ASUS MARS review -
Going to MARS
Going to MARS
So first we are going to defines what the ASUS MARS really is. First off, what is it ? Is the designated name for this card a GeForce GTX 295 or a dual-GPU GTX 285 ? We like to call it a Dual GTX 285 as GTX 295 with it's 448-bit memory bus and lesser memory doesn't seem like right fit naming wise.
Dual-GPU based graphics cards... the past few years we've seen them a couple of times. Previous ones released from team green (NVIDIA) was the GeForce 9800 GX2 and more recent the GTX 295. By itself a pretty interesting cards. Though every now and then also haunted by driver issues. This is the reality of any multi-GPU solution really. Rendering a game with multiple graphics processors is increasingly more difficult opposed to using just one GPU.
And I know I have said this many times already, this is why typically I prefer a single GPU based high-end graphics card over a dual-GPU based solution, that doesn't mean though that things have improved over the years, contrary .. as of lately I am really content how driver shaped up.
So here's what ASUS did. They took two PCBs, two full GT200 graphics processors (GTX 285) and armed them with a fill 512-bit wide luxiourious 2GB memoru per GPU memory and then internally SLI them PCBs together. Gamers Unite !
So the two GPUs are bridged and SLI takes place internally, rendering your games based on profiles in the GeForce drivers, like alternate frame rendering etc.
There are some snags to Multi-GPU based products though, and this goes for any multi-GPU based system: you double up everything. This means you now have two GPUs that need to get rid of their heat, which requires extra cooling. You'll need more PSU capacity, you'll need good airflow inside that system. So yeah, not only performance doubles up, everything doubles up. And that also goes for the innards of the graphics card just as well as power requirements
Now the ASUS MARS Dual GTX 285 is a bit of a weird combo, so let's focus on the more primary features.
Reference clock frequencies:
- Memory size: 4096 MB (2048 MB per GPU)
- Shaders processor: 240 per GPU, 480 in total
- Core frequency: 648 MHz (Texture and ROP units)
- Shader processor: 1476 MHz
- Memory: 1153 MHz
Yeah it's an awful lot of computing power for sure, but the reality is that you are pretty much looking at two GTX 285 cards in SLI, does that make the MARS really `that´special ? it´s hard to answer really.
Let's talk about mother nature and your power bill for a second. See, this card has at the least a 300+ Watt peak power consumption. That is a lot of power being consumed at game time, which you can frown upon. There are obviously also a couple of very interesting positives.
You are adding a MASSIVE amount of horse power to your PC. Seriously, it's even a little crazy when you think about it. You have 2x 240 shader processor cores inside one graphics card, ... that's a rather incredible amount of horsepower. The fun thing with the product now is that with that much power you can also have it handle future PhysX titles really easily without dedicating a GPU to PhysX, yet keep the raw horsepower the card really has. Heck, the more effects a game has, the better.
260 Core 216
|Stream (Shader) Processors||216||240||240x2||240x2|
|Core Clock (MHz)||576||648||576||648|
|Shader Clock (MHz)||1242||1476||1242||1476|
|Memory Clock (MHz) x2||999||1242||999||1153|
|Memory amount||896 MB||1024 MB||1792MB||4096MB|
|Memory Interface||448-bit||512-bit||448-bit x2||512-bit x2|
|Two Dual link DVI||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
As you can see the specs are impressive and sure ... even overkill when you look for example at the memory size. BTW as you can see, the memory clock is slightly slower than a standard GTX 285. This is due to memory density (2GB per GPU). The fact is that two GTX 285 cards in SLI would be as fast or slightly faster than this MARS.
ASUS did some other stuff with the card though. Of course first up is the memory size, it's extravagant and really .. a bit of a waste as you'll not use more then 1 GB per GPU really (with an occasional exception here and there of course). As such this evil demonic dual-PCB card holds a total of 32 memory chips !
We also notice that each PCB has a 6-phase digital PWM power circuit (thus 12 in total), drawing auxiliary power from an 8-pin PCI-E power connector -- per PCB.
Memory used is 0.77ns memory chips made by Hynix ( 1000/0.77= 1300 MHz ) So in theory we should be able to run this memory at 2600 MHz (dual channel). The PCB houses the well known Volterra VRM controller allowing for voltage control. Fused power circuit provides Over Current Protection while also facilitating extreme overclocking. The ASUS software however does not allow this, contrary to what was displayed at Computex this year.
The internal cooler has the same basic idea and concept as the reference cooler, it uses a single fan. ASUS used slightly longer internal bridges that make more room for third-party coolers, and the likes.
Being Quad-SLI capable, this card makes GeForce GTX 285 (effective) quad-SLI possible. Pricing then, like I stated Only a thousand are made (initially), if you can get your hands on one .. the card is listed as at approximately $1500 or 1250.
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 ?