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Asus R9 270X and 280X DirectCU II TOP Review

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Manufacturer: Asus

A Refreshing Change

Refreshes are bad, right?  I guess that depends on who you talk to.  In the case of AMD, it is not a bad thing.  For people who live for cutting edge technology in the 3D graphics world, it is not pretty.  Unfortunately for those people, reality has reared its ugly head.  Process technology is slowing down, but product cycles keep moving along at a healthy pace.  This essentially necessitates minor refreshes for both AMD and NVIDIA when it comes to their product stack.  NVIDIA has taken the Kepler architecture to the latest GTX 700 series of cards.  AMD has done the same thing with the GCN architecture, but has radically changed the nomenclature of the products.

Gone are the days of the Radeon HD 7000 series.  Instead AMD has renamed their GCN based product stack with the Rx 2xx series.  The products we are reviewing here are the R9 280X and the R9 270X.  These products were formerly known as the HD 7970 and HD 7870 respectively.  These products differ in clock speeds slightly from the previous versions, but the differences are fairly minimal.  What is different are the prices for these products.  The R9 280X retails at $299 while the R9 270X comes in at $199.

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Asus has taken these cards and applied their latest DirectCU II technology to them.  These improvements relate to design, component choices, and cooling.  These are all significant upgrades from the reference designs, especially when it comes to the cooling aspects.  It is good to see such a progression in design, but it is not entirely surprising given that the first HD 7000 series debuted in January, 2012.

Click here to read the rest of the review!

 

DirectCU II Basics

Asus aims to provide users with a better overall experience through design decisions which improve performance without being significantly more expensive than the reference designs.  The products I am writing about here are approximately $20 more expensive than the basic sticker units, but they should provide better overclocking potential as well as significantly cooler temperatures at load.  Asus does this through several methods.

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The first is the board design and power delivery.  Depending on which product this is, there are extra power phases for the GPU.  These phases are also controlled by the Digi+VRM that Asus claims is much faster and more efficient than the stock VRM controller.  Digital VRM controllers offer faster response for power needs of the GPU and can be programmed more precisely when put in overclocked scenarios.  Power efficiency is also improved by the choice of components that Asus chooses for these cards.  The Super Alloy Power components include high quality polymer caps, high power MOSFETS, and concrete chokes (to essentially eliminate choke buzzing).  These choices lead to better overall power characteristics and cooler operation.

The second portion is that of the software controlling the card.  GPU Tweak is Asus’ overclocking and management software suite for their graphics cards.  This is very similar to MSI’s Afterburner, and honestly is just as good if not a little better.  This software suite allows the user to control most functionality on the cards, from voltages to boosts to fan speeds.  The user can tweak their experience to a great deal with this software, and it of course allows fine overclocking control.

The third aspect is that of cooling.  In the past Asus has relied upon large three slot coolers to handle the heat loads of the high end cards.  This was overall pretty unpopular with users as each card took up quite a bit of space.  It also essentially eliminated Asus from a lot of the small enclosures that are becoming more popular.  The latest generation of cards stick with dual slot units with redesigned heat pipes to more adequately cool the very latest GPUs.

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Overall the DirectCU II improvements are a good step up from the reference designs.  Asus hits the sweet spot in terms of cooling efficiency, overclocking potential, and price.  These cards are really not all that more expensive than sticker versions and do offer a lot more functionality and performance.

January 16, 2014 | 09:35 AM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Looks like very solid cards. I really want to see some custom cooled versions of the 290 soon.

January 16, 2014 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Ryan has already reviewed units from Asus and Sapphire on this here site.

January 16, 2014 | 11:16 AM - Posted by LtMatt

Shame you started using DDOF in Bioshock Ryan. The game looks so much better with it disabled, not to mention the impact it has on performance numbers.

January 16, 2014 | 12:02 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Well, those numbers are worst case scenarios for extreme graphics.  Happily, as a user, you can disable it and get a performance boost with your setup!

January 16, 2014 | 12:39 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

I'm kind of curious as to why I can find 270 boards with 4GB and 280s seem stuck at 3GB.

January 16, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

The 270s use a 256 bit bus, so they can cram 4 GB of memory on them.  The 280 has a 384 bit bus, so to go above 3 GB they need to use 6 GB.  That is much more expensive than they feel that most users will go for, so they keep them at 3 GB.  Plus, the 280s are already overpriced with just 3 GB right now!  Someone really didn't figure out this demand thing...

January 16, 2014 | 01:04 PM - Posted by snook

great review Josh. After reading this, I'm convinced that miners are responsible for every known world problem. I mean all of them, including excessive cow flatulence!

They have ruined my upgrade plans for the time being. :/

thanks for the review.

January 16, 2014 | 01:13 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Damn those miners!  At least you can get the R9 270x at a decent price... but yeah, no 280X anywhere near the promised $299.

January 16, 2014 | 04:22 PM - Posted by MDWired (not verified)

Is it me or are the graph numbers switched like the min FPS To high and the avg FPS to low on the Unigine Heaven benchmarks.

January 16, 2014 | 05:36 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

LOL, yup!  Obviously I transposed the numbers.  Just pretend Min is Avg. and Avg. is Min!

January 16, 2014 | 09:07 PM - Posted by DerekR (not verified)

I bought a Gigabyte Windforce R9 270X last November. Having upgraded from an MSI GTX460 with only 768MB of video memory, the 270X was a fantastic deal!

The GTX760 might be the performance equivalent for the 270X, but the price point is mush closer to the older GTX660 here in Japan. Video cards are priced fairly higher than the US. nVidia cards in particular are pricey. When I bought my car a MSI TwinFrozer GTX660 was going for around $200, while the Gigabyte Windforce 270X was only slightly more at $225. Most of the GTX760s that I saw were going for around $370 to $400.

January 17, 2014 | 08:53 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Yeah, that's a pretty steep increase in price as compared to performance on the R9 270X.  The 270X is still probably the best overall deal in the market for what you get.

January 19, 2014 | 12:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Makes me glad I got the HD 7870 for $120 after rebate over a month ago. Not sure if I can bring myself to get the 270X at current prices.

January 21, 2014 | 06:29 PM - Posted by Damian (not verified)

Glad I was able to grab the Asus R9 280x DC2T for my new build before the rush. Snuck it out of Newegg beginning of December for $319...before the gouging began.

Love it.

January 22, 2014 | 08:55 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

It certainly is a nice card.  Good job on grabbing it before the insanity hit.

March 22, 2014 | 10:37 PM - Posted by DrunkenBishop (not verified)

Notice the dif in the fans on the 280X other than the actual card size and such.... Put that on the cooling on the 270X and you could no doubt O.C. more. Gotsa LOVE ASUS....!!!! I do.

May 12, 2014 | 10:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

hello everybody, sorry for my english i am french

i have a lot of problem with asus r9 280x directcu 2 top artifact game freeze and stop and return in windows and i dont understand why if someone know about please tell me

thanks

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