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Closer Look at ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP 2 GB (GTX680-DC2T-2GD5)

The GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP graphics card is shipped by ASUS in a large cardboard box. Some evil creature seems to have left the marks of its claws on the front of it.

 

We can also see a picture of the cooling system which claims to be 20% more efficient and 14 dB quieter than Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 680 cooler. The boost GPU clock rate is specified to be as high as 1201 MHz, which is a record-breaking level for off-the-shelf GTX 680s. The same information is detailed on the back of the box. There’s also a picture there showing you how to connect up to three monitors to this card concurrently.

The accessories to this top-end product are extremely meager: a flexible SLI bridge, a power splitter, and a step-by-step installation guide.

Manufactured in China, the ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP comes with a 3-year warranty. Its retail price is $539.

Measuring 300x118x58 millimeters, this GeForce GTX 680 from ASUS is quite bulky and heavy, its front side covered by the exclusive DirectCU II TOP cooler with two fans:

 

 

While the length of the card is quite normal by today’s standards, its 58-millimeter thickness is impressive as it needs as many as three PCI Express slots to settle in. The third slot is only necessary to help with ventilation, though: there’s a vent grid in the card’s mounting bracket for that.

Like the reference GeForce GTX 680 from Nvidia, the ASUS version is equipped with two dual-link DVI-I outputs, one HDMI version 1.4a connector and one DisplayPort 1.2. The card has two MIO connectors for building SLI configurations.

 

As opposed to the reference card’s two 6-pin power connectors, the ASUS has one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connector and a reinforced power system. The peak power consumption is specified to be no higher than the reference card’s, though, at 195 watts. A 550-watt PSU or better is recommended for a computer with an ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP inside.

The PCB is quite different from the reference design:

 

Instead of the 4+2 power system typical of regular GeForce GTX 680s, ASUS equips its product with a 10-phase power system with solid state capacitors (this is referred to as Super Alloy Power technology) and a digital controller:

ASUS claims that high-quality components help improve the lifespan, energy efficiency and other electrical specs of the product significantly compared to the reference card. The power system is managed by a controller labeled DIGI+ (it’s a rebranded ASP1211):

The 28nm GK104 GPU was manufactured in Taiwan on the 10th week of 2012 (early March). It is revision A2:

The only difference from the reference GeForce GTX 680 is that the GPU is pre-overclocked from 1006 to 1137 MHz. Its boost clock rate can be as high as 1201 MHz, so this is the fastest serially manufactured GK104-based card. The GPU quality of our sample turned out to be very high as 93.0%:

On the other hand, the ASUS is no different from the reference card in terms of memory chips, their clock rate and total memory amount. It is equipped with 2 gigabytes of GDDR5 in Hynix Semiconductor’s H5GQ2H24MFR R0C chips.

Their clock rate is 6008 MHz at 1.6 volts in 3D mode. In 2D applications the clock rate is dropped to 648 MHz. The memory bus is 256 bits wide.

And here’s a summary of the card’s specs:

We’ve seen the DirectCU II cooler before, but now it’s supplemented with a metallic stiffening rib and an additional aluminum heatsink for the 10-phase power system:

The heatsink has five heat pipes, two of which are 7 millimeters in diameter while the rest are 8 millimeters. There are 0.5mm aluminum plates press-fitted on the pipes 1.8 millimeters apart from each other. They make up the two almost identically sized (48 and 52 plates) sections of the heatsink.

The cooler features direct-touch technology. The pipes are placed with 2mm gaps in the cooler’s base.

This design ensured a large area of contact with earlier GPUs that had heat-spreaders but now, as you can see in the photo, there are only two and a half heat pipes contacting the open-die GPU. The other pipes work inefficiently, so we guess this cooler would do even better on the GK104 if it had a copper plate in its base.

The whole arrangement is cooled by two 100mm fans fixed on an aluminum frame:

The fans are 20mm thick, therefore the ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP needs not two but three PCI Express slots inside a system case. The speed of the fans is PWM-regulated within a range of 1000 to 3400 RPM.

We checked out the card’s temperature while running Aliens vs. Predator (2010) in five cycles at the highest settings (2560x1440, with 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x antialiasing). We used MSI Afterburner 2.2.1 and GPU-Z 0.6.2 as monitoring tools. This test was carried out with a closed system case at an ambient temperature of 25°C. We didn’t change the card’s default thermal interface.

Let’s see how efficient the DirectCU II is on the fastest version of GeForce GTX 680:


Automatic fan mode

Maximum fan speed

Well, the exclusive cooler from ASUS is fantastically efficient. The peak GPU temperature in the automatic fan regulation mode is only 61°C, the fans rotating at 1400 RPM. And the GPU clock rate is as high as 1215 MHz! When the fans are set at their maximum speed of 3360 RPM, the temperature is 51°C. Such a high efficiency can rather be expected from liquid-cooling systems, so our praise and applause all go to ASUS engineers for such an ingenious solution.

As for overclocking potential, the ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP comes already heavily pre-overclocked, so we can’t expect much more from it. We could only speed up the GPU and memory of our sample to 1212 (1290) MHz and 7168 MHz, respectively.

Anyway, we are quite satisfied with this result since the peak GPU temperature grew only by 2°C to reach 63°C and the fans sped up by less than 100 RPM.

So, the ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP can deliver high-quality and smooth visuals in games and can also do that without overheating or producing much noise. Just a perfect solution all around. Let’s see if MSI can match it.

 
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