Asus Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II review

Asus adds some serious cooling to AMD's 6970 graphics card

Asus Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II
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Asus radeon hd 6970 direct cu ii

To put it plainly, this isn't really a factory overclocked graphics card.

Sure, Asus has added an extra 10MHz onto the core speed, but that's just a cursory nod to the fact this is a faster card all told. But if you're the sort to buy a pre-overclocked card so you can leave it at the out-of-the-box speeds only, this isn't the card for you.

That's not a bad way to roll with overclocked cards, but that extra 10MHz isn't going to justify the extra expense of this card in any way.

This is a card for tinkerers. For overclockers.

There is only one reason to pick up this card and that's to tweak the nuts off it to reach insane speeds yourself. The triple-slot, twin-fan cooler and dual 8-pin PCI-E power connectors attest to that raison d'etre.

The cooler, the Direct CU II part of the title, utilises direct-copper, 8mm thick heatpipes incorporated into the heatsink. That means the pipes are in direct contact with the GPU itself, offering maximum heat transference.

See what they did there?

Attached to the chunky heatsink are two similarly large fans, more than capable of pushing the air about quickly and without too much noise.

The triple-slot design means that it's not going to sit too pretty in rigs with a few extra PCI/PCI-E cards, and a CrossFire setup looks pretty unlikely too. But what it also means is that Asus can pack the back of the Radeon HD 6970 Direct CU II with display outputs.

But how far can you push this over-specced card then?

To get the most you'll need overclocking software that can open up the voltages as well as the core and memory seeds. Asus' bundled SmartDoctor is just such an app. Though it is one of the ugliest...

Unfortunately, as good as your cooling and power design is you still need to have the right chip. And since the quality and OC headroom of a GPU can vary, the degree to which you can push your card is pretty much in the lap of the gods.

We've seen some crazy figures garnered by the Asus HD 6970 Direct CU II in some places, but no matter the voltage settings or fan options we couldn't get better than a shade below 890MHz on the core clock.

That's a pretty feeble return given the extra OC chops this card should have.

We liked:

The cooling solution Asus has added to the HD 6970 is impressive and given a decent GPU at its heart should offer great overclocking potential.

We disliked:

It could just be down to the chip in this card, but there's no guarantee what sort of headroom any chip on the shelves will have, and that's a worry if you're expecting phenomenal performance.

Final word:

So you could get a wonder chip with crazy performance, or you could just get a little bit more for your money. It's a decent card, but the vagaries of GPU headroom could be a worry.