- ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II 28nm Graphics Card Review
- A Closer Look - DirectCU II
- Features - GPU Technologies
- Features - Software and Utilities
- Testing - Temps, Voltages, Acoustics, and Overclocking
- Benchmarks - Batman: Arkham City
- Benchmarks - Dirt 3
- Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator
- Benchmarks - Battlefield 3
- Benchmarks - 3DMark 11
- Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven
- Benchmarks - WQHD Performance
- Final Thoughts
- All Pages
A Closer Look
The overall design will look very similar to many DirectCUII cards, with a prominent metal bezel, two large fans, three red "racing stripes," and, in this case, a 3-slot heatsink which is very similar to the GTX 560 Ti 448 Core we reviewed previously. The 3-slot design gives ASUS plenty of room to pack in the six input ports, consisting of four DisplayPort (the first 7970 to include 4 DisplayPorts) and two DVI ports to run up to 6 displays in EyeFinity. Also keep in mind that all of the ports are full-sized, so you won't be hassled by the need for any mini adapters. For the full hex-display EyeFinity setup, a small switch will have to be flipped in order to change the dual-link DVI port to single-link. At 11 inches long, it's a large card, but not so long that you should run into any problems in a modern chassis.
While some may question a 3-slot heatsink design, research has shown (through Steam user surveys and other inputs) that roughly 90% of users use a single GPU. Whether or not that number is higher or lower when you zoom into the upper tiers of a typical product stack is hard to say. One one hand, that's where the enthusiasts and/or those with plenty of cash to blow will be buying, so it could be they want SLI/Crossfire performance. However, it could also be argued that few will be able to justify SLI, and springing for an upper-tier card leaves little to no room for a multi-GPU sibling. Either way, there are plenty of motherboards available with adequate spacing for SLI/Crossfire with a triple-slot DirectCUII card, especially within ASUS' lineups.
ASUS' non-reference cooling solution, DirectCU II, does away with the reference impeller cooling design and adds in two 100mm fans. The fans themselves also have a double-sealed, dust-proof fan design. In addition to the basic bearing seal, the fan is mounted in such a way that the fan mount frame seals up against the fan hub. This essentially eliminates one of the primary causes for fan failure, which is bearing contamination with dust and moisture which will slowly erode fan performance, leading to higher thermal temperatures and possible failure. This design increases the MTBF expectancy of the fans by an additional 10,000 hours.
A problem with large, hefty cards can be card sag from its own weight. This exerts a stress on the PCB and traces in addition to its thermal stresses that can ultimately be very detrimental to the lifespan of the card. The large heatsinks of the DirectCUII exacerbate the problem, so ASUS has an integrated solution to essentially eliminate card sag. First, the bezel itself is very rigid, and it's then coupled with an integrated frame and heatsink assembly which cools the VRM while providing direct support to the VRM. The last stage is the backplate, which ASUS has etched its logo and the card name cleanly upon. The backplate gives extra support attached directly to the I/O plate which gets screwed onto the chassis, and the black brushed metal aesthetic looks fantastic.
Next to one of the support "posts" on the side of the card are the four hardware-level voltage monitoring solder points for the hardcore overclockers out there. For those who are going the multi-card route, the 7970 will allow multi-GPU configurations for up to four total cards, which would require a fairly mammoth motherboard (and case) if desired with the 7970 DirectCUII's tri-slot design.
Unlike other DirectCUII coolers we've gotten our hands on before, this one is much more involved when it comes to unearthing the GPU. The bulk of the card means ASUS has put alot of design effort into making a very rigid, sag-free card. They've succeeded brilliantly, but instead of getting way with only removing the four spring-tensioned screws shown above, you have to remove all of the screws surrounding the support bracket and the backplate. We'll show that in more detail in a bit.
With a specified power consumption of up to 300W, two 8-pin connectors are needed to provide the 7970 DCUII with the juice it will desire under full load and when overclocked.