ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Graphics Card Review

Flagship. It’s word that embodies everything that ASUS is trying to do with their HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP graphics card. Does it qualify for that title? Read on and let’s find out together!

Specifications & Features

Starting off with the specification list, you can see this card is made to be a strong competitor. It comes with a stock clocks of 1000 MHz on the GPU and 1400 MHz on the memory, 75 MHz and 25 MHz overclocks over reference, respectively. While that’s not a lot over stock, wait until you see how it’s made and what it can really do. Let’s just say ASUS was conservative when they stopped here.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II Specifications

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II Specifications

In case you didn’t feel like reading the specifications, here is ASUS’ skinned version of GPUz for your viewing pleasure.

ASUS GPU Info - Specifications

ASUS GPU Info – Specifications

The features on this card are  impressive too. As its name indicates, this card comes with ASUS’ DirectCU II cooling solution. This particular card’s cooler has six copper heatpipes, plenty of aluminum to dissipate the heat and two 100 mm fans supplying airflow.

DirectCU II
DirectCU II

20% cooler and 14dB quieter with exclusive DirectCU II thermal solution

DirectCU II

One item more extreme overclockers will take advantage of is VGA HotWire. This allows you to hard-mod your card without having to actually do the work. They supply easy solder points for monitoring and controlling GPU, memory and PLL voltages. Hard-modding your card has never been so easy.

The catch is, to control these easily, you need an ASUS ROG board (Rampage IV Extreme or Maximus V Extreme). Thus, you’ll need to purchase a high-dollar board to go with your high-dollar card if you want to use this feature. Presumably you can find variable resistors and wire them to ground from the control points to use it without a ROG motherboard. Unfortunately I’ve yet to see data on this yet, so I posed the question to ASUS. They are checking with the product design team to see if they can obtain that info. The conversation was quite positive and they will hopefully be able to share the information. While GPU HotWire makes it convenient to use on their boards, they aren’t against allowing people to get the most out of their cards if they go with another motherboard choice.

VGA Hotwire
VGA hotwire

Propreitary VGA hotwire allows you to plug and solder wires on the card’s voltage regulators and accurately read and control Vcore, Vmem, and PLL voltages from ASUS ROG MBs on a hardware level

VGA Hotwire

For those of you that aren’t necessarily adept with a soldering iron, you do have ASUS’ GPU Tweak software that does allow GPU voltage control. GPU Tweak has clockspeed control, GPU voltage control, plenty of monitoring capability and even a ROG-skinned GPUz as you saw above.

GPU Tweak
GPU Tweak

GPU Tweak co-developed with the most authoritative GPU-Z to provide the most accurate information

The power section is one place where this card really separates itself. You’ll see more on it later in the review. Suffice to say it’s strong.

DIGI+VRM with 12 phase Super Alloy Power
DIGI+ VRM with 12-phase Super Alloy Power

Acclaimed DIGI+ VRM with 12-phase Super Alloy Power technology Delivers precise Digital Power and Enhance Durability for stable overlocking

If you were paying attention, you already knew the card had 3 GB of GDDR5 memory and a 1000 MHz ‘stock’ clock.

Gigantic 3GB GDDR5 Memory
Gigantic 3GB GDDR5 Memory

On-board memory for the best gaming experience & the best solution

1000 MHz Overclock
1000 MHz Overclock

1000 MHz Overclock for better performance and outstanding gaming experience

The outputs on this card are definitely nonstandard, not that there really is much of a standard for non-reference PCB cards anyway. There’s something to be said for uniformity though and rather than four connectors with three different kinds of connector, with this card you get a whopping six connectors with only two kinds. All told you have two DVI ports and four DisplayPorts.

I/O Ports

I/O Ports

To those of you with DVI monitors that want to get more than two monitors using adapters, make sure you get active DisplayPort-to-DVI adapters. Passive adapters will not work. Active adapters cost about double what passive adapters cost, so be sure not to go cheap on the adapter.

Now let’s move on to the what’s-in-the-box section of our program.

Packaging & Accessories

The box for this card is good looking, as boxes go. If anyone ever played the N64 game Mace (seriously dating myself here), this character reminds me of Lord Deimos for some reason or another. Anyway, good looking box with lots of features outlined.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Box

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Box

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Box

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Box Rear

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Box Rear

After opening the box, we find…a box! Opening the box-in-a-box, you see the driver CD nestled in a foam square. Then you pull those off and see the card itself with the accessories in their own little foam cutout. The card is definitely well-protected.

Box-in-a-Box

Box-in-a-Box

Disc and Guide Holder

Disc and Guide Holder

GPU Safely Encased in Foam

GPU Safely Encased in Foam

The accessory stack is strong as video cards go. You get a speed setup guide and driver disc in the little box, though any overclocker with half a brain will skip the disc and run straight to the AMD web site to get the latest driver. The other accessories include a Crossfire connector, VGA-to-HDMI adapter and dual 6-pin PCIe -to- 8-pin PCIe power adapter. That other item is definitely not standard fare.

Driver Disc, Setup Guide

Driver Disc, Setup Guide

Accessories

Accessories

The long black heatsink is just that, a heatsink – for the power section of the card to assist when you take it sub-zero on dry ice or liquid nitrogen cooling! How cool is that? Not only did they design this card for overclocking (more on that later), they’re encouraging freezing it and helping those that do a great deal by supplying this heatsink right out of the box. Kudos ASUS, kudos.

Spare MOSFET Cooler for LN2 Overclocking

Spare MOSFET Cooler for LN2 Overclocking

Strong accessories in a box fit for a, well for a high-end graphics card. You thought I was going to say king, didn’t you?

Meet the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the main event. The ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP in the flesh, and boy, is it a good looking card.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

Whether or not you’re a big fan of ASUS’ black & red ROG color scheme, you’ve got to hand it to them, they have a great looking three-slot graphics card monster here. Even if you don’t like the black & red scheme, there are only three red lines. The rest is sleek black and silver; svelte, if you will. Anyway, check out the photo shoot.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

Ok, ok, wipe the drool off for a bit, let’s snap back to reality (oh, there goes gravity…free virtual cookie if you know where that lyric came from). In that last photo above, you can see the power connectors on the right. Because of the overclocking ability – and by extension amperage draw of this card – they’ve equipped it with two 8-pin PCIe power connectors rather than the reference single 8-pin plus single 6-pin.

You saw it before in the ASUS image, but here are the connectors in the flesh. You can also see why ASUS classifies this card as a 2.5-slot card. The bracket is triple-slot, but you can see the cooler doesn’t quite make it to the bottom of the bracket.

Video Outputs

Video Outputs

In a card this high-end, you want the back side to look as good as the front and ASUS has obliged by including a backplate.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Backplate

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Backplate

Zooming in a bit you can see just how much ASUS likes overclockers, and it comes in the form of the ability to connect this card to a motherboard that has the GPU HotWire feature. By soldering wires onto these points (and shorting the two adjacent pads in the photo on the left), you can read and control PLL (the left photo), Vcore and Vmem (the right), running them far over what software control allows.

You don’t have to use extreme cooling for this either. If you want to push farther than software allows and your temperatures are still reasonable (as they easily are with this cooler at the software limit), this allows you to do it.

VDDCI & OVCI Solder Points

VDDCI & OVCI Solder Points

MVDD, OVM, VDDC, & OVC Solder Points

MVDD, OVM, VDDC, & OVC Solder Points

The drawback is that it requires an ASUS Extreme ROG board to have this feature. I’d like to see them include instructions for using these solder points with variable resistors as well, in case you don’t have an ASUS ROG Extreme board. I’m sure someone can figure that out, but if there was a request to make, that would be it. It’s understandable they don’t necessarily want you to go out of the ASUS ecosystem to get that control, but you’re paying a premium for this card and should have the option.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP

No, there’s nothing new here, I just thought you’d want one more angle of this great looking card.

Under the Hood

Taking the heatsink off, you can begin to see what separates this card from other cards. Not only is the cooler obviously strong, that power section kind-of jumps out at you, doesn’t it?

HSF Removed

HSF Removed

HSF Alone

HSF Alone

There is thermal paste on the GPU-matched copper slug attached to the heatpipes. The memory and MOSFETs have thermal pads for heat transfer. Contact was solid throughout.

Good HSF Contact

Good HSF Contact

Thermal Paste Cleaned

Thermal Paste Cleaned

Interestingly, rather than splitting the heatpipes evenly, with three on each side, they went with four on one side and two on the other. From the angle in the photo on the right, you can see the MOSFET sink has fins to take advantage of the airflow the fans are putting through the heatsink as well.

Two Heatpipes This Side

Two Heatpipes This Side

Four Heatpipes This Side

Four Heatpipes This Side

ASUS has a nice blown up view of the cooler construction. They claim it’s 20% cooler and 20% quieter than reference (easily believable).

ASUS DirectCU II Cooler Breakdown

ASUS DirectCU II Cooler Breakdown

Thicker Fan

Thicker Fan

Dust Proof Fan

Dust Proof Fan

Here is the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP in the flesh. It’s nice looking as electronics go and deserves its own photo shoot.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Defrocked

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Defrocked

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Rear

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Rear

Now we get to the power section. ASUS has equipped this card with a 12-phase Super Alloy Power section, which contains upgraded MOSFETs, chokes, 100% Japanese solid capacitors and upgraded SAP CAPs.

Super Alloy Power

Super Alloy Power

Components In Action

Super Alloy Components

As mentioned, there are twelve phases in this line. Two are for the GDDR5 memory and ten are for the GPU. if you look back up at the ‘front’ of the card near the video connectors, you can actually see there are two other phases. This is pending confirmation from ASUS, but I believe those are beefed up phases for the card’s PLL. Thus, there are actually 14 phases on the card all told.

As far as what altered PLL voltage actually does, PLL is mostly used to assist the card in running colder (like, liquid nitrogen kind of cold). While it might help a small amount with overclock stability on ambient, helping the card run better while colder is where that control will have the most benefit.

GPU and Memory Power Section

GPU and Memory Power Section

Power Control - Digi+VRM

Power Control – Digi+VRM

More Power!

More Power!

Here we have the Hynix GDDR5 memory. The card has 3 GB worth and it clocks pretty well actually, even without software voltage control.

Hynix VDDR5

Hynix GDDR5

Last but not least we have the HD 7970 GPU itself.

AMD HD 7970 GPU

AMD HD 7970 GPU

So far we have a great looking card with the cooler on and an even better looking one with the cooler removed. Time to put this beast in a machine.

Test Setup

Our test setup is the same as that used previously other than the ‘pushing the limits’ and Eyefinity testing sections, for which the motherboard was swapped out. That swap didn’t lead to a difference in scores really (it was tested) so it’s no big deal.

CPU i7 3770K
MB ASUS Maximus V GENE / Maximus V Extreme
RAM G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133
GPU ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP
OS Windows 7 Professoinal x64
ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Installed

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Installed

The cards we’re comparing have been tested at the same settings, but on different motherboards per the Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure.

EVGA GTX 660 Ti Superclocked
Sapphire HD 7870 Flex Edition
Powercolor PCS+ HD 7850
HIS 7950 IceQ Turbo
ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP
MSI GTX 680 Lightning
AMD HD 6990

There is stiff competition, especially from the MSI GTX 680 Lightning, which is right in the market segment at which this card is aimed.

ASUS Software

ASUS’ GPU Tweak software is another example of ASUS software engineers writing quality overclocking software. Like AISuite, its implementation is seamless, it is easy to use and it gets the job done.

GPU Tweak and Monitoring

ASUS GPU Tweak and Monitoring

Unfortunately it’s not quite as strong as MSI’s Afterburner for their Lightning cards. While this card obviously has the capability to vary its memory and PLL voltages, you don’t get that control in GPU Tweak and must use the GPU HotWire feature to adjust them.

Additionally, the GPU voltage was formerly capped far lower than the card is capable of running, at only 1182 mV. While maxing out the overclock and cranking the fan to 100%, the card barely tops 55°C. There is much more gas in this card’s tank than software would have allowed you to draw from it.

Fortunately, in the middle of typing this review, ASUS has come out with a fix to that particular problem. GPU Tweak now allows for up to 1400 mV, giving you plenty of voltage control on any reasonable air or water cooling.  Since the new software came into play after running the benchmarks and overclocking the card for the graphed results, we’ll reserve higher voltage results for “Pushing the Limits”.

In addition to GPU Tweak and monitor, ASUS has skinned their own version of GPUz, similar to their ROG-skinned CPUz. It’s a good looking alternative to regular GPUz.

ASUS GPU Info

ASUS GPU Info

The software is good at what it does. While it can be improved, what it does accomplish it does without issue. No complaints about what it has, just a few wishes about what it lacks.

Cooler Performance & Power Consumption

Before getting to performance it’s always good to see how well the cooler works and how much power the card draws.

GPU Temperature Comparison

GPU Temperature Comparison

The cooler performs very admirably. The only card that runs cooler in this comparison is the GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP, which also has a DirectCU II cooler on it. When run for longer in Heaven, even it loses to the stronger fans, extra heatpipes and deeper fins of the HD 7970′s version of the DirectCU II cooler.

I didn’t include them in the graph because I didn’t run them personally, but if you look back at the MSI GTX 680 Lightning’s temperature results, this card runs just a few degrees warmer.

Remember, these are performed with the stock fan profile too. When you make your own custom fan profile, you can make the fan run faster, which will keep it even cooler than this. As mentioned previously, with full voltage applied and pushing all the MHz the card has at that voltage, the GPU barely got to 55 °C.

Importantly, even on full, the fans on the DirectCU II cooler aren’t very loud at all. Fan noise is nonexistent; the only thing you’re hearing is airflow. It’s not even that loud, and certainly quieter than squirrel-cage style coolers.

Power consumption isn’t a huge deal for us but we definitely should run the numbers for our readers.

Power Consumption Comparison

Power Consumption Comparison

As you can see, this card isn’t as efficient as the GTX 670 DCU II TOP. Again, looking back at the MSI GTX 680 Lightning review, its power consumption came in less than the HD 7970 DCU II TOP, but only by a few watts. Heaven was the biggest difference at 12 W. 3DMark 11′s difference was merely 4 W.

From both temperature and efficiency standpoints, the difference between the GTX 680 Lightning and this HD 7970 is certainly nothing to call home about. The two are basically equals here and the difference will come in performance.

Overclocking

Overclocking this card was a breeze. Crank the voltage, raise MHz until it crashes, back off & profit. The 24/7 overclock, stable for every benchmark and game I could throw at it except for 3DMark Vantage (which reduced 10 MHz on the GPU for some reason), ended up being 1200 MHz on the GPU and 1750 MHz (7000 MHz quad-pumped GDDR5-style) on the memory.

24/7 Overclock - 1200 MHz / 1750 MHz

24/7 Overclock – 1200 MHz / 1750 MHz

As mentioned, this GPU has a lot left in the tank with the newly added voltage increase. 1200 MHz was gained with a mere 1182 mV. You’ll see just how much it has in its tank in “Pushing the Limits”!

Performance Results

As usual, we’re going to start off with synthetic performance, then move on to gaming performance.

Synthetic Tests

First up is oldie-but-goodie 3DMark03. As you can see, Kepler doesn’t particularly care for 03 and the 7970 easily takes out the competition here.

3Dmark03

3Dmark03

Moving on to more modern times, Vantage is a great DirectX 10 test. Since all of our games (and indeed most modern games) take advantage of DX11 features, this is our only DX10 test. As people still play DX10 games, even if they aren’t buying new ones, it’s still a worthy test.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

Vantage shows two results, both of which I kind-of expected. The way the Kepler vs. Tahiti Pro battle has shaken out, the former seems to be better when operating at stock and the latter seems to be better when overclocked – primarily because unlike Kepler, Tahiti Pro still gives you voltage to play with. NVIDIA has so restricted Kepler’s overclocking ability, when you overclock them as far as their Power Tune limit will allow, they just can’t reach Tahiti Pro performance levels; and that is borne out here. At stock the GTX 680 Lightning comes out ahead by ~800 3DMarks, but when overclocked, the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP (hereinafter HD 7970 DCT) leaps over the Lightning’s result by over 1200 3DMarks.

3DMark 11 introduces DX11 features, of which Tessellation is one of the most arduous. Kepler has been especially good at DX11 performance when Tessellation is involved.

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

The GTX 680 Lightning flexes its muscle here, trouncing the HD 7970 DCT  at stock and still beating it by a few hundred overclocked. The HD 7970 DCT does make up a ton of ground when you overclock it though.

Heaven is another DX11 bench, with full featured testing.

HWBot Heaven

HWBot Heaven

Kepler isn’t as strong in Heaven as it was in 3DMark 11. The stock GTX 680 Lightning just edges out the HD 7970 DCT, but the DCT gives it a good beat down when they’re both overclocked.

Game Tests

Moving on to the game tests, as usual we’ll tackle them in alphabetical order, starting with the Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark.

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

The HD 7970 DCT starts out strong and only gets stronger, trouncing the competition in this benchmark.

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City

Batman is the same story, with the HD 7970 DCT mopping up, beating the GTX 680 Lightning handily at stock and trouncing it overclocked.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

This is starting to look like a familiar story. Stock gets a small’ish win over Kepler’s best, overclocked comes in markedly ahead.

Civilization V

Civilization V

Here we have the first ding in the HD 7970 DCT’s armor, with Kepler doing a better job in Civilization V all around. The difference isn’t huge, but it is a win for Kepler here.

Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 has some great competition. Similar to the synthetic benchmarks, it shows the HD 7970 DCT losing by a few FPS at stock and winning by a few FPS when overclocked.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Last, but certainly not least, we have the most difficult game benchmark in our testing suite. Metro brings GPUs to their knees, with even the most high-end GPUs unable to muster 60FPS with everything turned up. In Metro 2033, the HD 7970 DCT comes out on top, by a little bit at stock and by a good margin in this kind of bench when overclocked.

AMD Eyefinity Testing

With GPUs like AMD’s HD 7870 and NVIDIA’s 660Ti able to handle games at 1080p without too much trouble on current and past titles, it’s at higher resolutions that GPUs this strong really separate themselves. It’s important to note, the overclocked Eyefninty runs were completed at 1260 MHz on the GPU, 60 MHz over the overclock above. This is because the new version of GPU Tweak came out before completing the Eyefinity testing. These game tests were run in three-monitor Eyefinity at 5760 x 1080.

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Eyefinity Testing

ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP Eyefinity Testing

As you can see, at stock the HD 7970 DCT beats out the GTX 670 most of the time, even when the latter is overclocked. When you overclock the HD 7970 DCT to its max stable 24/7 overclock, it just runs away with everything, most of the time beating out last year’s behemoth HD 6990. Very impressive.

ASUS HD 7970 DCT - 1260 / 1750

ASUS HD 7970 DCT – 1260 / 1750

This screenshot was taken after playing Battlefield 3 multiplayer for over an hour (without so much as a single frame lag I might add). The GPU voltage was set at 1319 mV with the GPU running 1260 MHz. Memory was the same overclock as before at 1750 MHz. After an hour, heavily overclocked running Eyefinity in a 26 °C room and with a custom fan profile, the DirectCU II cooler didn’t even make it to 70 °C, topping out at 67 °C with the fan operating at ~80%. How’s that for cooler performance?

Pushing the Envelope

You’ve gotten to know the card through benchmarks and games above, but in the middle of the review process, ASUS came out with a version of GPU Tweak that expanded the available GPU Vcore to a whopping 1400 mV!  This does mean you’ll likely get higher 24/7 overclocks than what you saw above. 1200 MHz is a walk in the park at the previously low 1182 mV.

One thing you should know is that you probably don’t want to just throw 1.4 V at an HD 7970 and go to town. There are possible issues when overclocking at higher voltage like that. For instance, on this particular GPU, if you ran the Vcore over 1.319 V, it got angry and started artifacting like crazy. So just because the voltage is there doesn’t mean you necessarily want to use it. Consider yourself warned.

Anyway, now that we have some voltage to play with, let’s beat the snot out of the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP and see where it gets us!

3DMark03 - 163271

3DMark03 – 163271

3DMark05 - 48637

3DMark05 – 48637

3DMark06 - 38529

3DMark06 – 38529

3DMark Vantage - 41862

3DMark Vantage – 41862

3DMark 11 - 12918

3DMark 11 – 12918

HWBot Heaven - 3090.163

HWBot Heaven – 3090.163

In case you don’t want to comb through all those screenshots, the scores are in the picture captions and the top core speed per benchmark is in this handy-dandy chart.

Benchmark Clockspeed
3DMark03 1325 MHz
3DMark05 1295 MHz
3DMark06 1325 MHz
3DMark Vantage 1295 MHz
3DMark 11 1325 MHz
HWBot Heaven 1315 MHz

That’s an average 1313 MHz overclock! It’s quite impressive really. At very close to the same voltage (1.3V), the reference HD 7970 from AMD topped out at 1248 MHz. To gain so much over the reference design means ASUS did a lot right with this card. Add in the fact that you can push voltage even farther via GPU HotWire (under dry ice or liquid nitrogen people…don’t go over 1.4V on air!), then you’ve got a winning card, on air and under colder conditions.

Now, those of you that do want to take this card cold may consider having your soldering iron handy. This is not just for the VGA HotWire feature, but also for the capacitor and inductor positioned where a GPU pot may go. This is best described with photos.

Cap & Coil In The Way

Cap & Coil In The Way

Cap & Coil Moved (Image Courtesy OCLab.ru

Cap & Coil Moved (Image Courtesy OCLab.ru)

In our photo on the left you can see what might be in the way. The photo on the right, courtesy OClab.ru, shows you the parts moved to the back of the card.  This should be child’s play for anyone half-way decent with a soldering iron. Just know what to expect if you want to mount a GPU pot to this card. When mentioned to ASUS, they said they’ve tried pots on this card and those components weren’t in the way, so it likely varies by what GPU pot you use. Just know this is a small issue and you might need to perform a slight modification.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

You have seen the good, the okay and the exceptional. The only “bad” thing about this card is that cap/coil combination that might interfere with a GPU pot, but that will not hinder extreme overclockers (who have a soldering iron anyway) and compared to having to actually volt-mod the card – instead being handed the capability with GPU HotWire – that’s a walk in the park.

Overclocking this card was a blast. Even before ASUS introduced higher voltage control it had stout results. Now that there is even more voltage to work with, you can push even higher than I did for 24/7 clocks. The cooler is definitely up to the task. As you can see when pushing the limits above, it is also a great card for competitive overclockers – cooling is your only limitation. It won’t even get hot enough to hurt itself with the available voltage, but will need colder temperatures to really take things to the next level.

It does bear mentioning that GPU Tweak does not have voltage control of the memory. They mostly get a pass because you can control it via VGA HotWire, but MSI lets you control memory voltage via Afterburner. ASUS should do the same with GPU Tweak. I brought this up to ASUS and their answer was that it required another hardware controller to introduce memory voltage; it’s not like a simple vBIOS or software update. Adding that controller would have delayed getting the card to market and added cost. Considering the memory’s already stellar overclock – to a spectacular 1750 MHz (350 MHz over stock!) – they likely made the right decision. If you absolutely must have voltage control, use VGA HotWire…or wait for the HD 7970 Matrix that should be coming soon.

In benchmarks and games the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP really struts its stuff. Versus the GTX 680 Lightning at stock was a stiff competition, with benchmarks and games split right down the middle – each card beat the other five out of ten times. Unfortunately for the GTX 680 Lightning, the HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP overclocks like a banshee, beating out the overclocked GTX 680 in everything but Civilization V and 3DMark 11, sometimes by a very solid margin. As we found out, this card is also a great choice for those that want to run an Eyefinity setup.

What’s great is that ASUS isn’t gouging for this card. I half expected it to come in around $550.00 with all of the features included (and with it beating the GTX 680 Lightning so effectively). Nope! The ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP isn’t available on Newegg right now, but its little brother HD 7970 DirectCU II (non-TOP) is, and for only $434.99. There is even a $20.00 mail-in-rebate right now, making it $414.99. TOP cards are more highly binned for the increased stock clocks, so their availability is a little more limited. When they are available (a new shipment of these should get to eTailers, including Newegg, in ~5-10 days), ASUS prices the card at a mere $20 over the non-TOP, at $459.99 – but also with a $20 MIR, making it $439.99.

Even at $459.99, you’re getting a lot of GPU for your money. There is nothing but good coming from ASUS with this card and the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP is unequivocally Overclockers Approved.

Click the stamp to find out what this means

-Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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162 Comments:

pwnmachine's Avatar
Great review as always Hokie!
SupaMonkey's Avatar
What was the power consumption like when you were pushing those high clocks?
Janus67's Avatar
Excellent review, hokie. Great read and a fantastic card. Clocked higher on air than my lightning did.
Ivy's Avatar
Amazing card, does beat the 680 GTX when OC. Prehaps its even priced lower than a 680 GTX, thats a hard cookie.

Power consumption is probably up to 50 W higher than 680 GTX at OC (~1300/1750) but thats fine in term its able to beat the 680 GTX. It can move through Metro with 45 FPS... oh dear, thats not high but its basically the only single core GPU able to play that game at sufficient FPS (40-60) when max settings. In term its only at 31 FPS (such as the GTX 680) its not good to play with. Dont think i would need a insanely priced double GPU in term i got such a single GPU.

Anyway, seems like Nvidia is now pulling around in the mid to low range GPU pool with way to overpowered solutions (to less performance gap between) because they kinda seems to be challenged to much in the high end. But to all people who still believe that a 660 and 660ti is able to regulary beat any 7870, thats simply wrong. Its clock related and a OC-GPU-solution such as a Hawk is a serious challenge to any 660/660 ti.
marjamar's Avatar
Will there be a full water block for this card do you think?
Humanoid1's Avatar
heh, nice timing for this review.

Am looking to tempt myself with a new GFx card all too soon


Well, diving into your review now, hoping for good things
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I didn't even look at the kill-a-watt, so I'm not sure. I'll clock it up today and find out for you though.
Yep! EK makes one (actually two). I couldn't find any more though, so EK looks like your only choice currently.
I think you'll find some.
Humanoid1's Avatar
Very Fine indeed, thanks for that great write up.

Might be heading closer towards the 7950 version of this card I feel
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I noticed I had forgotten to add a photo of the card installed. It is now in the review, but for those that already read it, here you go.

Frakk's Avatar
This thing is an absolute beast, they are getting close to the duel GPU 6990, that's impressive.

Great review
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Ok, peak power draw during 3DMark 11 @ 1300/1750 (CPU @ 4GHz, RAM @ 1866/9-9-9-24) was 457W. During heavy load it looked to be hovering between 435W & 445W, but there was that heavy 452-457W pull during the first graphics test, which is the hardest for power draw.

That's a fair bit more than the 312W peak at stock for sure. The GTX 680 Lightning didn't have near that increase, but it also didn't have near that overclock, thanks to NVIDIA's complete watering down of their cards' capabilities. If they got rid of - or just heavily increased - the Power Tune limit and allowed voltage control, I'd wager Kepler would be more competitive with the overclocked HD 7970, but for whatever reason, NVIDIA has hamstrung all of their partners and isn't allowing any custom overclocking BIOSes, thus making AMD the overclockers' choice at the high end.
Sam__'s Avatar
A great review.

I got one of these cards but it was faulty. Waiting on a replacement but looking at the numbers you got Jeremy I'm going to have some fun with it. Hopefully the 3Gb of GDDR can handle 3840x2048.
Ivy's Avatar
There is already games using up to 1.5 GB at 1080P (for example Skyrim, when using lot of mods), so the 3 GB for 4k is certainly very close and not a bit to much RAM. Luckily AMD didnt release some inferior 2 GB 680 GTX such as Nvidia did (at the beginning). Of course for midrange its pointless because we usualy dont go above 1080P but for high end 3 GB+ is very useful.
Frakk's Avatar
3Gb is plenty for 3840x2048

2GB is also enough for most things, most 2GB GTX 680 owners are happy enough on 3 screen setups
marjamar's Avatar
Thanks alot for showing the link to the waterblocks. I finally took the time to read your entire review and I have to thank you for that as well. It seems this may actually be the better card for me as I'm building a new rig with the ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z motherboard. My current computer uses the Crosshair IV Extreme and I do use ROG connect to tweek my tuning, along with Overdrive and some other apps. This is how I found stable clocks at 4.8 GHz on this board using the FX-8150 CPU.

So, how well would this card do would you suppose in a tandem crossfire setup with a good 360 rad and custom loop for the FX-8150 (maybe Piledriver when released) and both GPU's? It's all going in a Corsair 650D box (for now), so I could do a second 240 rad and loop if necessary.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I'd add a second 240 rad if you're going to cool two of these plus the CPU, especially a BD CPU, which aren't exactly known for running cool when overclocked. 5x120 total should be enough for a loop like that.
marjamar's Avatar
Kinda what I thought you'd say. It's what I was thinking as well.

Thanks again.

-Rodger
Ivy's Avatar
A 680 GTX should be good enough for everything (up to 4k) , not for "most things". I would never get a 680 GTX with 2 GB RAM, because in some years it can be limiting on many software (except 1080P is used and nothing higher). 3-4 GB or nothing.
PolePosition's Avatar
Is the "hotwire" feature being used in this photo? I'm just curious as to where on that board with that GPU those solder points are, if its not too much trouble to ask.
EarthDog's Avatar
assuming the same res, you will NEED to upgrade your gpu before 2gb isn't enough (single monitor).
oldbrave's Avatar
Hokie> That is a great review, I'm looking to upgrade my graphics in a couple of weeks and I'm thinking that a 7970 would be a nice step up from my pair of 5870's.
I was just wondering what your personal thoughts are as to where this ASUS card stands compared to the rest of them out there, including the Ghz Editions?
Does it deserve the title of "Flagship"?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
It doesn't use a GHz edition GPU, but direct from AMD the GHz chips are no higher binned than the regular HD 7970 GPUs. Frankly, the way the HD 7970 overclocks in general, it's not necessary anyway. Every single one of 'em will do a GHz and not think twice.

Anyway, for right now, yes, it deserves the Flagship title. However, I'm told that the Matrix is coming, possibly by October but they didn't give a hard date. That one will be the flagship at that point. That said, the features it will bring - it will have a GHz edition GPU, but as mentioned, that doesn't really mean much; it will also have memory voltage control and allow you to hook up the GPU HotWire via plugs without soldering, much like the voltage read point difference between the Formula & Extreme boards and some things I don't yet know about I'm sure - will be geared toward extreme overclockers. Depending on the Matrix's price, the DCUII TOP may still the choice for ambient overclockers. Time will tell.
marjamar's Avatar
Since the "TOP" version of this card isn't out yet, what would be the disadvantage of buying the standard version that's currently available.

-Rodger
EarthDog's Avatar
For most people.. nothing. Grab this and save a few dollars for no gain is my suggestion. The TOP, and heck even this one, is more for extreme overclocking IMO.
marjamar's Avatar
Are you saying the card tested by hokie is the same card available at newegg right now? There must be some difference between the "TOP" version and the normal ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II.

I need to re-read hokies review a bit slower and see if it itemizes any difference between the 2.

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
OK, read it again. I don't see any direct references back to the HD7950-DC2-3GD5. which I can buy at newegg right now, except in the last paragraph where hokie does speak a bit comparatively about the 2 cards. I seems the only real difference would be the "TOP" version has been a bit more overclocked in the GPU and memory departments. If there is any actual hardware difference, it would be very good if someone would say so. If this is the case, and there isn't any hardware difference, I guess buying one now would not be much different then buying the "T" version later. Since I do need to get on this new build, it would be nice if I could just buy with confidence the card available at newegg right now.

Sure would like it if hokie would say if this is the case or not. It would help me for sure to make the right decision. Hint, hint.

-Rodger
Janus67's Avatar
I believe the VGA hotwire and likely a stock overclock are likely the two big parts, posting front phone though so not 100% sure.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Sorry, I haven't been at a PC to post. The one on Newegg has reference HD 7970 clocks. I haven't seen its PCB, so I can't say whether it's the same throughout as the TOP, but I wouldn't imagine there are many physical differences. However, the TOP GPUs are binned for the stock clocks, so in theory they will ultimately clock higher. It's because of the binning they aren't in stock as often as reference-clocked models.
marjamar's Avatar
Oh, then there is some hardware that's different. If this is the case, then I maybe need to wait on the Model "T" (hehe) to put-put over.

-Rodger
EarthDog's Avatar
binning isnt a hardware thing. I believe he mentioned he doesnt know if there are hardware differences.

The point is, even with your goal of getting an 'unlocked card', the differences between the two are something you will not notice. Hokie is spot on that they bin the higher clocked cards TO THOSE CLOCKS. Anything over that however is all a crapshoot be it on the TOP or the regular DCUII. Like I said before, get the cheaper one of those two.
marjamar's Avatar
That was strange...

My last post (previous post to this one) was in response to Janus67's post about hotwire being on the TOP and not on the standard card. Hokie's post after that was not up yet, or somehow my eyes didn't see it.

Anyway, I guess I need to either find someone with the standard card or closeup photos of it, to see if those solider points are there or not. If it's a case of having or not having hotwire connects, I'd rather wait a bit for them as I have used ROG connect alot on both the Crosshair IV Extreme and on this Crosshair V Formula-Z board. It does help fine tune overclocks, so to add GPU fine tuning via ROC may indeed be a help also. Wouldn't know if I don't have it to try. So, I'd like to have that option.

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
Turns out the hotwire connects are on the standard version, so I see little chance of any meaningful differences -- Ordered!

-Rodger
Humanoid1's Avatar
hehe Niiice!

I am maybe about to win a 7950 version of this card on ebay with some luck today

Hope you have fun with yours when you get it ^^
marjamar's Avatar
Good luck! I made an offer on a really neat 3 monitor stand I hope to get as well.

-Rodger
Humanoid1's Avatar
Now that sounds like where I should be headed soon too
That or a nice IPS 27 - 30" hi res screen
Humanoid1's Avatar
hehe, will be finding out soon enough how this really is, I got lucky and won the cheapest new 7950 on ebay UK so far of any type

Got it for 195 + 10 shipping
We get stiffed here in the UK so the dollar price won't sound so sweet perhaps : USD $308.36 + $16.23

Cheapest other (if is a real company - looks odd) real price here online is 239.90 - $389.35 with free delivery... maybe doing stuff cheap as is a new company making a name for itself.

Anyways, didn't think I would win and pretty happy
Frakk's Avatar

Cracking deal for a 7950
Humanoid1's Avatar
Damn, but sound test graphs just do not show how things really are do they...
Have a look / listen to this roundup of popular cooler designs:

Tom's 7950 roundup

Though I really like the HS 7950 IceQ Turbo design (pushes heat out the back of the PC) and is Really effective - it sounds terrible

Possibly Best sound goes to this Asus Direct CUII TOP card - About the quietest (with a good sound) and coolest design

The TwinFrozr II was a terrible letdown, has had a special place in my mind for some time... until I heard it just now
and is not even that quiet on the DB meter
Humanoid1's Avatar
Just thought I would add another little something there

1st off, the card reviewed above is the newer revision of that cooler with 6 heatpipes (if Asus indeed changed the cooler on the 7970) so the rest does not apply to This card - hopefully, probably, maybe...

As you know I just ordered the 7950 Direct CUII TOP version of this card and in anticipation of its arrival have been doing a little more reading ^^

but Seems some people have been having problems with this card crashing after a short time of use (including lots of folks with the above reviewed 7970) like 10mins to an hour of gaming. Sometimes after the crash the card is dead or requires CMOS resets to get back to windows - sounds unlikely but this last CMOS part comes from newegg users. After the crash they often get artifacting that does not go away etc and end up RMAing...

Turns out there is something to this:

Asus HD 7950 DirectCU II: fault report!

I have seen the loose cooler thing reported by a number of users and is not the 1st time I have heard that the 4 retaining screws do not apply enough pressure on this card - and a suggestion of using some kind of thin spacer under the screws to help apply more pressure.

Basically it says after the card heats up the TIM while gaming etc, this softens it and then the cooler comes partly away form the GPU causing it to overheat to 118c (as detected by thermal camera on the back of the card) or so and crash!
But the cards temp probes do not report the increased temps sadly - probably due to their location closer to the area of heatsink still loosely touching the GPU core.

I believe Asus stopped supplying the original 5 heatpipe 7950 version of this card around June or July and have recently replaced it with their new "upgraded" 6 heatpipe cooler... calling it an upgrade and not mentioning fixing of any issues on the original card.

Pretty sad really, as this could still affect many users out there like say if they move the PC for a LAN or something.

Will find out in a day or so which version I get. Well at least I know to watch out for this problem and can avoid damaging my card with the 1st game I play.

Hope this helps some of you guys avoid an issue also.
Apart from this, its perhaps one of the best versions of this card about - just wish it came with more games like most others do
hokiealumnus's Avatar
FWIW, I'm still using this card as I type. I've gamed for hours overclocked in Eyefinity and it has never given me artifacts (unless I overclocked it too far, heh) or given me any troubles what-so-ever. IIRC, ASUS denied that there was a fault when that was published (which was seven months ago). Can you link to the things you're referencing? I'll bring them to ASUS' attention.
marjamar's Avatar
My stock 7970 DirectCU II will be in tomorrow. I'll be sure to check the contact area in question before installing it. I leave on a short trip to Yellowstone National Park for a long weekend come this Thursday, so I really won't be able to say much as I won't have much time to do any testing until I return.

I will be installing a EK waterblock when I return, but not before I do some benching to get a good reference to compare the waterblock benching to.

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
Got it in Wednesday and installed. On vacation now and will be posting more in my original thread titled "Hey, how do you unlock VDDC on the XFX 9770?", I suppose. Already cluttered up this thread more then I was thinking would happen.

Thanks for all the prodding back to AMD, I think it will be the best way to go. Hope this card is going to be at least a really good choice, even if not the best choice I could have made.

We'll see.

-Rodger
txus.palacios's Avatar
Typo there.

From ASS ROG MBs. Should say from ASUS ROG MBs.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Glad you got your card marjamar, let us know how you like it.

As far as AMD/ASUS, I haven't prodded yet because I'm waiting on Humanoid1 to supply links to the issue he saw. When he does that, I'll bring them to ASUS' attention.
Humanoid1's Avatar
I had been going through a Lot and a Lot of pages and sites - got carried away in anticipation, am sure you know how it is...

I will try to put together something tonight or tomorrow - just getting energy / time up for that mission - will not be a quick thing to do and is best to make a fair unbiased crack at it if I am to put it forward

I have a few things to say that could help them improve their perception which I hope they do as I really like them as a company. My last motherboard and last 3 GFx cards were all Asus... latest being the 7950 Direct CUII TOP - once it arrives ^^
Ivy's Avatar
You would be surprised what kind of stuff certain people are using. The issue with the RAM is, as soon as the RAM is overused, the performance will drop countless times, to a almost unplayable condition.

But a processor will simply slowly drop its performance when to weak but there wont be a instant performance drop, which is so crazy that it goes from 100% to almost 0% in a single hit.

I once used a 32 bit system and 3.25 GB RAM (32 bit limit when a 1 GB card is used). When i was dualboxing a game, the RAM was flooded, and at that point the PC almost stopped to work, it was over and impossible to run. RAM simply isnt noticed until its flooded, when they are flooded, its game over.

I was once playing WoW, at 2004 with a PC who got 512 MB RAM (at that time that was pretty normal). As soon as i entered the city the PC stopped to work for up to 5-10 seconds, and it was lagging terrible. The processors was totaly useless to solve the issues, until i decided to upgrade to 1 GB. As soon as that was done... the issues was finally gone. Nowadays such issue are less common because we usualy got huge amount of RAM, buts its still not impossible when it comes to GPU RAM. The impact is usualy lower (than system RAM) because when GPU RAM is flooded the PC is probably trying to use system RAM. But they are much slower, so the performance will drop a good margin, at least it may not stop working.
EarthDog's Avatar
I understand Ivy... I tested it in BF3 and have seen testing done in other games. 2GB is plenty for now at 1920x1200 or less. More never hurts.
oldbrave's Avatar
hokiealumnus>>
Have you heard anything about a release date for the 7970 DirectCU II TOP yet?
It's the pitts when you've finally made up your mind to get something but no body has it yet !
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Well, I was told partners would have cards about a week after this review, which should have been last week of course. I have no idea why they haven't made it to the stores yet. Actually, the TOP has been "out" for a while AFAIK, but they're more highly binned so there are just much fewer of them available.

There is another ASUS 7970 that's even higher binned that is supposed to be coming out sometime in October. I'm still under NDA so I can't say anything else about it, but it's coming.
oldbrave's Avatar
I was just wondering cause EGG has the HD7970-DC2-3GD5 but not the HD7970-DC2T-3GD5.
I did run across something about another ASUS 7970 that's suppose to have the Ghz Edition core in it and some more ROG goodies in it for LN2 but it wasn't going to be released until after the first of the year, too long to wait .
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Let's just say NDA's don't typically last months.
marjamar's Avatar
Been playing with the DCUII for a few hours on and off. It's a fine card by all respects. I have ran it with Afterburner 2.2.4 settings to MAX and it works well until you get into gaming. Right now I'm working the overclock out using Dirt Showdown as the testbed. Seems pretty stable with core clock at 1050 and Vore Voltage at Max. Normal temps are at 39C and max temps have hit 59C. I'm in ambient 74F.

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
I guess I have to ask here... How do you get full control of this card?

I'm going to be installing full custom water loop shortly and I would like to be able to up the vcore and clocks. I have tried msi Afterburner and GPU Tweak and both limit overclocking. I can't get ROG Connect working with ROGConnectPlus to allow GPU Tweakit to function. RC Tweakit doesn't see GPU Tweakit's Server on the host PC.

All of the versions are the latest out. I know GPU Tweakit is suppose to work to allow higher clocks, or so I was impressed to believe. Anyone figured this out yet?

-Rodger
EarthDog's Avatar
What do you mean 'limits overclocking'?
marjamar's Avatar
The highest settings go to in msi Afterburner is 1300mV on Vcore. Both CPUID Hardware Monitor and msi Kombustor only shows a max voltage of 1.17v. under 100% load. If I can't get vcore voltage higher, I won't be upping clocks past 1050/1575 which is as high as I can go and still remain stable right now.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I have the GPU Tweak version that allows up to 1.4v. I'll try and find a way to upload it for you. Won't happen right away, hopefully by tomorrow.
marjamar's Avatar
Thanks. Did you try to access GPU TweakIt from RC TweakIt yet? I have used RC TweakIt for almost 2 years now and have found it the best way to adjust on the fly. I would love to have access to the GPU though this software. It's suppose to work this way with my Crosshair V Formula-Z, but it cannot access the GPU TweakIT Server on the PC.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
No, sorry; I haven't tried that.
oldbrave's Avatar
Can you post the version number ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
2.2.1.4 I think.
oldbrave's Avatar
Kool, thanks a lot, I DL'd them all from ASUS page cause I'd heard that some had different Volt caps.
Again thanks, now all I need is for cards to get back in the supply chain!
marjamar's Avatar
Ok, I've found a method to help. Did alot of searching and came across a way to unlock the clocks fully. Didn't do anything to unlock the GPU or memory voltages however. It showed it to unlock memory voltages, but Kombustor shows it doesn't work. Core Voltage is still 1300 mV at max.

Anyone else find any way to increase Core Voltage more then this???

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
You'll need the new GPU Tweak to further increase the GPU Vcore. The DCU II and DCU II TOP don't have memory voltage control.

EDIT - I will warn you though, I've got two 7970's right now and neither seem to like GPU Vcore > ~1.33V. Above that they start artifacting. So additional voltage over 1.3V may not help too much. FWIW.
marjamar's Avatar
Are you running a loop on those cards? I'm playing with afterburner settings while running Kombuster and see that Power Limit has the greatest effect overall on FPS. It also can raise VDDC Current up to 50% higher under full load. Gotta wonder if a good water loop will help VRM temperatures low enough to allow higher vcore and keep it stable.

Mine will be here Friday, so hope to test this myself shortly.

Didn't see any increases in vcore settings using GPU Tweak. You must have a trick up your sleeve is yours is allowing higher then 1.3v.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
No, mine are on the ASUS coolers.

I've got a version of afterburner that isn't available on the ASUS site. I'm working to get it uploaded, but with it being over 15MB, there's a cumbersome process to get that done I'm sorry to say.
marjamar's Avatar
Biggest thing limiting higher clocks may actually be VRM temps. Even if I find higher vcore settings, VRM temps are already too high at over 100C under 100% load for 5+ minutes. The water loop I'll be installing most likely will help this significantly -- I hope. This is really a nice card regardless of the built-in locks I'm having to find ways to overcome.

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
Didn't see your last post before posting...

I have a server you can use if necessary. Can give you an FTP login of your own you can give a link to for downloads.

Let me know.

-Rodger
txus.palacios's Avatar
Couldn't the Glorious Leader help you on that?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Glorious leader is on vacation. mbentley put it in queue (there's an odd system used by which we have to put things in queue to be acted on by iNet) so it shouldn't be more than a few days. Thanks for the offer marjamar, but I'd like to have it uploaded here for disbursement.
oldbrave's Avatar
hokie>
I want to thank you for all the help you've given everybody concerning this card, it's been above and beyond, thanks again !
hokiealumnus's Avatar
That's for the kind words, I'm here to serve our readers!
marjamar's Avatar
Hey, found that Sapphire TRIXX will overclock VDDC to 1.5v. Don't see any of these overclocked voltages however in either HWMonitor or Kombustor. They both show max volts at 1.17. So, I don't even know if any of these overclocking programs are telling the truth. I guess I'd have to put a meter on the card itself to know for sure. That's hard given my setup and the tight space I have it in (see my avatar). Maybe when this goes into the Corsair 800 D over the weekend I'll check it with my meter.

-Rodger
EarthDog's Avatar
Does gpuz show that voltage?
marjamar's Avatar
GPU-Z shows VDDC standing voltage at 1.086v with 100% load voltage at 1.012v. So, what IS the real voltage???

-Rodger
marjamar's Avatar
It seems the voltage changes are being presented to the card. Couple of things point to this. Whatever the current VDDC voltage is set to in TRIXX, if I then open Afterburner, it will show that voltage setting in both the adjustment display and also in the hardware monitor. Interesting thing is, I have to click the afterburner icon 2 times for it to open. But when it is opened on the 2nd click, looking at the hardware monitor, the graph was already moving and shows that the voltage was dropped to msi's max voltage (1300mV) from whatever the voltage was set to in TRIXX.

I guess this means TRIXX is actually setting the vcore voltage to the current settings chosen, but afterburner will tune it down to 1300mV if it's higher then that.

Also found that the vcore volts are actually reading up to the TRIXX VDDC settings, but it's sporadic when viewed using TechPowerUp GPU-Z 0.6.4's Sensors Tab. This is shown while running Kombuster's "GPU Burn-in" Tab and "GPU burn-in test" button.

Just some more stuff to ponder.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I'm not 100% sure that those are changing the voltage. They shouldn't be able to anyway; DIGI+ is a proprietary voltage controller and only GPU Tweak should be able to change it.

I apologize for the time it is taking to get the file available. IMOG is back next week and things should go faster.
marjamar's Avatar
I'm doing upgrades now, so I won't be able to say more until I'm back up and running. Doing full custom water loop on the CPU and GPU. Parts from my existing system and new parts are going into an new Corsair Obsidian 800D. I'll upgrade my sig when it's all done and working. Hope to see this happen over the weekend. Depends if I have all the stuff and it's all good.

BTW hokie, don't sweat the time. You've been a great help and this review definitely swayed me (opened my eyes) towards the DCUII. I appreciate it.

-Rodger
heplayer's Avatar
Excellent review, increasing voltage to 1.3V using GPU Tweak did it or had to connect to a ROG motherboard?, I could not get the version 2.2.1.4 and I tried msi afterburner and trixx and I could not increase the voltage. Asus Dcu2T HD7970 is an amazing card but very complicated to get the voltage control.
regards
oldbrave's Avatar
Hokie>
Well after reading your review of the HD7950-DC2T-3GD5, I had a mission !
It didn't take me long to find out that NOBODY had the card in stock, but I id manage to finally find one on EBay that was brand new and priced in line with and cheaper that most on line retailers ($479). I should have it no later than Thursday the 11th.
I just wanted to let you know that it's all your fault !
I DL'd all the GPU Tweaks listed on ASUS page for the card but they don't have a 22,1,4 version listed so any further info you may have or stumble across, I would be beholden if you could pass it along
Again I want to thank you for the time and efforts you have already put in !
hokiealumnus's Avatar
You just use GPU Tweak, but you need the version we have. Still waiting for our admin to get back from vacation (next week) to push the upload live.
Hah, glad you found one! It's a solid card. You'll have 2.2.1.4 as soon as we can get the process completed.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Yay, the file process is complete! Download GPU Tweak 2.2.1.4 right here.

Remember, this is not released officially by ASUS obviously. There may be bugs that I'm unaware of. Use at your own risk.
partogi's Avatar
What driver did you used on the 7970 in this review?

Also, this is shocking news for me because many reviews from other site shows gtx 680 is faster than 7970 in Battlefield 3. Even the GHz edition. Is it because of the driver?

Nice review by the way.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks!

I used the latest official driver at the time - 12.8. There are likely driver optimizations that come into play. Our review of the GTX 680 lightning was two months before this one, so there is the possibility of driver optimizations in the interim.

You're correct most of the time though; the stock GTX 680 trades blows with the stock-overclocked HD 7970. However, the HD 7970 has so much overclocking headroom it ends up coming out ahead pretty much everywhere.
oldbrave's Avatar
hokie>
Thank you, once again your time and efforts are greatly appreciated and once again you've gone above and beyond!
rhadoo4's Avatar
One question. I`ve bought a 7970 dcu2 top , but when using gpu tweak (2.2.1.4 or older), my GPU Core Clock is maxed at 1125, i can`t go above that. What can I do ?
I`m using the 12.8 ati catalyst driver. Help please?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Hmm...I'm not sure; mine wasn't locked there. There is a workaround I've used with other cards though. It's quite annoying because of the proprietary voltage control, but you set voltage and power target to what you want in GPU Tweak, then set clocks via Afterburner.
rhadoo4's Avatar
Doesnt matter if I increase the voltage , the core clock speed stays the same at 1125
I`ve uploaded a SS.

le: i`ve tried increasing gpu voltage and power target in gputweak, but in afterburner the gpu clock is the same, maxed at 1125.
le2: maybe i should flash a newer bios ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
You have to do the EULA thing in Afterburner to unlock the higher clocks.
rhadoo4's Avatar
I`ve done that. But when I tried to put
UnofficialOverclockingEULA = I confirm that I am aware of unofficial overclocking limitations and fully understand that MSI will not provide me any support on it

in there, nothing happpened, so i put 1. Then entered afterburner and a message similar to the above one appeared , pressed yes, and this is what afterburner looks now. i cannot modify any of those values. So it didint work. wtf is wrong with this gpu? why is it max locked at 1125?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
That's incorrect for AB. You need to make the two lines look like:

UnofficialOverclockingEULA = I confirm that I am aware of unofficial overclocking limitations and fully understand that MSI will not provide me any support on it
UnofficialOverclockingMode = 1

That works for me. I'm not sure why it wouldn't work for you. It's really a pain to use two programs to overclock, but that's the only workaround I know of at the moment. Thankfully you can set GPU Tweak's voltage up, apply, the minimize the thing and it only exists as an icon in your system tray.
rhadoo4's Avatar
What version of msi afterburner are you using ? i tried 2.2.4, 2.2.3 and the same result. Sliders get disabled and can`t move them, like in the picture above. I`ve done like you said.No luck. Maybe the fault is from the gpu bios or something ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Hmm...I have no idea, I use the most recent version without issue (2.2.4). It should definitely work, I'm sorry to say I've no clue why it wouldn't.
rhadoo4's Avatar
Could you be so kind and archive you afterburner and upload it ? Although i`m pretty sure my gpu is at fault. Don`t know why though
hokiealumnus's Avatar
There's no reason to archive mine, it's downloaded straight from MSI (not to mention it takes days to upload and get put in queue to be on the server).
rhadoo4's Avatar
Then I don`t know what to do. I bought it cuz of it`s OC capability. I`m kinda disappointed
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I don't blame you. I'm checking on this for you, give me a little while to see if I can find a solution (little while being potentially a couple of days, we'll see how it goes...I am checking though).
rhadoo4's Avatar
Thank you so much, you`re a lot of help ! Thumbs up for that !
heplayer's Avatar
thank you very much for the link, I use the combination of GPU tweak and MSI AB, but the most I could run the 3DMark11 was @ GPU1190Mhz-MEM1647MHZ, is disappointing after seeing your result 1325MHZ-1700MHz .
I will continue trying different configurations but it seems difficult go further than this point for my card.
marjamar's Avatar
I use to race 1/12th scale electric R/C cars about 20 years back. The best batteries I could find didn't even come close to those the sponsored drivers had. About a year into the sport, I started getting good at it and was approached by a team driver to maybe join up with their team. I thought about it and asked him why I should, and he handed my a fresh pack of Ni-cads and said this is some of the reason.

I charged those batteries and went on the next event. 8 minutes later, I won the race and my car was just as fast as it was at the beginning of the race.

The point here is, if you have 100's, 1000's, 10,000's of cards to pick the best ones from, who do you suppose gets some of the very best cards???

Don't fault hokie, he's only doing what he's suppose to do -- Show of ASUS's stuff. He does it quite well BTW.

-Rodger
hokiealumnus's Avatar
FWIW, I actually asked them about that in a recent conversation, because getting pre-binned hardware is a pretty big concern of mine. Frankly, I think it's crap if companies do that. I was told that ASUS prides itself on sending off-the-line hardware to reviewers, no binning involved. There definitely IS binning by their engineers that go and set benchmarking records (i.e. Andre & Shamino @ ASUS, TiN & k|ngp|n @ EVGA), but for sending to little ol' me, they say they don't do it. What reviewers get is reportedly representative of the crapshoot that is buying one off the shelf.

I can also say, in no uncertain terms, Intel did NOT bin the 3960X they sent. It is a craaaaaapy clocker for extreme benchmarking, with a horrid IMC to boot. Not relative to Joe Average's chip, but relative to people that bin two or three, it's pretty bad.
marjamar's Avatar
Oh, I don't disbelieve you at all. There was a difference between Team Trinity and Team Delta as I had friends and 1 brother on those teams. I also am part owner in a online hobby shop and kit manufacturer. We send out kits to various reviewers from time to time and have often been asked for more then we would normally provide for a review. It's all part of the game. The difference is the players. Some play by their own rules (not always a bad thing BTW) and some like to follow rules set for them. Then of course there are those who make up the rules along the way -- Those you need to keep and eye on, if you know what I mean.

-Rodger
heplayer's Avatar
At least I could get 1231MHZ-1676MHZ in 3DMark11, I know that not all cards will get the same OC, and I need to habituate to the use of MSI AB and GPU Tweak at the same time, maybe I'm doing something wrong, but for now I agree with this extra 300MHZ against the reference card.
I appreciate your help.
Zaim's Avatar
Great review. I'm thinking of buying a Asus DCII 7970 TOP but I'm concerned about the voltage control.

Can you confirm if I use GPU Tweak 2.2.1.4 I'll be able to control the voltage? and what's the max it goes to?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
On my card, only 2.2.1.4 controls voltage up to 1.4V. You can get less with other versions, but that specific version is good for 1.4V. The download link is a few posts ago: http://www.overclockers.com/forums/s...0&postcount=82

EDIT - As a side note, no 7970 I've ever used can handle 1.4V on air. They start artifacting anywhere from 1.33V to 1.35V. Unless you freeze it, you won't need 1.4V to max out the card.
Zaim's Avatar

Ah cheers mate, I was told that even the TOP version is voltage locked so I wanted to make sure, so even the latest version on the Asus website should allow some voltage control ? e.g. upto 1.3?

Thanks.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I believe so, yes. However, tbh, since I was given this version, I never bothered trying the updated version on the site.
Zaim's Avatar
Ah right, sorry last question, can you control/monitor the voltage in MSI Afterburner ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
No, ASUS uses a proprietary voltage controller, not the generic CHiL controller. AB will not have the ability to adjust the voltage.
Zaim's Avatar
Oh right, i thought you might be able at least monitor the voltage.

Thanks for your help.
EarthDog's Avatar
You may be able to? I thought, and could be wrong, that monitoring and adjusting the voltages are handled by different chips. Its that way on mobo's at least. Just not sure in this case though. You can try DL and checking.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I think AB should monitor the voltage ok; it just won't adjust it.
Bobnova's Avatar
The Digi+ series is all made for Asus by CHiL. Odds are that chip is a 8228 with a new shiny label, roughly speaking. The pinout looks to be the same, based on the pictures of the area. Whether they changed the active i2c registers to make it only respond to Asus software or not I don't know.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I figured it was a re-brand, but whatever they did to it makes it work only with ASUS' software.
Bobnova's Avatar
Punks. They had to intentionally do that (well, request that CHiL do that for them), too.
Boulard83's Avatar
I had DCII cards in the past and they all worked with MSI AB. Is the 7970 Vreg that different ? The last 570 DCII i had was running of a rebranded CHil (IIRC) controller wich worked with MSI AB.
Bobnova's Avatar
It depends on the specific rebrand and whether they changed the i2c registers and whether AB has been told to look in said registers.
briansun1's Avatar
do you get to keep the hard ware or do you have to send it back?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Depends on the hardware. This card I've still got; most are kept. The ARES II had to be sent back.
briansun1's Avatar
ok so what do you do with all thoughs cards?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Depends on the card. Most are kept. If things are needed for the front page (i.e. monitors for testing, component replacement for test beds, etc), we'll sell them in the classifieds for funding as we get no monetary support form iNet for front page operations. ES cards (I get most of those) can't be sold or even given away, so they're just piling up in my shop. The TITAN we recently reviewed for instance will probably go in my HTPC because of its low power draw....and because it's cool to have a TITAN in an HTPC.

This particular card has replaced the AMD HD 6970 for game/GPU benchmark testing in processor reviews.
Janus67's Avatar
My old 580 Matrix was the same way, could only use GPUTweak to control the voltage/etc.
briansun1's Avatar
a what is a es card???
EarthDog's Avatar
Engineering Sample. Cannot be resold.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Engineering Sample. Cards straight from the manufacturer that are sampled for review when retail cards aren't quite ready, or when you're getting them from the source (i.e. NVIDIA & AMD GPUs or Intel & AMD when referring to CPUs), rather than from an AIB (Add In Board) partner.
Zaim's Avatar
Mine just arrived today and guess what, I can't increase the voltage any higher than 1.178

Using GPU-Tweak 2.2.1.4
hokiealumnus's Avatar
That's very strange. I've used mine as recently as a week ago without issue. In the settings menu, there should be an option similar to 'expand overclocking range enhancement' or something like that. You may have to click Settings, then back to the main window, then Settings again to see it (bug). See if that helps.

Unless they changed something, of course; which is possible but I can't see why they would. :shrig:
Zaim's Avatar
Done that but it's only increased the core clock range, voltage is still 1.178v max. After burner goes to 1.3v but it doesn't actually increase the voltage.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Hmm...maybe they changed the BIOS. Start by contacting ASUS support and see if they have an explanation for why the voltage stops so low.

If that fails and you can wait a little bit while I test Titan out some more (say, next week?), I can install the DCUII TOP and pull the BIOS for you. Before you say yes, a word of caution: There are always inherent risks with flashing a video card BIOS (or any BIOS) and I take no responsibility if you kill your card by doing so.
Boulard83's Avatar
^^ great guy Hokie
Bobnova's Avatar
They may have changed the hardware too, Gigabyte did on the OC Windforce.
The time for setting 7970 records and advertising them is over, often manufacturers pull extreme OC support after the first few months. It sucks.
Zaim's Avatar
Its such a massive disappointment, The cooler is awesome but let down by the lack of voltage control,it crashes at 1030mhz core clock.

Thanks for the offer but i think i'm just going to return it.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Agreed, that's very disappointing. Let me know if you do keep it and we can't get it working. I'll reach out to some guys at ASUS and see if there's anything we can do. Definitely don't blame you for being disappointed though, that sucks.
Zaim's Avatar
No problem, thanks for helping out.

Was thinking about getting the Matrix Platinum lol, i hope that isn't locked ?

Btw I'm using Windows 8 pro, shouldn't really matter ? box said windows 8 on it so..
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Well, normally I'd say the TOP is plenty sufficient for ambient overclocking, but if they've altered it such that it won't allow proper voltage control (at least up to 1.3V that reference cards have available...), then that doesn't bode well for saving a buck. Not sure where you'd get a Matrix Platinum though; they're out of stock at Newegg & Amazon. In fact, I don't see any ASUS 7970s on Newegg at all. Maybe the 2K 7970s they used for the ARES II wiped them out temporarily.
oldbrave's Avatar
I had to RMA the first one that I got, they couldn't fix it so I got a new one and it's capped at 1.170v and the highest I can OC the core is 1050Mhz.
I don't know if the lock down is controlled via the bios or if it's hard wired, I keep looking for a bios that indicates a higher core voltage but haven't found one !
Zaim's Avatar

Btw I'm in the UK :P

I've just ordered the following:
https://www.overclockers.co.uk/showp...odid=GX-303-SP

Got one of those in another pc and the voltage does increase on it using Trixx, 1.38v is the max.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
That's lame, I can't believe they've capped it like that. Want me to pull my BIOS for you so you can try oldbrave? If it's a change in hardware, the BIOS from my card may bork yours, so fair warning there. If you feel like disassembling it, I can give you high res photos of this one to compare.

Good choice. As long as it's got the voltage, you'll get the clocks. In my experience with ~1.325V, almost all given HD 7970s will get 1200-1250 on the core. Lucky ones can go over that by a couple dozen MHz. Good luck with the new card!
Pierre3400's Avatar
So where's the OC contest where we can win these badboys
Boulard83's Avatar
I think you guyz need to mod your bios and flash with higher value. The 7970 DCII have the VRM's to deliver much more power than needed to OC these GPU under air.

I flashed both the 570's DCII i had and they benched perfectly fine at 1.213 wich seems to be the max usable without hardware Vmod on these.
Bobnova's Avatar
That BIOS limit on 570s was imposed by Nvidia though, and was specific to GTX570 and GTX580 GPUs.
Not all limits are the same.
Boulard83's Avatar
True

Its still EZ to save the bios and take a look at the volts limit with a bios editor.
Bobnova's Avatar
It was easy on the 5xx cards, have you tried a 7970? It won't be the same regardless, and generally once you brick an AMD card it's dead, there's no blind flashing.
Boulard83's Avatar
Nope, never played on 79xx bios. Last AMD i played with was a 5870, i'm on the Nvidia side ever since and i bios modded every card i had. 4xx, 5xx, 6xx.

These 7970 have dual bios IIRC ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Negative. Well, technically yes it has dual BIOSes, but not in the way you're thinking. The 7970s by ASUS with non-reference PCBs have six-display capability. The switch only changes the display configuration.

Handy-dandy image time:



That's all it does. Tis not a backup BIOS in the traditional sense that it would help recover a borked flash.
Boulard83's Avatar
Crap ... In my mind, all 7970 had dual bios Something i would like to see on all high end GPU BTW....
EarthDog's Avatar
Most do, but its seems like the ones that can handle several monitors, like my HIS 7970 X Turbo, does the same thing. Same with the 7870 Flex IIRC...
oldbrave's Avatar
Hokie> I doubt if it would brick my card, winflash will either accept it or it won't and I've already made a backup of the OEM bios so ya that would be GREAT if you could do that.
Want me to PM my Email addy to you ?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Sure. It might be a little while, but I'll get it done for you.
Seebs's Avatar


OMG...

Hokie; you need to put up some sort of "Overkill HTPC" article for the front page. Hell; I found a thread over at "that other forum" where a guy is building a gaming PC and he dropped coin on four Asus Titans just a few days ago...

Something along these lines wouldn't be beneath me if I had a Titan to put into my HTPC... Oh well; I guess I'm infantile, immature and all that.

123933
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Haha...thanks for the morning laugh seebs!
Fum's Avatar
You guys are funny with the bios update. All you need to oc the sh.. out of the card is on these thread. So i download the version (2.2.1.4) that i see on the thread witch have the voltage unlock n'till 1.4(big number eh..) but i need it only 1.188 to run either 1125/6300 or 1201/7000. I got my asus 7970 top on 01.02.2013. So i test it hours and hours and no stability problem at all. As for performance is identical with the sapphire toxic (without oc only with toxic boost on)
Now if you do a clean install like after the driver install will work ok if you install gpu tw 2.2.1.4 after other version is possible not to work (reinstall the driver again then gpu t) - your goal is to see the voltage unlock.
The second problem is to check overclocking range enhancement exactly on these version of Gpu Tweak since is the only one with the voltage unlock (from all the version i test it) and the voltage works...tough if you cant find it your stuck with 1125/6300.
The max oc for me was 1260/7600 but was to close to the limit and was not 24/7 oc like 1200/7000 and still i use 1125/6300 when the game don't demand high power.
As for afterburner+gpu t did not work ok at all for me, at 1200/7000 the board was not stable.

Bottom line: get the version that is linked on the post install it right unlock the frequency and foget about that crazy idea with the bios rewrite. You brake your card for what? to loose one bios and maibe get 12 to 15 fps...o yeah defo is worth it.

Piece and nice review when i done read it i knew i have found my 7970. for the writer
olleing's Avatar
Asus Hd 7970 DCII Top

"belatedly" A little informative update on what dual bios installed
after a small mistake with the flash, I found that my card had 2 different bios versions = OK!
Switch: bios mode 1 = 113-AD44400-101
Switch: bios mode 2 = 113-AD44300-101

In other words, bios switch has double functions!
The switch changes the display configuration and have backup bios
marjamar's Avatar
Mine is going back to Asus under RMA. It has always been a bit flaky (locking up periodically), but the past couple of weeks it's gotten to the point where it would lockup many times a day. I have to take it apart (remove the EK waterblock) and put it back to stock. Hope I can find all the screws!
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Sorry to hear about your card. Hope the RMA is quick and painless!
neo668's Avatar
Am I correct in believing that the 7970 only has DirectX 11.0 while the R9 280X has DirectX 11.2?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I don't think there will be a difference between the two. It is literally the same GPU. If one has the capability, the other does too unless AMD intentionally differentiates them (which I don't think they do).
neo668's Avatar
But wouldn't the BIOS/FW be different?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
That shouldn't be able to influence whether they are capable of running DX API.
neo668's Avatar
I didn't know that. Thanks.
marjamar's Avatar
Luckily I put all the misc. screws and stuff away. Unluckily, it too me 4 hours of searching to find where I put them... I'll never learn.

Ordered the new AMD FX-9370 Vishera 4.4GHz from Newegg. I might be looking for a second DCU2 just to see what 2 of them will do along with the new CPU.
marjamar's Avatar
I guess I should update my sig. Only thing the same is monitors (added a 3rd), burner, CPU and ram.

I upgraded everything else with the (then) new DCU2. Using a Crosshair V Formula-Z MB, I'm on a full water loop with EK waterblocks on the CPU and GPU with a Kookance 401x2 pump/res. 360 Black Ice rad w/push-pull NB-Multiframe S-Series fans and Scythe 6 chnl fan controller. 4TB RAID 10 data storage w/4TB separate backup and Samsung SSD 840 boot drive. 1000 Watt OCZ ZX psu in a Corsair Obsidian box to hold it all.

Best setup I've had todate and works (usually) very well. I've had it to 5.3 GHz in testing under chilled air and run it 4.8 all the time. It's fun to play with when I take the time. Problem is, time is pretty scarce alot, so I have to almost re-learn stuff when I come back to it for OC'ing or upgrades.
marjamar's Avatar
Well, this is really a strange graphic card. I got the waterblock off and all returned back to stock cooling, just like new. Figured might as well do a quick test, so popped back in the computer and after about a half-hour of testing this thing, I can't get it to crash!

What is going on here?

Temps worked just as I can remember them working when I first got this card. They can reach mid 70's under extreme load and everything set to max in GPU Tweak. Still, won't crash running all everything that did crash it while it was running on water. The thing I can think is it likes max temps in the 70 not in the high 30's like it does on water.

What else could it be?

-Rodger
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