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ASUS ENGTX580 DirectCU II Review

ccokeman    -   August 18, 2011
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Conclusion:

ASUS continues to impress with the ENGTX580 DirectCU II. It's not so much the stock performance, but the potential that exists with all the enhancements ASUS has made to the PCB design and build philosophies. These things make this card the weapon of choice for extreme overclockers. You get an improved power circuit with eight phases for the GPU and one of the memory phases is pulled from the incoming power supply instead of through the PCIe slot, along with SAP technology that brings improvements to the chokes, capacitors, and mosfets. There's also the removal of the hardware and software limits that NVIDIA uses to control the current to the GPU, fuses to make sure any over current situation is stopped before the GPU core, the Super Hybrid Engine for improved power management, and a Super Cap (Proadlizer) to drive a smooth consistent supply of current to GF110 core.

With all this overclocking heardroom, a great cooling solution is required, and ASUS provided just that. This card is part of the DirectCU II lineup and uses a Heatpipe Direct Contact heat sink to pull the thermal load from the GPU core. The five heat pipe design delivered temperatures that were phenomenal for a Fermi-based GPU and the lowest in its class. No doubt that the dual, dust-proof fans contribute as well, with a 600% increase in airflow and 20%+ reduction in noise over the reference GTX 580. So what is the cooling solution worth in real life? An 18 ºC difference under load at stock clock speeds and a 24 ºC difference when overclocked and overvolted.

The other up side to reduced temperatures is overclocking potential. My reference design card delivered a pretty substantial overclock for a reference-cooled GTX 580 at 950MHz on the core. My expectation was that the DirectCU II would show an increase with its improvements. This it did, with a clock speed of 979MHz on the core, just short of a 200MHz improvement in clock speed gained with some tweaking of the voltage and clock speeds. I found this clock speed to be fully stable through the entire benchmark suite and a good Call of Duty frag session. In reality, I could reach 1000MHz on the core, but it really was not stable enough to run through all of the test suite. Maybe under water? The memory clock speeds were a little less than I expected, but with the only cooling coming from airflow blown through the heat sink. This allowed me to reach about the same clock speed that I achieved on the reference card of 1152MHz. Overclocking did show performance improvements across the board, but were close to the levels delivered by the reference card even with the slightly higher core clock speeds.

As an NVIDIA-based card, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II allows the end user to take advantage of NVIDIA-specific game enhancements, including PhysX technology and excellent tessellation performance to bring added realism to the game. You also get the ability to use the rest of the ecosystem with 3D Vison and Surround. Couple the two together with a second GTX 580 and you get the full NVIDIA ecosytem. I have to tell you that playing with a 3D Surround system is an interesting addition to the gaming experience. With all the upside, you have to ask how the pricing is on this card and if it really is a value for your money. At roughly $470, the GTX580 DirectCU II goes for a few bucks more than the reference version at $439. This represents a small investment of anywhere from $5 to $30 more than the reference version for the benefits of this ASUS GPU. All things considered, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II offers great performance, low noise, a great price point (for a GTX 580), and a host of ASUS-specific improvements to the PCB that make the choice between this card and a reference design a no-brainer.

 

Pros:

  • DirectCU II cooling
  • Overclocking
  • ASUS technologies
  • GPU Tweak
  • Low noise
  • PhysX
  • 3D Surround
  • SLI
  • Pricing

 

Cons:

  • Not all air exhausted out of chassis


 

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