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Poseidon, the Greek god of water and the sea. Seems like an appropriate name for a video card with factory installed hybrid (water and air) cooling. The popular DirectCUII air cooler gets an added water cooling channel and a new name too… DirectCU H2O. This GTX 780 based offering from ASUS gives the user a choice between air or water to keep the card cool. Not only do we have a unique cooling solution attached to the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780, but ASUS took it a step further and provided a factory applied GPU overclock to the card as well. Let’s take this newest member of the ROG graphics card family for a spin and see what’s in store!
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications as provided by ASUS. As mentioned, the card has a GPU core speed of 954 MHz base/1006 MHz boost, which is up from the reference design speeds of 863 MHz base/900 MHz boost. The 3 GB of GDDR5 memory remains at the reference speed of 1502 MHz (6008 MHz quad pumped) and sits on a 384-bit memory interface.
Much of what we see above is confirmed by having a quick glance at GPU-Z.
Obviously, the DirectCU H2O cooling solution is one of the main selling points of this card. It offers enthusiasts an out-of-box cooling choice that other cards simply do not. There is also a huge cost benefit for not having to purchase an aftermarket water block in order to use water cooling. We’ll be taking a much more detailed look at the DirectCU H20 cooler later in the review, but the next set of slides will give you a good idea of what it’s capable of.
Not surprisingly, ASUS performed some in-house game testing that shows good gains when compared to reference design cards. No doubt most of the increases are due to the factory overclock applied to the card, but you can’t argue with increased GPU speed with no effort on the end user’s part.
Whether it’s a motherboard or video card, no ROG product would be complete without ASUS’ stout power delivery section. The 10-phase power delivery consists of Super Alloy Chokes to reduce or eliminate buzzing and coil whine, as well as Super Alloy MOSFETs that are said to provide a 30% higher voltage threshold for better overclocking. The Japanese 10K black metallic capacitors found throughout the PCB offer better temperature endurance and a 5x longer lifespan when compared to traditional 2K capacitors. Additionally, the all digital DIGI+ VRM is said to provide reduced power noise, automatic voltage adjustment based on overclocking demands, and much improved power efficiency when compared to traditional analog VRMs. On the back of the video card, you’ll find the POSCAPs. These are dedicated SAP CAPs positioned directly behind the GPU core and allow the GPU quick access to their capacitance.
ASUS usually puts out very attractive looking components, especially in their ROG family of products. This holds true with the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 too. The pulsating ROG red effect adds just the right amount of “bling” without going overboard. It’s a nice touch that will certainly blend well with other ROG components or any system with a like color scheme.
We’ll cover the included GPU Tweak overclocking software a bit later in the review, but the slides below give us a sneak peak into its capabilities.
The box has the traditional ROG colored theme with a few NVIDIA green highlights spattered about. The front has make/model descriptions and lets you know air or water cooling is available. On the back, we have an exploded view of the DirectCU H20 cooler, a specifications list, and a breakdown of the available display connections. All of the box sides are dedicated to additional branding and a multilingual list of system requirements. The front of the box has a flap that can be lifted to expose more details on the DirectCU H20’s performance, the DIGI+ VRM features, and a snippet about the pulsating ROG lighting. Lifting the flap will also give you a sneak preview of the card sitting under a plastic window.
Inside the outer carton is another black box that houses the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 and the accessories. The card and accessories are well protected by the foam insert and a plastic cover. The accessories include a ROG badge, 6-pin to 8-pin power adapter, and a portfolio with the driver/utility disc and user’s manual.
With the card unpacked, I took a few snapshots before we performed our usual surgical procedures. It’s certainly an impressive looking card, and I can tell you it feels extremely well-constructed. We’ll find out just how well in a moment!
The ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 Up Close
We’ll begin our close-up look at the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 by looking at the display connectivity options. The card supports DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D, and DVI-I connections. For power connections, you’ll need both 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E power cables. The card supports up to 3-way SLI as witnessed by the two SLI bridge connectors.
A top side view of the card shows the two G1/4 threaded holes with threaded plugs installed. These plugs will keep foreign objects from getting inside the water channel, which is important if you decide to stick with air cooling. Using G1/4 threads gives the user the ability to choose any size fitting they desire to match up with an existing water cooling loop. As you can see by the below pictures, there are three heatpipes that weave their way through the heatsink block. Looking at the bottom side of the card, we can see where the card plugs into a motherboard’s PCI-E X16 slot.
To remove the DirectCU H2O cooler, you need to take out the 11 screws located at the back of the card and four small screws from the PCI mounting bracket. Removing these screws will also allow you to take the back plate off. It was nice to see ASUS include a back plate with the card, which helps support its weight and adds an additional layer of value add to the product.
The fan shroud is attached to the heatsink with four clips (two on each side), which are actually built into the shroud itself. The shroud is flexible enough to allow the clips to disengage from the heatsink and thus be removed. The fans are the usual FirstD branded units we normally see on the ASUS DirectCU coolers and offer their dust proof design to increase the fan’s lifespan. With the fan shroud out of the way, we get a good look at the heatsink assembly. There are three heatpipes and a copper block that work to dissipate heat when just the air cooler is used. If you use the water cooling option, you get the added benefit of the “U” shaped water channel to whisk heat away from the custom vapor chamber. To help keep the MOSFET and memory areas cool, thermal pads are attached to the heatsink and will cover these critical areas.
When looking at the 10-phase power delivery area on this card, it quickly becomes apparent this is anything but a reference design PCB. The reference design typically has an 8-phase power delivery design, so ASUS has substantially beefed this area up. As we previously discussed, the SAP caps, chokes, and MOSFETS are all major improvements over the reference design cards and will go a long way towards better overclocking and product longevity.
Providing the voltage regulation for the stout power delivery is none other than ASUS’ DIGI+ VRM. We touched on the advantages the DIGI+ VRM offers earlier, but the main focus is to provide precise voltage adjustments according to overclocking environments. The precise voltage adjustments result in lower power noise, which ASUS claims drops as low as 159 mV. The DIGI+ VRM is also capable of intelligently transferring power between the 10 power phases, which can result in 15% better power efficiency.
The 3 GB of GDDR5 is provided by Elpida W2032BBBG-60-F modules. The memory is rated at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz quad pumped) at 1.5 V. The factory set memory speed is right on the specified performance level, but we’ll see later in the review if any overclocking headroom is present. The last picture below is an up-close look at the Kepler GK110-300-B1 GPU Core.
Bundled Software/ GPU Tweak
GPU Tweak has evolved into a very effective and feature rich desktop overclocking utility. It offers much more than overclocking however, and can be used to monitor critical information that you need to know when pushing the card to its limits. It also provides several other useful tools, such as live update, profile saving, power saving mode, gaming mode, and the ability to control fan speeds on a user defined basis. The gaming mode will give you a small automatic overclock on the GPU and memory, which equates to a 20 MHz GPU boost clock and 40 MHz memory gain.
The tuning area of GPU Tweak is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time if you’re going to overclock the card. You have the option to raise the GPU core speed, memory speed, and power target. The voltage will top out at 1212 mV and the power target is limited to 110%. There are several other settings at your disposal too, which you can see in the pictures below.
On the included support CD, you’ll find a copy of GPU Tweak Streaming. GPU Tweak Streaming was introduced back in October of 2013 and allows you to stream your gaming experience over the internet in real time. Depending on the internet service you have, it’s possible to stream up to 1080p video quality.
Overclocking the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 was a pretty simple task with the help of GPU Tweak. As with all GTX 780 cards on the market, NVIDIA only allows a small voltage and power target increase. GPU Tweak allowed a GPU voltage increase of up to 1212 mV. I ended up with a +171 MHz core speed increase and a +151 MHz (+604 MHz quad pumped) memory speed increase. At that point, I approached the power target limit and going any further would not increase performance. When compared to the reference design core speed of 863 MHz, you can see that’s an impressive gain. The overclock was obtained using the air cooler only, and I don’t think using the water cooling option will magically provide more power target headroom. We’ll definitely put that to the test in the “Pushing the Limits” section though.
Now that we have a stable overclock, we can head into the benchmark testing!
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Formula|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2x4GB|
|SSD||Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||ASUS ROG Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 (335.23 Driver)|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
We’ve got several competing video cards to include in the comparison graphs, so let’s get to it! We’ll stick to the Overclockers.com GPU test procedure that we’ve been using since the Haswell platform was released. If you’re not familiar with our testing method, click on the link provided for more information. For quick reference, below is the down and dirty version of what we do.
- i7 4770K @ 4 GHz
- Dual Channel DDR3-1866 9-9-9-24
- GPU @ stock and overclocked
- Monitor capable of 1920×1080
- 3DMark Vantage – DirectX 10 benchmark running at 1280X1024 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark 11 – DirectX 11 benchmark running at 1280X720 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark Fire Strike – DirectX 11 benchmark running 1920X1080 – Standard test (not extreme).
- Unigine Heaven (HWBot version) – DX11 Benchmark – Extreme setting.
- Batman: Arkham Origins – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, PhysX off, V-Sync off, The rest set to on or DX11 enhanced.
- Battlefield 4 – 1920X1080, Ultra Preset, V-Sync off.
- Bioshock Infinite – 1920X1080, Ultra DX11 preset, DOF on.
- Crysis 3 – 1920X1080, Very high settings, 16x AF, 8x MSAA, V-Sync off.
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – 1920X1080, Maximum preset.
- Grid 2 – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, Intel specific options off, Everything else set to highest available option.
- Metro Last Light – 1920X1080, DX11 preset, SSAA on, Tessellation very high, PhysX off.
Our synthetic testing show things pretty much as expected with the comparison sample GTX 780 Ti leading the pack in all the tests. The EVGA GTX 780 in our comparison charts has a higher factory overclock than the Poseidon GTX 780, so you’ll see it just slightly ahead in most tests. However, the Poseidon GTX 780 did manage to top it in the HWBot Heaven results. Impressively, the Poseidon GTX 780 scored just a fraction below the GTX Titan in all the synthetic tests, and actually managed to beat it in the 3DMark Vantage run. Once the Poseidon GTX 780 was overclocked, it pretty much dominated all the comparison cards, except for the GTX 780 Ti.
Having a look at our game benchmarks, the Poseidon GTX 780 put up some great numbers here. It managed to top the GTX Titan and the faster clocked EVGA GTX 780 in several of the tests. Again, once the Poseidon GTX 780 was overclocked, it out performed all the other comparison cards, except for the GTX 780 Ti.
A good showing by the ASUS Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 in both the synthetic and game benchmarks. Definitely nothing to complain about on the single monitor 1920X1080 gaming front. So, what about multi-monitor surround performance? We have those results for you too! I took five of our most popular game titles and benchmarked them at 5760X1080 (three monitors). The same pattern we saw in the single monitor testing held true here as well. Interestingly, the Poseidon GTX 780 had no trouble keeping up with the GTX Titan, which has twice the amount of onboard memory. Another great showing for the Poseidon GTX 780 in the NVIDIA Surround testing.
Power Consumption and Temperature Testing
The ASUS DIGI+ VRM claim of 15% better power efficiency seems to hold true when power consumption was tested. I was surprised to see the total system draw stay well below 400 watts, even when the card was overclocked. Idle consumption was equally impressive with a total system draw of just over 100 watts. HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (combined test) are used to record maximum system power draw.
Temperatures were tested with the fans set to auto control and again with the fans set to 100% speed. The tests were run with the GPU set to stock speed and again with it overclocked. The tests were performed just using the air cooling only, and then again with the card water cooled. I gave the Poseidon GTX 780 its own loop using a 240 mm radiator with a couple run-of-the-mill 120 mm fans attached to it. As you can see by the graph below, the air cooler alone is up to the task of keeping the temperatures well below the thermal threshold. Even with the card overclocked and the fan control set to auto, the air cooler alone did a great job. When the water cooling option is used, the results were pretty impressive, and the temperatures stayed in the low 40 °C range when overclocked. When left at stock speed, we actually recorded temperatures below 40 °C… color me impressed!
A couple of notes are in order regarding the DirectCU H2O. The default fan speed is 26%, which makes the cooler darn near inaudible. When using air cooling only and fan control on auto, the highest the fans ramped up to was 55%. When the water cooling option was used, the fans never ramped up past the default 26%… nor did they need to. What this means is you will reap the benefits of superior GPU temperatures, along with almost no fan noise when utilizing the water cooling feature.
Pushing the Limits
1148 MHz base GPU clock and 1675 MHz (6700 MHz quad pumped) is about all I could squeeze out of the card and get a pass of 3DMark Fire Strike completed. That’s just short of a +200 MHz GPU overclock and a +173 MHz overclock on the memory. It seems that utilizing the water cooling feature did help a little when pushing the card to the limit. We ended up with a Fire Strike score almost 200 points higher than previously recorded. In the end, I’d call the overall overclocking experience excellent on the Poseidon GTX 780.
The ASUS Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 is certainly a very unique offering that has an astonishing amount of advantages over competitor offerings. The star of the show is the DirectCU H2O cooler, which offers the user the ability to use the air cooler in combination with the built-in water cooling option. As mentioned before, the air cooler works quite well on its own and excels to another level when you take advantage of the water cooling feature. The DirectCU H2O is by far the best proprietary cooler I have seen on a video card to date.
The Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 has much more than an awesome cooler to offer too. The stout 10-phase power delivery, high quality SAP components, and the power efficiency of the DIGI+ VRM make the card an attractive choice for the most demanding of users.
So, you’re probably wondering how much all this ASUS goodness will dent your wallet. The card will launch at $599, which currently makes it the most expensive GTX 780 at Newegg. Competitor offerings with similar factory overclocks are running around $519 to $529, so in essence, the water cooling option is where the price difference lies. When you consider the cost of purchasing a full coverage water block at around $100 or more, then you can see the value the Poseidon Platinum GTX 780 offers. This card also offers the flexibility of using air or water cooling, which you won’t have when purchasing a 3rd party water block. Price-wise, I think ASUS positioned the card right where it should be.
Well-designed, great performance, and extreme versatility make it an easy call this time around, Overclocker’s approved!