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ASUS GTX 670 DirectCu II TOP Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
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Since the GTX 670’s initial release, we’ve reviewed a number of different versions from various board partners. While the reference design may have been front and center on launch day, it seems like the vast majority of consumers are opting for products that boast custom designs, performance-oriented heatsink assemblies and higher clock speeds. Normally, each of these features is associated with an increased end-user cost but some enterprising companies have gone the extra mile but offering them without a premium. Others like EVGA rely on top-tier customer service alongside other features in order to demand a few bucks more. With all of these choices, performance which nearly matches a GTX 680 and a $399 starting price it’s no wonder why the GTX 670 is one of the most popular cards on the market.

ASUS has quickly waded into the Kepler product space with a full range of GTX 670 and GTX 680 cards. We’ve already looked at the award-worthy GTX 680 DirectCu II TOP and it’s now time to look at its little brother: the GTX 670 DirectCu II TOP.


Much like its sibling, the TOP version of the GTX 670 has been graced with some highly impressive clock speeds. The Base Clock (the minimum speed at which the core will operate under even the most strenuous conditions) has been upped by 143MHz over the reference design. This is followed up by a Boost Clock (the typical speed the core will reach in games and applications) of 1137MHz but even more impressive is the 1267MHz we observed in most games. This huge increase over the reference clocks is largely due to the DirectCu II heatsink’s ability to quickly and efficiently disperse hear, thus keeping the core within ASUS’ preset TDP limits.

Once again we see the stock memory speeds hanging around but unlike with the GTX 680 TOP, we aren’t worried about this causing a bottleneck.

When compared against competing solutions, the ASUS’ TOP edition is the highest clocked GTX 670 we have tested to date. It may lack EVGA’s memory speed increase but the core speeds should allow it to outperform the SC+ and Gigabyte’s OC version. However, for the privilege of owning one of the fastest cards on the market, you’ll be asked to pay a premium. At $429, the DirectCu II TOP is one of the most expensive GTX 670s around and because of this; it may still have issues competing against Gigabyte’s overclocked, custom cooled and reference-priced card. ASUS does have a slight edge in warranty protection as they don’t require you to register the card to get the full three years of coverage, nor does their coverage start on the manufacturing date like Gigabyte’s.


The GTX 670 DirectCu II TOP cuts an imposing figure with a large heatsink and black plastic shroud but it isn’t anything near as large as some previous DirectCu II versions. Underneath that heatsink is a binned core similar to what’s found on Gigabyte’s upcoming Super Overclock and MSI’s Lightning. This is what allowed ASUS to achieve such high clock speeds.


The heatsink used on this card looks like mini-me version of the one found on the GTX 680 DirectCu II TOP. It has been scaled down but should still cope exceedingly well with the GTX 670’s low thermal load. While it may be smaller than DirectCu II design we’ve become accustomed to on hotter-running cards, the use of dual 80mm fans and five large heatpipes which make direct contact with the core should lead to some excellent cooling potential. ASUS actually claims their design accounts for a 600% airflow increase and 9 decibel noise reduction over the reference card.

Naysayers of the previous design will also be happy to see that ASUS has kept the heatsink’s height to just two slots. Meanwhile, the excess length is held up by a cleverly made bracket jutting out of the card’s rear portion.


Peeking out from under the heatsink is a small fuse which ASUS has incorporated onto the PCB. This is used as a secondary Over Current Protection (or OCP) and protects the GPU core from potentially harmful power surges, adding a secondary level of hardware protection.

Ironically, we’ve actually put this to good use as one of our old PSUs self-destructed, nuking one graphics card but the card in the secondary slot (an ASUS Matrix at the time) stood up without any secondary damage at all. A new fuse and a few careful minutes of soldering resulted in a fully functional GPU.


The DirectCu II does away with the short PCB from the reference design and instead focuses upon integrating higher end components for improved stability and durability. Indeed, the short PCB may have been a conversation starter but it really doesn’t benefit most end users. As such, this particular card is about 10.5” long which shouldn't pose an issue for most modern ATX cases but it is still more than the reference design’s 9.5”.

Peaking out through the integrated backplate heatsink are ASUS’ SAP Caps. These are placed directly behind the core and allow for increased efficiency through additional capacitance and should benefit overclockers who are searching for a few additional MHz.


The connectors (both input and output) on this card stick to the reference design with a pair of 6-pins being used for power while the backplate sports DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI outputs. There are two small LEDs behind the power connectors which turn from red to green once your PSU’s plugs are properly attached to the card.


The GTX 680 DirectCu II looks massive compared to this card but we actually like seeing a smaller, more versatile design being used on the GTX 670 version. However, though the longer metal plate between the shroud and the I/O panel does looks slightly odd and tacked on.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Diving Deep into the DirectCu II’s Features

Diving Deep into the DirectCu II’s Features


Like many other manufacturers, ASUS utilizes a long list of features that should not only extend the life of certain cards but may also prove beneficial for overclockers. While we have already detailed the benefits derived from the DirectCu II heatsink and several other visible items, there are a number of additions to this card which can’t be seen. Most fall under the purview of ASUS’ SAP or Super Alloy Power design. When used in conjunction with the 8-phase (6 phases for the core and 2 phases for the GDDR5) Digi+ VRM , these higher end components allow for an impressive setup.


The chokes used in the SAP design are supposed to offer cool and quiet operation without any of the coil whine that’s normally associated with some graphics card designs. The coil itself is wrapped tightly around a core of concrete substrate that acts as a buffer, thus lowering vibrations and efficiently dispersing the heat evenly throughout the choke’s structure.


The Super Alloy Capacitors may sound like nothing more than a fancy marketing term that’s meant to draw in naïve first time buyers but there are some actual benefits to the components which ASUS has chosen. Not only do these capacitors boast a lifespan that’s 2.5X longer than standard units but they also factor heavily into the long term stability of an ASUS graphics card.


Typically, the MOSFETs on graphics cards, motherboards and many other high end PC components are relatively large and produce quite a bit of heat. This is why they’re usually covered by extensive heatsinks but the ones used by ASUS buck this trend. Their components are crammed into an amazingly small package that’s efficient and thus produces very little excess heat. These “Super Alloy MOS” units also allow for a 30% higher voltage threshold, thus increasing overclocking capabilities in some instances.


Alongside all of these components, the all-digital Digi+ VRM results in lower power noise and could in extreme instances, improve overclocking results. We doubt most end-users would ever encounter a situation where these components will be put to their fullest use but no matter how you use your card, they’re still good to have around.


We all know that dust is a constant problem within a computer case and it can shorten the life of certain components like fans and power supplies. ASUS has implemented what they call a “dust proof fan” which is basically a hub design that ensures dust does not enter the bearing area which will in turn extend the fan’s lifespan. With this feature it is claimed that the fan’s life will be extended by nearly 10,000 hours.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO Gen3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 304.48 Beta
AMD 12.7 Beta

Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Batman: Arkham City

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Battlefield 3

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Crysis 2

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Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

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Metro 2033

<object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Shogun 2: Total War

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Skyrim

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Wargame: European Escalation

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​

*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Batman: Arkham City (DX11)

Batman: Arkham City (DX11)


Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game when all of its detail levels are maxed out but it also takes a fearsome toll on your system. In this benchmark we use a simple walkthrough that displays several in game elements. The built-in benchmark was avoided like the plague simply because the results it generates do not accurately reflect in-game performance.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 3 (DX11)

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Crysis 2 (DX11)

Crysis 2 (DX11)


Crysis 2 with the DX11 and Texture Package installed not only looks great but it is a strain on any GPU. For this benchmark, we used a classic runthrough which includes far views, explosions, combat and close-in knifing; basically every hallmark of gameplay.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be the hardest game for today’s high end gaming rigs to render. While the game mostly takes place indoors, it is the few outdoor areas that put additional strain on graphics cards. So for this test, we use one of the more involved outdoor sections: the Sharif Manufacturing Loading Docks.

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2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Dirt 3 (DX11)

Dirt 3 (DX11)


Dirt 3 isn’t all that much different from its predecessor but the developers have added a few more visual touches but boost image quality. In this case, we used the Michigan Rally track since it features some of the hardest to render features of the game: expansive vistas, water, dirt effects, trees and many other items.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600

 

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