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Inno3D offers an impressive range of graphics cards based solely on Nvidia GPUs and that's the reason we haven't seen a lot of action from them in recent months. With the delay of the GeForce GTX 400 series Nvidia's exclusive board partners were left hanging for a while there. Although older GeForce models were still pretty competitive, ATI's successive launches kept pushing the efficiency and price envelope release after release.
Either way, if that was reason enough to have manufacturers looking into custom board designs and cooling offerings out of the box, then you won't hear us complaining. Besides your run of the mill reference-based boards, Inno3D produced a number of impressive GeForce GTX 200-based products, such as their GTX Accelero line and the flagship of them all, the GTX 295 Black Series that added a large water-cooling block for heavy overclocking.
Since then we haven't seen any similar products added to Inno3D's elite "Black Series", until now. You may recall some of our thoughts from our original GTX 480 review. Although performance output was certainly there, we had serious reservations about Fermi's power usage and its most hazardous result, heat output. Without a doubt a perfect candidate for the water treatment, today we present to you the Inno3D GTX 480 iChill Black Series.
You assumed correctly, water-cooling is the key component here and it could make all the difference. Back in March, our GTX 480 reference card tests revealed that under stress this GPU was hotter than the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295, and consumed a similar amount of power when compared to the dual-GPU Radeon HD 4870 X2. Against a comparable Radeon, the GeForce was not the practical choice as we found it to be power hungry, loud and hot.
Now roughly 2 months later and despite of all those obvious drawbacks, Nvidia's CEO claimed that the company had already shipped an impressive few hundred thousand Fermi GPUs. This either means there is a huge amount of Nvidia fans out there (a claim we wouldn't argue about) or that board partners have a truckload of inventory in their warehouses.
Adding a water-block is not going to make the product any cheaper, but it will most likely improve the overclocking abilities of the GeForce GTX 480 and as a result improve performance.
There is a lot being asked of the new Inno3D GTX480 iChill Black Series and we are keen to see if it can deliver. Let's find out.