ASUS continues its premier GPU offerings of the Nvidia lineup with the GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP edition. This is no joke as we just finished testing the 680 version of this card and the performance was downright exceptional. The 670 is the 680′s not-so-little brother so lets take a look at how this card matches up.[review_ad]
Introduction – ASUS GeForce GTX670 DirectCU II TOP
The ASUS TX 670 DirectCU II is a custom-PCB monster much like most all of the ASUS offerings. ASUS has their own special way of taking a standard card and sprinkling some magic on it to ensure that the card you get is nothing short of exceptional. This is not something that is surprising but also it will stay awesome for a long time as the card may be built for performance but many of the features are built to ensure it keeps on working for a long time.
As you see above the 670 is a dual slot cooler unlike the 680 we looked at recently, but the two cards at a quick glance look almost identical. The ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP edition comes in at 10 dollars more than its lower clocked DCII brother at a price of $429.99 from Newegg at the time of writing.
SAP (Super Alloy Power)
ASUS has great pride in the components they infuse into their graphics offerings very much like the motherboards we have covered previously. ASUS has whats called SAP or Super Alloy Power which covers the components in the very VRM we are discussing. The components are hand picked for quality and performance based around not only power delivery but efficiency as well. The components in the SAP solution are super durable for a rated lifespan of up to 2.5x what reference cards would offer and also with the DIGI+ controller your talking ultimate precision which means better voltage stability, better overclocking potential and overall better power efficiency clock for clock.
Here we see the VRM Chokes, MOSFET/driver assemblies and the solid state caps which make up the SAP components, or to simplify, the super strong and efficient VRM.
Here we have some good detailing directly from ASUS showing the improvement of the SAP choke component and how it is superior to other designs implemented presently. Other model chokes can make a whine or screeching sound due to the coil vibration, something we’re sure many enthusiasts and overclockers have heard before. The ASUS design has a sealed/filled core to inhibit vibration, which means noise free operation under extreme loading conditions. Another thing to remember is movement makes heat and friction, so less movement will mean cooler running components.
Here we see what makes the difference for the DIGI+ solution which has to do with the accuracy and efficiency of the Digital controller in comparison to the analog VRM control we see on many other solutions. This level of control allows for unprecedented voltage accuracy, along with lower signal noise and overall more overclockability due to the tighter stability offered by the DIGI+ digital controller.
DCII (Direct CU II)
ASUS DirectCU II coolers are the ASUS way of saying maximum cooling and plenty of quiet with one naming scheme. DirectCU II coolers are direct touch heatpipes to the GPU surface ensuring the heat is wicked away from the GPU and up into the cooling fin array as quickly as possible. From there the custom shrouded dual fans push air through the fins effectively but most important quietly to keep the GPU as cool as possible so hopefully it will never hit a temp to need a higher or noisier fan speed. The air pushing through the fin array also helps cool board components and the VRM cooler as well which is a nice little added bonus to this style cooler since we all know cooler components tend to run stronger, longer and with better efficiency.
One thing not much mentioned would be the fact that thermals affect the total boost clock that the GPU will see. If the card reaches too high of a temperature regardless of the room left under the power target it will not boost up to a higher clock until the thermal window is within spec. this is how we accomplished the overclock below as the reference cooler we could never get close to this kind of clock.
Here you have it… no matter how high I cranked the fan on the reference card I could not get it within temp range to even get close to a 1350+ GPU clock, so thermals while it may seem ok creeping into the 80′s on the 600 series its gonna cost you some boost clock so this just shows the DirectCU II cooler was able to make this clock a reality.
Dust proof Fan Technology
You would think that by now everyone would know that one of the number one killer of a fan is the dirt and dust it comes into contact with. Many fans simply are not sealed in such a way that it can keep dust out and in many cases they are not sealed at all and you can see the sensitive winding area clearly exposed just by looking at the gap.
Here you can see that the ASUS solution is not just sealing the hub from dust but having 2 levels of sealing which means that over the lifespan of the cooler you can expect a much lower likelihood that you will get the grinding or simply the failing that you normally get from the unprotected fan as seen above.
We cannot count how many times we have had a perfectly good card or cooler just to have it reduced to useless because the fan dies.
ASUS offers its own software utility and its functionality has grown with generations just like the cards it supports. Of course the card can be overclocked but also voltages can be tweaked and within the GPU Tweak app we can even launch the GPU info utility which is a full custom version of GPUz. This is a really cool feature and a benefit especially to benchmarkers who we can definitely see using this card with some of the awesome tweaks we will discuss in the card overview.
There are many tools within the GPU Tweak menus some a little more hidden than others. First off directly form the GPU Tweak utility itself you can check for BIOS updates and even update from within the program. For anyone who’s ever updated a vBIOS before knows that having a tool that can do this in a mere few clicks is really handy.
The charts besides offering real time monitoring can also be setup to log thermals, voltages and clocks so that after benchmark or gaming runs you can see if there was any thermal issues or throttling that may have affected performance.
And another neat feature that many never delve into but its worth visiting is the custom fan profiling. This allows a specialized ramping of the fan according to a graph you set custom for your thermal/acoustic needs. After using this card a while, we would say the fan profile is near perfect as it keeps the card cool when under load and also super quiet when just messing around on the web.
The utility does come on the disk but its always advised to get the latest version HERE and search GPU Tweak in the ASUS page linked.
PCIe Power LEDs
One really cool feature is that there are status LED’s on each PCIe connector and these help you recognize that power is actively being sent to each connector of the card.
The dual greens seen above indicate everything is working well. However if the PCIe cable is not active or is not installed at all, it will give you the red light which tells you something is wrong. We could definitely see some value in this when diagnosing multi card setups or even single card issues. A dead PCIe power cable could cause you to pull your hair out without these kinds of indicators.
Nvidia implemented the GPU Boost feature on the new Nvidia GeForce 6 series GPU’s of the Kepler Architecture. This allows the card to have a base clock and it adjusts dynamically or overclocks to a speed of up to a certain amount depending upon the thermal and power envelope. This makes Overclocking these cards a bit different as you now are overclocking with a boost clock and by offsets from the out of the box clocks. We will discuss more of the overclocking aspects in the overclocking section but it does need to be noted. The voltage envelope can be adjusted as well with another offset setting. This will raise the ceiling in most cases for more overclocking headroom pending temps are within check which with this cooler should not be much of an issue.
Nvidia also included another feature as of recent called “Adaptive V-Sync” which allows for better performance while also stutter free gameplay by actively enabling and disabling V-Sync depending upon gaming situation and FPS all without any intervention from the user.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
ASUS wants to ensure everyone is aware that PCIe 3.0 is here and ASUS is ready with not only cards such as this but boards to support it as well.
Overview of the ASUS GeForce GTX670 DC II TOP
The packaging is very similar to what we saw on the GTX 680 DCII TOP which is not a surprise as ASUS keeps pretty good continuity across its offerings. The claw marks are present and honestly the only changes we could find would be spec details and of course removal of the VGA Hotwire function as this card does not carry support for this feature. All of the other features, such as the SAP components for the VRM, the DirectCU II cooler, and many others are there just as found on the 680 variant.
Here is what you see when we open the box. The topmost small box carries the accessories as listed below.
Dual 4 pin Molex to 6 Pin PCIe adapter
The accessory package is quite small but covers everything needed to get this card hooked up and running.
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The card is huge—almost as sizable as the 680 but the 680′s PCB is definitely a bit taller and longer but this card is definitely a full size PCB versus the reference one we received from Nvidia directly. The DirectCU II cooler’s heatpipes can be seen here and they are very effective at moving heat quickly away from the GPU and through the cooling fins.
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The Backplate for the card adds much rigidity to the PCB which means less chance of sag from the card when installed in the system. Also the dual SLI connections are in place for up to 4 Way SLI usage which will provide some amazing scaling . Through the backplate on the rear of the GPU we have a small window which shows off come neat little components. These are SAP capacitors and are placed directly on the opposite side of where the GPU is on the PCB so it has basically the most direct path to supply the GPU possible which ensures yet again that even more stability will be supplied to the GPU power circuit as needed when really pushing the card.
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The outputs on the card are standard for a GTX670/680 model with dual DVI (1 x DVI-I & 1 x DVI-D) HDMI and DisplayPort. With the introduction to the 6 series GPUs Nvidia has opened up the ability to operate more than 2 displays on a dingle card with option for up to 4 from this single card. This allows for surround plus an extra accessory display to be used for messengers or anything else not used in the triple gaming screen configuration.
Popping the Top off the TOP
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With the heatsink removed first thing I can see is that this cooler uses some really fat heatpipes. They are also flattened out/lapped at the base to ensure that they have a nice snug fit against the GPU for maximum thermal transfer. The heatsinks dual fans use a single header which ensures each fan gets the same signal so the fans operate at the same speed. The heatsink is mounted by four screws which keep equal retention pressure across the GPU surface which also helps with optimal thermal transfer. the card naked definitely now shows the difference from the 670 and 680 version as the PCB is quite a bit smaller especially in height.
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Here we have the GPU which is a GK104 GPU sporting 1344 processing cores with a Nvidia normal clock of 915 with a Boost clock of 980. ASUS couldn’t leave that alone and had to push it to ensure they had a top performer with the TOP series coming in at a insanely quick 1058MHz for the base clock and a top boost clock of 1137MHz which is a huge jump over the reference numbers we saw on the standard card.
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Here we have the card with the lid popped off and we take a look at what makes the VRM special. The combination of DIGI+ controller and SAP components ensures that the VRM is not only strong but also very efficient and stable for performance of the card. The small passive cooler is more than enough as the dual fans blow through the DirectCU II’s cooler and keep the VRM nice and cool. The cooler is basically supplemental as the VRM with the DIGI+ control allows for active control over load which means that the VRM is not constantly on or loaded causing excess heat so we really don’t see that being even close to an issue even when overclocked.
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Here is the reference Nvidia card in all of its glory. Now this card is an excellent performer but when it comes to functionality and efficiency the ASUS definitely takes the cake here. As you can see the reference card uses a standard blower style fan with a skived fin array cooler for the GPU. The skived fin array does work but in comparison the DirectCU II cooler can deliver temps in excess of 6-10 degrees Celsius cooler which may not seem like much in its numeric form but that really adds quite a lot of headroom to the equation.
Testing & Methodology
We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.
The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear Prefetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
We are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. We ask that you provide feedback in an effort to help us deliver better reviews for you.
|Case||Thermaltake Level 10 GT|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-3770K/Intel Core i7-2600K|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V Gene
|Ram||16GbpsB Patriot Viper Xtreme 2400MHz +|
|CPU Cooler||Swiftech H20-220 Edge|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB|
|SSD||Intel 510 series SATA III 120GB|
|GPU||ASUS GTX670 DCII TOP / ASUS GTX680 DCII TOP / Reference Nvidia GTX680 / Reference Nvidia GTX580|
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Black gaming mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard|
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the graphics card.
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
|Aliens vs. Predator|
|Batman: Arkham City|
The GTX 70 overclocks the same way as the 680 we tested previosuly. Its a whole new ballgame as now offsets are used instead of live settings which makes for a learning curve to get used to how these cards clock plus in the present state of things the cards also actively throttle their clock dependent on thermals and power target so all ofd this needs to be taken into consideration otherwise your excellent overclock will net you very little if it throttles it all away.
The ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP definitely can clock, but the clocking can be confusing as the Geforce 600 series cards dynamically clock based on power target which can get really confusing really fast. Initially i mistakenly took the reading from GPU-Z on what the clockspeed was and after soem further looking I found that the card was clocking way higher than I had set. so at that point I pushed it to see how far it could fly and it did not disappoint as under load with heaven benchmark I was seeing in excess of 1350MHz on the core…. that is flat out nuts..
The memory is where the card really wakes up as it clocks to just over 1870 without issue or any sign of stability loss whatsoever. This is a huge jump over the reference Nvidia card we tested as we were lucky is we could get close to even attempting 1800 on that card it just simply wasn’t happening so the memory on this GTX670 DCII TOP definitely sets the card off and is ready to run with just some minor tuning.
Here is our run at what we could get from the card with some extra tweaking and tuning. Note that the power target on the lower panel left shows we are only using 99% of the power target even though we pushed the power target higher just in case it needed it. Further testing did get us more from the card to the tune of almost 1400 MHz dynamic clock but it was not stable enough for load and crashed after about 20 seconds. This speed is a good benchable speed but for 24/7 usage I would likely back it off a little as I know I was pretty close to the edge on this run. But overall it gives you some idea as to the headroom available.
One thing to note in realtion to these dynamic boost clocks is taht they are not only dependent on the power target and voltages but also the temperatures as well which explains why our reference card simply could not clock this high while the DirectCU II equipped card was able to rocket past it to a much higher limit as seen above. this can also be attributed to the DIGI+ controllers accuracy and stability and the efficiency of the SAP components as this causes them to run cooler as well and cooler running components run better and more efficiently.
In order to ensure no system bottleneck we clocked the CPU to 4.6GHz to ensure there is no reason the system will slow down the cards performance at all.
Some may ask why we chose the mainstream Z77 system, and we can explain. Up until recent the X79 enthusiasts platform did not really support PCIe Gen 3 on the Nvidia 600 series GPU’s. Because of the inherent instability many have seen with the X79 platform with Gen 3 products, Nvidia has been hesitant to enable it, and now there is a workaround via registry to get it working. However, in order to ensure the most consistent testing possible, we have stuck to the natively supported Z77 platform.
Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure. Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.
The temperatures were recorded with full loaded Heaven benchmark looping for over 30 minutes or longer depending how long it took for the card to level out in temps and sat at a plateau for more than 10 minutes.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
|ASUS GTX670 DCII TOP OC||36C/72C|
|ASUS GTX670 DCII TOP||36C/68C|
The DCII cooler is definitely very effective, as under full load it was not at all loud. In fact it was quite nice and the thermals were well within reason, which I would call a win for ASUS. The DirectCU II design is not only effective but a damn good performer hands down.
Real world/Gaming Benchmarks
3DMark 11 is the newest in Futuremark’s suite of benchmarking utilities. Its a fully capable DirectX11 benchmark which also stresses and analyzes the system performance as a whole to simulate a heavy rendering environment such as a high end game or other app the end user may run. This benchmark was run with Performance settings 5 times and all runs were averaged for the result below.
Here is a perfect example of the potential this card has, that an out of the box ASUS GTX 670 beats the reference GTX 680. This card is simply amazing so far in 3DMark11.
Aliens Vs Predator
Aliens Vs Predator is a quite demanding game and overall just a cool title so we had some fun running this one through its paces.
Here we see the same as the GTX 670 DCII clearly has a small but still apparent lead over the GTX 680 reference. We ran each test 5 times for consistency’s sake, and this is just flat out amazing.
Metro 2033 as always is just ridiculously stressful for the graphics bus and it shows here just as it did with the GTX 680. A single card can just barely make this game playable. Two of these cards would be more than enough, but once again it is worth noting that the ASUS GTX 670 DCII is still ahead of the reference 680.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman is a popular game, which is why we include it. As before this game apparently loves the Kepler architecture, as the jumps are impressive versus previous generation cards. However, the most impressive is the over 3 FPS increase we saw versus the reference GTX 680.
Dirt 3 is a newer game but not as stressful as the others and it allows the GPU to strut its stuff a little more readily. We see the 680 DCII TOP is still ruling the roost, but the GTX 670 is not far behind and still a step ahead of the reference GTX 680. As this rounds out our small little bunch of games, we must say this is one hell of a value—beating a GTX 680 but at a lower price point.
When we first laid eyes on the ASUS GTX670 DirectCU II TOP card weI thought it looked very much like its 680 big brother but being lower spec we knew it was a cut down in performance and therefore was made for a slightly lower budget than the ultra extreme. The feature set is almost identical between the two minus some of the extreme cooling features such as the VGA Hotwire. However, we think a most (if not almost all) users can survive without that. Most gamers want to get the most from their hard earned dollars. After seeing this card walk all over the reference GTX 680, we have to ask ourselves how this is possible. The answer: high clock speeds mixed with top level performance and a great build quality. All in all, the card bleeds excellence and it does so at a price point $70 below reference based GTX 680s which it outperforms anyways.
The only real gripe we originally had was it seemed like we did not have much headroom for overclocking but after noticing the dynamic clock going on behind the scenes we saw that this card really can be pushed hard and I could only imagine if it was winter time as right now in so cal I am seeing temps outside of about 105-120F so not exactly optimal for overclocking.
Overall the card is awesome. It yields GTX 680 level performance at a lower price than a GTX 680, and it definitely has our recommendation.
|OUR VERDICT: ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II|
|Summary: The ASUS GeForce GTX 670 DirectCU II TOP edition card is fast, quiet, and cool. To top it off, it outperforms the GTX 680, and is also much cheaper. For these considerations it earns the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.|