ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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ASUS HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Introduction:
With AMD's 28nm Northern Islands-based HD 7970 having been out for about a year now, it has gone through several revisions including GHz Edition cards that touted 1000MHz base clock speeds on the core and an additional boost clock when thermals and power usage were within spec. For many, a reference-based video card will offer up the FPS needed for gaming, while keeping the card cool and adequately quiet enough for stock speeds. However when the chips are down and the thermal load is getting pumped up due to poor airflow in the chassis or overclocking, the same reference coolers' noise profile usually has an exorcist moment and turns into a screaming banshee intent on destroying your eardrums. We all know heat is the enemy of our graphics cards and we go to great lengths to keep them cool. This is where ASUS comes in with the HD 7970 DirectCU II and addresses all of the issues that conspire to shorten the life of the graphics card. Packed full of features that include a massive Direct Contact cooling solution which cools not only the GPU core, but the onboard components, ASUS's own Super Alloy Power DIGI+ VRM 12-phase power circuit, and the ability to handle a 6 panel Eyefinity setup. As a card that is built for the enthusiast, the ASUS HD 7970 comes with a very exclusive feature called VGA Hotwire that is used with specific ASUS ROG series motherboards to control the core, memory, and phase (PLL) voltages at a more precise hardware level.
The ASUS HD 7970 Direct CU II comes in both standard and TOP versions, the latter having a highly binned core that will, on average and from prior experience, deliver a higher overall clock speed than the standard version. At $415, ASUS has the HD 7970 DIrectCU II priced above a reference card, yet below some of its competitors' upper end custom offerings. In the past, ASUS's DirectCU II offerings have delivered excellent performance and cooling, so let's see how this iteration performs.
HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Closer Look:
ASUS's packaging for AMD-based video cards has been fairly static over the past generation, with the depiction of a medieval warrior ready for battle as the featured artwork and an orange background signifying AMD hardware. What has changed here is the information surrounding the artwork. On the top left corner is the ASUS logo, under which is information on the DirectCU II cooling system used on the card. Using the DirectCU II cooling solution, Asus touts a 20% cooler and 14dB quieter CPU than an HD 7970 equipped with AMD's reference cooling. Underneath the cooling system info is additional information disp[laying the AMD Radeon emblem, the 6-display Eyefinity capabilities, the 3GB of GDDR5 memory onboard, ASUS's DIGI+ VRM power control, and ASUS's own GPU Tweak software that can be used in conjunction with the HD 7970 to tweak its operating characteristics. The back panel touches on more features such as the card's VGA Hotwire functionality that allows the user to solder on wiring to control and monitor voltages at a hardware level while using select ROG motherboards (including the previously reviewed Rampage IV Extreme). There is also more in-depth information about ASUS's SAP DIGI+ VRM all-digital power control, which is employed for improved stability, reliability, and longevity. Additional information is presented on display connectivity and the included ASUS GPU Tweak GPU tuning utility.
Inside the outer sleeve is an all-black box that has a gold embossed ASUS logo on the front panel – a stylish box that we've commonly seen with other ASUS products. Inside the package is an open cell foam block that holds the HD 7970 DirectCU II and the included accessory bundle. Once you pull the top off the foam block, you can get a feel for how thick this card really is.
ASUS's accessory bundle for this card is pretty slim, yet includes something rarely seen as part of the accessory bundle on a video card. A sleeve holds the quick start guide and driver disk. You also get a Crossfire bridge connection, a dual 6-pin-to-8-pin PCIe power adapter, and a heat sink used to cover the mosfets of the Super Alloy Power DIGI+ VRM power circuit when using liquid or sub zero cooling methods such as Liquid Nitrogen. If you did not know already, this series of cards has been a choice pick for the extreme overclocker, setting many records due to the strength of the build process and power circuits.
The packaging and accessory bundle are but a small part of what ASUS brings to the table with its HD 7970 DIrectCU II. Let's take a closer look at what makes this card tick.