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Asus R9 270X Direct CUII TOP edition review

Discussion in 'Graphics Cards' started by itsakjt, Apr 29, 2014.

  1. itsakjt

    itsakjt

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    1. Introduction:

    Hi everyone! This is a review of the Asus R9 270X DC2T 2GD5 graphics card.
    AMD has recently launched their Radeon R7 and R9 series of graphics cards. The R7 series is targeted for entry level to mainstream gamers whereas the R9 series focuses on the high end gamers. Here is a link to the Asus India official website referring the card I am reviewing:

    https://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/R9270XDC2T2GD5/


    Built on the new GCN(Graphics Core Next) architecture, the R9 270X boasts a stream processors count of 1280, 80 texture memory units(TMUs), 32 raster operations units(ROPs) and a memory bus width of 256 bit GDDR5 making 2 GB of graphics memory. The GPU is made of 2.8 billion transistors based on a 28 nm manufacturing process and code named Pitcairn. The GPU is actually a re-badge of the HD 7870.

    The standard reference clocks for the R9 270X GPU are 1050 MHz for the core and 1400 MHz for the memory. The Asus variant(TOP edition) comes overclocked out of the box with the GPU at 1120 MHz which is a significant increase over the reference model. The memory clock is kept same at 1400 MHz.

    Brief specs:

    [​IMG]

    2. Unboxing and packaging:

    Packaging was excellent as is expected from Asus. The box has some good aesthetic appeal. See for yourself!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Inside the box!

    [​IMG]

    Finally after another small box housing the supplied accessories, we get this giant card! It is well protected with anti static bag and foam to prevent damages from static electricity and from impact during shipping.

    [​IMG]

    In box accessories:

    [​IMG]

    You get one crossfire bridge, user manual, driver disc and a molex to PCIE 6 pin converter in case you have an adequate power supply but with only one PCIE connector.
    There ends the unboxing and now I will move on to the close ups of the card.

    3. Gallery and close ups, choice of components:

    [​IMG]

    Asus slightly redesigned their Direct CU II cooler. This looks almost like one from the "Republic of Gamers" i.e. "ROG" segment.

    Here comes the back of the card:

    [​IMG]

    The cooling system:

    Cooling is taken care of by the two fans(both PWM controlled) and a large heatsink having 42 fins and a total of 3 nickel plated copper heat pipes of which 2 covers the entire 42 fins twice and the remaining one covers the 42 fins once.

    The rear fan(near power connectors):

    [​IMG]

    The front fan(near output area):

    [​IMG]

    Heatsink having 42 fins:

    [​IMG]

    Three copper pipes pass through the entire heatsink:

    [​IMG]

    Three memory ICs are kept in contact with the heatsink using a green thermal pad. I personally would have been happier if this configuration was maintained for the remaining chips.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Fan connector:

    [​IMG]

    Special features detailed, components used:

    You get one Crossfire connector for multi GPU configuration.

    [​IMG]

    Here are the power connectors. There are two 6 pin PCIE power connectors backed by 4 LEDs-2 Green and 2 Red. If the power cable is disconnected, the Red LED will glow. A successful connection will cause the green LED to glow. This is an extremely helpful and innovative feature from Asus and will help eliminating any loose connection issues. The LEDs will glow even if the system is not started but has power(standby mode). Pretty sure it used the 3.3V SB for this LED monitoring.

    Each PCIE 6 pin connector provides a maximum power of 75 Watts. Two of them make it 150 W The motherboard can provide an additional 75 W. Therefore this configuration will allow a maximum power draw of 75+75+75 = 225 W.

    [​IMG]

    Red LEDs will glow if the cables are disconnected:

    [​IMG]

    Successful connection is indicated by two green LEDs:

    [​IMG]

    Separate monitoring is there for each connector:

    [​IMG]

    VRAM section:

    The GDDR5 memory ICs are from Elpida and carry the model number W2032BBBG-6A-F. They have a specified frequency of 1500 MHz(6000 MHz effective). So expect overclocking the memory clock to at least up to this point. The chip count is 8.

    [​IMG]

    Voltage regulating module(VRM) section:

    Premium alloy chokes from trio is selected which we have seen on many other high end graphics cards and motherboards.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    MOSFETs used for voltage regulation are from ON Semiconductors and the carry the model numbers 4955N and 4937N

    [​IMG]

    The power delivery system is made up of a 6+2 phase configuration where there are 6 phases for the GPU core and 2 phases for the memory. Note that the reference model has a 5+1 configuration where 5 phases is for the GPU core and 1 phase for the memory. This is a good approach by Asus and thus aids stability when overclocking.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Three MOSFET controllers from International Rectifier is used for the GPU core power delivery.

    [​IMG]

    Apart from all these, all solid state capacitors are used which is pretty common for a card like this. And there's more. This card comes with Asus Digi VRM i.e. the voltage regulation is fully digital thus having less noise in filtration of the voltage and better power efficiency. This should also aid in overclocking.

    Unfortunately, I could not take a photo of the Digi VRM controller as it is covered under the shroud and I was not permitted to take apart the heatsink. But I managed to know the name of the micro-controller from AIDA 64 sensors page which reports CHiL 8228 made by CHiL semiconductors. You can search for it on the internet for relevant datasheet.

    Output section-Choice of ports:

    [​IMG]

    From left to right: Two DVI ports(upper one is analog + digital - DVI-I and the lower one is only digital - DVI-D), HDMI port and display port.

    There ends the close ups and gallery section.
    4. Test setup:

    CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 CPU @ 3.74 GHz, IMC @ 2.8 GHz
    Motherboard: Asus M5A97 R2.0(BIOS version: 2301)
    RAMs: Kingston HyperX Blu 1600 MHz 2*4 GB DDR3 @ 1866 MHz 9-10-9-24-1T dual channel(RAM part code:KHX1600C9D3B1/4G)
    Graphics card: Asus R9 270X DC2T 2GD5
    Hard disk: Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARS(AAM set to high performance, idle timer/head parking disabled)
    Power supply: Corsair GS 700
    Monitor: Dell S2240M IPS @ 1920*1080, 60 Hz.
    Operating system: Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit service pack 1
    Graphics driver: Catalyst 13.12 WHQL

    Notes: The CPU and RAM were overclocked to eliminate any bottlenecks. The CPU - memory bandwidth of the system is found to be 16 GB/s from SiSoft Sandra.

    First run:

    [​IMG]

    5. Synthetic benchmarks(3D Mark Vantage, 11, Unigine Heaven etc):

    3D Mark Vantage:

    3D Mark Vantage is a very popular software for benchmarking and comparing scores. It is based on DirectX 10. Testing done on performance preset for better comparison. Lets start with this:

    [​IMG]

    It scores 25639 points! There is some bottlenecking for the system because below you will see a further CPU overclock increased the graphics score by 1000 points. GPU clocks remained constant.
    I did not run the CPU test this time for the consistency.
    The graphics card scores excellent marks.

    [​IMG]

    3D Mark 11:

    3D Mark 11 is based on DirectX 11 and also is one of the best GPU benchmark tools available. Tested using the performance preset.

    [​IMG]

    Again, the graphics card scores a mighty 8500+ points which will somewhat increase once a better CPU is popped in.

    3D Mark 2013 edition:

    Here comes the new 3D Mark released in 2013. With astonishing visuals and mind blowing tessellation, this benchmark has an awesome eye candy and is becoming a very popular benchmarking tool. Here are the scores:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the online validation:

    http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/2866389

    Scores very good points. I also compared similar system scores and this is on the highest performing side.

    Unigine Heaven:

    Unigine Heaven is an excellent benchmark tool for graphics cards and stresses the GPU to the limit thanks to the amount of tessellated textures it renders. A beauty to watch, here is the score we get!

    [​IMG]

    It scores 1010 points. Every settings were maxed as seen in the screenshot. It is a good score.

    Unigine Valley:

    A new benchmark tool compared to the others, this is an extremely visually appealing benchmark and stresses the GPU. I will just keep it to the numbers here since we are not that much familiar with this benchmark. It scores 1416 points. All settings were maxed according to the provided preset(Extreme HD).

    [​IMG]

    AIDA GP/GPU benchmark:

    Finalwire has now a GP/GPU benchmark tool in their AIDA 64 suite. Lets see how the graphics card scores.

    [​IMG]

    These are very good scores for a GPU in this price range. And it supports double precision computation. The memory copy speed is good thanks to the 256 bit GDDR5 memory interface.

    So that's the end for the synthetic benchmarks. Lets move on to the gaming benchmarks now.

    6. Gaming benchmarks:

    Here is the performance of the graphics card in games. Game settings are given in screenshot and charts are provided.

    Notes:

    i) Average FPS is not the sum of the min+max fps divided by 2. It is the equivalent approximation of the frame rates delivered for the maximum amount of time the game was played.
    ii) All games were tested in full HD 1080p(1920*1080 @ 60Hz) since this card is targeted towards this segment. V sync was turned off to avoid capping the frame rate equal to the refresh rate of the monitor.

    iii) The benchmark test tool was used in games which provided the option. Other games were tested in normal circumstances - user playing a particular mission of a game at some particular settings which are stated.

    iv) I will split the games into two parts. Games which have an inbuilt benchmarking tool(e.g. Grid 2, Sleeping Dogs) and games which does not have an inbuilt benchmarking tool but requires user to play and judge(e.g. Batman Arkham Origins, Battlefield 3).


    Games not having benchmark tool:
    Batman Arkham Origins:

    Batman Arkham Origins released in 2013 by WB Games was one of the best sellers of the year. Delivering amazing game play experience, the game also gives stunning visuals and sharp textures thanks to the Unreal Engine 3.
    Game settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Open world):

    [​IMG]

    The game runs without any hiccups and smooth. PhysX was deliberately turned off as it is supported by NVIDIA only and for the fair comparison.

    Metro Last Light:

    Released in 2013 by 4A Games, Metro last light is the second part of the Metro series the former being Metro 2033. It is based on the 4A Engine and is extremely GPU intensive.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Mission: Sundown):

    [​IMG]

    A very well game play performance. This game is extremely GPU intensive and considering that, this is a very good score.

    Battlefield 3:

    Released back in 2011 by Electronic Arts, this game completely redefined DirectX 11 gaming thanks to its Frostbite 2 engine. This game was and somewhat still is extremely popular for multiplayer gaming till Battlefield 4 was released on 2013.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Mission: Operation Swordbreaker):

    [​IMG]

    Outstanding! All settings maxed out and still 63 FPS at 1080p. Really impressive performance.

    Battlefield 4:

    Released in 2014, this game has even better visuals than its predecessor thanks to the Frostbite 3 engine.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Mission: Baku):

    [​IMG]

    Very good performance. Every settings were maxed out except the AA which was set to one step lower. The game play is smooth and I didn't experience any stuttering that is common with this game thanks to the fast 2 GB GDDR5 memory used. The minimum FPS dropped to 28 at only a certain point where there was a lot of light shafts and broken structures. Most of the time, 50-54 FPS was delivered which is nice for a flagship game and for a card at this price point.

    Thief:

    Released on February this year by Eidos Montreal, this game has excellent stealth elements backed with excellent graphics. Tough to play, a smooth game play will let you feel that you are actually inside the game. Lets see how the GPU performs here.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    I just set the preset profile to very high. All other settings were auto adjusted.

    Performance(Chapter 7):

    [​IMG]

    Now that's something. A graphics intensive game released not even 2 months back! The graphics card delivers a super smooth 62 FPS most of the times!

    Far Cry 3:

    Released back in 2012 by Ubisoft, this game delivers an excellent open world action adventure with excellent textures and visual quality. This game is extremely GPU intensive and even very high end graphics cards fail to get good scores in this. Lets see how the Asus R9 270x DC2T 2GD5 performs here.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The ultra preset was selected and 4x antialiasing was given.

    Performance(Open world-Amanaki outpost)

    [​IMG]

    A pretty good score considering this game. A 2x AA instead of the 4x bumped up the average frame rate to 50 FPS.

    Saints Row 4:

    Developed by Volition, this is the most humorous games one can play. Fully open world, this game lets you do practically anything while delivering some real good visuals.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Open world):

    [​IMG]

    Here also, a stable and smooth average frame rate of 60 FPS with every settings maxed out! Oh anyone will love this card!

    Splinter Cell Blacklist:

    Blacklist is the latest addition to Ubisoft's Splinter Cell line up. Having both stealth and aggressive moments, this game also has excellent graphics and is extremely GPU intensive. Lets move on to the scores.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    Performance(Mission name: Pakistani Embassy)

    [​IMG]

    The card delivers good frame rates even with 4x AA at 1080p. Anyone would be happy with the performance.

    Moving on to the next section now i.e.
    Games having an inbuilt benchmark tool.

    Grid 2:

    Released by Codemasters, this game gives an amazing racing experience. One having a controller or gamepad will enjoy it even more and it has got spilt screen as well so that you can play with your friends.

    Settings:

    [​IMG]

    All internal settings were set to maximum and soft ambient occlusion was turned on too.

    [​IMG]

    Performance:

    The in-game benchmark was run and here are the results:

    https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7187/13823651453_ea7b9bb0e0_o.jpg

    [​IMG]

    At those insane settings, an average FPS of 67! You definitely want this card by now!

    Sleeping Dogs:

    Sleeping Dogs was developed by Square Enix back in 2012. It is an amazing open world game and visual quality is excellent. The game stresses both the GPU and CPU. The internal benchmark tool was run. All settings were highest except super sampling which was set one step back because of optimization problems of the game.

    Settings and performance:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    An average frame rate of 76 FPS! See for yourself!

    Dirt 3:

    Dirt 3 was developed by Codemasters on May 2011. Backed by extremely optimized DirectX 11 graphics, the game delivers an extremely well controlled racing environment.

    Settings: All settings were maxed out.

    [​IMG]

    Performance:

    [​IMG]

    An average FPS of 95! Do you want more?

    So here, I will end the gaming benchmark section. All games run very good on almost highest to highest settings at 1080p. What's more is that all this performance is at stock clocks of this card. So.... I know what you are waiting for. Yes I will include performance gains achieved from overclocking. Keep on reading.

    7. Temperatures, fan speeds and power play profiles:

    Temperature monitoring was done with AIDA 64 sensor. Played Battlefield 4 for 1 hour and here are the temperatures.

    [​IMG]

    The maximum temperature of the GPU Diode was 74 degree C and that of the voltage regulator was 79 degree C. The ambient temperature was 37-38 degree C. Considering that, the cooling system is extremely effective.

    Fan speeds :

    The fans as expected from Asus are of top notch quality. When idle, they spin at 20% duty cycle having around 1200 RPM(rotations per minute) and there is almost no audible noise under a normal desktop setup. While playing that 1 hour of Battlefield 4, fan speeds went up to 2700 RPM(63% duty cycle according to AIDA 64).

    The usual airflow noise was there while the GPU was loaded and no humming noise was there. Asus used excellent fans and they are PWM(Pulse Width Modulation) controlled too. They were extremely stable and no major vibrations were there which is usually common with GPU fans.

    Clock profiles and AMD powerplay:

    [​IMG]

    AMD PowerPlay is a technology in their GPUs so that the GPU at idle states operate at low clock speeds and low voltages and switch to high performance clocks and required operating voltage when required. It is stored in the BIOS of the card.
    Asus compiled the BIOS such that no Windows Aero lag would be there even on 4K displays and UVD(Universal Video Decoder) clocks are also selected well to ensure smooth playback of movies while conserving energy.

    The idle GPU core voltage is 0.875 V and when loaded, it goes up to 1.206 V.

    8. Overclocking and Asus GPUTweak:

    Overclocking was done with Asus' supplied GPUTweak tool, an extremely popular software for GPU overclocking used by enthusiasts.

    The software was installed from the Asus disc easily.

    [​IMG]

    The Graphical User Interface(GUI) is excellent and we have all settings we need including voltage control which has to be enabled from the settings menu.

    The overclocked settings are:
    Core: 1220 MHz(100 MHz increase, approx 9% increase)
    Memory: 1520 MHz(120 MHz increase, approx 8.6% increase)

    All voltages were at default values and left untouched. Overclock potential is pretty good. I personally expected the memory to overclock a bit more but again in overclocking, its all lottery. I am very sure, higher GPU core clocks can be achieved with increasing the voltage.

    Ran a test of 3D Mark 11 and the scores increased!

    [​IMG]

    9145 points in the graphics score. A good 600+ points increase.

    With this, played Battlefield 3 for sometime and here are the frame rates:

    [​IMG]

    71 FPS! The average FPS at stock was 63. That's a good 8 FPS increase.
    Performance gain: 8 FPS(12.6% increase).

    http://www.techpowerup.com/gpuz/u3qmy/

    9. Final words and conclusion:

    The Asus R9 270X DC2T 2GD5 graphics card retails here around 16000-16500 Rupees in Kolkata, India where I live.

    Pros:
    i) Comes factory overclocked(core clock)
    ii) Very low noise under idle load
    iii) Versatile choice of ports: DVI(Analog and Digital), HDMI and Display Port
    iv) Good cooling system
    v) Top notch components-Premium alloy chokes, dust proof fans, nickel plated copper pipe heatsink
    vi) Connection monitoring with LEDs
    vii) UEFI compatible
    viii) Good overclock potential for the GPU core
    ix) Excellent price to performance ratio

    Cons:

    i) Memory overclock potential is not much due to the use of Elpida chips known to not overclock well. Hynix could have been selected for the memory chip vendor.
    ii) All memory ICs could have been cooled with thermal pads
    iii) No AMD True Audio support(GPU limitation)

    There you go! Asus, the world's number 1 motherboard manufacturer is surely also one of the best graphics card manufacturers since a graphics card is actually a discrete motherboard only. Excellent choice of components and factory overclocked GPU core delivers much better performance when compared to a reference R9 270X. Using premium alloy chokes, digi VRM and the amazing cooling system is a very good approach by Asus and will ensure a long life and low operating temperatures!

    Overall I will rate it 9 out of 10!

    [​IMG]

    Last but not the least, an extremely heartfelt thanks to Asus India for providing me the review sample.

    About me:
    A 3rd year Computer Science Engineering student living in Kolkata, India with a passion to research on computer hardware and tweaking to get the maximum performance achievable at a price.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
    Devon68 says thanks.
  2. Devon68

    Devon68

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    At first when I opened this post I was like WTF is this guy reviewing on this card when it's kind of old news, but when I saw all what you did I take my hat off to you sir you did a great job, even better than some review site on the internet.
  3. itsakjt

    itsakjt

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    @Devon68 - I guessed that actually. Thanks for praising. :)
    This is actually my first review from a review sample and I wrote it here for the information base and because this is personally my favorite forum. :)

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