ASUS Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II Video Card Review

While it's been around for a while, we check out the DirectCU II version of the HD 6970 from ASUS and see how it goes.
| Jul 25, 2011 at 2:16 am CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package

Introduction
VIEW GALLERY - 31 IMAGES

We mentioned in our last video card review that the industry is a bit quiet at the moment and while we've got a few video cards come in lately, it's funny to note that all of them seem to be of the AMD variety. I suppose the fact that most of the time at launch we don't see AMD cards mixed up too much means that a little later down the track we really start to see companies doing more with them.

Today the particular card we're looking at is the ASUS HD 6970 DirectCU II one. I've quickly become a fan of the DirectCU II cooler for the simple fact it's proven to do an extremely good job when it comes to giving us low temperatures at low noise levels. The biggest gripe people have with the model is that it's of course a triple slot card.

If you're someone who find themselves happy with the onboard equipment like networking and audio, then the HD 6970 DirectCU II taking up an extra slot might not be all that much of a problem to you.

So with that said, let's look at what's going on with this card today by starting with the package. Once that's done we'll look at the card and see just what the DirectCU II cooler looks like before checking out the specifications of the card and then get into the performance side of things.

Package

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Checking out the front and back of the box, you don't see anything too out of the ordinary with the back of the box giving us a run down on some of the major features that are present on the card.

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Checking out the package, there's not much going on with the quick setup guide, driver CD, CrossFire cable and dual 6-Pin PCI-E to 8 Pin PCI-E connector.

Card & Specification

Card Pictures

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Looking at the card, you can see the massive DirectCU II cooler that is present on the card and you can of course see those two big fans that take up the majority of the card. Under those two fans you can see the massive heatsink that covers the whole card; hopefully the combination of both the fans and the heatsink make for another strong DirectCU II cooler.

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Taking a look around the card, we can see across the top we've got two 8-Pin PCI-E power connectors towards the back. This is a little different to reference HD 6970s which sees only a single 8-Pin and 6-Pin PCI-E connector. Continuing across the top of the card and moving to the front, we've got our two CrossFire connectors.

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Checking out the connectivity is where we see the card really stand out from the competition. For starters, it's here we see the massive triple slot setup in all its glory. The good news is that ASUS really take advantage of the extra room that's on offer here. Across the top you can see we've got a vent that takes up a whole slot and helps make sure that hot air can move outside the case. Below that we've got two DVI connectors and below that is probably my favorite part, the inclusion of four DisplayPort connectors.

As someone who uses three U2711 monitors, it annoys me that the maximum I can have hooked up via DisplayPort is two and one still has to be plugged in via DVI. The fact that I could plug all three of my U2711s on this card via DP makes it an extremely attractive option.

Specifications

Looking at the specification side of things, not much is going on. The core has been bumped up 10MHz too 890MHz. It's a bit of a weird overclock considering the size of the cooler that's present, but ASUS don't really advertise it as an overclocked card, so we're not really bothered.

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As for the 2GB of GDDR5, that comes in at the stock 5500MHz QDR.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Today we'll be checking out our ASUS HD 6970 Direct CU II against a bunch of other cards including the HD 6950 from MSI and HD 6970 from Sapphire. On the NVIDIA front, we've got the GTX 560 Ti and GTX 570.

Our ASUS is using the latest 11.6 driver while the Sapphire is using the 11.4 driver, so it will be interesting to see on a broader scale how the HD 6970s go with the latest driver.

Let's get started!

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight away we can see that extra little boost in performance from the latest drivers.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/

Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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We can continue to see that extra performance on offer form the latest 11.6 drivers under 3DMark Vantage.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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We can see under Unigine that both our HD 6970s perform similar to each other with no real difference. We continue to see the improvement AMD have made to Tessellation performance, though, looking at the performance of the HD model against NVIDIAs GTX 570.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark

Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Looking at Resident Evil 5, we've got strong performance across the board and you can see the boost those new drivers give us.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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Under H.A.W.X. 2 we've got good playable FPS across the board. Comparing the HD 6970s, you can see the most recent drivers make very little difference when compared to the popular 10.4s that we've been using for a few months now.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Looking at Mafia II, we've got some great performance and you can see our ASUS HD 6970 DirectCU II has no problems giving us that 60 FPS average we aim for at any resolution.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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While we see the new drivers on the ASUS HD 6970 give us a slight boost over the Sapphire using the older 11.4s, we can see the AMD cards do continue to struggle under this game.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Under Aliens vs. Predator we can see that our cards struggle at 2560 x 1600, but at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we see some great performance and you can see the latest driver helps boost performance a little as well with the boost at 1920 x 1200 being most appreciated.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/

While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Across the board we can see some strong performance under Street Fighter IV with no real surprises.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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No surprise under Far Cry 2 that the HD 6970 offers us some great performance and you can see that the ASUS card using the most recent drivers sees a good increase in performance compared to the Sapphire using the older 11.4s.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.

Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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I always find myself quite amazed at the performance we get under Batman AA just because of how good it looks. You can see, though, that our cards here have no problems dealing with this game, which is always good news.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Turning up the detail in some of our games, you can see some strong performance across the board. Unfortunately Aliens vs. Predator performance is a little low, but you can see under it and Far Cry 2 there's some great performance boosts with the latest drivers.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Looking at the temperature side of things you can see what a great job the massive DirectCU II cooler does.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Looking at the noise side of things, you can see again the Direct CU II card sits towards the bottom of the pack which is exactly where you want to be in this graph. You can continue to see the power of the DirectCU II cooler.

Power Consumption Tests

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw doesn't hold any surprises coming in at around the 350 watt mark.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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Looking at performance, we don't see anything out of the ordinary on a whole and the ASUS HD 6970 DirectCU II sits where you'd think it would.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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The ASUS HD 6970 DirectCU II is one of the more expensive HD 6970s on the market and FPS per dollar doesn't make it the best looking card in terms of value because it carries almost stock clocks and a higher price tag. The TVR graph of course doesn't put into consideration the features that are on offer, though, and the cooler on the card here is a real stand out.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

It's not uncommon to pay a bit more for an ASUS Video Card when compared to some of the competition and at $366.99 US after rebate at the moment it's one of the more expensive HD 6970s on the market. Out of the box, FPS for FPS it performs in line with any other HD 6970 that carries with it the reference clock speeds.

Performance of the card on an FPS side of things is only part of the picture. What makes the card stand out so much is the DirectCU II cooler. Sure, it takes up three slots, but it's such a small price to pay for anyone interested in having a card that is able to output loads of power at low noise levels.

The appeal over it when compared to the GTX 580 as well from ASUS which comes in a DirectCU II version is the fact that this card comes in a lot cheaper than the NVIDIA offering. Depending on what you want to spend, you can get a triple slot DCU II cooled card at a wide range of budgets as you start to hit the upper bracket of cards.

Of course, if you want to spend slightly less and don't need the power that's on offer from the HD 6970, you always have the option to move to the DirectCU II version of the HD 6950.

ASUS ultimately have just created a great cooler and made it a feature on these high end models from both NVIDIA and AMD. The main thing you need to answer now is, can you handle the card taking up three slots?

The thing is, it's not even really that, but more so whether or not you can handle the card taking up an extra slot, because we know that any high end card is going to take up two slots as it is. While going CrossFire might be a little difficult depending on the board you've got, in single form most people will probably find themselves happy to sacrifice another slot for the card. Especially as we see great onboard components these days.

All in all, we've just got another great version of the HD 6970 and another great model that sits in the DirectCU II series. What we ultimately see the HD 6970 DirectCU II do is let us know that you don't have to sacrifice your ear drums or immense heat for the cost of raw GPU power.

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Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:30 pm CDT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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