Alphacool NexXxos GPX GTX 980 M02 with Backplate Review – Alphacool’s GTX 980 Upgradeable Water Block & Backplate
In this review we’ll be taking a look at Alphacool’s after market watercooling block for the NVidia’s GTX 980 reference card – the “NexXxos GPX GTX 980 M02”. This is part of our GTX 980 water block round up. As always a big thanks to AquaTuning for supporting ExtremeRigs with a test sample.
Alphacool have quite a few different versions of their NexXxos GPX GTX 980 – the M02 is the one that fitted our reference card. As we had reviewed the R9-290x version before – we were sent an upgrade kit. Wait – you might be asking – an upgrade kit?
Yes – you see Alphacool unlike everyone else has moved away from a traditional full cover GPU block to a hybrid that uses a reusable core cooling block attached to a metal plate that then cools VRM and memory. This will be easier to understand when you see the block. So let’s get it unboxed:
Opening the box first reveals the backplate which is wrapped in plastic but is otherwise unprotected. Luckily as a thick piece of aluminum it’s unlikely to get damaged. Underneath the next fold of cardboard is the rest of the upgrade kit:
The two metal plates have a matching ribbed theme that is more functional than aesthetically pleasing:Underneath there some machining work going on for the front plate while the backplate is almost untouched:
The instructions told us to remove the block from our existing installation and to apply TIM around the corners in order to thermally couple the block to the front plate. The block was secured with the 9 black screws shown below:
There was plenty of TIM to ensure a good connection to the front plate – it has to be said though that the front plate will have it’s own cooling effect by the airflow in the case as it’s quite a heatsink itself:
The block is directional unlike most of the competition and only has one port option for each input and output:
The ports are also recessed somewhat from the edge of the plate so that larger fittings may need extensions to work. It’s also noticeable that this is the only block without the option to connect at a right angle which certainly helps with most tube routing.
Now to fit the block to the PCB. First up was to mount the many, thick, thermal pads, this part was tedious but well described. As can be seen in this photo after the block was removed – there are quite a lot!
The instructions were less clear about how to install the block and backplate. In the end we figured out that the low profile black screws were meant for the not low profile section of the backplate. While the taller button head dark silver screws were meant to drop through the backplate and secure the PCB to the front plate only. It was strange that two colors of screws were used let alone that low profile screws were used where they may not be needed anymore. In addition the low profile screws used a small allen key that was easy to strip. The metal used in the screws felt on the cheap and soft side and the paint job on them filled in the heads of some of the screws. This is not the first time we’ve been disappointed in Alphacool’s choice of screws. Hopefully this will be improved next time.
One thing that did get improved was the design of the backplate to be more compatible with Asus motherboards. As can be seen part of the backplate has none of the “ribbing” and this means it now fits in both the Rampage IV Extreme and Maximus VI Impact that it failed to fit into for the R9-290x version!
Having said this – the backplate is still very thick and when combined with the choice to use very thick thermal pads then the end result is still quite fat:
While Alphacool made it so that multiple of these cards can be stacked together for quad SLI, it’s not so compatible with something taking up the full space of a PCI slot behind it:
So while compatibility has been vastly improved it is still not perfect!
Now let’s take the block apart…