ASUS took the bog standard 4-phase Geforce GTX 680 design, re-engineered the PCB with more power juice and then slapped on their iconic triple-slot DirectCU II cooler to cool the sucker down. The transformation results in a graphics card primed for hardcore enthusiasts to break world records with ease.
Since the introduction of the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 680 (Kepler GK104) almost a month ago, the usual AIB vendors have started to roll out custom PCB designs and cooling solutions in an attempt to differentiate their products from the competition, and squeeze more overclocking mileage out of the reference board. Following in the footsteps of their higher end SKUs like GTX 580 and HD 7970, ASUS has released a DirectCU II TOP version which is a triple-slot, factory overclocked monstrousity (11.8 inch long).
Right off the bat, we can see that ASUS is serious about pleasing their intended enthusiast audience by equipping the card with 8+6 pin PCIe power connectors (as opposed to 6+6 pin on the reference design, pushing the power limit up to a theoretical 300W) and an asthetically pleasing black metal backplate for EMI shielding, prevent PCB warping and accidental short circuits. The archilles heel of the DirectCU II cooler is that although it does have a large heatsink surface area and the fans push a decent amount of air, taking up triple slots means forgoing SLi on some motherboard slot configuations, and definitely rules out 3-way or 4-way operation (since most PC enclosures only have 7 or 8 expansion slots).
At the edge of the card we get a dedicated solder points (VGA Hotwire) for voltage monitoring and control. We'll cover more on this in the later part of this review.
No change at the I/O Panel, with ASUS sticking with full-sized HDMI/DP ports and dual DVI (one of them single link only, meaning up to 1920×1200 @ 60 Hz). The obvious improvement from the previous generation GTX 580 flagship is that we can now run triple-display 3D Vision Surround from a single card (previously only possible on SLi setups), although it might be hampered on graphically intensive scenarios or higher resolutions by the puny 2GB of framebuffer.
Accessories wise, we only get an extended SLi ribbon connector and a 2x6pin to 8pin PCIe power splitter. We think that at this price point ASUS should have at least included some DVI-HDMI, HDMI-DVI, DP-DVI convertors.