ASUS ROG ARES II Video Card Review

ASUS is launching its latest flagship ROG series video card, the ASUS ROG ARES II. This beast takes two Radeon HD 7970 GHz GPUs and provides CrossFire performance in a dual-slot configuration with unique custom closed-loop external cooling. This powerful limited edition video card is a born overclocker!

Introduction

Have we got an exciting video card to show you today. While AMD hasn't yet officially released its own production dual-GPU 7970 on a single printed circuit board (PCB) video card, other manufacturers have taken up the task. The one we have to show you today from ASUS has been in development for seven months now, and is ready to hit the market. First, let's start by stating we have evaluated another video card of this nature, it was the PowerColor Devil 13 HD7990 back in November. In fact, this has been the only other video card, until now, that sports dual-7970 CrossFire in a single video card format.

The PowerColor Devil 13 was a 3-slot monster of a video card that had some problems with PowerTune capping performance when running at full-speed in power demanding games. That video card was also based on the original version Radeon HD 7970 GPUs at 925MHz. What we have to show you today is ASUS's latest ROG flagship entry into this type of video card, and ASUS is throwing punches with today's video card announcement, punches that knock every other video card of this level into oblivion.

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The ASUS ROG ARES II (official press release) has been in development for seven months, and today marks the launch of this $1500 limited edition product. While the PowerColor Devil 13 was a monster of a video card, ASUS has opted for a more streamline, efficient, and overall slicker setup with a package only taking up 2-slots. How is this possible? ASUS has engineered a custom external closed-loop liquid cooling system that allows this video card to maintain a decently sized profile, with the best cooling we've seen yet. ASUS has also put two of the best AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition GPUs on board, and has even overclocked these to give you better performance than any other video card in this class!


ASUS ROG ARES II Specifications

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The ASUS ROG ARES II consists of two Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition GPUs on a single PCB with CrossFire enabled. The hardware is built around ASUS' Republic of Gamers standard using DIGI +VRM with 20-phase Super Alloy Power. The capacitors on-board are of a higher quality than other standard SAP capacitors for better temperature endurance and a longer life span. The Super Alloy Chokes eliminate coil whine associated with standard hollow casings. ASUS' Super Alloy MOS is in use to increase maximum voltage threshold by 30%, and these run cooler and more efficient. The PCB is a custom 12-layer design. A Generation 3 (PCI-Express 3.0) PLX bridge is used as the onboard PCI-Express connections between the two GPUs.

What really makes this design unique is in the ROG Hybrid Air / Liquid Thermal Design. Two cold plates are attached to each GPU and there is a closed-loop external liquid cooling system in use. The double-wide external radiator can support two 120mm fans for a push/pull air cooling on the radiator. There is also a fan on the CNC machined aluminum cover which strictly keeps the power circuitry and memory cool. A die-cast heatsink assembly and aluminum back plate complete the construction. ASUS claims a 31c degree cooler running temperature compared to HD 7970.

Both GPUs, while based on the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition actually run faster than reference speeds. ASUS has boosted the clock speeds to 1100MHz on each GPU so you get a great experience without having to tweak anything. In addition, there is 3GB of GDDR5 per GPU, and ASUS has also overclocked the memory to 6.6GHz. For comparison, reference HD 7970 GHz Edition runs at 1050MHz and 6GHz memory. This means this video card should give you an exceptional amount of performance out of the box.

Native to the ASUS ROG ARES II is 3-way, 5-way, and 6-way Eyefinity support. There are four full-sized Display Port connectors, and one single-link DVI and one dual-link DVI port. The BIOS selector on top will select between the different Eyefinity modes supported. This video card does also support CrossFire if you happen to be rich enough to buy two. This video card requires three 8-pin power connectors. The recommended power supply for one ASUS ROG ARES II is 850W (90% Efficiency) Gold or Platinum rating. If overclocking the video card ASUS recommends a 1000 Watt power supply. If running two of these video cards in CrossFire, ASUS recommends a 1200W PSU at the least.

One unique thing ASUS has designed, which is a complete customization for overclocking is to re-design the power delivery system for the GPUs. In a reference design, the HD 7970 GHz Edition uses 6, 60 Amp chokes. ASUS has instead designed 8, 45 Amp chokes. This helps spread out heat for overclocking. It just shows the intricate kind of thinking ASUS employed to customize this video card.

There were three big challenges ASUS had in developing the ASUS ROG ARES II:

Power Target and throttling? Yes, constraining it within 600W was a considerable challenge.

Binning to ensure quality GPU used Extra effort was placed in a special and extensive binning process to have outstanding GPU quality ensuring consistent thermal performance and voltage consistency.

TDP and how it affects cooling and acoustics 600W heat is a large amount to consider dissipating, as a point of reference a i7 extreme is = 135W where a cooler can be taller and wider if needed we need to keep it within limited height.

ASUS has also thought about the longevity of the video card, and designed it so that users can gain easy access to the internal housing and the cooling cold plates. In this way, users can replace or upgrade the TIMs.

There are two fans supplied for the radiator, by default, you only need one. However, if you wish to overclock the video card, installing the supplied second fan on the radiator is recommended.

The card measures in 11.8" long, 5.5" wide and 1.8" in depth. The radiator measures 4.6" long, 5.8" in width and 1.9" in depth. The fans are 120mm, and the tube length is 13.4".


High Resolution Internal Pictures

The pictures below are very large in file size, but this is so you can experience the wonderful construction of this video card. Pictures provided by ASUS.

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Our Pictures of ASUS ROG ARES II

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Inside the box you will find a unique number assigned to your unit. Out of 999 cards, ours was number 779. The ASUS ROG ARES II is a very limited product, with 1000 units worldwide, and only 100 in North America. Inside the box is a second fan, and screws for the radiator. There are also three 8-pin power adapters, and a CrossFire bridge. The power connector for the second radiator fan runs along the tubing, and is easy to connect. As you can see, inside a system, it does take up quite a lot of space.

If you already have a radiator on the back of your case, you may find placing this large radiator difficult. Depending on your case configuration, you may be able to place your CPU radiator at the top, and your video card radiator on the back. This would be the preferred installation. If you are lucky enough to get two of these cards, the second radiator has to be installed at the front of your case.