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ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII Review

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ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII Review

The ASUS HD 7800 series launched early last month, and the HD 7870 left us quiet impressed. Now it’s time to see if the little brother in the series has enough chops for big league. And so today I’ll be looking at the ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII graphics card which comes with a bigger heatsink and higher clock speeds than reference AMD design.

The Direct CUII heatsink is a well known name amongst PC enthusiasts as it represents ASUS’s best and biggest heatsink for their graphics card. PCB designs are also custom; usually smaller than reference designs, so that the heatsink has the maximum possible effect on the entire card.

Now usually Direct CUII heatsinks are found on flagship cards, such as the HD 7900 series, where the heatsinks are so big that we usually end up with a 3-slot card instead of the usual 2-slots. In the case of the HD 7850, however, we have a simple 2-slot solution. The 28nm Pitcairn chipset runs fairly cool, so it stands to reason that we don’t need an extraordinarily large heatsink.


The ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII comes with installation manuals, a drivers CD, a CrossFire bridge and a DVI to VGA adapter. Given that this is a mid-range card, the lack of extras bundled with it comes as no surprise. With a minimum PSU requirement of just 450W and a single 6-pin power connector, the HD 7850 is good enough to fit into HTPCs as well.


Now the card itself is very interesting to behold. The basic design of the Direct CUII heatsink on the HD 7850 looks to be identical to higher-end cards such as the recently reviewed HD 7970 Direct CUII TOP. Closer inspection will reveal major differences, though. The GPU and memory modules are covered with an aluminum block extending out to multiple thick fins. The GPU itself is connected to three copper heatpipes that then extend into a secondary aluminum block with thinner, and more, fins. The whole unit is then cooled off by two 7.2cm fans. The entire heatsink is covered in a plastic casing right on the top, unlike the metal one on HD 7970 DCUII TOP.


So what does this Direct CU II heatsink give us? Well, firstly the card comes factory overclocked to 975MHz core clock and 1250MHz (5000MHz effective) memory clock speeds. This itself is 115MHz and 50MHz faster than reference AMD core and memory clock speeds. When overclocking, the Direct CUII heatsink also afforded a respective core clock of 1031MHz and memory speeds of 1300MHz (5200MHz effective). That’s clocked 5.7% faster than factory and 19.8% faster than reference AMD speeds. Memory speeds are 4% faster than factory and 8.3% faster than reference speeds.

Temperatures remained at 30°C when idling, going up to 69°C under full load. While overclocked, idle temperatures remained the same, but maximum temperature touched 70°C. For the most part eh fans remained fairly quiet, but running Metro 2033, Battlefield 3, Unigine and 3DMark made the fans loud. Not loud enough to be annoying, but on our open testbed then were audible in the whole room. Inside a rig, of course, even that much sound will be minimal.

Test setup

The below testbed was used for testing the ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII.

The below settings were used in each of the benchmark.

The tests were carried out at a resolution of 1920x1080 and drivers used for the ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII were the latest Catalyst 12.3 release.


The HD 7850 has a major performance increase in Metro 2033 over the GTX 580 and the HD 7870; roughly 35%, thanks largely to the latest driver improvements. If we take this exceptional performance boost out of the equation, the GTX 580 is almost 9% at stock speeds (6% when overclocked) faster than the ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII, while costing 54% more. The HD 7870 meanwhile is 7% faster at stock speeds (2% when overclocked) while costing 35% more.

So what does this tell us? Simply that the HD 7850 is the new performance/price king, and no card in the market right now provides so much performance for this price. If you’re aiming for a mid-range rig, look no further than the ASUS HD 7850 Direct CUII.

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