Asus GeForce GTX 960 Strix Direct CUII OC 2GB User Review Introduction Hi everyone! Today I will be sharing with you my review of the Asus GeForce GTX 960 Strix DirectCU II OC 2GB graphics card. The card is based on the Maxwell based GM206 GPU with a healthy overclock from the factory. The main competitor for this series of card is AMD’s R9 285 which is priced quite a bit higher than the GTX 960. Features are well in line with the current range of video cards on the market. The card itself features support for DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 2.0 and CUDA. Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software is available, enabling the use of Shadowplay for in-game recording, Game-Stream ready and sporting Dynamic Super Resolution, or DSR for short, for down-scaled gaming delivering improved visuals. Asus has had its way with the layout, featuring its own custom designed PCB layout and power delivery system featuring its 5-phase Alloy Super Power II VRM. Also a standout is the Strix DirectCU II cooling, with four (4) 8mm heat pipes transferring the heat away, and its 0dB fan system for silent operation when the GPU temperature is below 65°C (point at which the fans are activated) or has cooled back down to below 60°C after active cooling. Finishing off the company’s signature cooling solution is the inclusion of a nice brushed black alloy back plate for aesthetics. Specifications Features / Software AUTO-EXTREME TECHNOLOGY Asus have taken things a little further with a complete ground-up design based around Auto-Extreme Technology. This is a first for the industry. The one thing I find that stands out with Asus products is the persistence in being market leaders in not only design and performance, but also its manufacturing process. Basically, Asus has developed an automated system for the production of its products and have removed the ‘human error’ factor and increased quality control of the products. In the process they have saved the workers from all those harsh gases released with the use of flux. Don’t look at this the wrong way, it’s a win-win for all. We, the end users can purchase a product of a very high quality standard, and for the workers in the factory, they no longer will have their lives shortened from breathing the deadly fumes every day. All of this put together means a nice neat looking card with fantastic quality control. Regardless of the fact the Strix GTX 960 has a Backplate included, the simple fact for me is no more scratched knuckles when I’m replacing ram and much easier to clean the dust off the rear with a brush or cloth, as there is no soldered metal legs to get caught on. The chance of damage in general from your own fumbling or clumsiness, to either yourself or the product, is definitely reduced because of this process. A plus all round in my books, great idea. Here is a video to explain the process better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gRpuurPsuc GPU Tweak II Software Included with all Asus Graphics cards is the ASUS GPU Tweak software. My usual go-to software for GPU overclocking and monitoring is MSI Afterburner, so I thought I would have a look at what Asus has done for comparison… I’m impressed! Initial setup was quick and simple. The layout is very easy to navigate and customise to suit what you want to see and/or use. The setup menu allows for keyboard shortcuts, and also to decide on start-up options. Another option is to unlock further settings past the limited clock, power, and memory settings for the more advanced users looking to push things further than most. Considering my usual habit of defaulting to MSI Afterburner for my usual GPU overclocking, I found the interface and ease of use within GPU Tweak to be well laid out and simple to use for different applications. The experience delivered comparable functionality in terms of both overclocking and monitoring this GPU. Not too shabby!” Factory profiles are included for: Silent operation (a slightly under-clocked setting) Gaming (which is the default clock speeds) OC (a minor overclocked setting) Or User Profile, which can be setup and saved to suit yourself, or you can add extras to suit your own personal needs. Attached to the main tab is the monitoring graphs, which are customisable for layout and what you would like included. This can be docked to the main settings, or unlocks to place on your desktop wherever you choose. There is also a Game Booster option. This is supposed to be helpful to reduce the OS overhead to assist in increasing frame rates. Honestly, I gave this a go myself to see if it made a difference, but for me, there was no change. However, I can see that on some systems, where they are older or more bloated, that it could have a measureable effect. I speculate that it didn’t have an effect on mine as it was a clean install, with nothing needing optimising – basically a benching drive. So, I guess you’d say the verdict is still out on this one. The direction is good, but no noticeable gains in my test environment. Your experience may vary. Honestly, I like the software, and it has now formed part of my main Windows install. Not just saying this because I am providing a review of the product, but because I feel it generally is a very handy tool that Asus has prepared. It also works flawlessly with my EVGA card too, so it is not vendor specific. Photos / Comments The product comes well packaged in a cardboard box, with sufficient packing around to ensure there is little chance for it to be damaged. Inside the box we have the Graphics Card itself, a DVI-VGA connector, Driver CD, Manual and nifty little Strix sticker. The video card is surrounded in foam to keep it safe whilst packaged. To the cooler, we can see from the top that Asus has a nice owl theme going, with the menacing eyes looking back at you. The cooler is setup to only turn on when the card reaches the pre-set temperature of 65 degrees Celsius. The fans measure 75mm. Four (4) 8mm copper heat pipes transfer the heat from the core to the aluminium fin array. There is also what appears to be a solid finned heat sink to cover and spread the heat of the VRM componentry. The power delivery for the card is supplied through a single 6-pin connector which is located on the rear edge. Asus have used its Super Alloy Power II component for the power delivery, featuring a 5-phase setup for cleaner power supply and longevity. Above the 6-pin power connector, there is a red indicator LED which changes to white when the power is connected correctly. Nice little touch there. It can also aid with troubleshooting, should there be a problem. The connector is also rotated 180° from the usual orientation, with a little notch in the PCB. This makes removal of the power a lot easier than other cards. For most gamers this will be a feature enjoyed though likely forgotten, but for those of us that bench hardware often it further simplifies the process of changing graphics cards in and out. Asus recommends a minimum of 400W power supply with a minimum of 38 Amps on the 12V rail. On the backside of the card, we can see how physically short the PCB actually is. The heatsink radiator and fans from the DirectCU II cooler actually protrude past the end of the card. My guess is to aid with the airflow through the cooler, which is quite effective. Overall, the card measures 22.5cm in length and 12.5cm in width. Also included is an aluminium back plate for aesthetics, protection and also to aid in cooling the backside of the PCB. The card has multiple rear connections to suit most circumstances. It includes five (5) connectors; 1 x HDMI, 1x DVI and 3 x display port.