If you’re in the fortunate position to be able to choose between which aftermarket Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 Series, or even RTX 20 Series, GPU to purchase, then examining the available options is always the smart move to make.
The most important aspect to look for in aftermarket graphics cards is their thermal solution. The slightly boosted clock speeds will be of little value if the cooling is insufficient. Additionally, the thermals do not just determine the overclocking potential of the graphics card, but they also regulate the amount of noise that will be emanating from the GPU. There is nothing worse than having a sufficiently chilled and silent setup, ruined by the acoustics of the GPU fans which cannot be replaced. Also, if the cooling is insufficient, then overclocking the GPU can cause irreversible damage that will ultimately affect its lifespan.
When it comes to Nvidia AIB models, two manufacturers that have proven to go above and beyond in their cooling solutions are EVGA and, of course, ASUS.
ASUS, in particular, deserves special props due to how they handled the situation with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 POSCAP fiasco. When the first aftermarket GPUs were released, many manufacturers had opted to include only cheaper POSCAP capacitors, six in number, instead of the more expensive MLCC capacitors, resulting in crashes due to the interference between capacitors during the boost/over clocking of the GPU. ASUS was the only manufacturer who did not go for the six POSCAP setup, nor the four or five POSCAP setup with one or two MLCC capacitors in between. Instead, they made their aftermarket GPU using nothing but more expensive, higher quality, MLCCs.
However, ASUS is usually associated with higher prices, so comparing them to EVGA is only appropriate when determining which option provides the most value – at least for when it comes to their thermal solutions. So, is ASUS’s high-end ROG Strix model worth its cost, or does the FTW3 Ultra cooling solution offer more at its similarly high price? Let’s compare the two and find out.
EVGA FTW3 Ultra
The FTW3 Ultra model made by EVGA utilizes iCX3 interactive cooling – which is the name of their cooling system that employs temperature sensors to detect hot spots, and cool them in a dynamic manner. As EVGA puts it, the “heart” of this cooling system is the associated hardware.
The first layer of this setup includes three asynchronous, hydro-dynamic bearing fans with PWM controls – which means they do not operate at under 55-degree C temperatures, for more silent operation – and a 10 mm offset, used to increase the direct airflow area by 16%. Next, the heatsink itself has airflow pockets, used to better transfer the heat out of the fins, a 180-degree heatpipe design, made to increase the fin contact area by 85% for better heat dissipation, and EVGA’s patented copper baseplate, which covers both the GPU and VRAM. Finally, the backplate has cut-outs used to improve the airflow throughout while decreasing exhaust recovery, as well as two micro-thin heatpipes used as additional material for transferring heat from the memory backside.
Next, the “brains” of the cooling system are the nine thermal sensors which are controlled by micro control processors, allowing the automated software to better control the fans, depending on the areas experiencing higher thermals. Also, through the use of EVGA’s Precision X1 software, these sensors allow the user to monitor these temperatures of the various areas of the graphics card in real time.
ASUS ROG Strix
Not to be outdone, ASUS also uses asynchronous, and also asymmetrical fans with an Axial-tech design. The auxiliary fans have a slimmer barrier ring – for more lateral intake – and 11 blades, while the center fan has a full-height ring – for better static pressure, which is used to penetrate and cool through the heatsink – and two additional blades (13 in total), which allow it the performance necessary to properly cool the GPU heat spreader. The fans spin in alternating directions in order to avoid airflow turbulence as well. Like EVGA, ASUS uses PWM controls which activate the fans only when temperatures surpass 55 degrees Celsius.
The enlarged, 2.9-slot design, heatsink makes use of MaxContact, which is how ASUS names the manufacturing process of polishing the surface of the heat spreader on the microscopic level; as the smoothness of the material allows for better contact with the die, resulting in better heat transfer from the die to the heatpipes and fins of the heatsink. Its extended design also allows for more thermal headroom, further amplified by the fact that the PCB is shortened and the backplate has large ventilation holes that allow the hot to be expelled from the graphics card.
Finally, also included with the ROG Strix is FanConnect II, which is another way of saying that the graphics card has two fan headers that can be used to connect case-fans so that they can share the PWM controls of the GPU – also controllable via ASUS’s GPU Tweak II software.
Benchmarks & Verdict
Though the marketing promotion of what makes each AIB GPU unique is great for giving us an idea of the new cooling features of each variant, where these models truly get tested, and show how well they function, is under third-party scrutiny.
TechPowerUp found the EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 FTW3 Ultra to reach temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius on idle, and 73 degrees C under load – with fans spinning at 1715 RPM. If OC is activated in BIOS, so that the fans spin independent of the temperatures of the GPU, the thermals do fall slightly under load (to 68 degrees C) but the acoustics do increase as well (to 34 dBA). Compare this to the ASUS GeForce RTX 3080 TUF OC, which is tested by the same source (TechPowerUp ), that reaches temperatures of just 63 degrees C under load (35 dBA of noise), and we can already see a huge difference between the cooling of the two manufacturers.
TweakTown provides us benchmarks for the ASUS ROG Strix RTX 3080 OC, and they found that this GPU ran at only 65 degrees Celsius after running Heaven for one full hour at a 4K resolution – the lowest temperature of all the GPUs they tested.
Overall, it is safe to say that ASUS has the best aftermarket graphics card, at least when it comes to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; though they do not fall far behind in other GPU variants as well. The only advantage that can be given to the EVGA FTW3 Ultra is its more detailed system monitoring, which may be useful for those who like to micromanage the thermals of their hardware.
If found at the same price, the ASUS ROG Strix does have the overall better cooling solution, and with its 6/6 MLCC capacitor setup (versus the 4 POSCAP 2 MLCC setup of the FTW3 Ultra), it is also the safer choice between the two for overclocking potential, making it he victor in this comparison.