Last month Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 770, and showed us the “stock” board with a cooler originally featured in the GTX Titan. At the time, Nvidia said its add-in board partners would be offering versions that were overclocked and custom-cooled, but we didn't know that was all that would be available. As it turns out, spotting a GTX 770 with the Titan cooler is about as rare as seeing Gordon Mah Ung at an Apple store, so kiss your Titan-cooled GTX 770 dreams goodbye for now. The good news is that you're now forced to choose from a flurry of premium-looking cards including these two sweet overclocked and super-chilledboards from Asus and Gigabyte. Both boards feature loads of custom hardware, specialized fans, overclocking software, and totally silent operation. Sounds like the perfect ingredients for a matchup to us!
The Asus GTX 770 DirectCU II OC deviates wildly from Nvidia's reference design, replacing it wholesale and saving only the GK104 silicon. Not only is the cooling apparatus entirely new (at least compared to Nvidia’s reference cooler), but Asus also uses its own custom PCB with specialized components, including Super Alloy Power(SAP)caps and chokes for more efficient operation and increased longevity, custom VRMs with their own heatsink, and power diagnostic LEDs. It even then threw in a backplate for better cooling and increased rigidity,too. Despite the cooling assembly’s size, you can actually remove the whole thing with just four screws (compared to the stock cooler’s 22 screws), allowing for easy spring cleaning. The best part is that all this technology will only cost you a whopping $10 more than the stock card, making it somewhat of a bargain. Also, this is a 2GB card and Asus has informed us it has no plans to bring a 4GB version to market.
Asus has delivered a 100 percent non-reference design with custom PCB and cooling.
Of course, for a $10 premium you shouldn't expect sky-high overclocks, and Asus keeps it real with a mild 12MHz overclock, though that can be pushed much higher (see below). Overclocking benefits aside, the main value of the Asus card is that it's built with top-of-the-line parts and runs cool and quiet. The card is able to achieve this superior cooling performance despite taking up the same dual PCIe slots (the GTX 680 DCII had a three-slot cooler for the same GPU, mind you). Helping you maximize the card's performance is Asus’s GPU Tweak utility, which lets you adjust clock speeds, voltages, fan performance, and more. We like GPU Tweak but wish it displayed real-time clock speeds in a more easy-to-read fashion.
In testing, we saw the Asus card eke out a small performance advantage over the stock card, and we ran all tests with the card overclocked, as well. The highest we could get this little puppy was 1,241MHz, and we had to up the voltage to its maximum setting of 1.2V. We thought we'd be able to nudge it up to 1,280MHz or so but every time we did that it was not stable. However, the most glaring difference is that this card runs very quiet regardless of what’s thrown at it. Under load for hours, it held its own with a maximum temperature of 72C compared to the stock cooler’s average maximum of about 80C. The GPU Tweak software lets you set maximum temp (remember this is a GPU Boost 2.0 card), increase voltage, adjust clocks, and monitor all these settings, too. It's great software, but we prefer EVGA's PrecisionX with its real-time clock-speed display. It's just easier to read at a glance.
All in all, there's very little to complain about here. Yes, it has the exact same performance as Gigabyte’scard, both in terms of FPS and silent operation, yet the Asus card costs $10 more. However, the Asus card has better software, isn’t quite as long, and its cooler is easy to remove, all of which is easily worth the price bump.
Totally custom design; super quiet; overclockable.
Software is just so-so; paltry bundle.
Like Asus, Gigabyte has pulled out all the stops for its highly clocked GTX 770 and delivered a board that looks nothing like the stock card at all due to its custom PCB and exotic triple-fan cooler it calls WindForce 3X. This big-ass cooler uses three 8cm fans on top of a heatsink roughly the size of Central America, and Gigabyte says it can dissipate up to 450W, making it one of the largest coolers we’ve seen on a GPU since the triple-fan PowerColor Devil 13 HD 7990 graced the Lab in 2012. That card, if you recall, was so large it came with its own support stand, and though this card isn’t in the same ballpark, it’s in the same league for sure, but since it takes up just two slots instead of three it seems a lot more manageable. It’s also 11 inches long, which is .5 inches longer than stock. Its bundle includes two 6-pin Molex-to-PCIe adapters and a driver CD.
Three slow-spinning fans equal silent operation and excellent temps at all times.
Its cooler is the same one found on the GTX 780, so it’s more than up for the task of cooling this card despite its higher clock speeds (compared to the GTX 780's). Gigabyte calls the cooling setup “Triangle Cooling,” as there is a triangle-shaped copper heat spreader on top of the GPU with a heatsink on top of that. The fan is then placed on top of the triangle, forcing the air hitting the card to divert onto each side of the triangle. There's a secondary heatsink too, cooling the board's circuitry, but it lacks the triangle apparatus. Again, like Asus’s card, this is a non-reference design with high-end components and has Gigabyte's Ultra Durable branding, including the signature two ounces of copper within the PCB to help absorb heat and better control temps. The card is clocked at 1,137MHz base with an 1,189MHz boost clock, and in our testing we were also able to get it up to 1,241MHz, just like the Asus. We also had to nudge the voltage slightly to achieve this, but suffice to say we had the same overclocking success with this board as we did with the Asus card.
Its cooler is the same one found on the GTX 780, so it’s more than up for the task of cooling this card despite its higher clock speeds (compared to the GTX 780's). Gigabyte calls the cooling setup “Triangle Cooling,” as there is a triangle-shaped copper heat spreader on top of the GPU with a heatsink on top of that. The fan is then placed on top of the triangle, forcing the air hitting the card to divert onto each side of the triangle. There's a secondary heatsink too, cooling the board's circuitry, but it lacks the triangle apparatus. Again, like Asus’s card, this is a non-reference design with high-end components and has Gigabyte's Ultra Durable branding, including the signature two ounces of copper within the PCB to help absorb heat and better control temps. The card is clocked at 1,137MHz base with an 1,189MHz boost clock, and in our testing we were also able to get it up to 1,241MHz, just like the Asus. Wealso had to nudge the voltage slightly to achieve this, but suffice to say we had the same overclocking success with this board as we did with the Asus card. Given that the cards had similar clock speeds once overclocked, we were not surprised to find them run almost exactly the same in testing. The Wind-Force 3X had a tiny one-or-two frameadvantage in some games, but it's close enough to call it a tie. This brings us to the card's operation, and yes, it was also extremely quiet at all times. Was it quieter than the Asus board? It's hard to say, as they were both what we'd call "silent," even under full load. In temps, the WindForce held steady at 74 C, even when we told the card to run as hot as it likes, and it would not budge over that line. That's seven degrees warmer than the Asus board though, so we're taking away one point for that small transgression.
Our other gripe is with the OC Guru II software, which is not as easy to use as the GPU Tweak program provided by Asus, and takes up way too much space on the desktop. That's about it though; out of the box this card is fast, quiet, and the same price as MSRP, representing an incredible value.
Super quiet; very overclockable; solidly built; great price.
Weak Bundle; looks kind of cheap; software needs revamping.
GTX 770 DirectCU II OC
|GTX 770 (Reference)||
|3DMark Fire Strike||6,988||7,290||6,932||6,456||5,912||6,099|
|Catzilla (Tiger) Beta||5,992||5,978||5,604||5,255||4,907||4,024|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0 (fps)||25||26||24||23||21||20|
|Crysis 3 (fps)||25||21
|Shogun 2 (fps)||41||43||39||38||33||34|
|Far Cry 3 (fps)||32||33||30||30||28||27|
|Metro: Last Light (fps)||19||19||17||16||16||12|
|Tomb Raider (fps)||20||21||20||18||16||18|
|Battlefield 3 (fps)||40||40||38||34||35||35|
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA unless otherwise noted.