ASUS Mars II review -
Final words and conclusion
Final words and conclusion
Conclusion time then. We had a blast with the ASUS Mars II -- really it's one of the products out there that no one can afford, yet everybody wants. A massive x-factor can be assigned to the product as it is just spectacular. The ASUS VGA team did an outstanding job creating this creature slash freaky freakazoid of nature.
From ground up the board design was overhauled with a selection of merely the best of components, a very advanced power circuitry was applied to the product making sure that every power phase delivers precisely what it needs to maintain optimal stability. It's a bit of a shame that NVIDIA locked down the voltage regulation so much though on the GTX 590 drivers wise, as really voltage tweaking barely is an option. Still that's why the ROG team tweaked it for you. A nice overclock (compared to the refernce GTX 590) is pre-applied for you and it makes a difference alright as on average you are what, 20% faster then the reference GeForce GTX 590 (which already was ridiculous fast anyways).
The cooler is impressive, it manages to keep the two GPU chilled at just the right temperature, even with that factory overclock. And sure, there is even room left for a little guru3d oomph -- see the 850 MHz overclock should be a target you can reach reasonably easily. After that things can get a little more complicated. Memory wise your limit will roughly be 4200~4300 MHz (give or take a little) and that again adds a little performance to something already ridiculous fast.
What surprised me where the nice noise levels, or better yet, the lack of it. In desktop mode you'll hardly hear the card. During gaming it's as noisy as a regular card and thus produces normal noise levels. Massively stressed it is a little audible though. And sure if you need extra performance during an overclock and press that FAN RPM button (fan RPM goes to 100%) yeah that's where the card becomes downright noisy. We doubt however that you'll use that particular function for the reasons just mentioned.
Wrapping up, you guys know I was flabbergasted as to why NVIDIA clocked the reference card as low as they did. Likely they where ying-yang with the fact that this card's performance roughly equals slash is close to R6990 performance and simply opted for lower noise and a fashionable power consumption. But in this cutthroat business, at the very least one manufacturer out there dared to raise the bar, at 782 MHz the Mars II kicks some serious ass and bravo for a manufacturer pursuing this alternative.
Regardless of what you might think of the Mars II price level, this conclusion is hard yet realistic. The ASUS Mars II might be the best graphics card we ever laid our hands on. The performance is absolutely amazing, for what it is the product is silent enough for a multi-GPU product, and yeah well... just look at what you receive.
Products like the one shown today are always trivial to recommend and most of all, explain. They are expensive and they perform at a level that hardly anyone requires let alone needs or can afford. Still, that doesn't change the fact that within its segment and audience, the most high-end cards are desired by a lot of you, or at least our reader-base.
Whether it's just to gain a humongous 12" e-peen, an x-factor product or you simple have a desire for the best gaming performance, it's these people that will purchase these dual-GPU monsters, but regardless of what some people think/see or feel this is a superbly performing card.
Performance wise the Mars II is a beast, we gave it the petname Lucifer, something dark and evil. The performance level that it operates in is truly amazing stuff to witness.
Any real negatives besides the price you ask? Sure... TDP wise we measured roughly 430W, considering the performance level thrown at you, that isn't bad but I'm surely not happy about a graphics card pulling close half a kilo watt all by itself.
Performance then, you will receive a product that exhausts nearly silly numbers in terms of frame rate on your monitor. You can flick on 2560x1600 as a resolution and apply 8xAA, the card really isn't bothered.
As always you do need to keep in mind that a card needs an appropriate PC. Even our Core i7 Nehalem based quad core processor clocked at 3750 MHz will still run into some CPU limitation with the somewhat aging DX9 titles we used. Here also we need to state that CPU limitations / bottlenecks are not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you pass 60 FPS or your maximum monitor refresh rate -- honestly who cares? So do feel free to enable all image quality settings a game offers you. I mean, if I take Battlefield 2 Bad Company, which is massively GPU dependant, and enable all and only the very best image quality settings and apply 8xAA, we still see 131 FPS on average at a monitor resolution of 1920x1200, which is just, well scandalous really.
Driver compatibility wise in terms of multi-GPU support, we did not have problems at all. All tested titles worked perfectly fine and overall scaling was pretty snazzy as well. NVIDIA has been very strong on multi-GPU support and once big titles launch, they often release a new driver alongside with it. It would not hurt NVIDIA to release drivers on a more regular basis. It is a complaint as of late that we are seeing often in our forums, especially when it comes toward multi-GPU driver support this is very important.
Cards like shown today are for the true elite gamers out there. You need that muscular PC, a monitor resolution that starts at 1920x1080/1200 or heck, even three monitors as remember, one Mars II supports surround vision with up-to three monitors as well.
Pricing wise you can expect to purchase the card at 1299 EUR incl VAT, and that's a dumfounded amount of money for just a graphics card. High-end should never cost more than 499 EUR in our opinion, after that it is just very hard to justify. So we won't even try to justify it. Regardless of pricing, ASUS has a very intoxicating and hypnotic graphics card with the Mars II. It remains fairly inaudible, temps are under control, you get uncompromised image quality and a bucket load of performance.
Please remember what we said about high-resolution monitors and respect the fact that you'll need a very fascinating overall PC build as well to feed this card the platform it deserves after which it will quid pro quo for you. And if you like to go really wild with multiple-monitors then this product starts to make a little more sense.
Well, I've said everything there is to be said really. What do you guys think, a best hardware award? Yeah of course, it just won't get any better then this until the gext-gen GPUs will arrive.
Oh one small hint to the ASUS VGA design team -> liquid cooling. Oh that and a better marketing spread of samples for the first wave launch -- please! Cheers guys ;)
We've seen the original brutal Mars, the exemplary ARES but ASUS is at it again with the all new Mars II, yep that's right. The x-factor products makes it prodigal return to manage a little bump and grinding. Money aside, the dual-GPU product tested today is uber cool though. It's the stuff that make my digitized ticker go tick a little faster -- and once you have it in your hands, you'll make a nervous giggle. Ah well, talk is cheap, have a look and then we'll head onwards into the review of the Lucifer of graphics cards.
ASUS MARS review
If you have been living under a rock and don't know what the ASUS Mars is .. let me give you an easy breakdown. You take two GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards, stick 4 GB of memory on there (2GB per GPU), sandwich them, SLI them up, market it as MARS, slap a limited edition label on there and make only a 1000 units. That in a nutshell is the product we'll be testing today. So without making a long and boring introduction, let's pop one of these little frackers into our finest test system and see where it ends up performance wise .. will this really be the fastest graphics card in the world anno September 2009 ?