You know, it is always tremendous fun when products like shown today arrive at the office. It also means stress ... on average we roughly get to have three days with kits like these and in that time frame you need to do anything and everything from photo-shoot, sound pressure test, heat tests, power consumption tests to all the benchmarks. Of course it doesn't help that 6 out of the 12 games tested needed an update once you start them up ... well these are luxury problems to have I guess! So what do you think, what a beast of a card huh ?
The ASUS ARES II ROG edition graphics card is a marvel, a little gem even when it comes to overall design. Its sheer looks are just breathtaking and if you stick to one card (which you should) the multi-GPU experience is really good. So yeah, the overall looks are downright terrific, the Liquid cooling as far as I am concerned is a hit. Now granted it does require a little extra work, time, effort and space inside your PC, but the ARES II really benefits from the LCS cooling as temperatures remain at give or take 65 Degrees C, even with two cards installed. I would have liked to see the tubing a bit longer though. From card to radiator the tubing is 30CM in length, so that's cutting it a little shot, especially with a secondary card positioned lower in the chassis. Size wise there really isn't anything complain again thanks to the LCS cooling, allowing a dual-slot configuration.
Directly related to the cool ling are the noise levels. With one card installed you are absolutely fine. In idle you barely can hear the cooling solution and under stress, well you can hear some airflow and that's it really. So not silent, but perfectly fine would sum it up well. Even when setup in crossfire we have to admit that though not silent, the noise levels remain well within acceptable limits. So yeah, great stuff to observe.
Here we arrive at the one caveat of the solution. The three PCIe EXpress 8-pin power connectors already hinted at it. Each card can peak to roughly 500 Watt, and that anno 2013 is simply not done as it is just an excessive level. Once we popped in a second card our power consumption at peak levels now had risen to well over 1100 Watt. I seriously had a WTF moment when I look at our Watt monitor meter. All this was managed with a Platinum certified PSU installed (Corsair AX1200i), so that's amongst the most power supplies available on today's market. I'll leave this to you to decide whether or not you find it acceptable. My remark here however us simple, this is enthusiast grade hardware, made to break records and in that sense it can be justified. So if you don't worry too much about power consumption, hey who am I to judge. We merely bring you the facts, and you get to decide whether or nowt you find the values acceptable enough or ill advised.
Multi GPU modes
With one card you have two Tahiti XT2 GPUs at work. And with all games in combination with the latest 13.1 WHQL catalyst driver that works out just fine. We honestly did not run into any issues and the performance levels are grand. Once you break away from 1920x1200 there's no doubt that the ARES II is the faster product compared to the GeForce GTX 690.So all games run fine and scale well with one card and thus two GPUs.
Two cards setup in Crossfire was more a 50-50 kind of deal. Some games worked, some didn't and other run berserk scaling numbers that where downright impressive. Truth be told, I will not recommend you to go for a 4-GPU solution as there are too many factors ruining the lovely gaming experience. There are just too many driver issues to deal with, even with the new AMD titles we ran into problems a lot.
Then again if your only goal is to break benchmark records with 3DMark etc, then this is a wicked solution. Mind you that with 4 GPUs up-to 1920x1200 most of the time you'll run into CPU limitation with pretty much any CPU available on the market. Only if you game at 2560x1440/1600 and higher, that's where Crossfire could/would and should matter.
Overclocking then, we notice okay results. The ARES II obviously already is factory overclocked and if you compare the reference (non GHz edition) R7970 at 925 MHz on that core clock and then compare it with this 1100 MHz product then yeah... wow! realistically with two GPUs honestly, overclocking is not at all needed as you already have so much power under the hood. With a non-overclocked 500 Watt power draw in mind, here again we like to advise being cautious. Regardless of that, there is room left. If you manually overclock without voltage tweaking 1150 MHz is viable. With voltage tweaking 1175 MHz maybe even a little higher. But we find the XT2 GPUs harder to overclock then the older XT ones. Memory wise 7000 MHz (effective data rate) is not an issue, in fact you'll likely reach 7400 MHz stable as well.
The ARES II is a limited edition series cards. Word is that there will only be a 1000 made. So with rotated press samples and other marketing related kits deducted merely a few hundred of these will reach the market. We do not have final pricing just yet, but expect these puppies to sell at a MSRP of 1399,- EUR, that's 1500 USD a pop. I will not judge on pricing, we know that if they would be pricing the cards 2000 USD they would sell them as well, merely due to low volume and this higher demand and the coolness factor for high-end builds and case mods.
Honestly I'm very happy to see manufacturers like ASUS to put their balls on the table and produce cards like these, but obviously I can not justify the price to you guys whatsoever. It's a niche product for a niche market.
It is time to wrap this review up, the ASUS ARES II that originates from the majestic caves of the ROG team is a deeply awe-inspiring product with lots well implemented features and fantastic performance. It's a dish liquid chilled cold for the true PC aficionado's. It's abundantly clear that this product is aimed at these guys with that extreme PC or case mod and a Diesel backup generator in their garden.
The LCS cooling, the factory overclock, the six-monitor output, the quality build makes all this a very interesting product. We do feel ASUS came very late to the market with the ARES II though, but it is without doubt the fastest R7970 based graphics card on the block, we are sure it'll be embraced by the ones that can afford it. Good build quality, original cooling and top notch performance is what the ARES II offers and props to the ROG team for outing such extreme hardware, we have deep respect and bow to that.
Right, somebody mentioned a GeForce Titan at the end of February ? :)
ASUS ARES II review We test and review the ASUS ARES II as single card and in Crossfire today. The ARES 2 is a dual-GPU Radeon HD 7970 graphics card. Fully customized with 3rd party Liquid cooling. We test the product one one and three monitors in Eyefinity with the hottest games like Battlefield 3, Sleeping Dogs, Far Cry 3, Medal of Honor Warfighter, Hitman Absolution and many more.
ASUS ARES Review We test and review the worlds fastest single Graphics card. These uber-high-enthusiast targeted products are intended to create a lot of buzz and potentially have a lot of marketing value. But face fact is also that there is a small group of end-users actually really interested it in, regardless of price and deficits. So with this round of realizing something fun, extra ordinary and sure prices very steep ASUS went back to the drawing board. They came up with a dual-GPU design solution based off Radeon 5970, but an overall better design, new PCB, higher clock frequencies on GPUs and more memory (2GB per GPU). Then they threw improved voltage regulation management into the mix and added a new cooler with the weight of a small baby on top of the GPUs to deliver something really special.