|Introduction and Specifications|
You might recall that we recently rounded up a collection of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics cards and put them through a gauntlet of benchmarks and tests. Each of the cards represented brought something unique to the table and stood out in some way, but curiously missing from the bunch was an entry from ASUS. Not to worry -- we didn't forget about ASUS, their cards just decided to show up fashionably late to the GPU party.
We mean that literally and figuratively. One of the things that separates the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU from the competition is the custom cooling solution. Yes, it's prepped and primed to run cooler (up to 20 percent) and quieter (by a factor of 3) compared to NVIDIA's reference cooling solution, but it also makes a customizable fashion statement. Included with the card are two sets of metallic (read: not paper) stickers -- one set in gold and other in red. These add a bit of accented bling to the all-black heatsink to match your motherboard's color scheme.
Like the cards in our roundup, this is a GeForce GTX 780 Ti part based on NVIDIA's GK110 GPU, which is built on a 28nm manufacturing process by TSMC. It's still one of the fastest GPUs on the market, and this particular model from ASUS comes revved up a bit over reference -- it sports a 954MHz base clockspeed and 1020MHz boost clockspeed, versus 875MHz and 928MHz, respectively, for reference cards.
You'll notice that this card requires dual 8-pin PCI-E power connectors yet the power requirements are the same as NVIDIA's reference design. Part of the reason is probably due to the custom cooler, but this also allows ASUS to draw in more power when needed. Combined with the card's 10-phase power design and digital voltage regulators, this card should be able to deliver cleaner power than reference solutions, which in turn could allow it to maintain boost clockspeeds for longer periods of time and aid in overclocking.
The other thing to note is the comparatively stellar price point. This is an overclocked card (and warrantied as such) that sells on the street for less than the reference card's MSRP. Had the card been included in our roundup, it would have tied for least expensive (before rebate, anyway), coming in $80 less than the most expensive part. That kind of savings can translate into a triple A title, several slightly older titles, or a night out on the town.
|Design and Layout|
|ASUS is one of the most active players in the graphics card space. As such, the company offers gamers three different GeForce GTX 780 Ti models to choose from, the one reviewed here (GTX780TI-DC2OC-3GD5) being the middle SKU. It's a high-end part with a 10-phase power design and digital voltage regulators that Asus claims reduces power noise by 30 percent, enhances power efficiency by 15 percent, widens voltage modulation tolerance, improves stability, and boosts longevity by 2.5 times over reference.
Like all GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics cards, this model from ASUS is large and heavy. It has a black metal shroud with two CoolTech fans, one with an inner radial blower and outer flower-type blades to keep the card from overheating. Underneath are a series of 10mm copper heatpipes that travel directly to the GPU, hence the DirectCU II nomenclature. ASUS says the dissipation area is 220 percent larger than stock.
The card measures 11.3 inches by 5.8 inches by 1.6 inches, so it's not the longest graphics card on the market, but you'll want to ensure proper clearance in your case.
Included with the card are two sheets of stickers. Pessimists will point out that stickers -- even metallic ones like these -- are a bit on the gimmicky side, though if you're trying to color match your card with a gold or red themed motherboard, you'll appreciate having both sets of sticks to accent your card.
A brushed metal backplate runs the length of the card on the back. It provides an extra bit of protection and heat dissipation, while also reinforcing the graphics card so it's not as easy to bend or break. The backplate has a tendency to attract finger smudges, but unless you have a fetish that involves sticking your hands in your desktop, this is a non-issue.
As stated before, ASUS equipped this card with dual 8-pin PCI-E power connectors. There's a dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCI-E adapter included in the retail box in case your power supply falls short in this regard.
Your connectivity options include a dual-link DVI-I, dual-link DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Your ticket to 4K gaming at 60Hz is the DisplayPort, and as you'll see in the benchmarks to follow, it's possible to game at that resolution with this card, depending on the title and visual quality settings.
|Test System and 3DMark Benchmarks|
How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II in this article on a Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard powered by an Intel Core i5 3570K quad-core processor and 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 RAM. We installed Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit onto a pair of Intel 730 Series 480GB solid state drives (SSDs) configured in a RAID 0 array. Once that was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redistributable along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests. Since we're also interested in 4K gaming performance, we ran the tests on a Dell UltraSharp UP3214Q 4K Ultra HD monitor.
Right out of the gate, the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II takes a slight backseat to the other GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards we recently tested. It's not that we received a dud -- the DirectCU II is the slowest clocked card of the bunch at 954MHz for the base clockspeed and 1020MHz for the boost clockspeed. The offerings from EVGA and MSI both run at 1020MHz base / 1085MHz boost, while the Gigabyte card runs at 1085MHz base / 1150MHz boost. Given the clockspeed disparity, the DirectCU II performed right where it should.
Let's also not forget that the ASUS' card runs $690 street, which ties with MSI for the least expensive GeForce GTX 780 Ti around.
The rest of our 3DMark benchmark runs showed the same tendencies -- the DirectCU II, with its slower clockspeeds, had it trailing the competition. Bear in mind that in some cases, we're talking about less than a single frame per second difference between ASUS and both MSI and EVGA.
|Unigine Heaven 4.0|
Like the other cards, ASUS' model doesn't break a sweat at 1920x1080, even with all the settings cranked. Again, the DirectCU II trails the other cards, though it's only be as little as less than 2 frames per second in some cases.
At 2560x1600, framerates take a dip, but are more than playable. This is the typical resolution you'd find on a 30-inch monitor, and slightly higher than what you'd find on higher-end 28-inch class displays.
In the Unigine Heave v4.0 benchmark, all four cards start to get bogged down at 4K with all the eye candy maxed out. That's not to say 4K gaming isn't possible on this card -- you'll see that it is in just a moment -- but depending on the title, you may have to dial down the visual quality settings.
|Batman Arkham City and Hitman Absolution|
Batman Arkham City is a good benchmark to demonstrate the GPU computing power of the GeForce GTX 780 Ti series. At 1920x1200, average framerates blow past 100fps; ASUS's card settles in at 118, while maxing out at 170fps and never going below 50fps.
If you're rocking a 30-inch panel, this card has the horsepower to run most games at high settings without any visual hiccups. Even at 2560x1600, ASUS is able post 80fps on average, 110fps max, and never lower than 43fps. That's within just a few frames of faster clocked cards.
This is also an example of a title that can be comfortable pushed to 4K on this card. Even at that ultra high resolution, ASUS gets an average of 43fps, while maxing out at 58fps and hitting a low of 25fps. The low metric is on the border of playable, but again, that's a worst case scenario.
Hitman: Absolution is a more demanding title than Batman Arkham City and a good example of what to expect from games that put a higher strain on the GPU. In this case, gaming at 1920x1080 is still smooth and even at 2560x1600 is still feasible with everything cranked up.
When we make the leap to 4K, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti becomes heavy-footed. It's simply not playable at this resolution. Just as you'll run into some games that are smooth at 4K like Batman, there are others that will prove too demanding for a single-GPU solution.
|Power Consumption, Noise, and Stability|
Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely, power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea of how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.
ASUS's DirectCU II solution consumed around the same amount of power as the cards from Gigabyte and EVGA. It's recommended that you own a quality 600W power supply for a card like this, or higher if you want to give yourself some headroom to play with (for overclocking and/or future overclocking).
Noise and StabilityThe DirectCU II solution from ASUS is another example of a cool running and quiet option. Even at full load, this card doesn't approach anything that we'd consider loud, and in most instances, you're not going to hear it running unless you slap your face against your case.
We didn't run into any stability issues with ASUS's card. That's not something to take for granted -- the aggressively clocked card from Gigabyte show a few minor instances of instability throughout our previous roundup. We put the ASUS card through the same paces without issue.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
Having already benchmarked a collection of GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics cards in a previous roundup, we knew what to expect from this GPU. With that being the case, what we look for are any unusual anomalies or standout features. The ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II is the lowest clocked card in this class that we've tested, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. In most cases, it performed within a few frames per second of the other cards, and sometimes less than 1fps, but is tied for the least expensive of the bunch.
ASUS backs this card with a 3-year warranty. Combined with the comparatively low price tag, advanced cooling, and high quality parts, the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II is another solid option.
The ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II can be found for $690 on Amazon.