ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC graphics card

This high-end graphics card is for serious gamers only

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ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC
  • ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC
  • ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC
  • ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5
  • User Rating

    5.00 / 5 (of 1 Review)

Pros

  • Excellent high-res performance
  • Surprisingly quiet and cool
  • Easy to overclock for extra speed

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Minimal standard overclock
  • Large, wide and heavy - not made for small cases

Bottom Line

ASUS’ GTX 780 DirectCU II OC graphics card will run the latest games, at the highest resolution, and at the best quality possible. It’s very expensive, large, and demands a lot of power, but great performance, good cooling and a lot of overclocking headroom makes it an easy choice for the enthusiast gamer.

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High-end graphics cards are a niche market; gamers who want the best of the best are a picky bunch, and are equally likely to buy two better-value mid-range cards and team them up rather than opt for a single high-powered slice of silicon. The GTX 780 is the second-best in the nVidia GeForce series after the TITAN, and the ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC is theoretically the best in its class.

ASUS has a trio of cards within its extensive line-up that use nVidia’s GTX 780 chipset. The ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC is the premium model, differentiated from the GTX 780 DirectCU II by its factory overclock (albeit of a measly 3 per cent), which itself is differentiated from the vanilla GTX 780 by its DirectCU II heatpipe cooler. The top ASUS card is significantly more expensive than the other two, but there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the three — what’s the value in buying it?

ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC: Design and setup

The ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC is a big graphics card, although it’s not quite as bulky as some of the more specialised and extreme cards we’ve seen like the ARES II. The card itself measures a full 300mm long, 160mm wide and 40mm deep at its extremes, so it’s not going to fit any any kind of compact case — we struggled fitting it into our testbed’s Antec Solo II mid-tower.

The lower edge of the GTX 780 DC2OC. You can see the four secondary heatpipes for cooling the GPU.
The lower edge of the GTX 780 DC2OC. You can see the four secondary heatpipes for cooling the GPU.

This particular card’s bulk is largely made up by the extensive size of the attached DirectCU II cooler, which has five heatpipes directly contacting the GTX 780’s core — one of which is a full 10mm thick — and distributing heat to a many-finned aluminium cooler. The cooler has two fans — one 92mm radial fan and one 92mm hybrid, which combines a flower-bladed radial fan with a blower for extra airflow.

The GTX 780 DC2OC’s matte black and shiny red finish, along with the brushed black metal plate along the card’s rear side, looks great, complementing our testbed’s motherboard nicely.

Although the ASUS variant looks very different to the reference GTX 780 design, it doesn’t go for any out-of-the-ordinary connectivity options. The ASUS GTX 780’s backplate contains a single DisplayPort 1.2, single HDMI 1.4a, single DVI-D, and single DVI-I (which can also function as VGA) connector — a standard suite of options which should see any single-monitor setup catered for, although multi-monitor setups will need to juggle a variety of connectors — we would have probably opted for dual DisplayPort if given the option.

The backplate of the GTX 780 DC2OC.
The backplate of the GTX 780 DC2OC.

The GTX 780 supports the full-speed PCI-Express 3.0 16x standard, so it’ll perform to the best of its ability in any motherboard meeting that specification. It’s also SLI compatible, with a dual-card SLI bridge included in the card’s retail bundle. Also included is a quick start guide and a CD containing recent graphics drivers (a 320.18 WHQL nVidia driver, which is only one iteration behind the current 320.49 WHQL at the moment) and ASUS’ GPU Tweak 2.0 software.

The GTX 780 DirectCU II OC requires one eight-pin and one six-pin power connector from your power supply; ASUS recommends a power supply above 600 Watts, with the card itself consuming up to 300 Watts at full-speed operation.

ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC: Features, specs and performance

We tested the ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC in a modern high-end gaming system, based around an Intel Core i7-3770 CPU on an ASUS motherboard, running Windows 8 Pro from a Crucial M4 256GB solid-state drive. The power supply running the show was a Corsair AX1200 PSU, with more than enough juice to keep everything running smoothly. Everything was displayed on a Samsung Series 8 (S27A850T) monitor at its native 2560x1440 resolution, as well as at a lower 1920x1080 resolution to represent a wider range of common displays.

The top plate of the GTX 780 DC2OC, covered with a black brushed metal panel.
The top plate of the GTX 780 DC2OC, covered with a black brushed metal panel.

Being ASUS’ top dog GTX 780 model, the GTX 780 DCII OC enjoys a slight factory overclock, sitting at a GPU base of 889MHz versus the reference 863MHz and a GPU boost clock of 941MHz vs the reference 900MHz. These 3-4 per cent overclocks are extremely conservative, which is strange for the usually impressive clocks we’ve seen in the past from other high-end ASUS gear. Memory isn’t overclocked at all past stock standards.

We ran the GTX 780 through a swathe of tests using modern games and synthetic benchmarks to get a good idea of its real-world performance. In 3DMark’s Fire Strike DirectX 11 benchmark, we recorded a result of 8,598, while Fire Strike Extreme understandably dropped to 4,452. These results are slightly better, but not by much, than our stock GTX 780’s 8,402/4,333.

Battlefield 3 flys along on the GTX 780, with an average frame-rate of 118FPS at 1080p and 79FPS at 1440p in our Ultra settings benchmark — excellent results that mean the game always runs smoothly at the highest possible quality. Crysis 2 managed a blistering 97FPS at 1080p and 79FPS at 1440p, while Skyrim topped out at an average of 113FPS at 1080p and 108FPS at 1440p. These are good results for a single-GPU card.

The GTX 780 DC2OC's fans and DirectCU II cooler.
The GTX 780 DC2OC's fans and DirectCU II cooler.

Where the ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC really shines, though, is during overclocking with ASUS’ own GPU Tweak 2.0 software. We were able to wring plenty of extra Hertz from the GTX 780, with a 192MHz core clock boost to 1,081MHz and a 1,528Mhz memory clock boost to 7,536MHz — jumps of 22 and 25 per cent respectively, all for free from pushing a few sliders around in software. Running 3DMark again to get an idea of the difference the overclocking made, we saw results of 9,652/4,991 — hugely improved, and representative of this card’s real performance potential.

The GTX 780 is a relatively cool performer for the amount of power it consumes, with the ASUS DirectCU II cooler keeping it reasonably quiet — not inaudible, but no louder than our quiet-running Noctua DH-N14 CPU cooler — while also distributing hot air to be extracted by the case’s exhaust fans. If you’ve got an extremely hot system — a poorly vented case, or a mass of multiple hard drives — the reference cooler design, which directly exhausts hot air from the backplate of the card rather than dumping it into the case, would probably be more effective, but for most users ASUS’ solution is the best compromise between size, noise and cooling power.

ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC: Conclusion

It may be expensive, inconveniently large and poorly overclocked out of the box, but if you can spend a little time optimising it for the best possible performance, the ASUS GTX 780 DirectCU II OC is a powerful and future-proof gaming graphics card.

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