overclocked to 1100 MHz, the temperature of which could be kept below 80 degrees.
But some manufacturers have coped with the task without even resorting to water cooling.
The PowerColor Devil13 Radeon HD 7990 used a huge 3-slot cooler. Many video cards in our selection were released in limited editions, and PowerColor Devil13 Radeon HD 7990 only 500 were released.
The flagship Geforce GTX 680 graphics cards had a more modest appetite of 195 watts, which seems to be quite moderate power consumption these days, but they also had enough copies with unique cooling systems. For example – Colorful GTX 680 iGame Kudan, with a huge 3-slot cooler.
The Colorful company will often be found in our selection, because its engineers and designers very often decided on bold experiments. For example, the Colorful iGame GTX 680 Passive is the only passively cooled Geforce GTX 680 graphics card that can handle even slight overclocking. For cooling, two huge removable radiators with 280 aluminum fins with a total area of two square meters were used.
Serial models of Geforce GTX 680 with water cooling were also produced, for example ELSA GeForce GTX 680 with ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid cooler.
But the brightest graphics card Geforce GTX 600 series was released by Colorful in a very limited quantity. iGame GTX 660 Ti WCG 2012 Edition was specially developed for the World Cyber Games (WCG) Championship Finals. The model had just a giant outboard radiator and a hand-painted shroud.
Video cards of the period 2013-2015
Looking for interesting design decisions among the next generation of Nvidia – Geforce 7xx, based on the Kepler architecture, the most vivid impression on me was the Galaxy GeForce GTX 780 Ti HOF V20 graphics card. Light execution with white textolite is not often found among video cards and looks very fresh.
The model has set several overclocking records, which was facilitated by a reinforced power system. The card was one of the first to hit the GPU frequency of 2 GHz. And the board itself looks like a work of art.
AMD responded to the GeForce GTX 780 Ti with the release of Radeon R9 290X graphics cards, based on the proven GCN architecture, and almost catching up with the competitor in performance, but at the cost of fairly high power consumption (real power consumption was at least 280 watts).
But AMD’s next step was a surprise for many, combining two Hawaii XT chips, in 2014 it released the Radeon R9 295X2 – a powerful, insanely beautiful video card with a monstrous 500 watts of power consumption.
One of the most interesting and beautiful video cards in our selection, while reference
And a year later, AMD released the Radeon R9 Fury X, a video card that had to fight the GeForce GTX 9xx generation, interesting primarily for its modest size, especially given the high power consumption of 275 watts, and an extremely ascetic design, completely atypical for a flagship video card of this level. …
Agree, such a compact but very powerful flagship video card deserves a place in our selection
The architecture of NVIDIA Maxwell turned out to be extremely successful, and one of the brightest representatives of the top-end GeForce GTX 980 Ti video cards was the iGame GTX 980 Ti Kudan from the Colorful company. The video card had an additional circuit for installing water cooling, despite the presence of excellent CO on the heat pipes.
Another interesting model is Inno3D GeForce GTX 980 Ti iChill X4 Ultra, with an aggressive design and a powerful cooling system with an additional fan that cools the textolite of the video card in the video memory area. The TDP of the graphics card has been expanded from 250 to 280 watts.
Video cards of the period 2016–2019
In 2016, NVIDIA Maxwell was replaced by the successful Pascal architecture, on which video cards are produced even today, five years later. The flagship, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, turned out to be especially good, for which they did not spare the video memory, the volume of which was 11264 MB, and the power consumption of 250 watts looks average by today’s standards, against the background of the GeForce RTX 3080 with 10240 MB of video memory and a TDP of 320 watts.
And the most impressive GeForce GTX 1080 Ti model in our selection is again from Colorful – iGame GTX 1080 Ti Kudan, with a huge three-slot cooler, and, according to the tradition of Kudan models, supplemented by a water cooling system circuit.
It is very interesting what temperatures this video card had, but it is difficult to find information about the tests due to the limited release and the price, which reached 1190 euros, making the video card inaccessible to mere mortals.
Almost the same in price was the model from EVGA – GeForce GTX 1080 Ti K | NGP | N Hydro Copper, which cost $ 1250, has a full coverage water block and austere design, with a matte black finish.
With the trend of increasing heat dissipation, compact single-slot gaming graphics cards are becoming a rarity
At first, AMD was able to respond to the emergence of powerful and energy-efficient video cards of the Pascal family only with the Radeon RX 480 from the Polaris family, which was an excellent competitor to the GeForce GTX 1060. But a video card that can compete with the GeForce GTX 1070 and GeForce GTX 1080 appeared only in 2017. It was the Radeon RX Vega 64, which in liquid performance deserves a place on our list.