ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II Review

ccokeman - 2011-12-16 21:18:09 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 27, 2012
Price: $414

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.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Closer Look:

ASUS's HD 7970 is more than an exercise in looks and cooling performance – it is based upon AMD's 28nm 'Graphics Core Next' Tahiti core architecture and packed full of features that improve longevity, voltage control, and overclocking margins. Measuring 11 x 5.1 x 2.1 inches, the HD 7970 DirectCU II is going to fit into majority of cases on the market. The most identifiable feature of this card is the 2.5-slot DirectCU II cooling solution that employs a pair of fans to cool not only the GPU, but the rest of the onboard components. The back of the PCB uses a back plate that gives additional support for the PCB. A cutout above the GPU core socket provides room for ASUS's SAP capacitor. The back plate identifies this card such that when installed in a chassis with a side window, you can easily show off exactly the beast of a graphics card you are running. The bottom and top have additional venting for the airflow provided by the dual dust-proof fans. ASUS's HD 7970 DirectCU II supports usage in PCIe 2.0/3.0 16x slots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity options on the ASUS HD 7970 Direct CU II include a single-link DVI-I port, a dual-link DVI-D port, and a quartet of full-sized DisplayPort connections. Together, the card will allow support for up to six displays in an Eyefinity 6 configuration. HDMI connectivity is through the use of an included adapter. Much of the thermal load is discharged through the opening above the display connections, though I expect some to escape through the openings in the shroud, into the chassis. Fear not, just about every modern chassis should have enough case airflow to minimize or eliminate this additional thermal load. The back end of the card is sealed, directing airflow forward and out. Along the PCB is the large durability frame used to stiffen the PCB and spread the thermal load across a greater area, providing improved cooling to the components on the PCB.

 

 

A pair of Crossfire bridge connections means the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II supports up to 4 cards in a CrossfireX configuration. However, the 2.5x-slot DirectCU II cooling will preclude this option without switching to either full-cover liquid cooling blocks or liquid nitrogen pots. You will also need a motherboard that can provide the needed 16x PCIe slots such as the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme. A Dual BIOS switch is also in place, in case you need to reflash the vBIOS. A pair of 8-pin PCIe power connections at the back end of the PCB help provide up to 375 watts to the 12-phase power circuit and DIGI+ VRM controller. Most of us have been in a rush to fire up that new video card only to receive a warning message on the screen or annoying beeping that lets us know something is just not right. As part of ASUS protective design strategy, the HD 7970 DirectCU II is equipped with the VGA LED feature that provides a visual indication of the state of the power connections. Red means the connection is not complete and Green means that all is good and it's fraggin' time.

 

 

 

Across the top and back of the PCB is one of the more interesting features of the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II. Here, VGA Hotwire is used to monitor and control the voltages supplied to the video card when connected to select motherboards including ASUS Rampage IV Extreme and Maximus V Extreme. VGA Hotwire uses simple solder pads on the pack side of the PCB that connect to the motherboard via soldered-on wiring. As a result, you get improved range and more precise hardware level control of the core, memory, and phase (PLL) voltages, possibly netting you the maximum clock speed that software controls just cannot provide.

 

 

Under the shroud, we get a look at what the DirectCU II cooling solution is all about. The DirectCU II cooling solution is a two piece aluminum fin array with 6 heat pipes that works in conjunction with ASUS's durability frame and the back plate to provide a rigid and efficient platform to control temperatures. ASUS uses a total of six flattened copper heat pipes that contact the GPU core through a solid copper contact plate. The thermal load is then passed through the heat pipes to a pair of aluminum fin arrays. Four flow into the rear fin array while two feed into the front array. ASUS's durability frame is then used to cover the DIGI+ VRM circuit and 3GB of VRAM. The large frame is going to offer enhanced cooling due to its large dissipation area.All of this is then actively cooled by a pair of thick dust-proof 10cm fans that look to offer 600% mroe airflow than the reference cooler design. As thin as the fin arrays are, the entire combination works well. If you choose the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II as your weapon of choice for some sub zero cooling, ASUS includes, as part of the accessory bundle, a heat sink that can be mounted on the VRM circuit. ASUS's Durability frame has this area integrally mounted so when it is removed, the VRM is left uncovered. Mounted on the PCB with push pins, this heat sink is fairly beefy and should definitely deliver cooling potential that is 20% cooler and 14dB quieter than a reference cooling solution.

 

 

 

 

The fans ASUS has chosen for this application are made by Everflow and carry part number T129025SU. These 9 blade fans run on 12V and when paired together, push 600% more airflow through the shroud than you get with the standard HD 7970 reference cooling solution. As part of ASUS's protective designs, these fans feature a 25% increase in lifespan by way of their "Dust Proof" design. This fan design is sealed in two areas to significantly reduce dust intrusion into the fan and motor hub that otherwise ends up reducing the RPM of fans to a failure point. If left untreated, failed fans can lead to the failure of a GPU outright due to running overheated.

 

 

 

Once all of the cooling solution and back plate parts are removed, you can get a clear look at the PCB and installed components. ASUS's DirectCU II series video cards are equipped with ASUS's own SAP (Super Alloy Power) VRM design that is designed to be more efficient, run cooler, reduce EMI, and handle a higher current load for improved overclocking margins. The central feature on the front of the PCB is the 12-phase VRM. At the back end of the card, we also find ASUS's Super Alloy chokes, Super Alloy capacitors, and Super Alloy MOS. At the back end of the PCB is the DIGI+ VRM controller that orchestrates the voltage applications. On the back side of the PCB directly under the GPU socket is the where the SAP CAP is located, to ensure the GPU gets a steady diet of current without dips that can otherwise reduce overclocking margins.

 

 

 

Rather than explain the nuances of ASUS SAP design, here are a few slides to illustrate the feature set. These parts are the base of the card and will rarely be seen or understood. However, these are what makes the card tick, long term. When you look at feature set, Super Alloy Power and DIGI+ VRM are points of difference when compared to competitors' designs.

 

 

The HD 7970 DirectCU II is built upon the 28nm Tahiti core with a transistor count of 4.31 billion, a stream processor count of 2048, 128 texture units, 32 ROPs, and 3GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 384-bit bus. The standard HD 7970 DirectCU II has a core clock speed of 925MHz, while the TOP version gets a higher binned core capable of 1000MHz out the door. 3GB of Hynix GDDR5 modules, part number H5GQ2H24MFR-R0C, are used on the HD 7970 DirectCU II. These modules, running at 1375MHz, are rated to run at 1500MHz and have become a proven commodity. I have seen these modules overclocked in excess of 1700MHz in the past.

 

 

Fully equipped to run cooler, quieter, and faster than the competition, the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II looks to be capable of making a run as one of the top cards on the market.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Specifications:

Graphics Engine
AMD Radeon HD 7970
Bus Standard
PCI Express 3.0
Video Memory
GDDR5 3GB
Engine Clock
925 MHz
Memory Clock
5500 MHz ( 1375 MHz GDDR5 )
RAMDAC
400 MHz
Memory Interface
384-bit
Resolution
D-Sub Max Resolution : 2048x1536
Interface
DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-I), Yes x 1 (DVI-D)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x 1 )
Display Port : Yes x 4 (Regular DP)
HDCP Support : Yes
Accessories
1 x CrossFire cable
1 x Power cable
1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor
Software
ASUS Utilities & Driver
ASUS Features
DirectCU Series
Super Alloy Power
Dimensions
11 " x 5.1 " x 2.1 " Inch
Note
*To have the best cooling performance, ASUS HD7970-DC2-3GD5 extends the fansink to 2.5 slots. Please double check you Chassis and Motherboard dimension prior to purchase to make sure it fits in your system!

 

HD 7970 3GB Direct CU II Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://usa.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Series/HD7970DC23GD5/

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Testing:

Testing of the ASUS HD 7970 3GB 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 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. The NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 306.32 drivers with AMD cards using the Catalyst 12.8 drivers and latest CAP profile.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Boosting the clock speeds on ASUS (and other maker's) video cards is as simple as reaching for their own in-house tuning and monitoring application – in this case, it was GPU Tweak. ASUS's GPU Tweak tool can be used to increase clock speeds of the memory and GPU core, adjust the fan speed, and change the applied core voltage in an effort to improve overclocking margins. GPU Tweak is, however, not a one trick pony. ASUS has included the ability to use the live update feature to check for vBIOS updates, built in a recording feature to save you money on the purchase of FRAPS, and embedded an ASUS ROG-skinned GPU-Z application imbedded under the info tab. To boot, you can get this application for free. Overclocking on ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II was fruitful, based on the fact that this card came with standard reference clock speeds of 925MHz on the core and 1375MHz on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory. By using ASUS GPU Tweak and other tools, I was able to reach overclocks of over 22% on the core and over 20% on the memory with the final clock speeds of 1134MHz and 1669MHz on the core and memory, respectively. These are pretty significant jumps from the baseline clock speeds and offered up significant bumps in performance. Not 20%+ on average, but significant, none the less.

To get there, i maxed out the fan at 100% to make sure the core and 12-phase VRM circuit stayed as cool as possible. I then bumped up the clock speed in 50MHz increments until the preliminary testing failed, after which I bumped the core voltage and continued upwards until the application of more voltage did not pay off with improved stability. Overclocking the memory followed much the same process to reach the maximum of 1134MHz on the 28nm core and 1669MHz on the memory. The voltage used to reach the max clock speeds was 1.263V, with 1.3V not offering anything more in the way of stability at higher clock speeds. The increase in fan speed really paid dividends with the temperatures delivered by the six heat pipe DirectCU II cooling solution when running overvolted and overclocked. ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II delivered the lowest thermal results of any HD 7970 card I have tested, with a temperature of 52°C under load using the maximum fan speed. ASUS did their homework on both the cooling solution and the amount of noise delivered. Excellent overclocking, cooling, and low noise in one card is an incredible feat.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were rerun until they passed a full hour of testing.

 

 

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

 

  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Metro 2033, the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II compares relatively well, performance-wise, to the higher-clocked cards. At 5760 x 1080, the performance at stock speeds and when overclocked are within 2 FPS of the Sapphire and XFX cards.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout this game test, the HD 7970 DirectCU II was the slower of the HD 7970 cards tested at both 1920 x 1080 and at 5760 x 1080 when running at the default clock speeds. When overclocked, it compares favorably with the GTX 670 at 1920 x 1080 and is at the top of the field at 5760 x 1080.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In BF3, the HD 7970 DirectCU II at stock speeds is the worst performing of the comparison HD 7970 cards. When overclocked, ASUS HD 7970 delivers 2 fewer FPS than the Vapor-X card at 1920 x 1080, and dead even with the GTX 680 at 5760 x 1080. At that resolution, it is within 2 FPS of the fastest card.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080, the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II delivers FPS performance comparable to the GTX 670 at stock speeds and the GTX 680 when overclocked. At 5760 x 1080 with stock speeds, it is third on the depth chart behind the higher clocked HD 7970s. When overclocked, ASUS's offering is at the top of the comparison field.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trend of the HD 7970 DirectCU II being slower at stock clocks continues in this test. When overclocked, it shows that some improvement in performance, as expected.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test, the HD 7970 DirectCU II delivers excellent FPS numbers both at stock and overclocked.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Mafia II, the NVIDIA-based cards are the faster GPUs in this test.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II 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 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 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 3DMark 11, the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II is in the middle of the pack both at stock and overclocked. In the overclocked Extreme test, however, it does surpass the score of the Vapor-X 6GB 7970.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 using 8xAA 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASUS's DirectCU II cooling solution delivers outstanding cooling results when under load. The idle results are strangely not as impressive as the load temperatures, though. Compared to Sapphire's Vapor-X cooling solution, the closest direct competitor's card in the comparison list, ASUS DirectCU II delivers a load temperature bonus of 5°C stock and 4°C overclocked – around a 10% improvement.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 2.5 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest measured temperature recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. With dual-GPU setups, the two core temperatures will be averaged.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What ASUS's cooling solution was able to accomplish in terms of cooling, the 12-phase DIGI+ VRM and Super Alloy Power design components was able to pull off on the power efficiency side of the fence. Across the board, ASUS's design outperforms the Sapphire and reference designs.

HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II Conclusion:

As a package, the ASUS Direct CU II is a fully capable video card that is able to play pretty much every game on the market today, as it should. Besides gaming prowess, the HD 7970 DirectCU II first and foremost delivers truly outstanding cooling results that beat out Sapphire's vaunted Vapor-X cooling solution by up to 5°C under load for almost 10% in heat reduction. Over the reference cooled solution, the cooling performance up swing is on the order of 20% at stock clock and fan speeds, and 12% when the fan speeds are run at 100% when overclocked. Those are measurable results that meet the 20% target shown on the packaging. Impressive to say the least. ASUS's DirectCU II cooling solution is only part of the package that allows this package to work as well as it does. ASUS's Super Alloy Power components and all-digital DIGI+ VRM voltage controller on a custom PCB provide the means with which the power delivery is managed. In the power consumption tests, the HD 7970 DirectCU II proved to be more efficient than both a custom design and the reference solution.

With the cooling under control and an excellent 12-phase power management system in place, the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II truly delivers for the overclocking enthusiast. Pushing the memory and core clocks up, I was able to reach overclocks of 22% on the GPU core at 1134MHz and 20%+ on the GDDR5 memory at 1669MHz. While you can use other tools, ASUS supplies its GPU Tweak software for the user to manage many aspects of overclocking, including the core clock speed, memory clock speed, fan speed, voltage control, and power target. The extreme enthusiast is also covered with this card, using ASUS VGA Hotwire to monitor and tweak voltages at a hardware level when paired alongside ASUS ROG Rampage IV Extreme and Maximus V Extreme motherboards.

The ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II I am looking at today is currently priced at $414 from online e-tailers. The pricing is at a point that is competitive with some designs that offer less in the way of build quality, but more in terms of base clock speed. Compared to MSI's HD 7970 Lightning, the HD 7970 DirectCU II from ASUS is priced $75 less. Overall, ASUS has put together a video card that has an expansive feature set with great gaming performance.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: