Today we’re going to look at another NVIDIA GTX 670 card; this time by ASUS – their GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP. While the name is long and a bit cumbersome, the card is sleek and fast. So grab a cold one, sit back and enjoy the show.
Specifications & Features
Getting the ‘boring’ stuff out of the way first, we have the specification list. As you can see from the base and boost clocks, this card isn’t messing around, with bumps over and above the reference clocks by 143 MHz and 157 MHz, respectively.
The DirectCU II TOP is a non-reference card with an upgraded power section, in addition to the much better (and quieter) cooler. It retains the standard 2GB of vRAM, which is clocked the same as reference models.
Features are going to be where this card separates itself from the reference cards (and even overclocked cards). First in ASUS’ list is the DirectCU II cooler. While 20% cooler is going to depend on many factors, the claim about being vastly quieter can’t be overstated.
20% Cooler and Vastly Quieter with exclusive DirectCU II thermal solution
GPU Tweak was first introduced with the 7970 cards and it has come into its own now. It works just as well as overclocker-favorite MSI Afterburner and has equally good monitoring capabilities.
GPU Tweak co-developed with the most authoritative GPU-Z to provide the most accurate information
DIGI+ VRM on this card is beefed up quite a bit more than the stock card, which had only five phases total; four for the GPU and one for the vRAM. In this card’s case, there are six phases for the GPU and two for the vRAM. They are also made of better components (Super Alloy), which ASUS claims give them a “15% performance boost, 2.5 times longer lifespan [and] 35°C cooler operation”
DIGI+ VRM with 8-phase Super Alloy Power
Acclaimed DIGI+ VRM with 8-phase Super Alloy Power technology Delivers precise Digital Power and Enhance Durability for stable overlocking
I don’t know about “Gigantic”, but 2GB of memory is plenty to run games for most people. Lots of folks complained about that from the start, wishing it (and its big brother, the GTX 680) had more memory. There are typically claims about issues running high resolutions. We’ll have a look at how it runs three monitors later on. Let’s just say it isn’t really as big of a problem as some people think.
Gigantic 2GB GDDR5 Memory
On-board memory for the best gaming experience & the best solution
The rest of the features aren’t ASUS-specific and apply to all GTX 670s. They are here for your perusal.
Powered by NVIDIA® GeForce GTX670
NVIDIA® GPU Boost
NVIDIA GPU Boost technology that dynamically maximizes clock speeds to push performance to new levels
NVIDIA® Adaptive V-Sync
NVIDIA Adaptive Vertical Sync adjusts VSync to current frame rates for maximum playability
NVIDIA® PhysX® ready
Dynamic visual effects like blazing explosions, reactive debris, realistic water, and lifelike characters.
Multi-GPU technology for extreme performance
NVIDIA® 3D Vision™ Surround Ready
Bring games to life with NVIDIA® Surround™ multi-monitor gaming on a single card
Delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU – CPU communication
Here is the card at stock, showing its stock clocks as well as the GPU Tweak software. They seem to have done quite well with the software for this card, getting pretty close to a seamless solution as is their AISuite II is for their motherboards.
What’s really impressive about this card is the stock boost. While rated at 1137 MHz, when running a benchmark, the card runs closer to 1300 MHz (peaking at 1293 MHz and hovering near there for the entirety) than it does to its rated 1137 MHz.
With those clocks consistently right out of the gate, you can tell this card is going to be a strong performer.
Packaging & Accessories
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, let’s have a look at what you get when you buy this card. The box is….interesting, appearing to have been slashed by some unknown and heretofore unnamed beast. Why they chose to do that is beyond me. Thankfully, it’s what’s inside the box that counts, not the graphic designer’s bad dream.
There is a box in the box that is much more simplistic, just saying “ASUS” and “Inspiring Innovation * Persistent Perfection”. Flipping the top on that, you see the accessory box. Once that is removed, we come to the card itself
All of the card’s connectors are protected by blue plastic covers. There was actually an antistatic bag under the card, which presumably was around it at one point. The QC person must have just forgotten to put it back in the bag. It’s not necessary anyway with the covers over the connectors. We’ll look more closely at the card itself very shortly.
The accessories stack is, well, by any definition paltry. Usually there is some semblance of an adapter or two for various monitor types. Not here. When you buy this card you’re paying for the card. All it comes with is a Speed Setup guide, driver disc (which you’ll want to promptly ignore and head to the ASUS and NVIDIA web sites to grab the latest GPU Tweak and driver) and a MOLEX-to-6-pin PCIe power adapter. That’s it. No video adapters, no included game…nada.
That’s actually acceptable though, because as you’ll see, the card you get is nothing less than stunning.
The ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP
Here is the main event. ASUS’ GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP coup de grâce. It truly is a thing of beauty. Built like it can withstand Armageddon, with great looks to boot. It even ships with a good looking backplate, which is more than can be said about some cards that require them to be purchased separately.
You know me and my penchant for a plethora of photos, so click through and enjoy the slide show.
Not enough you say? Ok, twist my arm; one more.
There are four video outputs on the card and I’m happy to report NVIDIA Surround works just fine. My chosen setup was both DVI ports and the HDMI port, which worked splendidly.
Now that you’ve seen its outer countenance, let’s have a look and see if it’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Under the Hood
The cooler is easily removed via the four screws around the GPU. It’s a stout cooler, but hanging by the four screws won’t present a problem.
On the right of the card, you can see that the backplate actually makes contact via a thermal pad with the aluminum fins of the heatsink. That’s great – rather than relying on the plate itself to cool back-of-PCB components (vRAM), it actually uses the heatsink to assist. Kudos to the engineer that thought of that one.
Near there, you can also see that this card requires two 6-pin PCIe connectors for power.
Contact between the three-heatpipe cooler and the GPU is solid, with paste spreading uniformly. The paste appears to be your standard OEM paste, not bad but not great. It scrapes off more than wipes off.
While the memory power section (two phases in the photo above below the PCIe power connectors) doesn’t have – or really need – a dedicated heatsink, the GPU power section has one all to itself. It’s not a large heatsink, but it’s certainly better than not having one. The contact via the thermal pad is consistent throughout. Unlike the backplate, this heatsink does not physically touch the bigger GPU heatsink, but comes ever so close.
After quite a few screws, you can get the backplate off as well. It makes contact via a very thin thermal coating over the metal. As you can see, the GPU heatsink has three heatpipes for drawing the heat away from the GPU, going to a massive fin assembly.
The fins are cooled by two extremely quiet 92 mm fans. If you turn them up all the way manually, you can hear the fans. Even then, the two 92 mm fans aren’t as loud as a Yate Loon high speed fan (which cools my RAM / motherboard power sections).
There is memory on both sides of the card, with eight 256 MB chips totaling two gigabytes; four on each side of the card.
It’s hard to see from this angle, but ASUS added two LED lights to the card. These light up to let you know whether you have the PCIe power cords plugged in properly – a nifty feature. They are red when the card is powered solely by the PCIe slot and individually turn green when you plug the proper power cord in. You can see them better in the photo with the backplate on from above.
Now we get to a big deal about this card – the power section. It’s a big deal to ASUS and a big deal to overclockers. With ASUS’ DIGI+ VRM controller you have more control over the GPU power than on a reference card. There is still the unfortunately low 117% Power Target limit, but they do give you the ability to adjust the minimum GPU voltage.
Unfortunately, the default PowerTune limit is just too low to let you unleash all the power this card has to offer. Hopefully, there will be a software solution to help improve that. ASUS has expressed willingness to send us a special BIOS and we’ll post results in the comments after we get a chance to play with it. They have even given us permission to distribute it (with a written disclaimer of potential card damage of course). You’ve got to love that kind of support for the overclocking community!
Additionally, in talks with ASUS, they want to stress just how non-reference this card is. The power section has been designed from the ground up to deliver stronger, more consistent power to the GPU. There are six phases for the GPU instead of just four on the reference card.
In response to their customers, they have also gone with this power design to address an issue with GPU power delivery that plagues many reference cards on both sides of the aisle – choke whine. Their Super Alloy Choke fixes that problem. They also use better capacitors (Super Alloy Capacitors) that they report as having two and a half times longer life. Their MOSFETs are also upgraded and said to operate at lower temperature than their less expensive counterparts.
Lastly, ASUS mentions that this design has lower noise than reference cards. For stock operation that isn’t all that important, but when overclocking you need clean power. Increased noise leads to increased stability. The test in this slide was performed with an HD6970 DCII, but they share a similar power design.
Here is the power section in the flesh, complete with DIGI+ VRM controller. It’s a far cry from -and much better looking than- the reference power delivery section.
The memory is clocked the same Hynix 2nd gen GDDR5, 1.5V vRAM we saw on the EVGA GTX 670 Superclocked. As you surely figured out by now, the GPU is the GK104-based GTX670.
Now that we’ve looked at the card in detail, let’s put this thing in a system and see how it performs!
This it the first review using our new GPU testing procedure and platform. Rather than repeat everything about the testing procedure and the tests, we can now just point you to our article that outlines all of that: Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure. The specific test setup used in this review is below.
|CPU||Intel i7 3770K @ 4.0 GHz|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V GENE|
|RAM||2×4 GB G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133 9-11-9-28|
(Run at DDR3-1866, 9-9-9-24)
|Graphics Card||ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP|
EVGA GTX 670 SC
AMD HD 6990
|Power Supply||Cooler Master Silent Pro 800W|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1|
That GPU list will continue to grow; we are retesting on the new platform as we’re able. Since MattNo5ss already compared the GTX 670 to other cards, the most pertinent comparison for this review was the EVGA GTX 670 SC. He was kind enough to jump on that and re-run everything on the new platform.
In addition, I was able to re-bench one card and went with the AMD HD 6990. In theory that’s not really a fair fight, but fans of the GTX 670 may just be pleasantly surprised.
Before performance though, we’ll see cooler performance and power consumption.
Cooler Performance & Power Consumption
I mentioned the HD 6990 wasn’t a fair fight. In these two categories, it’s not a fair fight the other way around. Using the default fan profile, we’re running the GPU through 3DMark 11 and HWBot Heaven DX11 tests. 3DMark 11 is faster and doesn’t heat up the GPU as much. Heaven takes a long time and doesn’t let up.
The DirectCU II cooler did a great job, at idle and under intense loads. When you turn the fan up it does even better, and remains extremely quiet even at full blast.
Turning to power consumption, the GTX 670 just sips power, especially compared to the dual GPU beast. A solid 500 W PSU would be plenty for this GPU and an overclocked Ivy Bridge setup.
So far we have a cool running, efficient GPU. There certainly isn’t anything to be upset about! Let’s overclock this thing!
Overclocking the GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP was a breeze thanks to the GPU Tweak software. It has been refined and worked over such that it overclocks easily and to the max the card is able to produce.
My only complaint – and it’s a complaint about the entire GTX 6xx line – is that the Power Target can’t be increased over 117%. Let us unleash these beasts!
With that limit, this card overclocked a decent amount. The max stable GPU boost ended up at 1200 MHz, an increase of 63 MHz on the GPU. The vRAM ended up overclocking to 6380 MHz (which is really 1595 MHz, quad-pumped) on the vRAM.
Please excuse the CPU and RAM clock in the screenshot; I forgot to grab a screenshot with the CPU at proper testing speeds. As you can see, the GPU pretty much pegs the GPU at an impressive 1356 MHz while loaded. This is certainly a far cry from the stock boost clock.
Now we get to the fun part – performance results! We’ll start with synthetic tests and then get into some game testing.
Starting with the older tests, we’ll knock out 3DMark03 and 3DMark Vantage. After all these years 03 still scales with GPU power and even with multiple GPUs, so we keep it in the test suite. Vantage Also scales well with GPU power and is a good measure for those still playing DirectX 10 games.
Straight out of the gates, the GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP (hereinafter DCUII) comes out on top of the EVGA GTX 670 SC (hereinafter SC). The DCUII even hangs with the HD 6990 in Vantage.
Now we’ll check out more recent DirectX 11 benchmarks.
Wow; if the games look like this, we’re in for a treat. Both of these benchmarks require a lot of GPU horsepower and the DCUII delivers bucket loads. Unbelievably (seriously, I re-tested because I didn’t believe it), it beat the HD 6990 in Heaven. Tessellation was a bad spot for that generation of AMD GPUs, and it’s evident in both of these tests.
Our first trifecta of games includes Aliens vs. Predator DirectX11, Batman: Arkham City & Battlefield 3.
AvP and BF3 both look great for the DCUII. In the ultra-intense Batman: Arkham City, the DCUII tears up the HD 6990. The Batman SC result is perplexing. Both MattNo5ss and I ran it multiple times, verifying every setting was the same across the board for both our test system and the game itself. By all other metrics the DCUII comes out on top.
For our last three games, we’ll test another pair of relatively high FPS games and then the GPU killer Metro: 2033.
The DCUII continues to impress, coming out on top in Civ V and Dirt 3. Only the HD 6990 beats the DCUII in Metro. The SC just can’t compete with the stronger clocks of the DCUII.s
NVIDIA Surround Testing
Now that you’ve seen how it performs in games, let’s see what you can expect when running three monitors!
It’s not surprising the HD 6990 wins in the majority of these benches with two GPUs and double the RAM. What IS surprising is Batman and Metro. Both of those are hell on a GPU, and both have a ton of visual detail – and the DCUII came out on top! In all of the other games, except AvP, the DCUII maintains a very small margin. For having a GPU that’s not the absolute top of the line, this card sure does hold its own even at high resolutions.
Which leads me to a happy conclusion – 2GB of memory is fine. Much to even my surprise, it didn’t hurt a bit as you can see. Now, it definitely should be said that none of these games are playable throughout at this resolution with everything turned up like this. Ok, maybe Dirt 3, but even that lagged a couple of times. However, I did play Metro 2033 with MSAA turned down and detail on “Normal” with three monitors. It looked great and had zero lag.
A single DCUII is perfectly capable of playing in NVIDIA Surround at 5760 x 1080, if you’re willing to make some minor graphics compromises.
Pushing the Envelope
Now for some benchmarking fun. The GPU didn’t want to go much farther, so these were run at the same clocks as 24/7 settings. The CPU and RAM were just pumped up to 5.0 GHz and DDR3-2400, respectively.
These scores are actually pretty great. With very little effort and only half-way decent clocks on the CPU, this card is among the top five GTX 670 results for all of these benchmarks on HWBot, except 3DMark 11, which really needs a Sandy Bridge-E chip for a boost (results referenced as of 6/7/2012). If you froze the CPU and came up with a way to increase the Power Target limit, this card has some real potential even just on air.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
Wow. That was my reaction when graphing the results above. Not only did the ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP beat the lower-clocked EVGA GTX 670 SC, it hung right in there with the dual-GPU monster HD 6990, even beating it occasionally – with even bigger surprises in Surround testing.
There is literally nothing to dislike about this card. It runs cool, it sips power, and it does both with extremely impressive results. Ok, if you’re hunting something to dislike, the name is excessively cumbersome. Aside from THAT, there is nothing to dislike. It looked our benchmark suite in the eyes, took it on with gusto, and came out begging for more.
The only thing left to discuss is pricing. Newegg lists the GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP at $429.99. That is only $30 over reference models and actually comes in under a Galaxy model. Out of the box, it is the highest clocked card on the egg. With the quality of this card’s engineering, its quiet -and effective- cooling solution, and its stellar performance it is well worth the price premium. Without a doubt, the ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP deserves to be Overclockers Approved.
Author’s note: Please see this post in the comment thread regarding some items ASUS brought up about a few items in the review.