Upon removing the DirectCU II cooler (held only by four screws), we see a drastically reworked PCB which admittingly looks similar to the one on the HD 7970 (ED: blasphemy!).
Here we see the business end of things – the 28nm GK104 die flanked by eight Hynix GDDR5 BGA memory chips in a 256-bit configuration. ASUS has pushed up the default GTX 680 core clocks by 143MHz (from 1006MHz base, 1137MHz boost), which they claim translates up to 11% better performance. It is also pleasing to note that there have no changes to the mounting holes or obstructions around the area to mount an LN2 pot for subzero cooling.
ASUS has reworked the anemic and cost-cut 4-phase power reference design to feature a more platable 8+2 phase PWM. The Japanese-made chokes, capacitors and MOSes are also typically found on their excellent motherboards and should prove to be more durable under extreme conditions.
The much vaunted DIGI+ VRM, which is usually rebranded CHiL PWMs, promises to deliver more stable voltages, increased efficiency and lower EMI.
Finally, the DirectCU II cooler that we get is similar to the one used on previous models. This brute force approach features five direct touch copper heatpipes and two 10cm fans over a large heatsink area.