LAB501

Clash of the Titans VGA 2014 – ASUS Geforce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II vs ASUS Radeon R9 290X DirectCU II

Description

The packaging, identical for both cards, provides good protection and is aesthetically pleasant, it contains an 8-pin power adapter, a CD with drivers and applications, as well as two sets of stickers for accessorizing the cooler mask. Skipping this uninteresting part, we get to the two graphic cards to be analyzed in today’s article. The first thing I noticed was the cooling system that no longer occupies three slots and is also very good looking, especially due to the fans it makes use of. Both boards have the same cooling system, which we will inspect in the corresponding chapter .

Slowly we come to the “core issue,” the PCBs of the two boards: I said in the previous page that the GTX 580 DirectCU II is the standard for quality and strength, we can hardly find a weakness, the attention for detail is exquisite.

The PCBs meet the established DC2 design (black colour, in-line VRM, solid heat sinks on the VRM), but in a careful comparison with the GTX 580 we do notice a couple of differences, and not in favour of the new boards. The R9 290X is equipped with Elpida BBBG memory (certified to run at 1500MHz) and on the GTX 780 Ti we see the excellent Hynix R2C (certified for 1750MHz with 1.6v), being capable of more than 2GHz with a good GPU memory controller.

It is a known fact that Samsung memories display the best behaviour in regard to voltage scaling and extreme cooling (GTX 580 DC2 has Samsung memory), while the top of the line Hynix memory chips overclock well, but do not always respond well to higher voltage and may have more cold problems than their counterparts from Samsung. Elpida memory, beside being clocked quite low by default, doesn’t scale with higher voltage.

The above generalizations, of course, might be proven wrong by the tests that follow, because there are cases and cases and exceptions to the rule have always been present in this area. Another aspect that it’s not in favour of the two competitors (at least theoretically) is the filtering used for the VRM: the GTX580 DC2 has ceramic, polymer and tantalum capacitors but also a Proadlizer. This means that the filtering covers the entire range of parasitic frequencies while offering the best response time.

“Dozens of decoupling capacitors in combinations that included aluminium electrolytic capacitors used at 100 kHz or less, tantalum capacitors in the 100 kHz to 10 MHz band, and ceramic capacitors corresponding to 100 MHz to 1 GHz or more were finally used to suppress noise. In contrast, one type of Proadlizer can cover a frequency area of dozens of KHz to 1 GHz that used to be covered by several types of decoupling capacitors. As well as featuring a lower impedance of the total frequency area than the conventional synthesized capacitor, it has a very flat characteristic. Due to these superior features, the Proadlizer is able to provide an even more stable power line. This allows several Proadlizers to replace dozens of capacitors. In other words, the Proadlizer not only realizes compactness and flexibility but also reduces the board mounting load and contributes to enhanced reliability.”

On the GTX 780Ti DC2 we don’t have any tantalum caps nor Proadlizer, while the R9 290X also boasts only ceramic and polymer caps. There is, of course, a theory behind this, and it can be summed up as follows: a VRM containing only ceramic and polymer caps works very well and the addition of other capacitor types brings no improvement. I simply wanted to point out a factual decrease in build quality, which almost certainly has no impact on performance (if we are to take the above theory as truth).

Power connectors: 2 x 8 pin for the GTX 580 DC2 and GTX 780 Ti DC2, and 8 pin + 6 pin for the R9 290X. Even if it draws significantly less power under similar conditions (as we shall see in the cooling chapter), the 290X should have two 8 pin connectors, even if only for aesthetic purposes, or “prestige.”

These shortcomings (when compared to the reference I picked) don’t make these two board in anyway unimpressive, both being way superior in relation to the reference designs. For now, the only thing I consider a real shortcoming is the presence of Elpida memory on the R9 290X (I would have preferred Samsung 0.28ns on both boards), but the practical tests (voltmod + OC) will lead us to the final conclusions.

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