ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum
When it comes to AMD Radeon HD 7970 video cards, one of the most sought after cards is the ASUS MATRIX HD 7970 Platinum graphics card that is available under the part number MATRIX-HD7970-P-3GD5 for $499.99 shipped. This card has the AMD Radeon HD 7970 'Tahiti' GPU core clocked at 1100 MHz and the 3GB of Hynix GDDR5 RAM is clocked at 1650 MHz (6600 MHz effective). The stock core clock on the AMD Radeon HD 7970 is 925 MHz, so this card features a 175MHz core clock increase. This is a 18.9% improvement, so it already has a fairly hefty overclock on it from the factory. Don't think for one second that is all that ASUS has changed on this card. ASUS basically took the factory reference design and threw it out the window. The companies engineers in Taiwan burnt the midnight oil and came up with an entirely custom card. Pretty much the only thing on this video card that is similar to the original design is the GPU itself. Is that radical enough for you? You can run out and get the lowest cost AMD Radeon HD 7970 for around $387 shipped after rebates, so hopefully all these customizations will make up for the ~$110 price premium that this card carries.
Let's cut the chit-chat and start looking at the ASUS Matrix HD 7970 Platinum 3GB video card!
As you can see from the image above, the ASUS Matrix HD 7970 is a very nice looking video card that is primarily black with some red accent touches. The red and black color scheme is pretty much standard on ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) products, so this video card will complement an ROG motherboard for example. Once you take in the colors, you'll see that ASUS is using the DirectCU II dual-fan GPU cooling technology to help keep the card nice and cool.
Notice that this card takes up three expansion slots, so it is a very big card. How big? Well, our measurements put the Matrix HD 7970 at 11.1875" in length and 5" in height! The card feels great as well with a solid build construction thanks to a metal back plate and metal fan shroud. The Matrix HD 7970 weighed in a 3lbs 2oz, so why ASUS used metal backplates and brackets to keep the PCB nice and straight.
As we mentioned earlier ASUS is using their DirectCU II technology on this card. This means that it has five 8mm copper heat pipes that are directly touching the GPU and then three of them go to one aluminum cooling fin array and two to a block directly over the GPU. Each of the independent cooling fin sections has a 100mm fan blowing directly over them. ASUS says these two fans deliver 6x more airflow and are 3x quieter than the AMD reference design, resulting in a 20% lower operating temperatures despite the overclock. These fans are also 'dust proof' in design, so they will stay cleaner inside the motor housing and last longer than standard fans. ASUS also offers independent control of the fans.
On the reverse side of the ASUS MATRIX HD 7970 Platinum we see that ASUS fitted this card with a full length black backplate. This is not just for
looks as it protects the components on the back of the PCB from being
damaged. It doesn't do anything in terms of cooling though as it doesn't
directly touch the PCB and no memory chips are located on the back of
the card. The card does have plenty of holes across it, which help for air circulation and reduce weight.
Notice that ASUS moved the SAP CAP capacitors away from the GPU. These are usually directly behind the GPU, but were moved to accommodate extreme overclockers GPU pots.
Directly above the GPU you might have noticed that there is a large black component clearly visible through the backplate. This is the iROG controller and it handles all the PLL and vMEM voltages on the card.
It also controls the VGA hotwire features. ASUS uses a 20-phase Super Alloy Power technology on this card and told use they used industrial components on it to ensure a long operating life.
Along the right edge of the card you'll see one of the many features that make this card stand out from the crowd. This is called the VGA Hotwire corner and is where ASUS has placed the connector for monitoring the Vcore and various solder points additional tweaks that overclockers often use. VGA hotwire allows for additional voltage to be supplied to the card for the GPU Core, Memory and PLL. In addition it also provides monitoring. This is independent of the standard Probe points for referencing of voltages on the card. As you can tell, ASUS designed the Matrix HD 7970 with heavy focus on overclockers and power users.
To the left of the power connectors you'll see the PLL and Vmem hotwire connectors. As you can see ASUS has made it pretty easy to volt-mod the Matrix HD 7970!
The ASUS MATRIX HD 7970 can be run in Crossfire and has a pair of Crossfire bridges located along the top edge of the card. You should be able to run four of these together in 4-way CrossFireX in theory, but with each one taking up 3 PCI expansion slots there isn't a desktop case or motherboard that would support that.
Take note that ASUS also has a BIOS switch, but it it not a BIOS switch. It changes the vBIOS display output functionality allowing for a 6-way Eyefinity setup (2 single links) or a 5-way (single link and dual link). Differences in display resolution will occur to the DVI ports under this configuration.
At the end of the PCB you'll see that ASUS has placed their ''TweakIt' technology on the actual PCB, so you can adjust hardware voltage in real-time as well as turning the fan speed up to 100%. By pressing the '+' or '-" button you adjust the GPU
core voltage up to +0.125V in 10 jumps ranging from 1.270V to 1.335V. This is great for
overclocking as you can be running a benchmark and if you start to see artifacts or issues you can just click these buttons for more or less power.
The 'safe mode' button is one that is seldom used when things are going right, but saves your butt when crap hits the fan. By pushing this button it resets the graphics card back to the default clock frequencies and voltages! Think of it like a clear CMOS button for a motherboards BIOS. This switch is a life-saver as it keeps you from possibly bricking the card during an extreme overclock. Enthusiasts and overclockers will certainly appreciate this feature as it takes some of the worry out of overclocking, so you can focus on having fun. Above those three buttons you have the 100% fan speed turbo button. This button puts the fans at 100% power with just a click of a button. There are also 10 LED lights to show you how far you've increased the voltage.
Since the ASUS MATRIX HD 7970 takes up three expansion slots, ASUS was able to run pretty much any video connection types that they wanted due to all the space. At the end of the day you can see that ASUS went with a pair of DVI-D outputs that are rated to support resolutions up to 2560x1600 (2048x1536 w/ D-Sub). You also have four full size Display Port connectors! It's nice to have regular sized outputs as you don't need any adapters. If you want to run a three panel setup with DVI cables then you will need an adapter and you'll also need adapters if you want to run HDMI.
Lastly, we have the 'MATRIX LED load Indicator' located along the top edge of the video card. ASUS uses five multicolored LED indicators behind the word 'MATRIX' at the top of the card to give you a visual display of the current GPU load on the card. Most gamers will see it blue (at idle) and red (under load).
If you look under the fan shroud and above the PCB you'll see the "high endurance frame" (the metal black part above the PCB) that ASUS uses to keep the card straight and it actually acts as a heatsink for some of the boards power management.
Here is a shot provided by ASUS of the bare PCB. You can clearly see the twelve Hynix GDDR5 memory chips that make up the cards 3GB of memory and the 20 power phases. As you can see ASUS has customized this card from top to bottom!
If you have any more questions on the Matrix HD 7970 video card we found a great video done by JJ over at ASUS. He took an in-depth look at the Matrix HD 7970 graphics card in a 30 minute long video that covers everything in great detail. You can also download the reviewers guide that ASUS gave us here. In this guide you'll find some additional details on on the cards layout if you still have feature questions.
Now that you have read nearly 2,000 words about the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB video card and its features we can check out the bundle and get to testing!
Retail Box & Bundle
The retail packaging for ASUS Matrix HD7970 Platinum video card is typical of what we have seen from ASUS over the past couple years. Pretty much all companies ship their graphics cards in a simple cardboard box with colorful graphics and that is what was done here. The front of the box has a flap that is held down by velcro that shows detailed product information and has a viewing window to see the card. The front of the box doesn't mention any features of the card, but it comes with a free Diablo III mousepad!
The back of the box highlights all the cards features and that it comes with a 3-year warranty. ASUS did a good job here as it lists the clock speeds, recommended power supply and what the video interface is.
Inside the box you'll find another cardboard box that has the accessories included in the bundle. Included in the box is the driver DVD, user manual, CrossFireX bridge interconnect, dual 6-pin PCI-E power cable to 8-pin
PCI-E adapter, ASUS VGA Hotwire cables,VGA-to-DVI adapter, ROG case badge, the Diablo 3 mouse pad and an LN2 heatsink for the MOSFEts for extreme overclockers that use a custom cooling pot.
You also get three game titles (Far Cry 3, Hitman Absolution and Sleeping Dogs along with a 20% off coupon for Medal of Honor WarFighter! As you can see this is a very robust bundle that is hard to be matched.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Drivers used for testing:
- Catalyst 12.11 Beta6 - All AMD Radeon HD Cards
- GeForce 310.33 - All NVIDIA GeForce Cards
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0906 that came out on 12/22/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Video Cards Tested:
- ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB - 1100MHz Core / 1650MHz Memory
- SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7970 Vapor-X 3GB - 1050MHz Core / 1500MHz Memory
- SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB - 950MHz Core / 1250MHz Memory
- ASUS GeForce GTX 680 TOP 2GB - 1137MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- ASUS GeForce GTX 670 TOP 2GB - 1059MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB GPU-Z Information:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible. This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Vapor-X and ASUS GeForce GTX 680 TOP edition card were pretty much tied, but the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB card had enough horse power to pull ahead by roughly 3 FPS at both resolutions again!
Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person role-playing shooter video game that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009's Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games on September 18, 2012 in North America.
Borderlands 2 runs on a heavily modified version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. We tested Borderlands 2 with vSync and depth of field disabled. We increased the general image quality settings and turned on 16x AF. PhysX effects were set to low to keep things fair as possible between AMD and NVIDIA cards.
Benchmark Results: The ASUS GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II TOP Edition was the clear winner in Borderlands 2, but the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix wasn't that far behind at 2560x1600 on our 30" Dell display.
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. It seems to affect NVIDIA hardware more so than AMD. We ran with and without the settings enabled.
Benchmark Results: In Dirt Showdown we see the 3 FPS trend continuing as the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix was about that much faster than the Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X again!
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to Very High quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix ran Metro 2033 really well and averaged 57.0 FPS at 1920x1080 and 34.0 FPS at 2560x1600! The Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Vapor-X and all the other high-end gaming cards just couldn't compete.
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
Benchmark Results: The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix was in the lead again with Sleeping Dogs and was 3-4 FPS faster than the Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 Vapor-X.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X scored 10291 3DMarks and the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix scored 10647 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the performance preset. The two cards are close, but the extra core and memory clock speeds have kept the ASUS card in the lead the entire time.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The ASUS HD 7970 scored 3464 3DMarks with the extreme preset and while it fell back a spot in the benchmark results, it is still a strong standing with just 20 points between it and the card ahead.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.10.1 at 1024x768 resolution. We also ran four game titles at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: When it comes to power use, we measured the entire system at the wall and discovered that the power draw greatly varied at load depending on what video card was in the system. The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix used the most power in at idle and in the games, but not in Furmark. ASUS recommends a 650W power supply for a system using this card and since we were pulling over 400 Watts at the wall with our test system this is likely a good suggestion. Keep in mind our test system has just one SSD and no system fans, so if you have extra hard drives and a ton of cooling fans you'll likely be pulling more power than this.
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix video card with the ASUS DirectCU II GPU Cooler!
ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum Idle:
The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB video card had an idle temperature of 30.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). The dual fans were spinning at ~1000 RPM and was the card was very quiet.
ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB in Furmark:
With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 71C and level off there. At full load the two 100mm fans used on the DirectCU II GPU cooler were spinning around 1,893RPM. This did cause the fan noise of the card to jump up a bit!
The ASUS Matrix HD 7970 has awesome great thermal performance and was cooler than the Sapphire HD 7970 Vapor-X at both idle and gaming scenarios.
We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 38dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix used the ASUS DirectCU II GPU cooler and let me tell you this cooler is amazing when the card is idling. It was not even 1dB over the ambient noise of the room with the system turned off, so you can't hear the card when it's in a case as the fan spins at just 1,000 RPM on each 100mm fan. When you start to game or run Furmark the fans ramp up to nearly 1900 RPM in Furmark and around 1650 RPM in game titles.
For example we played Battlefield 3 for an hour and reached 67C on the GPU and the fans hit a maximum rotational speed of 1649 RPM. Not bad results at all and it shows how well this triple-slot card performs when it comes to temperatures!
ASUS HD7970 Matrix Overclocking
To overclock the ASUS Matrix HD7970 Platinum we used ASUS GPU Tweak version 126.96.36.199. This is a great overclocking utility that allows you to adjust the GPU boost clock, memory clock, and fan speed settings. If you want to enabled advanced features you can enable adjustment of the GPU voltage, power target, and load line. You also have the latest version of GPU-Z built-in and live monitoring tools all in this one utility.
We overclocked the ASUS Matrix HD7970 Platinum edition card and had very good results. The defaults speed core clock speed on this card is 1100MHz and we were able to get it up to 1315MHz with rock solid stability. The voltage and power target ranges were pretty much maxed out to get this 215MHz overclock, but we are okay with that as the cooler on this card can easily handle this overclock with auto settings. We tried to overclock the memory, but if we bumped it up just 50MHz we started to see some stability issues and no major improvement in performance. We called it a day here and were very happy with a 20% overclock result on the core. The AMD Radeon HD 7970 reference card runs at 925MHz, so we are running 42% higher than what the GPU core was originally designed to do! This is pretty amazing when you think about it!
Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.
ASUS HD7970 Matrix at 1100MHz core and 1650MHz memory:
ASUS HD7970 Matrix at 1315MHz core and 1650MHz memory:
We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P10647 to P11924, so this is a 12% improvement over the reference speeds! So, we were able to get a 12% boost in performance from a 20% overclock. Not a 1:1 improvement ration, but a very substantial jump in performance. We really wanted to break the 12k mark in 3DMark 11, but we ended up just shy of that!
It should be noted that you can extend the voltage past what is offered via the GPU Tweak software using the onboard voltage enhancement. On this board TweakIt will allow you to increase or lower the voltage 6.25mV beyond what the GPU Tweak software utility allows. This little bit of information could help you reach that max overclock!
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB video card will go down in the history books as the best AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card ever made. This card has so many features on it that you could literally spend all day talking about each and every nuance on it. ASUS designed this card to be the fastest single-GPU video card on the market and it looks like they easily achieved that goal and then some. You can thank the custom PCB, DIGI+ VRM with 20-phase power and the DirectCU II GPI cooler for making this card so special.
When it comes to overall performance, this card is hard to beat and was at the top of the charts in the majority of the benchmark tests today. It consumes a bit more power than the Radeon HD 7970 and GeForce GTX 680 cards that we compared it against, but made up for that with how silent this card is at idle and during gaming. The only real downside to this card is that it takes up three slots and is over 11-inches long, but very few people use up all the slots on motherboards these days. If you are looking to run CrossFire this card would be amazing in a setup like that, but make sure your motherboard has the PCIe x16 slots spaced properly apart in order to accommodate this card.
Overclocking performance was spectacular and we were able to overclock this Radeon HD 7970 higher than any of the dozen that we have tested to date. We were able to reach 1315MHz on the core clock with full stability! That is 390MHz or 42% higher than the original core clock set by AMD on the reference card. Running a Radeon HD 7970 at 925MHz is great, but being able to run one at 1315MHz makes for a whole new gaming experience! The ASUS GPU Tweak utility was all we needed to reach this overclock and with the features of this card, overclock was uber simple.
The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB (MATRIX-HD7970-P-3GD5) retails online for for $499.99 shipped. You can run out and get the lowest cost AMD Radeon HD 7970 for $387 shipped after rebates, so it costs $113 more than the reference design. Is it worth the extra cash? Absolutely! The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum is an entirely different beast and for those that want the best and like to brag about what they own, this is as good as it gets. We love that ASUS keeps raising the bar when it comes to what one can expect from their flagship video cards. Innovation is something that is needed to keep products better for consumers and we are glad to see ASUS leading the way.
Legit Bottom Line: The ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum 3GB video card was able to deliver and is likely going to be regarded as the nicest AMD Radeon HD 7970 video card produced by any company.