In the recent years there has been an increasing trend towards building HTPCs, and small form factor PCs. The inherent DIY work involved in building these customized machines means that PC enthusiasts are also part of this growing community, which in turn means that gaming is also kind of a priority for this audience. Unfortunately the small form factor of HTPCs, and more recently, mini-ITX based computers means that there’s simply not enough room in a case to house full sized graphics cards. Anything small means severe comprises on game performance and graphics cards based on small PCBs are, generally speaking, very weak.
Thankfully ASUS has answered the prayers of many PC enthusiasts who’ve always wanted to build a small, and preferably quiet, rig which has the capacity to provide the kind of gaming power you get from full-sized desktop machines. Enter the ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU Mini.
The GTX 670 is usually a massive card, with the Nvidia GTX 670 reference card measuring just over 24 centimeters. To bring down the size by almost 40% ASUS used two key features to make this feat possible. First is the usage of Direct Power, which combines power delivery components, resulting in a single 8-pin power plug required instead of the regular two 6-pins. Secondly the PCB board itself, being custom in design, has a massive heatsink sitting directly on top of the GPU and memory modules, with a a CoolTech fan that’s a crossover between a blower and axial design. This supposedly results in a wider-angle air flow that provides up to 20% lower temperature readings than stock GTX 670.
Apart from these two major changes, you have a pure GTX 670 heart beating underneath clocking in 928MHz (1006MHz boost), a minor increase from the 915MHz on the reference GTX 670, while the 2GB GDDR5 256-bit memory runs at a standard 1502MHz (6008MHz effective). 3-way SLI is also supported, although I don’t see how that’s possible in a small case. I guess it’s there just because Nvidia requires it.
Since the Nvidia GTX 670 is a well known card that’s been out for almost a year, there’s not much else to do except see how the GTX 670 DirecCU Mini performs in our resident testbed.
And using the latest Nvidia GeForce 314.22 WHQL drivers, the below benchmarks were run at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (where applicable).
While running the above benchmarks the maximum recorded temperature was 72°C,and 29°C when idling. Noise was exceptionally low, where you literally couldn’t hear the fan when the GTX 670 was idling, and just a slow whisper when under full load; nothing you’d be able to hear inside an HTPC casing. Although I reckon that once the hot air starts building up inside a cramped casing the fan speed will start increasing.
The ASUS GTX 670 DirectCU Mini is an excellent performer, and the new fan design on the heatsink certainly helps out, but not by much. Still, this is more performance in a card of this form factor than anything else out there in the market, or indeed has ever been released to date.
Sadly, the price point is very difficult to swallow, especially considering you can get a GTX 680 or HD 7970 for cheaper! I guess ASUS knows there’s not much choice for HTPC owners at this point that offers so much power, but with the next generation of cards from Nvidia and AMD due out in 5 to 6 months it’s an easy wait before something half this price can offer almost the same performance.