ASUS ENGTX580 DirectCU II Review

ccokeman - 2011-06-14 17:08:03 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 18, 2011
Price: $469

Introduction:

The GTX 580 has proven to be at the top of the food chain in the single GPU arena. AMD has taken shots with the HD6970, falling short on performance, but mitigating that with better pricing. With that said, ASUS has brought together a video card in the ENGTX580 DirectCU II that pushes the performance a little further, with clock speeds that get a small boost for a very modest pricing upside over a reference card, currently selling for $469. What you get from ASUS is a card packed full of all its performance improvements that include the massive dual-fan DirectCU II heat sink package that improves cooling airflow by 600%, ASUS Super Hybrid Engine and SAP 8 phase power circuitry for improved performance and cooler operation, and ASUS' own exclusive protective designs that feature GPU guard, Fuse protection, and a dust proof fan. All these are upsides over the reference design that add some serious value to the package. If you pay any attention to HWbot or any benchmarking news, you know that the ASUS GTX580 DirectCU II is the card of choice when running an NVIDIA GPU. This speaks volumes about the PCB layout and design of the card as a whole. They are absolute beasts when put under LN2 with the right voltage modifications. The key is how this all relates to the average enthusiast concerned with having a good solid card to make it through the next round of game releases. Let's see how this card handles as delivered and see if it does indeed have the abilities set forth with the build quality and cooling solution.

Closer Look:

Packaging-wise, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II mirrors much of the ASUS lineup with the Warrior on horseback loaded for war. The green background signifies this card is part of ASUS' NVIDIA-based GPU lineup. The DirectCU II features are noted prominently on the front of the box with the boast of a 20% improvement in cooling performance. Additional mentions include SAP technology, DirectX 11 support, and that the ENGTX580 DirectCU II is factory-overclocked to 782MHz on the GF110 Fermi core. The back side of the box lists the features and system requirements, in addition to expanding on the explanation of ASUS Super Alloy Power technology, the direct contact DirectCU II cooling design, and ASUS' own voltage tweak software utility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the outer sleeve, ASUS delivers much more than the plain cardboard box to hold the contents. ASUS delivers an elegant black box with the ASUS name embossed in gold on the lid. Inside, the theme continues with the coloring. The ENGTX580 DirectCU II is surrounded by a foam sleeve that houses not only the video card, but the included accessories. The documentation and driver disk are housed in the small disk-sized package inset into the foam sleeve.

 

 

The list of bundled accessories is slim, but is all that is really needed to get the ENGTX580 DirectCU II installed and operating into a system. Included is a disk that holds the drivers and ASUS' proprietary software suite with Smart Doctor and Gamer OSD. The hardware side of the bundle includes an extended SLI bridge connector, DVI to VGA adapter, and a dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power adapter. The SLI bridge is significantly longer than a standard bridge connection and is needed due to the three-slot DirectCU II cooling solution.

 

 

The packaging and bundle are standard for ASUS, but let's take a look at the ENGTX580 DirectCU II to see where the standard stops and unique begins.

Closer Look:

All it takes is a quick look to see that the ENGTX580 DirectCU II is quite a bit different from the reference design. The large dual-fan DirectCU II cooling assembly is the first clue. The second clue appears when the card is flipped over. Usually there is not much to talk about here, but the DirectCU II version has a large back plate that is used to help stiffen the PCB and is part of ASUS' own GPU Guard build process — part of the ASUS Xtreme Design philosophy. ASUS uses this process to increase the lifespan of the card by eliminating PCB flex with massive improvements in rigidity (238%). Additionally, a NEC "Super Cap" is located on the back side of the GPU core. This Proadlizer allows for a cleaner power supply to the GPU core to drive stability at higher overclocking levels. Now back to the front of the card. The large shroud that houses the two 100mm fans will physically occupy only one slot on your motherboard, but will cover three slots just due to the sheer size of the cooling solution. Comparing the ENGTX DirectCU II to a reference dual-slot card shows the dimensions of the card more clearly. Measuring 11.5 inches in length, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II should not provide any drama when installing it into most large mid tower and bigger chassis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity options on the ENGTX580 DirectCU II include a pair of DVI ports (one Dual Link the other Single Link), Native HDMI, and a DisplayPort for added functionality. Running a surround or 3D Surround setup will still require the use of a second GTX 580 in an SLI configuration. The three-slot cooling solution vents a large percentage of the thermal load out of the chassis. The back end of the ENGTX580 DirectCU II shows the power and monitoring connections for the dual 100mm fans, the dual 8-pin power connections, and a pair of fuses under the power connections.

 

 

The ENGTC580 DirectCU II supports the ability to run an SLI configuration with up to four cards on a supported motherboard. The key to this is running them under liquid cooling or liquid nitrogen, as the large DirectCU II cooling will prevent anything more than a pair of these cards running together in the vast majority of systems. By running two or more of these cards from ASUS in SLI, you open up other options in the NVIDIA ecosystem, including running a surround setup with three monitors. Couple the surround setup with NVIDIA's 3D Vision kit and you move up to 3D Surround for a fully immersive gaming experience, allowing the end user to use the full spectrum of enhancements from the use of an NVIDIA GPU. Power above the 75 watts supplied by the PCIe slot is supplied from a pair of 8-pin PCIe connections, adding up to 300 watts of additional capacity.

 

 

Surprisingly, the large direct contact heat sink assembly is held to the PCB by four spring-loaded screws. Once pulled off, the black PCB can be seen. The rear plate/heat sink cannot be removed until the main assembly is removed, so the screws can be accessed. The back plate has a thermal pad that is used to pull additional heat from SAP 8 phase power circuit for dissipation via the aluminum backplate.

 

 

One of the reasons this card is a favorite of extreme enthusiasts is the robust power system and the components used to build the card. The ENGTX580 DirectCU II uses ASUS Super Alloy Power technology to drive the current to the GPU and memory with an eight phase power design, an improvement over the six phase design on the reference design. The components consist of SAP chokes that are made with a concrete core and special alloys so that they do not buzz under load and run up to 35 ºC cooler than traditional designs. Super Alloy capacitors are used to increase the lifespan of the card. Super Alloy MOS are smaller and more efficient and allow a 30% upswing in voltage for increased overclocking. The Super Hybrid Engine optimizes the power profiles in real time to increase performance while the Super Cap on the back side of the GPU is used to feed the core a steady diet of low noise power for increased overclocking ability. The last item is the series of fuses used as a means to fully protect the core from over current situations even when OCP is used on board — a good thing considering the DirectCU II does not have the hardware and software current limitations imposed on the reference design.

 

 

 

Held on by four screws, the heat sink assembly is easily removed for inspection. The cooling solution is what gives the card the DirectCU II name. The heat sink is a direct contact heat pipe design that is more efficient when implemented properly than a series of heat pipes that mount to a base plate. Stripped to the core, the cooling solution consists of three parts: the shroud, the heatsink, and the fan assembly that holds a pair of 100mm fans.

 

 

The heat sink uses five large heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the GPU core to the two fin arrays. Two go to the front and three to the rear. The airflow through the fin arrays is used to cool the memory and heat sink on the SAP mosfets. The base is much like many of the heat pipe direct contact designs out on the market. It is smooth for this style design without large gaps in the surface that need to be filled with "TIM". Based on the load temperatures seen in the testing, this heat sink does the job of cooling this high performance GPU down much better than the reference design. The SAP MOS get cooling in the form of a single aluminum heat sink along with the backplate, so the entire power circuit is cooled effectively.

 

 

 

An integral part of the success of the DirectCU II cooling package is the pair of 100mm fans used to push 600% more airflow through the heat sinks than the reference solution is capable of. All the while, running quieter to deliver excellent cooling. Looking at the specifications of the fan, it runs with a maximum speed of 3450 RPM, pushes 67.9 CFM, and has a static pressure rating of 5.5 mmH20 at just over 40 dBA.

 

 

Much like the reference GTX 580, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II uses a GF110 core with four graphics processing clusters, 16 streaming multiprocessors (instead of 15), 512 CUDA cores (instead of 480), 16 Polymorph engines, 64 texture units, and 48 ROP units. Instead of the reference clock speeds, the core sees a bump to 782MHz on the fixed function units and 1564MHz on the CUDA cores. The ASUS ENGTX580 uses the reference specification 1536MB of GDDR5 memory running through a 384-bit interface with 768K of shared L2 cache. Manufactured by Hynix, the 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory is rated to run at 1250MHz using 1.5v.

 

 

Now that there is a better understanding of the build quality of the ENGTX580 DirectCU II, it's time to find out just what kind of performance it delivers on air.

Specifications:

Graphics Engine
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580
Bus Standard
PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory
GDDR5 1536MB
Engine Clock
782 MHz
Memory Clock
4008 MHz ( 1002 MHz GDDR5 )
RAMDAC
400 MHz
Memory Interface
384-bit
Resolution
D-Sub Max Resolution : 2048x1536
DVI Max Resolution : 2560x1600
Interface
D-Sub Output : Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1)
Accessories
1 x Power cable
1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor
1 x Extended SLI cable
ASUS Features
DirectCU Series
Super Alloy Power
Dimensions
11.5" x 5" Inch
Note
To have the best cooling performance ASUS ENGTX580 DCII/2DIS/1536MD5 extends the Fansink to 2.5 slot , please check your motherboard slot space before SLI
 
Dual 8-pin Power Connector is required for the best performance

 

Features:

All information courtesy of ASUS at http://usa.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/NVIDIA_Series/ENGTX580_DCII2DIS1536MD5/#overview

Testing of the ASUS ENGTX580 DirectCU II will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they fall on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the cards at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see the effects of any increases in clock speed. The cards are placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where the cards fall by comparison. The drivers used are the 11.5 Catalyst drivers for the AMD-based cards and the 275.27 for NVIDIA-based cards

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Just the overclocking street cred alone puts this card into the upper crust of GTX 580 video cards for good reason. The overclocking results achieved with the GTX 580 DCII are the highest I have reached out of the five-odd GTX 580 cards I have tested. No small feat when you look at it. ASUS has this card equipped to run the numbers with its exclusive SAP power circuit. Run the numbers it did on the GF110 core. I was able to reach a stable core clock of 979MHz, or almost 200MHz over the as-delivered 782MHz. In benchmarks that loaded the card less heavily, 1000MHz was not out of the question by really squeezing the voltage to the core. Even so, it took 1.15v to reach the maximum stable clock speeds delivered in my testing. Not all cards will reach this high, but ASUS has the cards binned pretty well it seems. The memory was a bit less forgiving, but really the only cooling on the memory comes from the heated air discharged by the pair of 100mm fans. The results come in as increases of 25% on the core and 15% on the 1.5GB of GDDR5 memory. Both respectable numbers, but the memory leaves some performance on the table. Then again, when many of these cards are pushed under LN2, this really is a moot point. ASUS has a pair of utilities that can be used for overclocking the ENGTX580 DCII. First is the old standby in ASUS SmartDoctor. This utility is a little bit less flashy than GPU Tweak, but is just as capable of getting an overclock from the card. I used SmartDoctor to manage the overclocking of this card in my testing as that is what comes with the card on the driver/utility disk, although you can get GPU Tweak directly from ASUS.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Crysis Warhead and Unigine 2.5 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds will fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass the full hour of testing.

 

  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Civilization V
  4. HAWX 2
  5. Just Cause 2
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5
  7. Mafia II
  8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  9. Lost Planet 2
  10. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

When you compare the ENGTX580 DirectCU II to the reference ASUS ENGTX580, you get exactly what you should in terms of performance, as both cards are clocked identically from the factory. That being said, the results of the testing show the GTX 580 to be the card to use in a single-GPU environment in AvP.

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied — in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses — chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

In the Metro 2033 testing, the DirectCU II GTX 580 performs identically to the reference OC version from ASUS. With similar overclocks, the overclocked results are similar as well. In all six tests, the GTX 580 is the card that delivers the highest average frames per second.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns,150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

With similar clock speeds, the two GTX 580 video cards deliver similar performance in this game. The FPS delivered by the ENGTX580 allows for smooth, stutter-free gameplay.

Testing:

H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight game and is the sequel to H.A.W.X.. The Game is published by Ubisoft and was released in late 2010.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

When the performance of the ENGTX580 DirectCU II is compared to AMD's flagship single-GPU card, the HD 6970, the latter falls short of the performance generated by the GTX 580 from ASUS.

Testing:

Published by Capcom, Lost Planet 2 is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition and uses the MT Framework 2.0 engine. The storyline takes place on the fictional planet E.D.N. III some 10 years after the events of the first game. This time, the snow cover is gone and has been replaced by a tropical landscape. With this new rendition of the game comes the ability to run it using either DirectX 9 or 11. Along with this ability comes the chance to use that new DX 11 hardware to effect. DX11 features in this game include tessellation, displacement mapping on water, bosses and player characters, soft body compute shaders on “Boss” characters, and wave simulation by way of DirectCompute. This gives you smoke that is lifelike and reacts to inputs, water that looks and reacts how you would expect it to in a "real life" situation, and "Boss" characters rendered with more depth and detail. If the latest graphics quality settings are not enough, NVIDIA has included support behind this game for both 3D Vision and 3D Vision Surround, which gives you 3D effects over multiple screens. There is no better way to see how a game will perform than to test it out. Capcom has made this easy with a downloadable benchmark that we will be using to test out a cross section of today's currently available performance video cards.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Again we see the DirectCU II delivering top line performance in this game benchmark.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark out to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes — Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Once again, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II delivers a performance close to that of the reference card.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to — crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

In this game, the ENGTX580 delivers a higher average FPS than the HD 6970.

Testing:

Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy — to avoid serving his jail sentence — to find his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech published by 2K and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Again, the GTX 580s are the top performing cards. The ENGTX580 DirectCU II delivers a comparable performance to the reference card at stock speeds but pulls ahead by a small margin with similar overclocks.

Testing:

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3 and XBox. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single player campaign or multiplayer with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has so far sold in excess of six million copies.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

In all three resolutions tested, the ENGTX580 DirectCU II performs as expected when compared to the reference card. Beyond that, the ENGTX580 outperforms the HD 6970 across all six tests.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11 so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark and the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and have a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story, they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides with the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The higher overclock on the ENGTX580 DirectCU II paid dividends with a high score in 3DMark 11.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Crysis Warhead with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 10-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will be a 20-minute cooldown with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running the overclocked idle and load testing.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Lower = Better

 

One of the main reasons for the existence of the ENGTX580 DirectCU II video card is to address the cooling and noise created by the reference design cards. The dual 100mm fans blow enough air through the heat sink assembly to let the card finish the temperature testing as the coolest running card in its class. At stock speeds, it is better than the reference design by 8 degrees Celsius and is 18 degrees Celsius better under load when overclocked and overvolted.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15-minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. For load testing the GTX 500 series, I will once again use Crysis Warhead run at 2560x1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

Lower = Better

 

At stock speeds, the power consumption at idle is not the best in the world, but when overclocked and overvolted, the ENGTX580 is more efficient at pulling the numbers.

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:

 

Cons: