Asus GTX 670 Direct CU Mini £364
16th May 2013 | 08:30
The only thing miniature about this card is the small form factor
With the new Xbox being touted as simply a small form factor Win8 device, and the rise and rise of ever-smaller components in computing generally, it really was only a matter of time before we started to see the graphics card manufacturers getting in on the miniaturisation game.
This is also the first high-end graphics card we've come across that's been designed from the ground up for the small form factor, mini-ITX crowd and it's an impressive thing to behold.
When we first saw the GTX 670 in reference trim from Nvidia itself, the size of the PCB, compared to the size of the cooling, instantly jumped out at us. The 173mm circuit board only took up just under three quarters of the length of the card as a whole, with the extra length catering for the reference cooling solution needed to keep the GK104 GPU honest.
The real surprise though, is the fact it's taken this long to get to a stage where we're seeing card manufacturers coming out with their own cooling arrays based on the size of the PCB, rather than just the size of standard cards.
The issue has possibly been one of ensuring you get enough heat dissipation in a smaller cooling setup, to ensure the GPU can carry on operating at the sorts of speeds something like a GTX 670 needs to.
Impressively, Asus's GTX 670 Mini more than manages this feat. This is no reference-clocked card: this is a proper overclocked SKU. The chunky DirectCU cooling makes the GTX 670 Mini a hefty ol' card, and that weight really does make it feel like quality engineering at its best. And the fact it can run so comfortably at the speeds it does is admirable.
This Asus card runs at quicker, cooler and quieter than the reference card from Nvidia and in a much smaller form factor. So, in engineering terms at least, the GTX 670 Mini is an absolute winner.
DirectX 11 tessellation performance
Heaven 4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better
ASUS GTX 670 DIRECTCU MINI: 21.6
GTX 670 REFERENCE: 20.6
DirectX11 gaming performance
Batman: Arkham City: Frames per second: Higher is better
ASUS GTX 670 DIRECTCU MINI: 66
GTX 670 REFERENCE: 62
GPU cooling performance
100% load: Degrees centigrade: Lower is better
ASUS GTX 670 DIRECTCU MINI: 74
GTX 670 REFERENCE: 76
Sadly, that's not the only way you should think about this card. As much as it's a niche product, with a niche audience - and that always incurs a price premium - at nearly £400, this is an incredibly expensive graphics card. You've really got to desperately want this form factor to part with this much cash for it, because the simple fact is, you don't need to.
Because of the rise in performance from mini-ITX components, chassis manufacturers - such as Cooler Master and Bitfenix - have managed to figure out how to get full-size cards into mini-ITX boxes. And if you want to go for cases smaller than the Elite 120 or Prodigy, the length of your GPU isn't the barrier to squeezing it in - it's the height and the power demands.
As much as the GTX 670 Mini is an impressive feat of engineering, that doesn't mean it's worth your money. You can already pick up faster, cheaper cards such as the top-end Sapphire HD 7970 GHz, and drop them straight into a funky mini-ITX form factor - just like that. It's admirable but ultimately inessential.