Value and Conclusion
|9.7||ASUS pulled off the seemingly impossible with their GeForce GTX 670 DC Mini. They managed to release a high-end gaming-grade graphics card that fits inside a mini-ITX case. NVIDIA laid the foundation for this by engineering their GK104 graphics chip to use as little power as possible and designing their reference GTX 670 with a short PCB. ASUS only had to devise an equally compact cooling solution that could handle the card's heat generation. This seems to have taken some engineering skill to achieve since they are the first to release a GTX 670 with such a small form factor, and it has almost been a year since the GTX 670's initial release.|
When I first heard about the ASUS GTX 670 DC Mini, I expected a lot of compromises to have been made, but that is not the case. The card really feels like any other GTX 670 (and I've tested many of them). Gaming works really well. The card easily handles everything with all the eye-candy turned on at full HD. ASUS also includes a small factory-overclock out of the box; barely worth mentioning with just 13 MHz. Overall performance does end up 2% higher than the reference design, which seems to be due to an optimized boost clock algorithm. Even with the Mini-ITX focused design of the DC Mini, I would have liked a bit more overclock out of the box, and a memory overclock. The increased heat output should be negligible.
Talking about heat, the new ASUS DirectCU cooler handles the card's heat very well, with a vapor-chamber baseplate instead of Direct-Touch heatpipes. It runs at a comfortable 31°C in idle and 74°C during gaming, which means that there is still plenty of headroom for small cases with bad ventilation.
Noise levels are good, much better than the NVIDIA reference design, better than many custom GTX 670 cards we tested before, but not nearly as good as the fully sized ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU II. I, given the compact size of the card and the constraints that come with it, understand that I can't complain about noise levels under load, but idle noise could have been better, especially for a powerful ITX gaming rig that doubles as a media playback station in the living room.
While overclocking is probably not what most system builders of small form-factor systems have in mind, I can happily report that overclocking works just as well as on any other "big" GTX 670. Maximum GPU and memory overclocking levels were right in the middle of what we've seen on other cards.
ASUS tells us to expect a price of around $395 for the GTX 670 DC Mini, but the exact price has not been finalized yet. I just hope that retailers don't overprice this card like many other small form factor products. If they do, they might even get away with it because there is, for now, no alternative to the ASUS GTX 670 DC Mini. It's the only high-end graphics card with a small form factor on the market today. The next fastest option is the GeForce GTX 650 Ti and it is much much slower. Its $395 price is quite a bit higher than the cheapest GTX 670 reference design, which can be had for around $360, but as long as the price stays below $400, I'd consider it reasonable for this card.