ASUS GTX 760 DirectCU II OC Graphics Card
After the GTX 760 card launched we were quite surprised as to the power on tap, and were more excited to see what exactly can be done when put in the capable hands of some of the board partners. ASUS stepped up with a custom version of the GTX 760 with a very capable looking cooler and even a neat implementation of a single 8 pin to replace the normal dual 6 pin of the GTX 760 model. Let’s dig in and see what this midrange custom offers over the reference model.
The GK104 Kepler Architecture
The GTX 760 is based on the same GK104 you saw on the 680, and even 770 we just recently looked at, but with some spec differences as it has been trimmed back a bit to better match the performance segment it falls into.
The GTX 760 comes with a cut down GK104 GPU which is similar in design to that of the previous gen 680/670 and even the current 700 series model the GTX 770. The 760 however sports 1152 operational CUDA cores pushing through a 256-bit wide memory bus to 2GB total framebuffer. The memory used is standard 6GHz fair which we have seen before but knowing what we have seen, we’re betting there is some definite headroom to play.
Here you can see some of the specs of the card compared to what is offered presently from the Kepler lineup.
|GTX 690||GTX TITAN||GTX 680||GTX 780||GTX 770||ASUS GTX 760 DCII OC|
|Stream Processors||1536 x 2||2688||
|Texture Units||128 x 2||224||128||192||128||96|
|ROP’s||32 x 2||
|Base Core Clock||915MHz||837MHz||1006MHz||863MHz||1046MHz||1006MHz|
|Memory Interface||256-bit x 2||384-bit||256-bit||384-Bit||256-bit||256-bit|
|Memory Qty||2GB x 2||6GB||2GB||3GB||2GB or 4GB||2GB|
|TDP||300W||250W||195W||250W||230W||up to 170W|
|Transistors||3.5B x 2||7.1B||3.5B||7.1B||3.54B||3.54B|
Here you see the specs are similar but with this card you pay an extra $10 over some competitors for the full custom model card. Now let’s look at the features and see if that price difference is justified.
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 what’s called a 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.
Here you get a quick rundown of the VRM explaining why key components were chosen in order to give you a more stable VRM solution and a better faster card.
One point of interest for us was the large “Direct Power” gold bar which appears to be just a direct link for the power to travel easily with a large dedicated surface to enable easy power flow without it being bottlenecked or having a restricted path which can cause heat. The restriction is called impedance, and it can be measured in ohms. Less resistance means more freely flowing power where more resistance is much like a traffic jam in that the power has a tougher time passing therefore creating hardware’s worst enemy which is heat.
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 ASUS shows off its SAP selection for MOSFET components. These are designed to not only be more efficient but also have a higher power handling capability, which allows them to have extra head room for overclocking, should you really want to push the limit. Also note, the small package design of the SAP component as it is much smaller than the standard or generic MOSFET used on some standard or reference model cards. This allows for a larger VRM design to fit into a smaller space so that you can pack more punch without effecting the tight real estate within the chassis.
The SAP Solid state cap selection are Japanese units with a much higher MTBF than what you may see on other designs. These units are designed to have a very high expected lifetime, which allows users to rest assured that in their gaming rig with these components should have a nice happy life with a very low chance of failure for quite a long time (up to 2.5x as longer than competing components). For those of us that like to throttle our cards and really put the squeeze on them, this means we have the capability built in as the components are solid and reliable and ready to take a pounding.
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 moved 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 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.
As you see above the heatpipes on this cooler come directly to the GPU and pull the heat to the large aluminum fin area where it can be dissipated to the outside air. One thing worth noting is that chassis airflow to some degree is needed to pull the air exhausted by this card out since it does exhaust most of its expelled heat into the chassis directly.
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 become useless because the fan died.
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. 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.
There is also a special ASUS-skinned version of GPU-Z that can be accessed as seen above when pressing the “GPU Info” button.
PCI-E Power LEDs
One really cool feature is that there are status LED’s on each PCI-E connector and these help you recognize that power is actively being sent to each connector of the card. The card employed today replaces the standard dual 6 pin PCIe connectors with a single 8 pin as shown in the images, therefore only a single Red or green LED will be used.
The green seen above indicate everything is working well. However if the PCI-E 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 PCI-E power cable could cause you to pull your hair out without these kinds of indicators.
Existing Kepler features
GPU Boost 2.0 -Thermals
Just as we saw on the TITAN, and then the 780, the 700 series cards carry the new GPU Boost 2.0 which offers even more flexibility in overclocking and even more control over how your card runs. If you want it to only run at a max of a certain temp you simply set that in the thermal target of the EVGA precision utility and the card does the rest. However if you can live with some more heat there is potential for more performance by simply adjusting the frequency and thermal target up a little.
The GPU boosting function is controlled largely by the GPU temps, which by default means the GPU will boost volts and clocks up until the thermal target of 80 C is reached. What is nice about this is that the user can control the thermal target, so if you are fine with your card loading up to 90C, you can raise the target temp to allow for even more overclock and even voltage headroom.
GPU Boost 2.0 – Voltage
Nvidia has employed GPU boost for some time and in simple terms it allows the GPU to overclock itself in situations where there is extra thermal and voltage headroom to spare. This was quite a good feature, but clocks could in some cases be rather erratic and varied greatly depending upon operating environment. Nvidia introduced the newest iteration of the GPU boost feature in TITAN, including a new way to control your card. In the new version, boost clock and voltage levels are directly tied to GPU temps, and therefore voltages can be pushed higher than before. Previously, some GTX680 models did not have a lot of voltage control options. Nvidia corrected this oversight by opening up the GPU Boost 2.0 to enable higher overvoltage options. As you can see, you have the standard boost clock which can already go higher with the sliding scale of the thermal targets, and then you factor in the higher level overvoltage, leading to an amazing amount of headroom.
Nvidia Display Overclocking
Another cool feature from Nvidia is the ability to overclock the display, which means you can push your display to higher refresh rates for even smoother performance from a display that normally may only be at 60Hz. One word of caution: not all displays will support the overclock, and there will likely be a limit as to how far they can be pushed so it will take a bit of trial and error to find where your display is happy at.
Kepler features a dedicated H.264 video encoder called NVENC. Fermi’s video encoding was handled by the GPU’s array of CUDA cores. By having dedicated H.264 encoding circuitry, Kepler is able to reduce power consumption compared to Fermi. This is an important step for Nvidia as Intel’s Quick Sync has proven to be quite efficient at video encoding and the latest AMD HD 7000 Radeon cards also feature a new Video Codec Engine.
Nvidia lets the software manufacturers implement support for their new NVENC engine if they wish to. They can even choose to encode using both NVENC and CUDA in parallel. This is very similar to what AMD has done with the Video Codec Engine in Hybrid mode. By combining the dedicated engine with GPU, the NVENC should be much faster than CUDA and possibly even Quick Sync.
- Can encode full HD resolution (1080p) video up to 8x faster than real-time
- Support for H.264 Base, Main, and High Profile Level 4.1 (Blu-ray standard)
- Supports MVC (multiview Video Coding) for stereoscopic video
- Up to 4096×4096 encoding
According to NVIDIA, besides transcoding, NVENC will also be used in video editing, wireless display, and videoconferencing applications. NVIDIA has been working with the software manufacturers to provide the software support for NVENC. At launch, Cyberlink MediaExpresso will support NVENC, and Cyberlink PowerDirector and Arcsoft MediaConverter will also add support for NVENC later.
Click on the Images to View a Larger Version
Improved Software Experience
Nvidia supplied us with some really cool software and also showed us some cool stuff that we can now show off to all of you!
Here you can see the GeForce Experience program, which is actually a very cool free software for GeForce users. Once you install the program it will scan your system hardware and all installed games, and then optimize your game settings for the best experience.
This may not seem like much, but think of it this way: When you go in and just crank up the settings, are you really running the game the best that your system can? Most likely not. The GeForce Experience program is a better alternative to guessing which settings will provide a balance of performance and eye-candy. This automatically sets up your system to run well, so you don’t have to.
Do note that the GeForce Experience software has been out for BETA for some time, but as of now is moving into full user ready state.
GeForce Experience – Shadowplay
Many of us have used various different forms of recording software such as FRAPS to show our gameplay to the world. But anyone who has done this knows the limitations, as the files quickly get huge and can take up a lot of disk space very quickly.
Nvidia will be adding a feature to the GeForce Experience called ShadowPlay which is a game recording software but with a very special capability. It uses the NVENC native H.264 encoder on the Kepler based GPUs to encode the gameplay footage in real time so that the files are smaller right from the start and quality remains excellent.
The Shadowplay software has been delayed somewhat to allow fine tuning and optimizations but from what we have heard we should be seeing it very soon.
A Closer Look at the GTX 760 DirectCU II OC
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The ASUS box comes like the last few generation of TOP and OC cards with the red claw mark graphic, and a few key spec words . Inside we see the accessory box along with the card beneath it.
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The accessories with the card are simple you get a dual PCIe 6 pin into a PCIe 8 pin adapter since the card employs a single 8 pin only. Also a driver disc and quick guide but a card simply plugs in and goes so we don’t think we have ever looked at the quick guide honestly.
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The card overall has the large Black/Red shroud like many other DirectCU II cards we have seen in the past with dual fans ready to blast heat away. You can see some of the huge heatpipes peeking out from the cooler shroud those are used to carry heat away from the GPU and keep the card really cool just remember that a lot of that heat goes into the case so have some airflow to get it knocked out.
The display connectivity is about standard for what we have seen on the Kepler based lineup:
- 2x DVI
- 1x HDMI
- 1x Displayport
This all-digital connector arrangement allows for maxing out the GPU with up to 4 displays and even a surround plus accessory display array should the need arise.
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The GTX 760 DCII card employs a single PCIe 8 pin connection which we really like as it allows less cable clutter from a single easy connection. Also do note that the connector is rotated to allow easier releasing of the clip should the PCIe power cable need to be removed you don’t have to try and squeeze your fingers between the card and the cooler.
Here also you see the Direct Power device which allows direct power transfer on the PCB versus having to travel from point A to point B with less resistance, lets just think of it as a freeway for GPU power.
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Pulling the cooler you can see that the heatpipe surface as always is super flay and massive, more than can actually touch the GPU honestly, and with that we do kind of wonder if a small copper block layer might help transfer heat more evenly to the outer pipes as well for even better cooling.
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Here you can see the fin array and even the grooving of the fins and the unique design to enhance overall cooling performance for the GPU.
Laying all of the parts side by side you can see the cooling fans/shroud separated from the cooler fin array.
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Here you see the complete card along with a nice look at the VRM for the GTX 760 DCII. Here you get a good look at the passive cooler which technically is active since the cooling fans from the DCII cooling solution blows air directly through the fin array and past this cooler to keep the VRM nice and cool even under some of the worst conditions.
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Here is the VRM cooler removed you can see the two different thermal pad units designed to take up the space between the cooler and IC’s. This allows for adequate thermal transfer.
Next up you see the bare mosfet components which once again are all SAP components selected for their superior performance and reliability attributes.
The OS we use is Windows 8 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 pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows Vista 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 ran each test a total of 3 times, and reported the average score from all three scores. Benchmark screenshots are of the median result. Anomalous results were discounted and the benchmarks were rerun.
Please note that due to new driver releases with performance improvements, we rebenched every card shown in the results section. The results here will be different than previous reviews due to the performance increases in drivers.
|CPUs||Intel XEON E5-2687W|
|Motherboards||ASUS Rampage IV Extreme|
|Ram||Kingston HyperX Beast 64GB (8x8GB) 2133Mhz 11-12-11 Quad-Channel Kit|
|CPU Cooler||Custom Liquid Cooling|
|Hard Drives||8x Western Digital RE4 2TB 7200RPM 3Gb/s Hard Drives (Raid 5)|
|SSD||3x Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD|
ASUS GeForce GTX 760 DirectCU II OC 2GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB Video Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 4GB Video Card
320.14 (GTX 680, 690 and TITAN)
320.18 (GTX 780, 770)
320.49 (GTX 760)
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W Gold|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Theron Gaming Mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meks G1 Illuminated|
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
We will use the following applications to benchmark the performance of the ASUS GTX 770 DirectCU II OC video card.
|Far Cry 3|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0|
|Batman Arkham City|
|Dirt 3 Showdown|
|Metro Last Light|
|Sniper Elite V2|
Here you can see in 3DMark 11 the ASUS GTX 7760 nudges a nice little lead ahead of the reference 760 thanks to the factory tuning and overclocking.
In 3DMark Firestrike and Extreme, the ASUS 760 pulls similar results besting the reference by a small margin.
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.
Heaven shows a little over a 1FPS jump from the reference to the DCII model which is quite a nice result as Heaven is very trying on a system so it is nice to see that a out of the box clocked card can add some real noticeable performance gains.
Far Cry 3
Moving over to Far Cry 3, we used a pre determined path and re-ran each card to monitor average FPS across the complete run. Each run was completed multiple times to ensure continuity and accuracy. Here the ASUS 760 pulls a very small gain over the reference with about a half of a FPS separating the two. This is something you likely will not see in real world performance but it does mean that the card is able to punch out more performance comparatively.
Even after many years, Metro 2033 is still one of the most demanding DX11 video games available to really push the limits of your system. Here the ASUS 760 once again pulls about a half FPS gain which is no surprise as Metro is simply ridiculous loading for a graphics card similar to what Crysis was when it first showed up on the scene.
Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham City is a fun game and utilizes FXAA fully. It is nice to see the full screen anti-aliasing getting picked up by popular titles. When it comes to performance, the ASUS 760 nudges out a full FPS gain again from the reference model but still slots a bit behind the next level 770 models.
Crysis 3 is much like the original Crysis in that playing it at max settings is painful for even the highest end hardware. The ASUS 760 takes a pounding here although not beaten quite as badly as the reference card this game maxed out simply needs more graphics power before you will be pushing it on highest settings.
Metro Last Light
Here we have Metro Last Light which is a brand new game added to our testing platform as it just came out. If you thought Metro 2033 was stressful, you have seen nothing yet. The particles and lighting, as well as the PhysX effects all add up to an amazing looking game that can put a stun even the most powerful system in its tracks. Here the ASUS 760 sees how much worse it can get as it struggles to pull a full 2.4+ FPS away from the reference 760 which is very surprising at such low framerates but either way this card is starting to show some real performance.
Sniper Elite V2
Sniper Elite V2 is a fun game which, when first released, was quite stressful but still playable on most higher end cards. By now, most cards have surpassed it, and all of the cards we are testing here today break the 100 FPS mark. The ASUS 760 easily pulls 80+ FPS which means that even on maximum settings everyone can join in the fun with this one.
Dirt 3 Showdown
Dirt 3 Showdown is a visually beautiful game with excellent lighting and overall motion blurring creating a real visual spectacle of a game. The ASUS 760 pulls consistently above 50 FPS and almost two full FPS ahead of the reference model.
The new Kepler Architecture with GPU boost has been a bit of a bear when it comes to pushing the clocks. This is due to the throttling mechanisms put in place and the fact that it dynamically clocks. Unlike 500 series where we could set a static clock and it just applied the card, Kepler clocks according to many variables, which means that much more care must be shown when applying overclock settings and even monitoring it during the run.
Things such as the thermal target can play a big role in stonewalling your performance during an overclock session, as everything has to be adjusted accordingly to ensure expected performance levels are met.
The ASUS GTX 760 DirectCU II OC turned out to be a great clocker with the core coming out to be a very stable 1200MHz setting with a max boost frequency observed of 1267 MHz. It is worth noting that we did not adjust voltages to the card and only adjusted the thermal target to 85C which is up by 5C from the reference 80C.
Memory ran quite well moving from the 6GHz mark up and beyond 7GHz to a final stable speed of 7200MHz which is quite impressive and helps show even better performance in my 3DMark 11 Xtreme runs.
To measure the temperature of the video card, we used ASUS GPU Tweak (Validated with EVGA Precision X) and ran Heaven Benchmark in a loop to find the Load temperatures for the video cards. The highest temperature was recorded. After looping for 10 minutes, Heaven was turned off and we let the computer sit at the desktop for another 10 minutes before we measured the idle temperatures.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
|Nvidia GTX 690||32C/81C|
|Nvidia GTX TITAN||31C/67C|
|Nvidia GTX 680||
|Nvidia GTX 780||30C/65C|
|Nvidia GTX 770||34C/79C|
|ASUS GTX 760 DCII OC||32C/66C|
The DirectCU II cooling solution which has time and time again proven itself to be a major player and here again it does the job as even under max overclock the card did not reach over 70C which is a very good result as now we know the thermal target is not limiting our clock it is likely that some voltage tweaking may be necessary or even some sub ambient cooling to really unlock the GPU.
To get our power consumption numbers, we plugged in our Kill A Watt power measurement device and took the Idle reading at the desktop during our temperature readings. We left it at the desktop for about 15 minutes and took the idle reading. Then we ran Heaven Benchmark for a few minutes minutes and recorded the highest power usage.
Here we observed that the ASUS card pulled less than the reference model by 2 watts and under load we saw the ASUS DCII model pulling 5 total peak watts more than the Nvidia reference model card. This is likely due to the voltage tuning and performance tweaks/overclock that comes from the ASUS team.
Our Final Thoughts
With the 760 now rounding out the 700 Series GeForce lineup for the foreseeable future we do have to say that Nvidia did a very good job of filling in gaps with cards built for just the right performance in that segment, and the 760 is a shining example of this. ASUS takes Nvidia’s designs and GPUs, and always finds ways to pump them up or improve even on their own custom designs as evidenced by the direct power bus bar. We cannot say with any measurable certainty as to how much effect it has but in the end, it is a neat solution and even makes for a quite nice looking card.
The fan solution is overkill for a cool running GPU like the 760, but we’re not complaining. Overall, for the price premium you pay the special innovations are a huge plus. Features such as the need for only a single 8 pin will definitely help with cable clutter, and make this one efficient card that can also clock very well.
With the performance, overclockability, thermals and overall innovation the ASUS GTX 760 DirectCU II OC deserves nothing less than top honors as an awesome entry into the mainstream performance category.