Graphics Cards Guide

ASUS Mars II review

Preview: ASUS Mars II - King of NVIDIA Graphics Cards?

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Overall rating 8.5/10
Performance:
9
Features:
9
Value:
6.5
THE GOOD
Bragging rights for owning a limited edition card
Ease of overclocking
Exceptional performance
THE BAD
Costly
Twin fans run loud at 100% setting


Limited Edition & Unlimited Power

Power Overkill

Built for the most hardened enthusiasts and overclockers in mind, the Mars series never fails to amaze us with a showcase of engineering prowess from ASUS. You could almost say that this series was built for bragging rights and posers and you wouldn't be wrong. The original ASUS Mars debuted in 2009 in the form of a huge card packing two fully endowed GeForce GTX 285 GPUs to trounce the already powerful dual-GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295. Its mission was to unleash the NVIDIA GT200 architecture used on those GPUs to its full extent, instead of living with slower clocked GeForce GTX 280-class GPUs on the GTX 295. The ASUS Mars certainly proved itself back then, garnering one of our Top 100 products of 2009 award.

Following that up, ASUS released the Ares last year, a flamboyant but gigantic card with dual AMD Radeon HD 5870 (Cypress XT) GPUs to outgun the then-top dual-GPU card, a Radeon HD 5970. It succeeded and went on to garner one of our Top 100 products of 2010 award.

A year after, ASUS is reigniting their engineering flame again with the Mars II - a dual-GPU monster card that will contain two GeForce GTX 580 GPUs running at full speed. First seen in Computex 2011, it was designed to do what the GeForce GTX 590 couldn't achieve - outperform the current dual-GPU leader, the Radeon HD 6990. In fact, with the ASUS Mars II boasting a GPU/shader clock speed of 782MHz/1564MHz, this surpasses a standard clocked GeForce GTX 580 clocked at 772MHz/1544MHz and definitely a lot speedier than each of the GPUs on the GeForce GTX 590 (clocked at 607MHz/1215MHz). Check this link to see how their specs compare.

Not only is it built to be the fastest, it's also built for overclocking and as such it's outfitted with huge cooling fans, eight direct flattened heatpipes (DirectCU design) that contact the GPU directly for quick heat dissipation, full-speed cooling with a dedicated 100% fan switch (similar to that found on the Matrix GTX580 Platinum) and three 8-pin power connectors! That's right, it's not a typo - 3. All that power is well regulated and controlled with a complex 21-phase power circuitry to govern the dual GPUs and memory. Ensuring stable and timely power to be delivered when required directly to the GPUs is a high capacitance, low ESR and low profile NEC Proadlizer - directly behind each GPU. From our experience with cards featuring this, we've seen better overclocking margins and we believe the Mars II would break new grounds yet again.

To accommodate all of the ASUS Mars II features and capabilities, it will occupy a full complement of three expansion slots. That means you'll need four slots of clearance considering breathing room space. The card is so huge that its design comes with a patented PCIe sustainer to support the huge cooling assembly. If you're in the mood to burn cash to build a quad-SLI gaming rig, you'll need very specific motherboards that can accommodate such thick graphics cards. ASUS of course has its own recommendations like its huge Rampage III Extreme or Rampage III Extreme Black Edition motherboards.

To fully maximize the card's capabilities, tweak and maintain it easily, look no further than the company's very own GPU tweak utility. We first had our hands-on experience with it when testing the ASUS Matrix GTX580 Platinum. A crucial feature is its ability to lock the GPU's core clock with the core voltage, thus creating a worry-free overclocking experience as the voltages rise and fall in tandem when the clock speeds are adjusted.

You can expect the ASUS Mars II to cost as much an expensive fully built system with prices north of S$2000. Both the dual-GPU reference cards from AMD and NVIDIA had poor value over a respective dual graphics card solution, so expect even more ridiculous pricing for a graphics card made for the finest PC components connoisseur. This is no normal high-end graphics card; it is perhaps the best of the best. Stay tuned to find out the testing outcome soon!