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Today Asus has given us the opportunity to review their GTX580 DirectCu II. This card offers Asus’s own aftermarket cooler sporting two 100mm fans as well as a conservative factory overclock on the core and shaders. In the extreme overclocking community we have seen these cards scream to 1400Mhz+ core or more and be seemingly THE preferred 580 for extreme cooling due to robust make up and track record. I’m here to test its stock cooling capabilities and see how far we can stretch its legs with that…first!
Product Specifications and Features
Asus offers a modest factory overclock of 10Mhz core to 782Mhz and with the shaders getting a 20Mhz bump to 1564Mhz. The memory comes in like reference 580’s at 2001Mhz actual and 4004Mhz DDR5. This card also has a native display port output as well as two DVI and one HDMI port. One feature those pushing the limits would like in this card vs. reference GTX 580’s are its 8-phase power to the GPU compared to 6-phase. This aides in power delivery to the card and more stable overclocks.
Another feature that provided a nice value add was the dust-proof design of its fans. This design helps the fans extend its lifetime up to 25% by keeping the dust out of the base of the fans.
Some Asus GPU users will be able to use their own in-house developed software, GPU Tweak, to adjust the clockspeeds, voltages and memory timings of select cards. You will eventually be able to capture video and FPS (Frames Per Second) as well. GPU Tweak should be available for download soon. Below you can see a picture of the software.
Outside of the abilities one would expect out of such a utility (GPU, voltage, memory, fan adjustment, profiles, and monitoring capabilities), GPU tweak will also be able to monitor and record FPS during gameplay.
Other features Asus implemented on these cards are ‘Super Alloy Power’ in the “…critical power delivery components for a 15% performance boost, 35°C cooler operation and 2.5 times longer lifespan”. The parts upgraded include the Chokes (cement filled to prevent coil whine, cooler running), capacitors (2.5x lifespan of traditional cards), and mosfets (cooler, smaller, more efficient with increased capacity).
In talking with the Asus rep, the Super Alloy Power features are not exclusive to the high-end products and will make their way down the line to most cards offered. The better parts used translates in to a higher level of durability across the product line using them.
Another unique feature Asus used to improve on the reference design are the SAP CAP and its location on the other side of the GPU. This configuration allows for more efficient power supply for more stable overclocking. Asus is the only company to put such a large capacitor directly behind the GPU itself.
The first thing you may notice is the sheer size of the card/cooling. This thing is no joke at nearly three slots wide. Below you can see an overall view and close up of the five direct contact copper heatpipes that hold the separate aluminum heatsinks. Asus uses direct contact of the copper heat pipes on the GPU to more efficiently whisk heat away from the GPU. One of the aluminum heatsinks reside directly on top of the GPU while the other is connected by three heatpipes and hovers over the VRM’s coming close to the end of the 11.5″ card.
Cooling this apparatus are two 100mm fans situated directly above the aluminum fins blowing down on to the card. Asus states this setup should improve airflow by 600% therefore cooling the GPU better with the significantly increased cooling area and airflow.
Below are some photographs of the retail packaging:
Next we will see in the inside packaging, accessories, and the card as packaged inside the box:
Last are some shots of the card itself along with the Samsung memory it sports:
As you can see its a nice looking card. Just a couple of racing stripes on the shroud are about the only ‘bling’ this card has on it and I’m good with that. Two large 100mm fans, ample ports for whatever input your monitor(s) have, as well as the connections to SLI these cards round out this offering.
Performance and Overclocking
TEST SYSTEM AND BENCHING METHOD/SETTINGS
- i7 2600 (stock)
- Asus Maximus Extreme IV
- 2x2GB OCZ Ripjaws @ 2133 CL7-10-7-27 1.65v
- Asus GTX580 DirectCu II @ stock and 950/1900/2100 for overclocked
- Seasonic X750
- Windows 7 Professional 64bit
- Nvidia 275.33 driver
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings.
- Alien vs. Predator was run at its default setting, and the highest it offered (4xAA, textures set to “3″).
- Hawx 2 was run at 1920×1080 with 8xAA, every setting at its highest.
- Dirt 2 was run at 1920×1080 8xAA/16xAF all settings to their highest.
- Stalker:COP was run at 1920×1080 Ultra settings, 4xAA with tessellation enabled using the Sunshafts portion of the bench only.
- Unigine Heaven (Hwbot) was run with the “extreme” setting.
Looking at the results above you can see the Asus 580 Direct Cu II is heads above all other single GPU cards. Scaling on these synthetic tests may not represent real world gains especially on the older benchmarks as they are CPU-bound by its low resolution and scoring method, but you can still see solid gains and the overall performance in the newer benchmarks from Futuremark (Vantage and 3DMark 11) especially.
Gaming results :
Gaming at 1920×1080/1200 resolution with this card along with your preferred level of AA and highest details, will not be an issue with today’s games, and likely even a lot of tomorrow’s (Battlefield 3 anyone?). I was able to achieve overclocks of 950/1900/2100 for an easy, 24/7 clock speed with some added voltage (max 1.15) and played BFBC2 and Dirt2 for hours with no problems at these clocks which is a significant increase over its stock clocks of 782/1654/2001. You can see in the gaming graphs above this translates in to a nice gain across all games tested and most synthetic benchmarks.
Power Consumption and Temperatures
The TDP of this card is 244W. Which is slightly better than the first generation of Fermi cards, for example, GTX480 coming in at 250W. The performance the Gtx580 manages to squeeze out at a few watts less power use is nothing short of impressive to me. According to the Kill-A-Watt meter, I pulled a maximum of around 400W at the wall running benchmarks or playing games in stock form while averaging around 375W. After adding voltage and clock speed to both the CPU and GPU, the system managed to break the 470W barrier. Not bad at all for the fastest single GPU out there with a heavily overclocked CPU. For the record Nvidia does recommend a 600W Power Supply for this card.
Temperatures on this sample were off the charts. And by this I mean surprisingly low. Most of my cards are of the Nvidia variety, so I’m used to seeing temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s or even higher as was the case with my GTX470 with its fan on auto. This card managed to idle between 29-31° C in a 23° C room. The fan was set on auto and was down to 13% at those temperatures. Completely inaudible over three Yate Loon High’s set to ~800RPM. Those are fairly quiet fans. I reviewed the HIS IceQ X set of cards from AMD and thought thought those were quiet…to my subjective ear, this was more quiet. I could not hear these fans at all during 2D operation. When 3D came in to play, they spun up quietly to around 40% keeping the card to around 60° C or so depending on the game and ambient temperatures. Again, impressive for such a high performing card. Turning the fans up to 80% for benching and finding maximum clock speeds, they definitely move a lot of air and lose their mouse-like status, but who cares when benching anyway.
PUSHING THE LIMITS
Take a look at the clocks and scores achieved, there is a lot of headroom available. I was able to push this card to 966/1932/2120 with 1.15v for most benchmarks. Temperatures with 80% fan did not break 57° C in a 23° C room. Is this really a Fermi? Although architectural differences play a major role in the temperature reduction, the cooler does a heck of a job moving some air across the large heatsink.
When the GTX580 was released November 9th, 2010, NVIDIA finally brought out the card that Fermi was meant to be. A 512 Stream Processor monster and is the fastest single GPU video card on the market, even today almost eight months later. How does Asus choose to improve on it? More robust electronics? Check. Superior performing AND more quiet cooler? Check.
Of course, there are always going to be some compromises and nothing is perfect. The GTX580 DirectCu II takes up close to three slots on its own. As one of these can power even a 2560×1600 monitor with relative ease and the majority of the market using a single GPU anyway, this isn’t really a problem for most. It is, however, something to consider for the enthusiast lucky enough to have NVIDIA Surround and want two of these to power it. Just be sure you have a board with enough space between the PCIe slots to accommodate these cards as well as powerful PSU (NVIDIA appears to recommend no smaller than a 900W PSU for SLI).
Pricing can also be a drawback for some (related to all GTX 580’s), but one must realize its the fastest single GPU card on the market and there has always been a premium for performance. You’ve gotta pay to play with products like this. With the more robust internals this card offers vs. others, its worth its price. The Asus GTX580 Direct Cu II can be found on newegg for $499.99 not including rebate which happens to fall in the middle to lower end of other GTX580’s. To that end, it has much improved cooling capabilities that are notably quieter using the auto fan profile when compared to reference coolers. It also has the ability to crank up the RPM’s on the fans and keep it cool for any benching session. These are attractive traits for both the casual gamer and the hardcore enthusiast.
When diving a bit deeper into the extreme enthusiast group, these cards are still one of the most sought after. After learning a bit about the improvements over the reference board, one can see why. This unit has some signficant improvements from its reference counterparts. Some of these cards, though rare and on Liquid Nitrogen cooling have even seen 1500Mhz+ on the core with extreme cooling and voltage modifications. Of course not all reach those speeds.
With the Asus GTX580 DirectCU II covering all bases of the high-end market – be it a quiet top notch performer or having the ability to scale so well with the DirectCU cooling solution for the enthusiast – this card should be at the top of anyone’s list.