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Asus R9 270X and 280X DirectCU II TOP Review

Author: Josh Walrath
Manufacturer: Asus

DirectCU II R9 270X TOP

First off let me say that visually I really like what Asus has done with their cooling solutions.  Looks are not everything, but the upgrade from the previous DCII units is pretty striking.  The old coolers were a little clunky and boxy looking while these new ones are much more organic looking.  I hate to say “sexy”, but they are a big improvement.  This of course is not the only upgrade the R9 270X gets from Asus.

The base clock of the stock unit is 1000 MHz with a boost up to 1050 MHz.  Asus overclocks this by a decent amount by going to a single clockspeed of 1120 MHz (no boost).  The memory stays at the same 5.6 GHz as the reference design.  On the 256 bit bus this gives a total bandwidth of 179 GB/sec.  Memory size is also at 2 GB, which should be more than enough for most current applications.  It is still comprised of 1280 stream units, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs.  This product does not include TrueAudio support as it is based on the older Pitcairn design.

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Asus upgrades the board design by giving it an extra power phase for the GPU.  It has 6 instead of the standard 5 on the reference design, but it leaves the memory with the same 2 phases as the reference.  For the price of this card, it is a nice option to have for overclocking purposes.  The board still comes with the two 6-pin PCI-E power connections, which should allow upwards of 225 watts of power to be delivered to the board.

AMD finally upgraded their output options to include two dual-link DVI connections as well as full sized HDMI and DisplayPort connections.  All four outputs can be used at once and the DP can be attached to an external DP-MST unit to push upwards of 5 panels at once.  The last generation of cards would have mixed and matched output options, and invariably one of the DVI ports was single-link.  I for one am happy about this particular upgrade.

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We can see the extreme differences between the MSI HAWK version of this chip and the DCII from Asus.

The cooling is again the centerpiece of this product.  The dual slot, dual fan cooler which features three heatpipes; two of which wrap all the way from the top to the bottom.  This gives the impression of five heatpipes in total, but when looking at the GPU area we see that there are in fact only three that touch the core.  The fans are 60 mm units, but are pretty basic as compared to the new CoolTech fan units featured in the higher end cards.

Overall this is a pretty impressive looking part for the $199 market.  Asus did add a lot of value to this design.  The card features a single CrossFire connection, so it cannot be used in Tri and Quad-Fire configurations.  There are still limitations with AMD’s CrossFire technology when it comes to Eyefinity frame pacing, but supposedly this next month we will see beta drivers which address this limitation.  Since it is again based on Pitcairn silicon, it does not feature the DMI based CrossFire functionality that the new R9 290 series does.  One nice thing is that this card can be CrossFire’d with the older HD series of products.  In my testing I was able to enable CrossFire with a MSI HD 7870 HAWK.

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.

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