ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP & R9 270 DirectCU II OC Reviewccokeman - March 9, 2014
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ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP & R9 270 DirectCU II OC Conclusion:
As an AIB partner, ASUS sells plenty of reference video cards. What sets the brand apart are the cards it builds that improve upon what the GPU makers spec out as the reference design. The two cards I have looked at today fall into that non-reference mold in a big way. The ASUS DirectCU II equipped cards usually come with a custom PCB, all-digital power circuit, and a host of ASUS improvements.
Let's start with the cooling solution employed on the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP and R9 270 DirectCU II OC. The R9 280X DirectCU II TOP uses a five heat pipe (including a large 10mm pipe) direct contact cooling solution to keep the thermals down below 70 °C using the card's PWM to control the Cooltech 100mm fans. Spinning the fans up to 100% adds another 10 °C improvement in cooling performance. The dual heat pipe solution on the R9 270 DirectCU II OC is not as robust, but it really does not have to be to get the job done. Under an overvolted, overclocked scenario, it does not show the improvement we see with the solution used on the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP, but the temperatures still stay below 70 °C as well.
If you do not care about the noise level generated by your video card, you can stick to a reference design. Nothing beats the sound of a squirrel cage fan at full song right? Wrong! ASUS takes great care to ensure that the noise profile of the cards are kept at the lower end of the spectrum, but still deliver enough airflow to move the thermal load out of the silicon and into the air stream through the chassis. ASUS touts the cooler design as being 20% cooler than a reference design and 3X quieter. When compared to a reference 7970 (I had to dig back a ways), I saw a 10 °C improvement, or about a 13% improvement, over that card. As far as the 3X quieter statement, inside a chassis, where the cards will be during use, you cannot hear them in a normal household with kids. Cranking the fans up lets you know the card is there, but again, no where near the levels you get with a squirrel cage fan. In fact, I could not even hear the fans spool up on the R9 270 DirectCU II OC.
Both the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP and R9 270 DirectCU II OC are factory-overclocked variants that are built on custom PCBs equipped with ASUS Digi+ VRM and Super Alloy Power technology; an all-digital power control circuit using improved components. A digital controller offers more robust voltage controls, as well as the ability to be controlled via software tools like ASUS' own GPU Tweak tuning and monitoring application. Super Alloy Power components such as solid caps will extend the useful life of the parts by 2.5x. The Super Alloy Chokes feature a metal alloy shell around a concrete core to prevent the coil whine and buzz so common on high-end video cards these days; especially on reference designs. It all adds up to increased lifespan and a more stable power plane to help improve overclocking.
Overclocking offered up a mixed bag of results with both cards. Each is already equipped with a healthy overclock right out-of-the-box, but ASUS left some meat on the bone for those of us that feel the need to tinker with what they gave us. The R9 280X DirectCU II TOP was able to reach 1170MHz on the core and 1700MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Each a bonus of 100MHz over the as-delivered speeds. The R9 270 DirectCU II OC reached 1220MHz on the core and 1604MHz on the memory, or a massive boost of 245MHz on the core and 204MHz on the memory. Impressive for a card in this range. Overclocking definitely adds to the average FPS totals, but only if you do the work to get there. ASUS has an application called GPU Tweak, which is included, and does more than just monitoring and tuning the performance level of the installed video card. You get widget monitoring, Live Update (to keep the software, drivers, and BIOS up to date), embedded ASUS skinned GPU-Z, and live streaming.
When you look at what you get with these two ASUS DirectCU II offerings, you get performance relative to their clock speed out-of-the-box with a good bit of overclocking headroom left over for the enthusiast. Both the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP and R9 270 DirectCU II OC have that distinctive look, which sets the DirectCU II lineup apart from it competitors and looks, oh so right, sitting in an ASUS ROG motherboard, such as the Maximus VI Gene I just looked at.
Pricing for the Tahiti-based R9 280X DirectCU II TOP has been kept artificially inflated due to high demand by crypto coin miners, but with the recent insolvency of the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange the prices seem to have eased a bit. This is evidenced by the $40 drop over the past week for the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP, coming in today at $479. The R9 270 DirectCU II OC however, has kept a solid $259 price point. If you are in the market for a new video card, these two examples from ASUS offer excellent performance, good looks, and long term build quality that should allow them to remain on your rig well past the typical three-year upgrade cycle.
- Super Alloy Power
- Digi+ VRM
- Good Looks
- Factory Overclocked
- Cooltech enhanced cooling
- DirectCU II
- Low Noise
- GPU Tweak
- Pricing (R9 280X)