MSI N280GTX OC HydroGen


Pre-overclocked graphics cards are nothing new but pre overclocked AND watercooled cards are something of a rarity. MSI have seen a niche in the market they wish to explore with the OC HydroGen model based on the GTX280.

Despite MSI overclocking the GTX280 to 700mhz, a 10c temperature drop is claimed over the stock clocked 602mhz GTX280. This makes the OC HydroGen 280 the fastest  pre-overclocked GTX280 available and perhaps more importantly, faster than the recently reviewed GTX285. This is achieved by using a full cover waterblock which cools all the main components while remaining just single PCI thickness.

Obviously adding a copper full cover waterblock is not cheap and thus the price of £359.99 is £50 more expensive than the cheapest GTX285 we could find. However, if all out performance is what you want and you already have a water-cooled system then serious consideration should be given to this card.

Here’s what MSI had to say:

10 Degrees C Lower than GeForce® GTX 200 fan thermal solution via the massive contact surface increase brought by micro channel technology, MSI N280GTX OC HydroGen series successfully runs the world highest core clock setting at 700MHz, but surprisingly has 10℃ lower temperature level than normal fan cooling GeForce® GTX 200 series even at full workload.

1-Slot ultra slim tank design Ready for 3-way SLI!

MSI achieves this with only 1-slot thick HydroGen micro channel water cooling tank. This makes a multiple graphics setup in single system possible, even with all the water cooling accessories together.


The differences between the three high top end GPU’s from Nvidia are small but significant nonetheless and could have a major impact on the results of our benchmarking.

  GTX 280
GTX 285 GTX 280 Hydrogen
65nm 55nm 65nm
GPU Size 576 mm² 470 mm² 576 mm²
GPU Frequency 602 MHz 648 MHz 700mhz
Shader Frequency 1296 MHz 1476 MHz 1400 MHz
Memory Frequency 1107 MHz 1242 MHz 1150 MHz
Memory Interface 512 Bit 512 Bit 512 Bit
ROPs 32 32 32
TMU’s 80 80 80
Stream processors 240 240 240
Memory 1024Mb 1024Mb 1024
Memory bandwidth 140,7 GB/s 159,0 GB/s 141,7 BG/s

As we see, MSI have increased both the memory and shader frequencies to better feed the core. With a whopping 100mhz overclock on the core itself, we expect great things from the HydroGen and it will be interesting to see if the extra 50 MHz is enough to dethrone the GTX285.

Let’s take a look at the packaging and the card itself…