Pros: Huge compatibility, Easy Installation, Great Performance, Price
Cons: No RAM or VRM cooling, No additional mounting plates
Let’s start with an unboxing. There is little to say about the box. The Thermosphere is part of EK's hugely successful Clean CSQ line. I will be checking out the Nickel Plexi version, but results should be consistent among others.
Taking off the cardboard cover we find various warnings and some warranty info. EK does not cover leaks or other damage caused by you.
Unpacking we find the block, mounting hardware, and instructions. The instructions are easy to read but installation was so simple I didn’t end up using them.
Now for a closer look at the block. As usual EK's clear blocks look amazing.
Some more glamour shots
The block features 4 inlets/outlets. EK includes 2 plugs for which ever two you aren't using. This doesn't tie you down to one configuration and allows for nearly any loop configuration.
Rather than a one size fits all, the Thermosphere uses custom mounting brackets. They are specific to the line of cards. The unit comes pre-configured to work with GTX600-700 series cards. More plates can be found here. They are under $10 but you still have to purchase them separately. They simply screw into the back of the water block. I would have liked to see them included, but cost was a key factor in this product's design so I am not surprised.
Now on to installation. Since the product is very compact, installation was a breeze. Simply remove your stock cooler, wipe down and remove old TIM with alcohol, apply the new included TIM to the block, and screw in using the 4 screws.
Now on to my second and last complaint. There is nothing for the RAM or power delivery system. Granted the GPU core is the hottest part, but even some inexpensive metal heatsinks would work wonders for the rest of the card. Maybe EK can sell an add on that includes a handful of small heatsinks that can be attached with thermal pads. The water block is very thin and only takes up a single slot. This would work great for single slot cards in a multi GPU setup.
There is obviously no backplate as each card’s layout is individualized.
Here is the card installed and running.
Finally on to the performance numbers. I ended up doing temperature tests on a Sapphire 280X. I tested against Arctic’s Hybrid II all-in-one GPU water block (review here).. The Hybrid II is more than $30 more expensive, but includes a pump and reservoir. As you can see the Thermosphere performed very well. At 100% speed the results get a little closer since there is only so much heat that can be transferred through liquid. The coolant temperature in the loop is usually only a few degrees warmer than the heat producing component. For this reason turning up the fan rpm didn't help much either. I was able to achieve nearly 20 degrees cooler than the stock fan at low speeds and 6 degrees cooler at full speed. Sub 50 temperatures are pretty impressive at full load.
The EK-Thermosphere is a great product for someone who wants to water cool their GPU but doesn't want to spend a fortune. Coming in at under $80, the Thermosphere is a bargain compared to $100-130 full cover blocks. The Thermosphere's performance is not too far off from full cover blocks as well. I would expect around 5 degrees warmer. What you are missing is cooling for the VRAM and voltage regulators. If that is worth the extra $30, go for the full block. The Thermosphere would work great for those wishing to liquid cool older or lower end products that don't have full cover blocks. All in all the EK-Thermosphere is a great water block for those new to water cooling or those who are on a budget.