Asus GTX 670 DirectCU Mini: pint-sized without compromise?

Asus have unveiled their latest effort to squeeze performance components into a miniscule form factor. The diminutive GTX 670 DirectCU Mini has just landed on my desk and what they say is true; size doesn't matter.

This card is a fully-fledged GTX 670 card measuring just 170mm tip to tail compared with just under 250mm for the reference version. But there's no hint of compromise in order to squeeze this sort of performance into a pint-sized card: in fact, Asus have managed to overclock the DirectCU Mini too.

The GK104 GPU at the heart of this card is running at a decent 928MHz base clock with a general boost clock of over 1GHz. Compared with the reference card that's not a huge boost - up from a base of 915MHz - but it does show what the impressive Asus cooling is capable of. And the fact you can easily jam this into a mini-ITX chassis with plenty of room to spare makes the DirectCU Mini a rather intriguing little number.

Asus do have previous with this sort of high-end tech squeezed into ever smaller spaces, with its awesome P8Z77-I Deluxe delivering overclocking Ivy Bridge motherboards into the mini-ITX space. That board makes a perfect companion for this teeny graphics card.

There are a couple of surprises about the DirectCU Mini, however. The first is the fact that it has ditched the twin 6-pin PCIe power connectors of the standard GTX 670 variant and has opted for a single 8-pin connector. Handily Asus have included an adapter in the package so you can convert the power from a pair of 6-pins to power it.

The other surprise is the fact that it has taken this long for someone to make one. The original GTX 670 reference card had a PCB that measured around 175mm, with the extra length taken up by the reference cooling solution. I find it odd that with some very impressive third-party cooling arrays - from the likes of MSI and Gigabyte as well as Asus - no-one else has tried to put one of these teeny version onto shelves.

The sticking point for this new card is going to be price. Asus' overclocked GTX 670 DirectCU II is retailing for well over $400/£300 and I wouldn't expect this slower version to be much cheaper than that. When modern mini-ITX chassis, like the excellent Bitfenix Prodigy, are capable of housing standard-length graphics cards, are you really going to want to spend the extra on a specially designed card?

There's another question mark over the card, too: if you're trying to fit a card into a small case, cutting back on card length isn't really as useful as cutting back on height. A mini-ITX gaming chassis is your only option for a full-height card in a small case, and generally those designs are cater for the length of your standard card, too. With even smaller chassis, you're going to need half height cards if you want to fit any discrete graphics in them. So while the diminutive GTX 670 DirectCU Mini is an impressive feat of GPU engineering, is it really necessary for the mini-ITX gaming crowd? I'm not so sure.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.