ASUS GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP Review

RHKCommander959 - 2012-10-06 22:11:34 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: October 9, 2012

Introduction:

Today NVIDIA is launching the new GTX 650 Ti line of graphics cards! This card is intended to fill the gap left between the GTX 650 and GTX 660 released back in September. The competition it is designed to beat is the AMD HD 7770. The core has ~2.54 billion transistors on a 28nm fabrication process. It contains 768 CUDA processor cores and four SMX units, 64 texture units, and 16 ROP units. This design does not use GPU Boost like higher models. Reference clock speeds are 925MHz core and 5400MHz memory. The card is able to support up to four outputs and the reference design is only 5.65” in length. Power consumption is low as indicated by the single 6-pin PCIe power connector; it is rated at 110W TDP. Memory consists of 1GB of GDDR5, with a 128-bit memory bus.

ASUS comes out strong with a DirectCU II TOP variant; this card is the best from ASUS for this model. It is equipped with the DirectCU II high performance heat sink and comes factory overclocked to 1033MHz! Features such as the DIGI+ VRM power the card and reduce power transfer loss while, increasing efficiency. Super Alloy Power technology is used on the card meaning that more efficient chokes, capacitors, MOSFETs, and other components are used to increase lifespan and performance while reducing temperatures. ASUS bundles its Voltage Tweak overclocking software for even more speed — core voltage and frequency, memory frequency, and fan speed profiles can be adjusted! All of these features combine to hopefully allow this card to overclock well.

 

Closer Look:

The front of the box has three intense glowing red claw marks going through what looks to be a textured surface. The box itself is completely smooth. At the top left are the ASUS brand and part of the card model: DirectCU II TOP edition. This card is the top dog of the ASUS GTX 650 Ti line and operates at an overclocked speed of 1033MHz core! To the left is a picture describing what the DirectCU II heat sink looks like. The whole bottom half lists some of the key features — TOP Overclocked Edition, 1GB of GDDR5 memory, DIGI+ VRM and Super Alloy Power components, and GPU Voltage Tweak real-time graphics tuning software. The back of the box is dedicated to specifications and features of the card. The left side clearly shows which outputs are supported through imaging and labeling. One HDMI and two DVI ports, along with a VGA port, are the provided outputs. The DirectCU II heat sink has three flattened copper heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU core for improved cooling performance. The right side explains the DIGI+ VRM & Super Alloy Power combination as reducing power noise by 30%, enhance power efficiency 15%, and increase stability and longevity by 2.5x. The bottom has 12 different translations of the basic specifications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the box match except one has a picture of the DirectCU II heat sink while the other has part of the NVIDIA logo. Both sides clearly state that this is an ASUS GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP. The bottom has two features listed — TOP Overclocked Edition and DIGI+ VRM Super Alloy Power Stable Overclocking. The top of the box is similar to the sides and front, reiterating the model name and key features. The bottom has the recommended system requirements listed in 12 languages. A bar code sticker is at the bottom right and has the Serial and Part numbers, UPC, and EAN.

 

 

 

Inside the main box is a smaller box that has some texture. The ASUS logo is on each box in gold. The smaller box contains the driver disk and manual. To the right is a block of foam that is there to keep the accessories box from shifting around. Lifting these up reveals the graphics card safely protected by the antistatic bag and thick foam around and under it.

 

 

 

On to the next page to see the graphics card up close!

Closer Look:

With the DirectCU II heat sink installed, this card is hard to distinguish from other models from ASUS with the same setup. This is the GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP edition, with a GK106 Kepler core built at 28nm with 2.54 billion transistors comprising 768 CUDA cores, 1GB of GDDR5 memory with a 128-bit memory bus, and 4+1 SAP power phases. The DVI and PCIe x16 slot are protected by blue caps, the 6-pin PCIe power, VGA, and HDMI port are left open. Two smaller grills surround the top DVI port to let some of the air out of the case; positive pressure designs are beneficial here. The rear of the card is primarily the heat sink overhanging, with the 6-pin PCIe power connection exiting the side and upside-down even for easier unplugging. Two diagnostic LEDs sit above the connector near the notch in the PCB, which is for the PCIe port latch. A nice ASUS logo sits underneath. Nearby is part of the stiffening bracket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The red stripes and chrome letterings are all textured nicely. The smokey translucent fan impellers sit off center to the card. It looks like the heat sink could have been shortened with some reworking. Nonetheless this is a great looking card. At the bottom right of the PCIe x16 slot is a golden ASUS logo similar to what was seen on the boxes. The back shows how much overhang the DirectCU II has — more than half of the second fan is hanging over. Small case owners should check to make sure that the card will fit as this is about the size of a normal high performance card. Four empty pads sit on the back where a second gigabyte of memory ICs could have been installed. All phases are installed (4+1). The heat sink is held on by four screws with springs to even out the pressure.

 

 

Underneath of the cooler there is a decent amount of space. Four screws — two on each side — hold the black and red-striped shroud to the heat sink. Both PWM fans are joined and connect into one port. SLI is not supported with this model so there is no slot here, but the stiffening bracket is still notched for one. The bracket and the shroud both have the ASUS logo for double the amount of shiny branding.

 

 

Removing the heat sink shows how simple this design is compared to prior generations. SAP components such as the chokes, which are engraved, should provide cooler operation, less noise both power-wise and audibly (no buzzing!), and increased power efficiency. The GK106 Kepler GPU die sits off-center surrounded by memory ICs and phases. Four phases power the GPU while one takes care of the memory. The die is built at TSMC on the 28nm fabrication process, which has been behind on supply. 768 CUDA cores and four SMX units, 64 texture units, and 16 ROP units make up the power plant, with the TOP model clocked at 1033MHz and does not feature Boost. Four Hynix memory ICs provide 1GB of GDDR5 to the card and are connected through dual 64-bit memory controllers — a 128-bit memory interface. The memory is lead- and halogen-free and RoHS compliant. The memory is rated for operation at 1.50GHz with 1.6V so that leaves a decent amount of potential headroom for overclocking as they are under-clocked to 1350MHz.

 

 

 

The DirectCU heat sink uses three flattened heat pipes to wick heat away from the GPU core directly. This design has been on the CPU market for quite a while now and has proven to perform well. The second fan and fin assembly sit behind beyond where most of the PCB lies when installed; this has the potential to cool motherboard components. It also means less air resistance for this fan, equating to less noise and more efficiency. The dual fan design is able to run at lower RPMs and thus lower noise levels to achieve good cooling versus loud blower motors or high-RPM fans. Proper thermal paste reapplication is placing thermal paste into the grooves between the heat pipes to ensure the most contact and coverage possible. It is also very important to get paste on the whole GPU core to avoid hot spots! The memory is not cooled except for air passing over the ICs.

 

Behind the 6-pin PCIe connection are two LEDs, one green and one red. When proper power is applied the green LED comes on. When something is wrong however, the red light comes on to alert users. This is a nice feature that likely cost little to implement; it can help identify damaged or loose connectors. It also saves time for consumers who might think it is the card being bricked rather than a power-side issue.

 

 

Super Alloy Components are reinforced with a specially developed alloy formula and produced under high pressure and temperatures. These components are designed to deliver noise-free operation, reduce temperatures up to 35 °C, increase lifespan to 150,000 hours, and boost performance up to 15% with the Super Hybrid Engine.

 

The next page lists the specifications and features of the GTX 650 Ti.

Specifications:

 

Graphics Engine:
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Kepler GK106
Interface:
PCI Express x16 3.0
Memory Type:
GDDR5
Memory Size(MB):
1024MB
Memory Interface:
128 bits
Core Clock Speed(MHz):
1033
CUDA Cores
768
Memory Clock Speed(MHz):
5400
Memory Bandwidth(GB/sec):
N/A
Texture Fill Rate(billion/sec):
N/A
DVI Output:
2
D-SUB VGA Output:
1
HDMI-Output:
1
HDCP Support:
Y
HDMI Support:
Y
Dual-link DVI:
Y
Display Output (Max Resolution):
2560x1600
RAMDACs:
400
DirectX Version Support:
11
OpenGL Version Support:
4.2

 

Features:

 

 

All information provided Courtesy of ASUS

Testing:

Testing of the ASUS GTX 650 Ti DirectCU II TOP 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 a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide 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 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. All NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 306.23 drivers; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.8 drivers.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

The ASUS card overclocked really well. Being that the card is fresh out means that some programs would not read the overclocked settings properly. Loading a 3D application in the background with the ASUS GPU Tweak software running shows the true speed. Much further than 1255MHz core and 1463MHz (~5850 effectively) memory would cause artifacts or freezing until the card recovered to stock clocks. Core voltage is able to be increased about an eighth of a volt to 1175mV. With the fans at 100% they were definitely audible but not deafening by any means. When left on auto they blend in well with the case fans.

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier’s Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With settings turned up Metro 2033 is quite choppy for the mid-range cards. Overclocking the TOP got it closer to stock GTX 560 Ti levels. The reference design was behind slightly due to lower clocks.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman is decently playable with these settings, especially when overclocked. The 650 Ti seems closer to the 650 rather than the 660 in performance so far with a gap between that the 560 Ti tries to fill.

Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battlefield 3 is somewhat playable except for scenes with a lot of particles or explosions. Overclocking helped tremendously.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overclocking has the 650 Ti getting closer to the 560 Ti. This benchmark is choppy on and off. Performance differs greatly between the GTX 650 Ti and 660.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civilization V plays well with the ASUS card even with these high settings. The 650 Ti gets about half as many FPS as the 660 Ti.

Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT 3 is another game that runs great on this card. Overclocking gained roughly 10 FPS!

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 avoiding his jail sentence, to finding 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mafia II ran pretty smooth on the overclocked settings. NVIDIA was correct when it said that the 650 Ti was about 40% faster than the 650.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 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 year proceeding its release (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 is 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 is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while 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 simulation 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. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location 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 – 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark 11 is the only benchmark where the GTX 560 Ti performs at the same level as the 650 Ti's. Overclocking gave roughly a 15% increase in scores for this benchmark.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with ASUS's GPU Tweak overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920 x 1080 using 8x AA and a five-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 involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ASUS DirectCU II heat sink and supporting components brings the best temperatures in all four tests here! This graphics card ran quietly on automatic and wasn't very loud at full speed. 40 °C load temperatures are excellent!

Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a low TDP indirectly correlates that power consumption is low too. The effects of the SAP components such as the Super Hybrid Engine are highly visible when compared to the reference NVIDIA card. The power consumption numbers are the second best and aren't far behind first when taking performance into account.

Conclusion:

The ASUS GTX 650 Ti performed spectacularly in its range, offering top of the line temperatures and power consumption. The SAP components did not emit any buzzing, which can be heard on many reference cards with cheap components. Fan noise blended in with the case unless forced to run faster than automated control, even then they weren't that loud. Overclocking results were impressive as well: 1255MHz core and 1463MHz memory from 1033MHz and 1350MHz respectively! The two diagnostic LEDs near the 6-pin PCIe power connection should help users and technical support in trouble shooting any issues relating to power. The ASUS GPU Tweak software seems really useful and worked well at overclocking and monitoring the graphics card. With the four outputs available almost everyone should be able to plug the card in and run it. Only three outputs can be used for NVIDIA Surround Technology though. The attentions to detail make this a high quality product that worked perfectly throughout testing!

There really are not any noticeable cons to this product. It performed spectacularly for its model. The only criticism that can be given is really just nit-picking. The heat sink is long, and a inch or two could have been shaved off the length with a redesign. Retooling would cost more for ASUS so I don't blame it for leaving the heat sink as it is. Most cases can fit this card anyway so as said before, this point is just nit-picking and shouldn't be held against it.

Reference prices start around $149 so pricing will decide how hot this card will sell. GTX 660s are currently about $230, so as long as ASUS is fair it should do well! Not many cards run under 50 °C with fans running quietly on automatic at full load.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: