Asus makes some pretty mean cards. The DirectCU and DirectCU II designs are very good, and they match the best that is out there. There are a few downsides to each product, but overall they perform very well, they keep cool, and are not terribly expensive as compared to reference designs. The inclusion of the new GPUTweak helps even the playing field with MSI and their Afterburner software.
I am still not a fan of the triple wide coolers on the HD 6900 series of cards from Asus. I do believe that MSI has done a slightly better job in creating a 2 slot affair with similar cooling characteristics. The one thing that I cannot fault Asus for is the sheer amount of video output ports per card. To get all of those ports put in there, a triple slot card was essentially required.
From top to bottom: EAH6970, EAH6950, EAH6870, and the EAH6850.
The two HD 6800 cards are now pretty long in the tooth, but they perform very well for the respective pricepoints. These cards somewhat fit right between where the HD 7770 is and what we expect the HD 7850 to be. They are still very good buys even in the face of new products coming down the pipeline. Buying one of these at this point in time is not a bad idea at all. The new 7000 series will not add much in terms of features. About the only thing that the HD 7770 has over the HD 6850 is power consumption, but that turns into a few tens of watts at load. The only thing I would really change would be to make the EAH6870 into a DirectCU II based product. I think it would have been a lot better with the larger heatsink and twin fans. While it works perfectly fine as is, I did find the extra noise to be slightly bothersome.
The HD 6900 series is a bit tougher to take on at this time. While Asus does a very nice job with the design and build of these cards, there is still that triple slot requirement. Not only that, but it does appear that the new HD 7800 series of cards will essentially displace the HD 6900s. If a user can get a hold of these cards on sale, then I think the investment will be worth it. Still, the HD 6970 has been my favorite overall card for this generation due to a combination of price, power consumption, and performance as compared to the competing high end cards from NVIDIA. If a user is sitting on the fence between buying one of these cards now, and waiting some time for the HD 7800 series… I would tend to just buy one of the 6900 series right now and enjoy it for some time to come.
From left to right: EAH6970, EAH6950, EAH6870, and the EAH6850.
The build quality and ability to overclock for all of these cards is above average. The cooling ability combined with low noise operation is another big advantage for all of these cards. Asus offers a very good warranty, and the included bundles are decent (though not necessarily outstanding). The prices for these cards is above that of reference boards, but I do believe the unique designs and better cooling performance set these well apart from reference cards. They are certainly worth the extra price.