Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

I recently upgraded my PC (last big upgrade was 2013 with a GPU upgrade in 2016)… its the first MMO focused spec I have gone for as I traditionally prefer single player games like Far Cry etc… Part of the spec included an AIO water cooling solution for the CPU and a Radeon Vega 56 GPU…

First time I have done water cooling and really blown away by the difference it makes over an air cooler… the Vega 56 is a reference type card and the blower type fan gets really noisy especially now I have over clocked it…

Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

Running a benchmark stress test in 3D Mark in fairly cool ambient temps had the GPU sat at around 79 degrees… I had to do a fairly aggressive fan profile to keep it from heat soaking and boy was it noisy…

Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

I already had a 280mm Nzxt x62 AIO for the CPU so decided to use that for the GPU and got a cheap deal on a 140mm Nzxt x42 to use for the CPU instead…

First job was to strip the card removing the cover, back plate and heatsink assemblies…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

I then cut the heat sink in half (there is an obvious line to do this) as the fan side didn’t need any mods doing to it for this to work…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

I could have potentially not needed to do this and if I was doing it again and was at the workshop rather than at home in the office with a few hand tools then I probably wouldn’t have needed to cut it… but its how you develop these ideas 🙂

After a few test fits and a bit of marking out I settled on cutting the one side off completely (like a backward L) so I knew I had room… and then cut over the VRM side to allow for clearance of the water cooling head… Note that I managed to retain all the original thermal pads… not ideal but I didn’t have anything to replace them with…

With the Nzxt AIO kits you get a bracket for AMD CPU’s and another for Intel CPU’s… ironically I used the Intel one as this was the right alignment for the original heatsinks mounting holes but had to drill new holes a little further inboard… I also had to trim the ends off a little as the cooler head doesn’t sit in middle so the top won’t fit without modding these…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

Did a test fit for clearance and run it up to make sure it all worked… I orientated the coolant pipes towards the back of the card but this proved to make the pipe and cable runs awkward so I now have the pointing towards the front of the card (where the outputs are)
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

There was a small issue with the USB cable though.. the Nzxt heads are quite large (80mm) and the wiring was hitting the motherboard at a very awkward angle…

So in true serial moddist fashion I fixed that 🙂

Next up was to mod the top cover in true OEM++ style…. mark up where the head would be…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

Used a large hole cutter on a drill to get the main hole just about there, rough cut the recess for the water pipe fittings then using a file I finished it all off…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

You do need to be really careful though as the aluminium is very very thin on the corners and it breaks/splits easily as I found out so had to use a little epoxy to strengthen it back up.

Put the card back together (don’t forget to use thermal paste, I use Noctua NT-H1)… thankfully I was pretty bob on with my measurements and it fitted perfectly… measure twice, cut once 🙂
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

In the case it looks just like the std card but subtly different…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

So obviously I had benchmark it all again… the Wattman profile is the same one I have been using since the first benchmark at the top of this post but this time the CPU is overclocked a little and and ambient temps are around 8 degrees higher too…
Water cooling a Vega 56 graphics card

Pretty pleased with that… modding the card this way has retained most of the original cooling so the VRM’s etc are nice and happy plus I get great temps on the GPU/HBM2… plenty of over head to try the registry mod that removes the power limit cap (currently 50% max)… I don’t plan to go mad as not chasing the nth degree of performance but might see if a cheeky 75% power limit gives me a decent return in framerate now I have the cooling overhead… modding this way also retained the rigidity of the card so no need for supports and the like…

There is a little more info on this mod here from Gamers Nexus Unlimited Power: Beating the RTX 2070 with Vega 56 Mods

On the balanced profile I was getting 97fps in Firestrike… , in turbo I got 102fps… once undervolted and overclocked (900mhz on the mem and +2% clock freq) I got this to around 113fps… with the watercooling and no other changes this is now around 116fps and using the stress test it seems the frame rate is more stable too

Happy modding 🙂

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