If you thought the ASUS Radeon HD 7970 3GB DirectCU II was just a large cooler slapped on a standard PCB, well, I'm afraid you're mistaken. Right here we're taking one apart to show you the juicy innards of what makes the ASUS HD 7970 different. Yes, we void our warranties so you don't have to.
Stage One: Getting Inside.
This is the easy bit.
The card sits inside between two large wedges of foam:
ASUS has thrown in a replacement VRM heatsink to keep them cool (see the arrow). This extra is important for those extreme overclocking or watercooling the GPU only.
Break Out The Screwdriver! Taking Apart The DirectCU II.
The back metal protective cover comes off first:
Put it face down and remove the screws around the edge before the four around the GPU core in the middle. All these screws actually bolt into an aluminum bracing bracket that doubles up as a component heatsink for memory and VRMs on the front side. This means that unlike other custom card designs, the entire weight of the cooler is distributed across the whole PCB, keeping it straight. Below details exactly how it's stacks up better than I can photograph:
There's also another four screws at the back to remove (not the ones above the four display ports):
And off it pops. Be careful of the fan wire (bottom right). From here it's easy to see the six heatpipes that cool the monster GPU:
More Than Just A Cooler: A Power Delivery Overhaul With DIGI+ VRM.
This is what half the fuss is about - the HD 7970 power hardware has been replaced with a similar DIGI+ digital power controller chip that regulates the power to the GPU and memory:
The DIGI+ chip replaces the SHE (Super Hybrid Engine) chip on existing DirectCU cards, although the HD 7970 still uses the same, upgraded Super Alloy Power hardware: MOSFETs, electrical chokes and solid capacitors. You can see a bit more detail about this tech in the YouTube video below. Keep an eye out on your favorite media sites in reviews soon, to see how this technology benefits the design.
A close-up of the SAP chokes:
Are you considering a DirectCU II upgrade? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.