Waterblock installation: Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity

I’ve been converting the few 3090’s I acquired to water-cooled units for my water cooled mining rig – today, we’re converting Zotac 3090 Trinity…

zotac 3090 ready for watercooling conversion

I’ve been converting the few 3090’s I acquired to water-cooled units. Thus giving me 4 water-cooled GPUS. You can read how and why I did this in my water-cooled mining rig build write-up, the first in a series of introductory articles to mining.

I’ve covered replacing the thermal pads and installing a 3090 Founder’s Edition into a water block in this article, but today we’re looking at the Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity.

A note on the Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity

I have a single Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity and a pair of Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 ArcticStorm cards – and for whatever reason, the Arcticstorms massively outperform the Trinity on Hashrate. I don’t know why, “the silicon lottery”, perhaps. But personally, if I were starting again I would probably not bother with this card for a water cooling conversion. I’d buy the Arcticstorms!

My  Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity
My Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity

But anyway, here we are…

Getting started

First, we’ll need to strip down the old GPU case, remove and clean the mainboard, then after re-instating the thermal paste and thermal pads, we’re ready o either put the mainboard back in the case or drop it into the water block.

The block we have for the Zotac is the EK-Quantum Vector Trinity RTX 3080/3090 water block with the Vector Trinity RTX 3080/3090 Backplate. I wish I’d bought the “active” backplate, but frankly, it adds an enormous amount of cost, and my costs were already spiraling out of control!

Dismantling the Zotac GPU case – step by step

So, here’s our Zotac 3090. In this post, we’ll take the original case apart, replace the thermal pads and thermal grease. Finally, we’ll install it into our water block.

Zotac GeForce RTX 3090 Trinity and EK-Quantum Vector Trinity RTX 3080/3090 water block

Before getting started be sure to remember to always observe static precautions!

Unlike the 3090 Founders Edition, these cards are simpler in construction. While they’re larger they only use Phillips head screws and ordinary connectors for the RGB and fans. So very few surprises abound!

Everything laid out and ready to go

Unlike the 3090 Founders edition block, the Zotac block has a more complex thermal pad regimen. There are several different thicknesses of pad to watch out for, I recommend measuring them as they’re not colour coded!

Checking thermal pad thickness for replacement

Rather than writing a complete step-by-step of the teardown, I’m sharing this excellent video which has the step by step.

DaPoets – EK Quantum Vector GPU Water Block – ZOTAC RTX 3090 Trinity OC

What I will say is this – be a little careful where you’re holding the card when you lever the PCB away from the cooler plate. The radiator pipework has some sharp edges and, guess what – I cut my finger and bled like crazy. Not ideal!

Remove the board and put all of the original components of the GPU case in a safe place. I reassembled mine and put it back in the original box.

Replacing the thermal pads

Here is the 3090 GPU side of the board, I’ve cleaned away the thermal paste and replaced the thermal pads:

Zotac 3090 thermal pad replacement - GPU side
Zotac 3090 thermal pad replacement – GPU side

Add the thermal paste to the GPU before sitting the mainboard on the waterblock:

Rear of the board mounted in EK water block ready for thermal pads

The instructions for replacing the thermal pads are found in the EK manual – here’s the diagram for the rear:

I didn’t take a photo of the rear backplate with the thermal pads installed, so here’s a screengrab from DaPoet:

Rear backplate: Zotac Trinity Waterblock from EK
Rear backplate: Zotac Trinity Waterblock from EK

Replacing the pads is really simple, and as long as you do a good job of cleaning the original pads away from the components on the PCB, you should find your card operates at far lower temperatures than before.

Once the block is screwed back together, here’s the final result:

Finished and installed Zotac 3090 water block conversion
Finished and installed Zotac 3090 water block conversion

Final thoughts

As I said in the intro, personally I don’t think this card, for whatever reason, is as performant as the Trinity Arcticstorm version, so my best advice would be just to buy the water-cooled version of the same card! But apart from that, EK’s instructions are great and once you’re feeling confident, this type of task is pretty trivial. Good luck!

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