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Asus R9 290X DirectCU II OC

If that XFX card somehow wasn't quite beastly enough for you, perhaps this entrant from Asus will do the trick. The DirectCU II cooler has a name that makes engineering sense—it refers to the dual 10-mm copper heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU's surface—but sounds clumsy enough to make me wish for a return to XFX's not-so-veiled references to boobies.

If the XFX cooler is practically spilling out of its dual-slot shirt, then this Asus one is showing a bit of nip. The Asus card is 11.5" long—which is pretty long as these things go—and, at peak, that heatpipe sticks up 1.5" above the top of the expansion slot cover. Many of today's best PC cases leave enough clearance for this extra height not to become a problem. However, I suspect this card may not fit into some of the more compact mid-tower cases on the market.

So long as it fits, though, the oversized cooler ought to be a blessing. Asus says this thing has a 30% larger dissipation surface than the reference design, and the picture above pretty much confirms it. Beyond the size, Asus says it has worked to make the cooler more effective by angling its fan blades to send air both downward and outward, in order to take better advantage of the expanded heatsink area.

This card's PCB is larger than stock, too, and is clearly a custom design. Asus tells us the board has six power phases feeding the GPU, up from five on the reference design, and four phases for the memory I/O PWM, up from two stock. The firm has used concrete alloy chokes to quiet the electronic buzzing noise one might otherwise hear. For what it's worth, I didn't notice any buzzing noise coming from either the XFX or Asus 290X cards in regular use.

The two tones of stickers in action. Source: Asus.

Asus doesn't have a light-up logo on its DirectCU II cooler, and frankly, I think the default all-black aesthetic is pleasing—very Batmobile, which is always a good thing. There is a bit of bling available to those who want it, however, in the form of two sets of custom stickers, one red and one gold, that can be attached to the cooling shroud in order to match the look of the system around it. These aren't just shiny stickers, either. They're metallic in look and feel, substantial and thick. If you can get 'em on straight, the card's bound to look like it came from the factory that way.

Speaking of which, the DirectCU II OC comes from the factory with a higher-than-stock Boost clock of 1050MHz and 4GB of GDDR5 memory running at 5.4GT/s. That's a 5% faster GPU clock and an 8% faster memory clock than the reference cards, and having the two together ought to translate into a modest-but-consistent performance improvement. The R9 290X DirectCU II OC is in stock at Newegg right now for $619.99, and like the XFX card, it comes with your choice of three "free" games as part of the Never Settle Forever bundle.