Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review

January 15, 2015 // 10:05 a.m.

Tags: #asus #asus-geforce-gtx-970-directcu-mini-review #asus-gtx-970-mini-review #best-mini-itx-graphics-card #gtx-970 #maxwell #mini-itx

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini 4GB Review

Manufacturer: Asus
UK price (as reviewed):
£281.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): Currently unavailable

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 is well known for its efficiency, but until now each of the partner variants we've seen of it have still used fairly chunky coolers. Granted, many of them are very quiet, with some even being semi-passive, but only Asus with this card, and Gigabyte with its GTX 970 Mini-ITX have created cards that truly qualify as dinky – this GTX 970 DirectCU Mini is just 170mm long, which makes it small enough to fit inside space-limited mini-ITX cases like the Raijintek Metis. Its price of around £280 puts it at £20-£25 more expensive than the most basic GTX 970s currently on the market.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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Even though it's small, the GTX 970 DirectCU Mini still has a stabilising, full-cover, brushed metal backplate. This will indirectly dissipate heat from the PCB, while also looking better than the bare rear of a circuit board. The main cooler shroud is plastic, so while build quality overall is still decent it's not as good as it would be were a metal shroud chosen instead.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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Asus's miniature GTX 970 still comes with the standard selection of display outputs, and both SLI connectors have been left intact too. Along the top edge we also find a single 8-pin PCI-E power connector. There's a chance that this will limit the card's overclocking potential, as so far the best overclocking GTX 970s we've seen have used an 8-pin/6-pin combination, but where space is at a premium this single connection makes a lot of sense – the point isn't to be the fastest GTX 970 around, but the smallest. A red LED just behind this connector turns white to let you know you've properly connected the 8-pin plug.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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The GTX 970 DirectCU Mini is shipped with a moderate 4 percent factory overclock with its base clock coming in at 1,089MHz, which gives it a boost clock of 1,228MHz. This is, understandably, the lowest boost we've seen from a pre-overclocked partner card so far, but some bigger cards on the market are slower, sticking to the stock 1,050MHz frequency. As we've become used to now, the memory has been left at its stock frequency of 7GHz effective.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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Prying off the cooler for a closer look reveals all eight Samsung memory chips positioned around the GPU on the front side of the PCB. We also find a 4+1 phase power arrangement that utilises Asus's Super Alloy Power components. These are said to bring numerous benefits: additional efficiency through reduced power loss, cooler operating temperatures and increased durability. The chokes feature concrete cores to eliminate buzzing noise while the capacitors are said to have a 2.5 times longer lifespan than standard ones.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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Instead of heat pipes, the GPU is cooled by a vapour chamber, and soldered directly to this is a circular set of aluminium fins. A larger metal plate surrounding the GPU contact plate is used in conjunction with thermal padding to draw heat away from four of the eight memory modules, as well as the critical components in the power circuitry like the voltage controller and MOSFETs, which also have a smaller heatsink above them. The DirectCU Mini cooling solution is a very complete one.

Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini Review
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The whole apparatus is cooled by a single fan, specifically an Asus CoolTech fan. The fan pairs an inner radial blower-style fan with outer, downward-facing curved blades, and is designed to move more air through the entirety of the heatsink while also staying very quiet. It is connected via a 4-pin header and is always on – there's no semi-passive mode, though we think this is fair enough given the size. The shroud surrounding the cooler is quite closed off, but it does have open sections around the sides of the main heatsink, meaning air will be exhausted in multiple directions into your case, not just through the rear I/O panel.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, 1,089MHz (boost 1,228MHz)
  • Pipeline 1,664 stream processors, 104 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 4GB GDDR5, 7GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 224GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatibility DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5
  • Outputs/Inputs Dual Link DVI-D, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
  • Power connections 1 x 8-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 170mm long, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years

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