ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum Video Card Review
ASUS has launched the new ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum video card that can be described as the pinnacle enthusiast GeForce GTX 580 GPU. Will all of this customization and new features mean you get fast video card? If this overclock doesn't impress you we suggest trading in your computer and finding a new hobby.
When it comes to high-end custom video card designs, it is hard to match the ASUS Republic of Gamers MATRIX video card line. ASUS' ROG MATRIX GTX580 combines the best hardware components and engineering to take a GPU to its absolute limits of performance.
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We've looked at one other ASUS ROG MATRIX video card in the past, the ASUS ROG MATRIX 5870 Platinum video card. That video is based on the previous generation Radeon HD 5870 GPU, and in that evaluation we found the ASUS ROG MATRIX version to offer us the best out-of-the-box performance ever seen on a Radeon HD 5870 GPU. It ended up being such a perfect video card, that our editor-in-chief Kyle Bennett decided to get a pair of these and share his experiences. Suffice it to say, the ASUS ROG MATRIX 5870 Platinum was well liked around HardOCP. We will see if the new ROG MATRIX can give us that chill all over again.
During the time of the ASUS ROG MARIX 5870 Platinum video card evaluation, ASUS introduced a new overclocking utility called iTracker 2. Our experiences with iTracker 2 were good, and this utility proved to be superior to the aging SmartDoctor utility. For this evaluation of ASUS' latest ROG MATRIX video card, ASUS is debuting a new overclocking program once again, called "GPU Tweak." We have a lot of good things to say about GPU Tweak, and we will explore it in this evaluation.
Today we'll be evaluating the new ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum video card. This video card uses an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 GPU, but the components surrounding the GPU are completely modified, and unique from the ground up.
Jumping quickly to the pricing, the ROG Matrix GTX580 is on the upper end of GeForce GTX 580 video cards. Currently, you can get this video card for $529.99 at Newegg. While that sounds pricy in relation to AMD video cards, it isn't any more expensive than other custom GeForce GTX 580 video cards like the MSI Lightning.
ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum
Platinum and Non-Platinum
The first thing to note is that there are two ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 models. There is a "Platinum" version, and a non-platinum version. The Platinum model will be denoted in its nomenclature as this: "MATRIX GTX580 P/2DIS/1536MD5(WTF is this formatting here for? ". You will notice the "P" at the front of the 2DIS/1536MD5 part, this denotes the Platinum version. If you do not see the "P" then you do not have the Platinum version.
The Platinum version is "identicial" to the non-platinum version, except that ASUS has hand-picked the GPUs on the Platinum version. ASUS has hand-picked these GPUs to run at 816MHz out-of-the-box to deliver the best possible overclocks. If you are going to purchase an ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 video card and plan to overclock it, which likely you will, it makes sense to get the Platinum version. It would be a waste to get the non-platinum version, as you will be could very likely be missing out on overclocking potential, even with all the fancy MATRIX components.
The kind of overclocking potential we are talking about, with the Platinum version, is the ability to take an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 GPU past 1GHz. Recall that a stock GeForce GTX 580 runs at 772MHz core frequency and 1544MHz shader frequency. If we can get the GPU up to 1GHz, that would be a 30% overclock, which is extremely impressive. Also recall a GTX 580 gets massively hot, even at its default frequency, so we will have to see if ASUS' DirectCU II cooling is up to the task. ASUS claims that it is able to get this model up to 1015MHz GPU core frequency. If that is the case, we will be extremely impressed.
To aid in this overclocking potential ASUS has designed some unique components on the video card for hardware enthusiasts. There is a safe mode button on the back of the video card that acts like a clear CMOS for your graphics card. One push of this button and the video card reverts back to default, even if you've burned a bad BIOS configuration to it.
ASUS has instituted something called "TweakIt," which provides physical push buttons on the video card that you can increase and decrease GPU voltage! When you press the "+" button you will increase voltage up to +0.125v in 10 jumps. Pressing "-" does the opposite, decreasing voltage. There are LEDs on the video card that indicate which position, or jump, the voltage is in. There is also a big red fan switch that by pressing this sets the fan to 100% fan speed bypassing any fan profiles. If the video card is getting hot, or you need instant fan speed increase while in-game, you can boost the fan to 100%, and increase the voltage, while the game is running live.
There are also voltage measurement points easily accessible and labeled. This is the best position I've ever seen these contact points at, and they are labeled and easy to read so you know what goes where.
Overclocking does not stop there though, ASUS has also allowed an area of enthusiast modding on the back of the video card they label the Mod Zone. In the Mod Zone you will find the ability to Disable OCP, further adjust memory voltage and PLL voltage and even modify the Super Hybrid Engine clock speed itself! ASUS uses something called the Super Hybrid Engine on this video card, which is what allows and controls the overclocking features. This is a hardware chip on the video card, and ASUS is giving you control of even overclocking this chip, from 250KHz to 500KHz to try and push every last ounce of performance from this video card. These are advanced mods, but we know there are many hardcore overclockers out there that will appreciate the ability to manipulate these options.
GPU Tweak is ASUS' new overclocking software utility that was debuted with this video card, and will work on other ASUS video cards. We are happy to finally see a worthy overclocking utility that supplants SmartDoctor. GPU Tweak is not only the perfect name, but also provides a plethora of features for any hardware enthusiast. We will talk more about GPU Tweak in the overclocking section, with our own screenshots and explanations.
Giving an overview, you will find easy slider controls, and the ability to manually input numbers. You will find a lot of monitoring related graphs that you can have running. GPU Tweak allows you to sync multiple GPUs in a SLI or CrossFire situation. There is clock adjust, voltage, and fan speed adjustment with profiles. With the ROG MATRIX versions you will have available memory tuning so you can adjust memory timings on the video card to try and get better memory overclocks. This memory timing adjustment is per-card, so you can adjust each video card independently. There is a BIOS Burn-in option with the ROG MATRIX video card that allows you to save your configuration to the BIOS so it is hard-wired. Live Update is supported so you can always be sure you have the latest BIOS. In the future, there will be new features such as the ability to record a gaming session and take screenshots.
There is a difference in what you will get between a ROG version video card and a standard ASUS video card. The ROG version includes the BIOS Burn-in and recovery option as well as memory timing adjustment. Both will have the game recording option added later.
In order to make this overclocking potential possible, ASUS had to install a custom heatsink and fan. ASUS has implemented the DirectCU II dual-fan cooler on this video card. ASUS claims 20% better cooling than a reference heatsink and fan. The DirectCU II fan is not a new design, and we've evaluated several video cards with this fan and heatsink design. The heatsink consists of five flattened copper heatpipes that directly contact the GPU, instead of a mating surface then contacted to the heatpipes. ASUS claims a 20% improvement in heat dissipation with this design. There is a backplate, which contacts hardware components, and the power circuitry also has a heatsink covering it. Unfortunately, in this design, the memory does not have physical contact with any heatsinks.
While the DirectCU II design has worked well on every ASUS video card we've tested, we were hoping for this ROG MATRIX version we might see a new design, something even better, "DirectCU III" perhaps? The ASUS GeForce GTX 580 is an already hot GPU, and overclocking it past 1GHz is going to mean a lot of heat, plus the power circuitry, plus the memory equals a very hot video card. We are wondering if the DirectCU II has what it takes to keep the video card cool enough.
ASUS has attached the MATRIX LED load indicator that we have seen on previous ROG MATRIX video cards. This unique display changes in color depending on the load of the video card. At idle it will be green, and as the load increases it moves through blue, purple, pinkish, to finally red at extreme loading. It is an easy way to glance at the video card and see if it is under a light or heavy load.
Supper Alloy Power
ASUS employs a set of hardware components dubbed 19-Phase Super Alloy Power. This technology was developed by ASUS as a blend of elements aimed at providing hardware stability under high workload and high temperatures. Super Alloy Power utilizes metals that are highly-magnetic, heat-resistant and anti-corrosive. The result is reduced power loss, durability, and cooler temperatures. The components that make up Super Alloy Power are the Super Hybrid Engine, Super Alloy MOS, Super Alloy Capacitors and Super Alloy Chokes.
ASUS has developed a "SAP (Super Alloy Power) CAP" and placed it directly back-to-back with the GPU. ASUS put it atop the back of the GPU to reduce distance which in turn means there is less voltage loss and less interference. It is a high capacitance chip, low ESR, and low physical height for better overclocking stability. This is in opposition of using Proadlizer chips, which we have seen on other video cards like the MSI Lightning series. ASUS claims that those Proadlizer chips being farther away from the GPU cause higher interference and higher voltage loss. ASUS claims the SAP CAP method provides a 28% more stable overclock because power to noise ratio is better.
ASUS also goes one step further than other high-end custom video cards, like the MSI Lightning series, by using a 19-Phase VRM. This provides 2.3 times more power than reference GTX 580, and even more than other video cards with 16-Phase power. The chokes are using concrete cores to deliver a more stable choke and a cooler one. This should mean better stability and longevity. The Super Alloy capacitors are also improved for a longer life span. Finally, the Super Alloy MOS provides a higher voltage threshold over standard MOS.
To deliver all the power necessary for this video card, ASUS is requiring two 8-pin power connectors on this video card. There is a green or red LED to indicate that appropriate power is plugged in. If you only have a 6-pin connector plugged in, the light will light up red, if everything is proper, the light will be green.
ASUS has gone at lengths to improve reliability and make this video card longer lasting. In a traditional fan, dust can migrate into the bearings, and affect the bearings of the fan. ASUS has a dust-proof fan casing, which means it is sealed and dust cannot mess up the fan bearings, increasing the lifespan.
ASUS has implemented a double over-current protection utilizing fuses. We are happy to see this implemented, and there have been many concerns about GTX 580 video cards exceeding safe power voltage and performance, blowing your video card and components. ASUS is using two fuses in this design to protect against voltage surges, spikes or other electical dangers.
ASUS is also using EMI Shield on the connectors to reduce radiation and improve image quality.
Here are the specifications, you will find a "hand-picked" GeForce GTX 580 GPU on the Platinum version. This means that ASUS has tested and culled these GPUs for the ones that will run the most stable at high speeds and allow a better margin of overclocking. The GPU runs at 816MHz, versus 772MHz with a standard GTX 580. The non-platinum version will run at 782MHz. The memory is not overclocked on either video card, and runs at the reference GTX 580 clock speeds. This overclock, out of the box, is not impressive, so it will be up to manually overclocking to set this video card apart from the rest. Everything else is the same as any GTX 580, there are two Dual-Link DVI ports, an HDMI port and a Display Port. Two 8-pin power connectors are required, and this video card does essentially take up 3 slots.