ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU MINI Review
Most gamers and enthusiasts focus on getting the highest possible performance for their money and push secondary concerns like power consumption and card size aside. However, thereís a growing niche that understandably wants their PCs to be minimally intrusive in their environments. That means moving towards smaller, more compact form factors.
At this point in time the SFF market is relatively well represented, with quite a few enclosures, motherboards and even CPU heatsinks catering to confined environments. Unfortunately, gamers who wanted a smaller system either had to sacrifice GPU performance or move their system into a slightly larger case since a high end graphics card typically led to a larger footprint. Not anymore.
ASUSí new GTX 670 DirectCU Mini targets this burgeoning product space with a GPU that offers excellent framerates while still fitting into smaller cases like the Lian Li PC-Q11 and Silverstone SG04 series. Granted, a GTX 670 may not be the latest generation in NVIDIAís lineup but itís still has what it takes to power through every conceivable game at 1080P.
While the Miniís focus may be on delivering a compact footprint for size-challenged enclosures, ASUS has still given it higher-than-reference clock speeds with a 28MHz increase to Boost speeds. Along with the stock 6Gbps memory, that frequency increase wonít make a noticeable performance difference but itís nonetheless great to see that ASUSí design isnít held back by its size.
One area which may cause some potential buyers of this card to hesitate is its price. Creating it did take some engineering on ASUSí part and thereís always a premium attached to a niche product. With that being said, the GTX 670 DirectCU Mini does go for $325 or $299 after various rebates which is right in line with other GTX 670 cards. Count us pleasantly surprised.
At just 6.7Ē long, this is one incredibly small card which wonít surpass the edge of mini ITX motherboards. The DirectCU II Mini also uses ASUSí distinctive RoG red and black color scheme to great effect, creating a card that looks aggressive yet sleek at the same time.
As with many custom ASUS cards, this GTX 670 uses the DirectCU heatsink but adds a few interesting twists. The cooler houses a copper-based vapor chamber that makes direct contact with the GPU core upon which a large fin array is built. Meanwhile, the shroud is studded with airflow inlets to ensure the CoolTech fan performs up to its stated specifications.
Speaking of that CoolTech fan, it uses a specialized dust proof technology which isolates the bearing, ensuring dust and other particles donít hamper its rotations. This allows it to provide a significantly longer lifespan than traditional axial designs.
ASUS has also designed this fan so it optimizes airflow directionality which allows for more effective cooling of the heatsink assembly and adjacent components without sacrificing acoustics. Naturally, these advanced features allow the Mini to maintain below-reference temperatures even though it uses a compact design.
Underneath the heatsink lies a selection of Super Alloy Power components which includes a number of ASUS-specific components which have been designed to increase the cardís lifespan. There are chokes that house a concrete core which eliminates coil whine, capacitors that boast a lifespan thatís about 90,000 hours longer than standard units and MOSFETs that have a 30% higher voltage capacity for increased overclocking stability. Supposedly, these components also lead to better efficiency which is a cornerstone of small form factor builds.
Behind the Miniís dwarf-like PCB is a Direct Power connector which acts as an express power pathway between the PWM and GPU core. This allows for less impedance, increased efficiency and most importantly, cleaner power delivery to the core.
Since there are less soldered paths between the core and VRM, Direct Power also leads to significantly lower PCB temperatures which tends to prolong the life of a graphics card and can even lead to increased overclocking headroom.
Thereís a reason you wonít see this Direct Power feature on larger graphics cards: thereís just too much space between the PWM and core for it to be effective. For the time being, the Mini is one of the few cards in ASUSí lineup that uses it.
On the connector front, there really isnít anything to distinguish the GTX 670 DirectCU II Mini from the reference design other than the space-saving single 8-pin power connector. For anyone using this card for an HTPC system, the full-sized HDMI port will likely come in handy since adaptors wonít be needed for HDTV output.
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