ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP & R9 270 DirectCU II OC Reviewccokeman - March 9, 2014
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ASUS R9 270 DirectCU II TOP Closer Look:
At first glance the R9 270 makes you think it belongs in the R7 product stack, but then you dig a little deeper to see that it does indeed belong with the big cards. The ROG inspired look goes well with the shroud and thematic used on the R9 270 thanks to the jet black PCB and red accents. Measuring 9.2 x 4.9 x 1.5 inches, the R9 270 DirectCU II will fit into smaller chassis than its larger cousin, the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP. This card is built around the 28nm Pitcairn series core from AMD, much like what I have seen on the R9 270X and HD 7870/7850. Although the raw specifications vary slightly, they fall in that range.
ASUS is using a pair of dust resistant 70mm fans to provide the airflow through the dual direct contact heat pipe equipped fin array. The shroud does not make it to the I/O plate, but in past iterations, it has proven to not be a factor in cooling the core. The back side of the PCB is fairly clean minus the surface mount electronics on the black PCB. The ASUS R9 270 DirectCU II OC can be used in motherboards that support the PCIe 3.0 standard, as well as being backwards compatible. From the top and bottom view you can see the card is slightly curved, creating opportunity for trace breakage internally. I have seen plenty of video cards last well past their prime like this, but I am surprised to not see a brace down the spine of the card.
Display connectivity on the R9 270 DirectCU II OC mirrors that of the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP with two DVI ports (one DVI-I and one DVI-D) along with an HDMI Port and single full size DisplayPort connection that can support a three-screen Eyefinity panel. The back end of the card is not all that exciting with nothing really of interest. The shroud and heat sink overhang the PCB by about an inch, allowing a pathway for the airflow out of the shroud.
The ASUS R9 270 requires a single 6-pin PCIe power connector to supply the power above the 75 watts supplied by the 16x PCIe 3.0 slot for a maximum draw of 150 watts. One of ASUS' key features, is its protective designs feature set, manifested here as a pair of LEDs on the back side of the PCB under the power connection. These light up either red or green to let the end user know whether or not you have power properly connected to the card. It's a quick and easy visual wake up call when you forget to plug in or just miss getting the power plugged in all the way. A single CrossFire bridge connection shows a CrossFire configuration of two cards is supported in motherboards with two or more 16x PCIe slots.
ASUS' direct contact cooling solution is easy to remove, unlike the solutions employed by some of its competitors. A quartet of spring loaded screws are all that holds it. Under the heat sink we get to the PCB that uses ASUS' exclusive Digi+ VRM and Super Alloy Power components. A six phase power supply circuit is used to provide the power for this factory overclocked R9 270. ASUS' Super Alloy Power circuit is built to deliver gains in operating efficiency, overall life span of the components, and a reduction in card electronic noise thanks to the Super Alloy Power concrete filled chokes. Using this feature set, you get a 30% increase in voltage stability for improved overclocking, a 15% overall gain in power efficiency, and a 2.5x boost in the lifespan of the SAP capacitors. The SAP mosfets for the six phase power circuit are air cooled via the airflow from the pair of 70mm fans driving airflow through the heat sink.
Not as physically robust as the cooler used on the R9 280X DirectCU II TOP, the direct contact cooling solution on the R9 270 DirectCU II OC is equipped with a pair of 8mm nickel-plated copper heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the 28nm Pitcairn core to the aluminum fin array. This design is common on just about all higher end video card products not using a blower style fan. This cooling solution improves cooling performance by 20% over a reference solution. On top of that number, you also see a massive improvement in the noise level this card produces when compared to a reference cooling solution.
A pair of 70mm dust-resistant PWM fans from FirstD, part number FD7010H12S, are used to provide the cooling airflow through the aluminum fin array. Instead of being mounted to the fin array, these fans mount to the shroud in a more traditional configuration.
The R9 270 is built upon AMD's 28nm Pitcairn core that is packed full of 2.8 billion transistors, 1280 streaming processors, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs. Base clock speeds on this card from ASUS are 975MHz on the core and 1400MHz (5600MHz effective) for the 2GB of GDDR5 on-board memory. Specifications wise, it matches up well with the HD 7870, but comes with a higher effective data rate on the memory. Elpida is the supplier of the 2GB of GDDR5 memory that runs through a 256-bit bus. Elpida, part number W2032BBBG-6A-F, is designed for use at 1500MHz (6Gbps effective) using 1.5v. This leaves some overclocking margin left for the enthusiast to drive the frames a little higher.
So far we have a pair of factory overclocked cards that come with non-reference cooling solutions that are built to last. The key is how well do they perform by comparison to the competition? They should do well based on the specifications.