Asus DirectCU and DirectCU II for AMD: 6850, 6870, 6950, and 6970 Boards Under the Microscope
AMD Gets the Direct CU Treatment
In the previous roundup I covered the DirectCU II models from Asus featuring NVIDIA based chips. These boards included the GTX 580, 570, and 560 products. All of these were DirectCU II based with all the updated features that are included as compared to the original DirectCU products. With the AMD parts Asus has split the top four products into two categories; DirectCU II and the original DirectCU. When we start looking at thermal properties and price points, we will see why Asus took this route.
AMD has had a strong couple of years with their graphics chips. While they were not able to take the single GPU performance crown in this previous generation, their products were very capable and competitive across the board and at every price point. In fact, there are some features that these cards have at particular price points that make them very desirable in quite a few applications. In particular are the 2 GB of memory on the HD 6900 series cards where the competition from NVIDIA at those price points features 1 GB and 1.25 GB. In titles such as Skyrim, with the HD texture DLC enabled, these cards start to limit performance at 1920x1080 and above due to the memory requirements needed for these higher resolution textures.
The original DirectCU design features two to three copper heatpipes sandwiched between an aluminum plate and the GPU, those heatpipes are then routed towards the outer edges of the aluminum fins on the heatsink. These cards have a single fan which provides the necessary cooling.
DirectCU II is a much more elaborate setup. Up to five heatpipes are used in these products to direct heat away from the GPU. These cards also feature dual fans ranging in size from 70 mm to 80 mm. These cards can be found in either double slot size, or the massive triple slot (though officially it is mentioned as 2.5 slots, but I have yet to see another add-in card that is .5 slots in size that would be able to share that extra space).
Asus was kind enough to send us examples of each card based on the HD 6850, HD 6870, HD 6950, and HD 6970. Even though we are now entering the next generation of products from NVIDIA and AMD, these cards still hold a lot of value due primarily to their cost and the lack of new features for the majority of users that the new architectures bring. While the AMD HD 7000 series based on the GCN architecture has much improved GPGPU performance, the inclusion of the as-of-yet unsupported DirectX 11.1 is essentially a moot issue. As such, these cards are still for sale, and their value still makes articles such as these pertinent.
The GPUTweak utility was used with all of these cards to measure temperatures, voltages, and loads. It also is a very good overclocking utility that in its current state is very comparable to MSI’s Afterburner utility.