- May 16, 2012
- Houston, TX
- Real Name
- Dave Upton
PC Gaming in the Home Theater – ASUS STRIX GTX 780 OC Review
Some of us have reluctantly admitted that gaming in the home theater is something best done on consoles, and despite the best efforts of Sony and Microsoft to bring state of the art visuals to the new generation PS4 and Xbox One respectively, the quality and native resolution of games leaves much to be desired in the home theater. For a price, PC gamers have always been able to enjoy an advantage in visual quality over consoles, but until now gaming in the home theater has been difficult if not impossible to achieve.
Steam’s big picture mode has for the first time made it possible to game in the home theater almost entirely without cumbersome PC peripherals like keyboards or mice. Even so, top tier graphics cards have generally been impractical for those without equipment closets due to the high levels of noise generated by the cooling assembly under load.
ASUS has been one of the leading OEM’s to take note of this challenge and innovate cooling solutions that are able to run top of the line graphics cards under full load with minimal noise. The subject of this review is the ASUS GTX780 STRIX OC, a slightly overclocked version of the GTX780 with 6GB of video memory and a custom DirectCU II cooling solution that enables the card to run at near silence when at low load and increase noise slowly once GPU temperature exceeds 65c.
We are not a PC hardware site, so I’ll spare you the gory details that our more talented peers in the PC hardware scene would provide, however I will highlight some basics about the card. ASUS ships the STRIX GTX 780 OC with a factory overclock of about 50MHz and the 6GB of video memory which doubles the reference design, extremely useful for games with Ultra or Super resolution textures. The net result of these changes is that the STRIX GTX 780 OC is one of the fastest video cards available for its generation at stock clocks and is extremely well future proofed by the extra video memory.
My personal gaming rig is based on a Fractal Design Define R2 case with tons of large 120mm Scythe Gentle Typhoon fans, carefully optimized to run near silent. The PC itself is a Sabertooth Z87 with an i7-4770K CPU and Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler. I installed the STRIX into my machine, installed the latest video drivers and proceeded to browse HTF for about 15 minutes. During web browsing and typical desktop use, the PC was actually inaudible from 12 feet away, and as the fan of the STRIX wasn’t even running, all was as it should be.
I began my noise testing with Furmark, which generally stresses a GPU very seriously. After about 15 minutes of Furmark the fan RPM was measuring a consistent 2500RPM yet I couldn’t hear only minimal perceptible noise from my PC, despite the room being dead quiet.
Pleased by my findings, I proceeded to play Wolfenstein, Metro Last Light, Dead Space 3 and several other games in my collection at extremely high settings (1080p) all the while waiting for leaf blower fan noise to suck me out of the experience.
Suffice to say, this never happened. For completeness’ sake I even compared the noise of my PC to the PS3 and PS4, and found the PS3 was actually louder at times than my PC.
If you had asked me five years ago if I thought PC gaming could be brought to the home theater with few to no compromises, I would have laughed. Today, I stand truly impressed by what the industry has done. Valve has continued to innovate with Steam and has arguably the best gaming store/platform in the world for the PC, while also addressing the needs of those who want to use a controller in Windows. Likewise, Microsoft and game developers have widely adopted the Xbox 360 controller into their default control schemes even for games that are not console ports. This has led to a world in which all the peripheral and interface nightmares of the past can be easily worked around. The last domino to fall in his equation is the graphics card. The Radeon 6970 that was in my previous PC was able to drone out even a hair dryer with its terrible stock cooling solution. The ASUS STRIX GTX 780 OC on the other hand delivers stellar performance at noise levels that are perfectly acceptable in any home theater.
For those of us spending thousands on speakers, amps, receivers, projectors and TV’s, I can’t think of many reasons why spending an extra thousand dollars to achieve a vastly superior gaming experience would be a bad idea. The average new game on Steam sells for $49, with many sales and events dropping prices even lower. For the mid-level or hardcore gamer, the savings on game purchases alone should shortly justify the cost of a gaming PC.
I’m sure this is a topic that will be hotly debated among our members, and I encourage and welcome that discussion. In the interim, if you can’t find me, I’ll probably be in the home theater, gaming on my PC and eagerly awaiting a chance to try the new STRIX GTX 980 from ASUS.
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