ASUS are globally known for their products because they are manufactured with quality components and have a great warranty to back it up. ASUS was founded in 1989 by four ex Acer employees. Since then, they’ve built up a solid reputation in the business for being one of the finest manufacturers around and they have also managed to secure a large market share in virtually anything PC based. Motherboards, graphics cards, all-in-one PCs, servers, you name it and ASUS probably do it or have something to do with it.
Today I am going to be taking a look at one of the latest ranges of ASUS graphics cards which come in the GTX 700 series family. It’s the DirectCU II GTX 770 which sports 2GB of VRAM and the DirectCU II cooler. ASUS claim that this cooler allows the card to run up to 20% cooler as well as three times quieter than the reference cooler.
The GTX 770 is essentially a GTX 680 but rebadged and given a slight speed bump. The VRAM is manufactured by Samsung too and they are faster chips. Other than that, it is (purely in terms of spec) a glorified GTX 680. One thing which I do like is that most GTX 770s come with aftermarket coolers out of the box rather than reference ones so that is a big plus in my books.
How well will this card perform? How well will it overclock? Does it have the might to stand up to the GTX 780? There’s only one real way to find out, and that is by testing it. Let’s look at the specs and then crack on.
|Graphics Engine||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express 3.0|
|Video Memory||GDDR5 2GB|
|Engine Clock||GPU Boost Clock : 1110 MHz
GPU Base Clock : 1058 MHz
|Memory Clock||7010MHz (GDDR5)|
|Interface||DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-I), Yes x 1 (DVI-D)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1
Display Port : Yes x 1 (Regular DP)
HDCP Support : Yes
|Power Consumption||Up to 300W
Additional 6+8 pin PCIe power required
|Accessories||1x Power Cable|
|Software||ASUS GPU Tweak & Drivers|
|ASUS Features||DirectCU Series
Super Alloy Power
|Dimensions||10.7 ” x 5.2 ” x 1.6 ” Inch
27.17 x 13.2 x4.06 Centimeter
The front of the box is very similar to their previous generation of graphics cards. It has three claw holes which have “ripped” their way into the box and the key features of the card are shown in big letters. It is the OC edition, has 2GB of VRAM, DIGI+ VRM and GPU Tweak (software) as well as the aforementioned DirectCU II cooler.
Flipping over the box reveals an entire host of details. It briefly explains what the cooler is, the outputs the GPU has, the DIGI+ VRM power delivery as well as GPU Tweak which is software to monitor and overclock your GPU with.
Opening up the outer box reveals another box which the GPU and the accessories inside. It’s a very simplistic design. All it has is the ASUS name in the centre which is in gold and it has their slogan underneath. The rest of the box is black and it feels as if it is well made, for a box. However, this is a good thing as good first impressions count and I would expect no less of ASUS.
Opening up the box reveals another smaller box inside which houses the accessories. To the right is a bit of foam to make up for the lack of space used by the other box.
Removing the accessories box and the foam reveals the GPU. It’s packed in between a massive layer of foam which should ensure that it is not going to be damaged in any way, shape or form whilst it is on its way from the factory to wherever it is destined. ASUS have made sure that their card(s) will get to you safely.
The DirectCU II cooler hasn’t changed much in recent years and it has become a trademark for the ASUS GPUs. It looks good but it does more than that, it also cools well too. This is the first actual top-end card from ASUS that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with but if previous experience is anything to go by, this dual fan design ought to fare very well. There’s only so much you can do with a cooler design such as this one and I feel that each manufacturer should be within a margin of error with their coolers but we all know that isn’t usually the case. Either way, here’s the ASUS GTX 770 DirectCU II OC in all of its glory.
There’s a backplate that comes with this card as standard which aids to dissipate the heat as well as keep the card ridged. Not every manufacturer includes these as standard so it is a nice touch.
In order to power the card, you will require a single 6pin PCIE connector as well as an 8pin PCIE power connector. Those keen-eyed amongst you may notice something slightly different above the power connectors. What are they? They’re LEDs. Their job is to tell you whether the power connectors are plugged in or not. If they aren’t, they glow red and if they are, they glow green. It’s a neat little feature and it makes it apparent if you’ve forgotten something. I would personally recommend that you have at least a 550W power supply from a reputable brand such as Enermax, Corsair, BeQuiet! etc. in order to power this card.
If one GTX 770 isn’t enough, you can put (up to) three of them in SLI. I personally feel that this is a little bit pointless as by the time you’re going to require that much GPU power to power your monitors, you will have long run out of VRAM to be able to make use of the core power. It seems like an oversight in my eyes.
There are three large (8mm) heatpipes which draw heat away from the GPU and into the large surface area of the fins. Other cards use more but smaller pipes so it will be interesting to see how this one performs.
To finish off, and as always, here’s the outputs of the card. It features two DVI ports, one of which is a DVI-D and one is a DVI-I, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort for completeness’s sake. It also has full support for HDPC.
Usually I would go into the deep end and show you the card itself with the cooler taken off and such, but due to there being a warranty sticker over one of the screws, I thought it would be best to leave it in tact for this time round. I hope to get my hands on more cards to be able to show you what they look like in the future.
CPU:Intel Core i7-4770K @4.5GHz
CPU Cooler: Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme
Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z87X-OC
RAM: G.SKILL RipJawsX 2400MHz 2x4GB (8GB) CAS10
PSU: Enermax MaxRevo 1350W 80PLUS Gold
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit
All benchmarks are done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit that is fully up-to-date with Windows Updates to ensure that the performance reflects a real-world scenario and not that of a tweaked benchmarking system. Every benchmark runs for a total of three times and then an average is taken of those results.
3DMark 11 – Performance and Extreme presets
3DMark Fire Strike – Normal and Extreme presets
Unigine Heaven 4.0 – Basic and Extreme presets
Unigine Valley – Extreme and Extreme (HD) presets
Metro: Last Light
Overclocking is always something which a particular card will either love or hate. It is largely dependent on the silicone itself though. Some cards will absolutely fly and others will be lucky to gain 100MHz. It’s down to pot luck at the end of the day. Another thing is the ASIC quality which has been proven to give you a rough guideline in terms of its overclocking abilities.
I’ve heard of these cards being able to sit at 1200MHz on the core very comfortably and 2GHz on the RAM. Unfortunately, my particular sample wasn’t able to maintain that speed on the VRAM. It had to be dropped in order to maintain stability.
The final clock speed I had to settle for on the core was 1253MHz with a GPU boost up to 1306MHz. Anything above this would cause instantly problems when loading it with any 3D benchmark. The VRAM had to run at 1953MHz which was close to my 2GHz goal but it just couldn’t reach it.
It is worth noting that setting the power target to the maximum in eVGA Precision does increase the maximum temperature allowance to 94°c which is a huge 20°c gap from stock.
The GTX 770 is basically a buffed up GTX 680 which is not uncommon for NVIDIA to do. It features higher clock speeds and some new technologies such as Turbo Boost 2.0 for example. However, does it warrant the money and should you switch from a GTX 680 to a GTX 770? Definitely not. However, if you are looking for a new card and are upgrading from say a 5** series or from the AMD camp from a similar era and you are looking to spend around £300 to £350, this is a card that should be on your shortlist.
Unfortunately, due to our testing (at the time) we do not have that many results to compare this card against and the direct competitor is actually the HD7950 from HIS. We hope to add more graphics cards to results very soon to give you (the readers) a more accurate idea of each card. Either way, with that in mind, it’s time to round up all of the test results and such to conclude this review. I’m going to start with the performance of this particular card.
Based on the testing which I did with this card, it is certainly not a slouch. It’s a powerhouse for the money, actually! Obviously it has no chance of catching up to a GTX 780 due to the 780 being a cut down TITAN but it sure tries. The card is meant to be on par with the HD 7970 which we did have in our results but they had to be omitted due to a fault it had (unknown at the time) which means we can only directly compare it to the HD 7950 from HIS that I previously reviewed.
If you want are the kind of person who likes a silent computer, I can safely say that this cooler will not let you down. I’ve always known graphics cards to make a lot of noise when the fans are at 100% but the DirectCU II made it a very different experience. It was definitely noticeable but once the CPU fans picked up pace due to the system being loaded in games for example, it was inaudible. It was a welcoming change and it should also be noted that the fans never actually hit 100% unless you manually set them to that. The temperatures of the card were well within acceptable limits too. It only peaked at 81°c, even when it was heavily overclocked and the fan profiles were on auto. I did not set the fan to 100% at any point other than to check the audio levels.
The card did not overclock as far as some other samples that I have seen reviewed but I can’t say that I am disappointed as I know exactly how overclocking works and I am very familiar with the ‘silicone lottery’. You may get luckier than me and my overclocking adventures but you could also do worse. I never say “it will hit this clock” because it isn’t something I can ever guarantee. Ultimately, I aim to give you a guideline and that’s as far as it’ll be able to go.
The card itself is constructed of quality materials and with it being an ASUS card, you can be assured that the components will last. The card is backed by a three year warranty for peace of mind too. It is also worth noting that this card, being a DirectCU II, is a completely custom designed card which may make it a little more difficult to get water blocks for it. With that being said, it is also constructed with high quality materials.
In terms of value for money, the card does fairly well in some instances and worse in others. However, this is largely dependent on which games you play. Some are heavily AMD optimised and some are heavily NVIDIA optimised. If you are looking to play a myriad of games, it will do well in some and not so well in others as you’d probably expect but that is the story with any card.
I have chosen to give this card a 4.5 in the performance and value sectors of my testing and a full-blown 5 in the design area because I think this card is a thing of beauty and its design is brilliant. If I had more cards to test, it may have scored better or worse in the areas but I feel that they are reasonable as I do not have any other GTX 770s to my disposal (yet!).
Many thanks to Overclockers UK for providing us with a sample.
If you’re looking for a new NVIDIA card and are willing to spend in the £300 to £350 region, look no further than the ASUS GTX 770 DirectCU II OC. It’s very well built, very quiet, has a great cooler and is a great all-rounder.