Asus’ new DirectCU II cooler is smaller than we remember; now it only occupies two slots instead of three, which we prefer. The company says its thermal solution was reworked to make it lighter, even though it retains a back plate covering the rear of the card. A note on that: depending on how close your CPU cooler or DIMM locking levers come to your motherboard's PCI Express slot, the plate could interfere. Have a look at your platform of choice before making a purchase.
Sporting a 1056 MHz base clock and a 1137 MHz-rated GPU Boost frequency, Asus' submission operates at the second-highest factory-overclocked rate in our round-up. Its memory is not overclocked, however, while three other contenders do enjoy higher memory bandwidth by way of augmented GDDR5 speeds.
The build quality and mechanical design of this card are both excellent. It sports a metal cover and all of the display outputs found on Nvidia's reference design: two dual-link DVI connectors, one HDMI output, and a single DisplayPort interface. Although the card employs the GeForce GTX 680's PCB, which should benefit cooling, it only comes equipped with two six-pin auxiliary power inputs.
Our performance, acoustic, thermal, and power tests will determine whether this card warrants the $30 price premium currently being asked compared to reference-based implementations.