ASUS HD 7850 Direct CU II - good overclocker, terrible cooler choice

ASUS HD 7850 Direct CU II - good overclocker, terrible cooler choice

There are better options out there.


> Product website
$319 AUD sourced from StaticICE
> Pricing info
870MHz core; 1210MHz memory (4840MHz effective); ‘Pitcairn’ core; 1024 Stream Processors (AMD); 2GB GDDR5; 256-bit bus width; dual-slot active cooling; 6-pin PCIe connector.

Hardware Review: It's a solid performer, but a curious cooling choice leaves the 7850 Direct CU II hanging over the edge...


Pitcairn is the baby brother of Tahiti, and as such, has been used to power the 7800 series of cards from AMD. Don’t be fooled though, as 1024 Stream Processors, 256-Bit memory bus and a PCI-E 3.0 bus still give this card the potential for great things when overclocked.

ASUS has equipped its HD 7850 with a cooler that looks like it was ripped directly from its 7870, despite the fact the 7850 measures around 4cm shorter. That’s right, ASUS has hung its DCU II cooler off the back of the 7850 by a good couple of centimetres, something that is generally a no-no in the enthusiast GPU market.

In order to power the board, you’ll need a 6-pin PCIe power connector, which conveniently enough has been buried underneath the heatsink. Any attempt to plug the power cable in here will likely see your fingers cut to ribbons on the aluminium cooling fins. In order to save your blood for the Red Cross, Asus has attached an extension cable for you, dangling hideously off the rear of the card. We admit this solution is better than making you bleed for your system, though simply flipping the power socket 90-degrees would have meant you could plug the cable in on the top of the card – you know, like most non-reference cards do these days.

There is a slight up-side to Asus slapping such a monstrous cooler on the card however, and that is, obviously, temperatures. With a cooler designed for a bigger, hotter 7870 cooling a 7850, we were sure to see some nice temperatures, and that we did. The only thing is, the 7850 is such a cool-running card anyway; running at temperatures 5-8C cooler than a smaller cooling solution is relatively pointless. If you’re running at 50C or 55C it hardly matters at the end of the day, as both temperatures are extremely low for gaming hardware.

Overclocking is fairly exciting on this card, however, with our sample going all the way from 870MHz to 1050MHz – the maximum allowed under the ASUS overclocking software. Our curiosity fuelled, we loaded up our unlocked version of MSI Afterburner, with which we later came to a resting point of 1110MHz on the core clock, a nice 21.6% overclock.

Temperatures only increased a couple of degrees, going from 56 at load to 62. Idle temperatures are more than adequate, barely breaking 8C above ambient. The fan profiles themselves are set a little lower than usual, but given the cooler is overkill for this card we aren’t surprised. Never spinning above 2,000RPM, you’ll simply never hear a whisper from this card, even under heavy loads and overclocks. Of course, you can turn the fans up manually if you want your card running even cooler.

For anyone considering custom cooling, it’s not a bad option, given the PCB of this card is only 197mm, you really could fit it in the smallest of cases if modding is a second hobby of yours. Or indeed, if you can find a single-slot cooler, fitting this inside an ITX case could also be a bit of fun for some portable gaming.

As for overclocking efficiency, it actually scales fairly well. This is no doubt due to the 256-Bit memory bus, which is usually reserved for GPUs with a higher throughput. The average Atomican should have no problem running this card at 1.1GHz for benchmarking runs, and 1GHz for their day to day gaming, bringing its performance up much closer to a 7870.

 The price is a little higher than your average 7850; in fact, it’s a fair chunk of change when you compare it to the likes of a Gigabyte 7850 OC, which comes with a factory clock of 970MHz for $40 less. Really, for that reason alone this card is only worth buying if you find it for less than $300, and even then, the cooler design is a little crazy. We’re not going to tell you to avoid it, as some people may like a cooler that hangs 60mm (literally) off the back of their card; we’re just saying there are likely cheaper, and arguably better value cards around. 






Unigine Heaven




3DMark 11 (score)




Arkham City




Battlefield 3





3DMark 11 – Performance preset
Unigine 3.0 – Extreme everything, 2560x1440, 2XAA 8xAF, FPS
Battlefield 3 - 2560x1440, 2xAA 8xAF, FPS timed run around multiplayer map
Batman: Arkham City - 2560x1440, 16xAA 16xAF, 

See more about:  asus  |  hd  |  7850  |  direct  |  cu  |  ii  |  video  |  card  |  pc  |  hardware  |  review

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