ASUS ROG MARS II GTX 580 Quad SLI Video Card Review

The ASUS ROG MARS II Limited Edition video card brings true dual-GeForce GTX 580 GPUs to the table. Take two of these and you can have a true GTX 580 Quad-SLI system. We'll dive into performance, including Battlefield 3, and see what these can do directly compared to 4-way CrossFireX.

Introduction

What we are about to show you today is hands down the most epic video card we've had the pleasure to show you in recent memory. ASUS is no stranger to making custom video cards. ASUS has a keen eye for taking what AMD and NVIDIA provide, and pushing those GPUs to the extreme building customized video cards around those GPUs. We've evaluated several high-end custom ASUS video cards this year that have proven to do exactly what these claimed to do. We didn't think it could get any better than the ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum video card we evaluated this summer, but it has.

The ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX580 Platinum video card used a GeForce GTX 580 GPU, but took it to the max by giving us feature after endless feature designed to take the GPU to its highest potential of performance. We experienced performance over 1GHz out of that GPU, taking it to frequencies we've never played at before on a GeForce GTX 580. ASUS wasn't done. What better, after this video card, than to release another one that takes the GTX 580 to a whole new level, again.

ASUS is giving us two GPUs on a single printed circuit board, in the form of a single video card. Say hello to the ASUS ROG MARS II video card. It may not sound so special until you find out that it is being done with two GeForce GTX 580 GPUs clocked at normal frequencies, something even NVIDIA shied away from. NVIDIA attempted a dual-GTX 580 video card, but ended up giving us the less-than spectacular GeForce GTX 590 video card. There were some performance issues with the GeForce GTX 590 that kept it from being competitive with two GeForce GTX 580 video cards with SLI enabled. The GPUs on the GTX 590 were severely down-clocked from GTX 580 specifications. A GeForce GTX 580 runs at 772MHz core and 1544MHz shader. Each GPU on the GTX 590 runs at 607MHz core and 1215MHz shader. On top of that NVIDIA also down-clocked the memory by 600MHz. Boo, hiss.

The frequencies ended up being slower than a GTX 570, but with the shader count as a GTX 580. The performance resulted in sub-par performance. The resulting performance was the same as two GeForce GTX 570 cards with SLI enabled. Beyond that, there were later issues with drivers that caused the power management program to not work properly, and people ended up blowing capacitors on early GTX 590 adopters if they pushed their video cards too hard.


ASUS ROG MARS II

ASUS has made what NVIDIA should have made, a true dual-GTX 580 video card, and ASUS even gave us higher than stock-GTX 580 frequencies. Yep, ASUS did not just settle for stock-GTX 580 frequencies, it wanted to give you even more performance. The ASUS ROG MARS II has two GeForce GTX 580 GPUs, and runs at 782MHz core frequency and 1564MHz shader frequency out-of-the-box. This may only be a 10MHz increase, but it is bold of ASUS to even push that on such a video card, but ASUS did it, and it works. ASUS has also properly clocked the memory at 4GHz, exactly what a GTX 580 video card would have. There is 1.5GB of memory per-GPU, which unfortunately could bottleneck the video cards at high resolutions, but it is stock for a GeForce GTX 580.

What we end up with is a proper "GeForce GTX 580 SLI on a card" video card. Since this is a single video card, that allows the possibility to add-in another one and complete a Quad-GPU configuration with two video cards. This setup works, and is supported. We just so managed to get two of these video cards for you so that we can show you what four GeForce GTX 580 GPUs can do spread across two video cards! This is literally the ultimate in GTX 580 performance.

The catch? There has to be a catch right, well, there actually is. Unfortunately, these video cards are not cheap to make, and as such, these are Limited Editions. This means that means ASUS is only making a certain number, in this case 999 video cards. That is it, that is all that will be out there. On top of that, the price is around $1499 per video card. At that price there just isn't anything that competes. The closest thing is Radeon HD 6990 CFX (Quad-GPU). Being limited edition, and with a price tag that high, means these are for the elite, these are for a certain niche of gamer that either hinges on the obsessive, or the collectors out there.

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From the moment you open the box you know this video card is going to be massive. The box itself is 17.5" wide and 5" in depth. Inside the box driver CD, quick setup guide, SLI connector, DVI to VGA adapter, two 6-pin to 8-pin power adapters, and some adhesive with cushioning if your video card overlaps another card in your system, for support. There is a flap that opens up revealing the video card through a window so you can see it. There is also a badge that displays what number out of 999 your video card is for the Limited Edition. On the back of the certificate it states: "This document certifies that the limited edition MARS II is an unique work of art designed by the ASUS ROG team. This Aluminum plate is individually laser carved and sequentially numbered to certify limited edition status, making it a collector's item."

When you take the video card out, you will notice it is not in an anti-static bag, but it is secured tightly, and has caps over the PCIe slot, and connectors you must remove. The video card is large, very large, it measures a full 12" in length, but a lot of its size comes from its depth. It has a depth of 5", that means once you plug it into your PCIe connector it will extend out from your motherboard 5". For comparison, a Radeon HD 6970 or GeForce GTX 580 stick out 3.5 inches. It also takes up three slots being almost 2.5" thick. The entire video card is encased in a housing, with a full backplate.

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The shroud consists of two 120mm fans and ASUS's DirectCU II cooling technology. Two heatsink blocks sit atop the GPUs with aluminum fins but four copper heatpipes each. The shroud itself is aluminum and helps aid in heat distribution. ASUS uses an upgraded 21-phase Super Alloy power with this video card, for comparison the GTX 590 was 11-phase. You need three full 8-pin power connectors to power this video card. If you are using two, that means no less than 6x 8-pin power connectors. We had to use an Enermax MaxRevo 1350W PSU to support two of these video cards.

ASUS includes a push button fan speed control on the video card. This allows you to instantly shift the fans into 100% fan speed mode. We recommend this if you are overclocking at all on this video card. We experienced no trouble with default fan speeds gaming in Quad-GPU at stock frequencies.

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Installed in our system you can see how monumental these video cards are. On a zoomed out picture the motherboard appears so tiny under the two video cards. Luckily with our system the PCIe slots are spread apart for SLI, we couldn't recommend running these two video cards sandwiched completely together. They need a little breathing room.

Since we are talking about two distinct GPUs per video card, that means you can run NV Surround with one video card! There are two DVI ports and a DisplayPort and an HDMI port. You can run NV Surround using two-DVI ports and the DisplayPort!