We really like the matte black PCB and heatsink with red accents ASUS has used on the DirectCU II designs. It looks great, has a sleek industrical look to it, and looks great inside the predominantly black colors seen on most cases and motherboards today.
The Super Alloy Power design and back-to-back Capacitors mean better efficiency, more reliable power delivery, and longer lifetimes. All of ASUS' power delivery components are non-reference, and the VRM MOSFETs and drivers are blanketed by heatsinks to keep heat-related power fluctuations at bay, something many reference cards skip on.
The completely non-reference PCB uses the same high-end design found on ASUS' GTX 570 models, and its matte black color looks great. Rounded corners give a clean look, and the traces are much cleaner than reference cards'.
Thermal and Acoustic Performance
The DirectCU II cooler ensures low temperatures, as the absolute highest temperature we ever observed was 71 degrees Celcius, which almost made the thermal profile an afterthought. Ontop of that, even at load, the fan only peaked at 60%, and was essentially inaudible behind the noise from all of the other case fans for normal usage. When heavily loaded while overclocked, the higher-pitch noise did stand out from the rest of the case noise, and was slightly audible outside of the case. We generally used the "Auto" fan setting, and the ability to fully define the fan speed profile means you'll be able to custom tune the balance between thermal performance and acoustics, something you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Our sample was able to overclock to give a performance boost of about 8% on average, which is a great boost for a lower-binned GTX 560 Ti card. The overclock all-but-matched the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core in the Dirt 3 benchmark, and we saw healthy gains in DX11 performance, showing around 9%. Nvidia TDP power limits are also removed from ASUS' design, so ungoverned overclocking potential also adds value to the non-reference overclocking package.
So, now the big question, should you buy it? If you look at current pricing, one thing quickly becomes obvious, the GTX 560 Ti TOP DCUII is the same price as the non-TOP version. This is a no-brainer that the higher-binned card with a factory overclock coming out of the box at 900MHz GPU, 1050MHz memory, and 1800MHz shader (vs. 1660MHz) clocks is the better choice. I think that as long as the TOP version is within $15 of the GTX 560 Ti DCUII we tested, it's probably worth the bump up for the out-of-the-box performance gains and higher overclocking potential. Also, with current rebates, it is also a no-brainer to skip saving $10 for the cheapest reference card being sold. The non-reference features (and up-binning of the TOP model), the customer support, and overall durability and reliability is definitely worth more than the $10 premium if you can wait for the rebate. Even in the absence of a rebate, if you can afford it, the $30 would probably be well spent on one of these two ASUS non-reference designs.
The next question becomes whether or not you want to jump to the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core, which can be had for a relatively-small $25 premium ($15 with rebate). We showed, especially in DX11 performance, that the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core can offer up to 15% advantages out-of-the-box. This is also a compelling option, but if you're on a tight budget and you don't plan on running DX11 games, your $25 might be better spent warming the insides of your wallet.
With today's pricing, it seems the best choice for the lifetime of the card to go with a non-reference design, and with current rebate offers being within $10 of the cheapest card, ASUS' two offerings stand out. Since the GTX 560 Ti TOP DCUII is currently priced equivalent to the non-TOP model, the TOP version would be our top pick for a GTX 560 Ti today while we await the arrival of the GTX 660. At a mere $25 premium (15$ including all rebates), the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core is also appealing. If the tri-slot design doesn't scare you away and the extra $15-25 fits easily into your budget, your money might very well be put to good use getting a GF110 chip (a down-binned GTX 570 w/deactivated CUDA cores) which can give a performance boost of up to 16%. Factoring in ASUS' industry-leading stance in the GPU market, their customer support, the fantastic DirectCU II cooling system, and their exclusive non-reference features (especially Super Alloy Power), their GTX 560 Ti DCUII graphics cards are our "cards to get" if you're in the market for a shiny new GTX 560 Ti.
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