The ASUS ARES II - AMD Radeon HD 7990

If you are looking for a new gaming graphics card and money is not an issue, you are in for a real treat today! ASUS recently sent over the ASUS ARES II and we have been pounding on this card for days on end. In case you haven't heard about the ARES II, you are missing out. The ARES II is what happens when you take two overclocked AMD Radeon HD 7970 'Tahaiti' GPU's and let the engineers over at ASUS do what they do best without and budget restrictions. After seven months of work, ASUS has launched the ARES II and hopes to take the performance crown when it comes to the fastest video card in the world.

ASUS ARES2

At one point in time, AMD was supposed to launch the Radeon HD 7990 dual-GPU video card on a single PCB, but that never happened. Then we saw the PowerColor Devil 13 become one of the first cards to come to market with such a configuration, but it was running stock clock speeds. With the ASUS ARES II it appears that ASUS has come to wipe the competition from the table and release a video card that makes the original AMD Radeon HD 7990 plans look like a joke.

ASUS ARES II Retail Box

The ASUS ARES II Limited Edition graphics card comes in a humongous cardboard retail box that lists the cards key features. 

 

ASUS ARES II Video Card Bundle

Inside the outer retail box you'll find a nice briefcase with the ARES II safely secured in protective foam packing. One of the first things we noticed is that there is a metal placard that shows that the card we have here today is #509 of 999 cards being produced. ASUS wouldn't give us exact numbers, but fewer than 200 of these cards will ever be sold in the United States with the rest being sold around the globe. Inside the case you'll also find three 8-pin PCIe power adapters, a CrossFire bridge, extra 120mm cooling fan for a push/pull fan configuration and all the mounting screws for the fan.

ASUS ARES II Video Card

The ASUS ARES II video card has two Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition GPU's on a single 12-layer PCB that uses ASUS' DIGI+ VRM with 20-phas Super Allow Power design. The two 'Tahiti' GPU's are linked together with a PCIe 3.0 PLX bridge and both are kept cool with a water cooler that was designed in conjunction with Asetek. The video card itself still has a dust proof fan, but that is to keep the power management components, 6GB of GDDR5 memory ICs and other critical areas on the PCB nice and cool. The water cooling loop has a water block for each GPU and a 120mm radiator that is 1.9" thick to help keep everything nice and cool. ASUS includes two 120mm cooling fans for a push/pull air cooling setup and advises running the ARES II with both fans. ASUS says that this hybrid cooling solution keeps the ARES II 31C cooler than the AMD Radeon HD 7970 reference design. Not bad considering that the ARES II is clocked at 1100MHz on each GPU and 6600MHz on the 6GB of GDDR5 memory!

ASUS Ares II Graphics Card Front

The ASUS ARES II measures in at 11.8" in length and stands 5.5" in height. The metal front plate is machined out of one piece of metal and has an aggressive look to it.

ARES II PCB

Internally, ASUS really beefed up this card and used top of the line components on everything. For example AMD uses six 60 Amp chokes on the Radeon HD 7970 reference design and ASUS went with eight 45 Amp chokes on the ARES II. Both total 360A, but ASUS wanted to spread out the heat generated by the Digital PWM to improve stability. The capacitors are Japanese Nichicon GT “Black” Capacitors with a 10K lifespan vs. the standard 2K used on most cards. ASUS says that besides the longer lifespans that they have superior tolerances for hotter and colder ambient environments. The DIGI+ VRM with 20-phase Super Alloy Power (SAP) should provide all the solid, clean power that any enthusiast would need!

 

ASUS Ares II Video Card Back

Flipping the ASUS ARES II over you can see that there is a nice metal backplate being used on this card and that the PCB of the card is black.

ASUS ARES2

The butt end of the ARES II and bottom of the card are closed off for the most part and everything is black with just an accent of red where the branding is. This goes along with the ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) color theme.

ASUS ARES II Video Outputs

The ASUS ARES II has four full-sized Display Port connectors, one single-link DVI and one dual-link DVI port. This means that the ASUS ARES II supports 3-way, 5-way and 6-way AMD Eyefinity right out of the box!

ASUS ARES 2 CrossFire Connector

The ARES II does have a single CrossFire interconnect available, so you can pair this card with another ARES II for even higher performance! There is a small switch next to the CrossFire interconnect and that enables dual-link DVI. For users with a monitor running 2560x1600 that are running a DVI cable, you need to make sure the switch is positioned fully to the left enabling Dual Link DVI display output. If you want to run 6-way Eyefinity, the switch needs to be all the way to the right.

ASUS ARES II Power Connectors

When it comes to power connectors the ASUS ARES II features three 8-pin PCIe power connectors. ASUS recommends using at least an 850 Watt power suppling that is 80 PLUS Gold or Platinum rated. If you plan on overclocking the ARES II at some point down the road then ASUS suggests a 1000 Watt or great power supply. If you wanted to run the ARES II in CrossFire then you are looking above 1200 Watts!

ASUS has a pair of LED lights under each PCIe power connector. These two LED lights are a form of quick diagnostic for issues when connecting power to the video card. Depending on the presence or lack of presence of power connections ( or secure fitting ) the card will display an LED - RED or Green. Green meaning power connections are correct and Red meaning power connections are not.

ASUS ARES II Power Draw & Features:

 As you can see the ASUS ARES II looks pretty epic on paper, but how does it perform in our test machine and against the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690? That is what we are going to find out on the next page!

Test System

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.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX690 and ASUS ARES II

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

test-system

Test System Settings

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. 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

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

 

Intel Core i7-3960X

 

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

 

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

Various

 

Solid-State Drive

 

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

 

Cooling

 

Intel RTS2011LC

 

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

 

Operating System

 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

ASUS ARES II Video Card  GPU-Z Information:

ASUS ARES 2 GPU-Z
ASUS ARES II Idle
 

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City PC Game

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 Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

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.

Batman Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES2 had no problem running Batman Arkham City at 1920x1080 and 2560x1600, but it really started to look good at 2560x1600 when it pulled ahead of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 video card.

 

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

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 Screenshot

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.

Battlefield 3 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES2 graphics card made Battlefield 3 with Ultra image quality settings look like a joke as it was able to average over 100FPS at both 1920x1080 and 2560x1600 screen resolutions! The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 wasn't too far behind, but it was 16% slower at 2560x1600!

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2

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 Image Quality Settings
Borderlands 2 Image Quality Settings

 

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.

Borderlands 2 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES II and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 almost look CPU bound by the results as it is too close to call a winner for this game title. The only thing we can do to put a higher load on the GPU's it to crank up the image quality settings some more.

 

border-settings-2

We turned on FXAA and ran the benchmark again.

bl2fxaa_550

Benchmark Results: With FXAA enabled the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 pulled ahead of the ASUS ARES II at both resolutions, but at such high framerates it's all a wash.

 

Dirt: Showdown

Image Description

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 Settings
Dirt Showdown Settings

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. We disabled this setting.

Dirt Showdown Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: In Dirt Showdown we were shocked to see the performance numbers so close. At 1920x1080 the two dual-GPU cards were tied, but at 2560x1600 we discovered that the ASUS ARES2 was able to pull ahead by 13.5 FPS or 11%.

Far Cry 3

Farcry3 Game Screenshot

Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[11] After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.

FarCry 3 Quality Settings

FarCry 3 Video Quality

Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings. 

farcry

Benchmark Results: The performance difference in Far Cry 3 between the ASUS ARES2 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 at 1920x1080 were minimal, but at 2560x1600 we found the ASUS ARES2 to be 23.4% faster. While the ASUS ARES2 video card was observed as having a higher average framerate we did notice some hesitations during gameplay that were not present on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690. So, despite the lower FPS, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 gave a better game experience with these aggressive settings.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

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.

Metro 2033 Settings

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.

Metro 2033 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES2-5GD5 was a monster on Metro 2033 with Very High image quality settings and blew the doors off the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690!

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs PC game

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.

Sleeping Dogs Settings

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.

Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: With 'High' image quality settings both the ASUS ARES II and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 were able to run Sleeping Dogs without and issues. The difference at 1920x1080 was minimal, but we found the ASUS ARES II to be ~41% faster at 2560x1600!

Sleeping Dogs Extreme Settings

Since both cards were able to run this game title fine with 'High' settings we figured we'd crank it up to 'Ultra' and see what happens.

Sleeping Dogs Extreme Settings

Benchmark Results: With 'Ultra' image quality settings both the ASUS ARES II and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 took rather significant performance hits. On our Dell 30" monitor running a screen resolution of 2560x1600 we found the performance gap between the two cards got even larger! In this benchmark we found the ASUS ARES II to be 57.6% faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690!

3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark

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.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark Settings

We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:

3DMark 11 Performance Preset Results

 

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES II scored P16542 3DMarks and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 scored P15520 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the performance preset. The two cards are close, but the ASUS ARES II was able to take the win by 6.6%.

3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:

3DMark 11 Extreme Preset Results

 

Benchmark Results: The ASUS ARES2-6GD5 scored X6506 3DMarks with the extreme preset and was 8.2% faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 in this benchmark test.

3DMark

3Dmark Ice Storm Benchmark Results - For tablets and entry-level PCs

Use Ice Storm to test the performance of your Windows tablet, ultra-portable notebook or entry-level PC. Ice Storm uses a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 9, making it the ideal benchmark for modern portable devices targeting that feature level. You can compare Ice Storm scores from Windows, Windows RT, Android and iOS devices.

ASUS ARES II:

3DMark Ice Storm

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690:

 

icestorm_550

In 3DMark Ice Storm the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 scored 167,084 points versus the ASUS ARES II's 165,571 points! These are the two best video cards that money can buy right now and it appears that 3DMark Ice Storm shows that they are performing neck to neck!

3Dmark Cloud Gate Benchmark Results- For notebooks and home PCs

Use Cloud Gate to test the performance of notebooks and typical home PCs. Cloud Gate uses a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10, making it suitable for testing DirectX 10 compatible hardware.

ASUS ARES II:

cloudgate_550_01

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690:

cloudgate_550

3DMark Cloud Gate is a bit tougher on the hardware and showed that the ASUS ARES II video card in the lead. The ASUS ARES II scored 32135 points versus the 29247 points on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690!

3Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs

Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.

ASUS ARES II:

3DMark Fire Strike

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690:

firestrike1_550

3DMark Fire Strike shows a widening performance gap between the ASUS ARES II and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690.  The ASUS ARES II scored 12866 points, while the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 scored 9668 points. This means that the ASUS ARES II scores 33% higher than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690!

3Dmark Fire Strike Extreme Benchmark Results - For high performance multi-GPU Systems

ASUS ARES II:

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690:

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme

The toughest benchmark that you can run on the new 3DMark benchmark is Fire Strike extreme.  This benchmark should be the ideal benchmark to run on these $1000-$1500 video cards! Here we found the ASUS ARES II scoring 6671 points and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 scoring 4995!  The benchmark results are different, but the performance gap between the ASUS ARES II and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 remains the same at ~33%.

Luxmark v2.0

OpenCL has certainly taken off in recent years, so we will be looking at LuxMark. LuxMark is a OpenCL benchmark tool and a great test of GPU computing performance. We used LuxMark v2.0 with the Sala benchmark scene. Sala is a 488,000+ triangles benchmark. This scene has been designed by Daniel "ZanQdo" Salazar and adapted for SLG2 by Michael "neo2068" Klemm.

LuxMark v2.0 Sala

This is what the Sala Benchmark scene looks like when fully rendered. Let's take a look to see how the some high-end desktop graphcis cards do with this scene.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690:

690luxmark_550

ASUS ARES II:

ares2luxmark_550

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 scored1213 points and the ASUS ARES II scored 4822 points on the Sala benchmark scene in LuxMark v2.0.

LuxMark Benchmark Results

Here are the benchmark results for those that like to see a chart!  The score is actually the results in thousands of samples per second, so as you can see the compute performance of the ASUS ARES II is roughly four times faster than that of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 in this particular benchmark test.

Power Consumption

NVIDIA GeForce GTX690 and ASUS ARES II

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 1.10.4 at 1024x768 resolution in full screen mode. 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.

System Power Consumption

Power Consumption Results: At idle the ASUS ARES II uses just 17 Watts or 15% more power than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 reference card. This is pretty good and the cards are on a fairly even playing field at idle. When you put the cards under load you'll see the power draw at the wall sharply increase! The average Wattage that we saw in games was 452W on the GeForce GTX 690 and 664W on the ASUS ARES II. This means that the ASUS ARES II uses 212W or 47% more power than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690. In Furmark the ASUS ARES II peaked at 782 Watts during the burn-in and was pulling ~6.8 Amps of power draw at the wall. The ASUS ARES II has pretty decent idle power consumption, but it gobbles down the power when under full load with the best of them. This is not the video card to buy if you are worried about purchasing Energy Star rated appliances! This card is for the enthusiast that could care less about power use and want to have the best gaming experience possible.

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 ARES II video card with the hybrid cooler! 

ASUS ARES2-6GD5 Idle:

ASUS ARES II Idle

The ASUS ARES II 6GB video card had an idle temperature of 30.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). It should be noted that the radiator was setup in a push/pull configuration for these test results. With just one fan on the radiator the idle temperature was observed at 33C, so installing the second fan that comes with the ASUS ARES II is certainly worth it.

ASUS ARES2-6GDB in Furmark:

furmark-load

With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 62C on one core and 64C on the other after things warmed up and leveled off with the use of two fans on the radiator. When just one cooling fan is used on the radiator the GPU temperature was observed at 70C and 72C.  The fan noise was also significantly louder due to the higher temperatures, so using two fans really does help cooling.

GPU Temperatures

The ASUS ARES II and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 have similar temperatures at idle, but during gaming and when at full load the ARES II is the clear winner.

 

Sound Testing

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 36dB. 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.

Noise Testing

The ASUSARES II was tested with dual fans and was found to be slighter louder at idle, which makes sense as three fans are spinning versus just one on the GeForce GTX 690. At load the water cooling solution on the ASUS ARES II helped keep the temperatures at bay and the fans didn't have to spin that fast. The end result is that the ASUS ARES II is significantly quieter than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 during gaming marathons!

ASUS ARES II Overclocking

ASUS GPU Tweak Utility

To overclock the ASUS ARES2 we used ASUS GPU Tweak version 2.3.0.2. 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 and the power target. On the ASUS ARES II it should be noted that GPU Tweak supports async voltage and frequency adjustment. By locking these two variables together ASUS was hoping to make the overclocking experience super easy. You also have the latest version of GPU-Z built-in and live monitoring tools all in this one utility. 

ASUS ARES2 Overclock

Overclocking the ASUS ARES2 video card was simple thanks to GPU Tweak and we had great results for a dual-GPU video  card. The defaults speed core clock speed on this card are 1100MHz on the core and 6600MHz on the 6GB of GDDR5 memory. We were able to take the card up to 1325MHz on the core and 6800MHz on the memory! The voltage automatically maxed out for this GPU clock speed since it is linked. We did not need to adjust the power target ranges were pretty much maxed out to get this 225MHz overclock. The memory was able to overclock a bit, but setting it much closer to 7000MHz caused Windows to hard lock and have to be restarted. The AMD Radeon HD 7970 reference card runs at 925MHz with just a single GPU and here we have a single card with two cores running at 1325MHz! ASUS did a great job designing this card and it easily overclocks!

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.

ASUS ARES2 at 1100MHz core and 6600MHz memory:

3dmark-p

ASUS ARES2 at 1325MHz core and 6800MHz memory:

Overclocked Power Use

We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P16542 to P18137, which is a 9.6% improvement over the reference speeds! This is the first time that we have broken the 18k mark on 3DMark11 with a single video card!

metro-oc

Real games also showed some pretty decent improvements! In Metro 2033 we saw a nice ~10% performance gain at 2560x1600, but at 1920x1080 not much of a gain was seen.

BF3 Overclocked Performance

In Battlefield 3 we saw roughly 20FPS performance gains at both 2560x1600 and 1920x1080! This is a huge increase and it's pretty wild playing Battlefield 3 and having such buttery smooth gameplay!

Overclocked Power Use

Just for fun we took a look and overclocked power consumption and we were shocked to see the average power draw go from 664W to 888W in games. The card also runs hotter and the fans are running faster, which makes them louder. Overclocking is fun to do, but it isn't something that you'd likely do 24/7 on this card due to the how power numbers! It can do it though, so the choice is up to you!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

asus-ares2-gpu

The ASUS ARES II is an example of what can be developed when given enough time and money. ASUS has done an amazing job of building a card that shows the full potential of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 'Tahiti XT2' GPU. In fact we can safely say that no other company will build a Radeon HD 7000 series card that is close to this. It is clear that ASUS is one of the few companies left in the PC hardware business that has the budget and mindset to just flat out go for it when it comes to high-end flagship products. It takes deep pockets and dedication, seven months in this situation, to bring a product like the ASUS ARES II to fruition.

When it comes to performance the ASUS ARES II was able to perform better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 reference video card in the majority of the benchmarks, but it damn well better! The ASUS ARES II has a suggested retail price of $1500 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 can be picked up for $999.99 shipped. When it comes to price versus performance the ASUS ARES II isn't going to be winning any awards, but that isn't the point of the ARES II.  This card was designed to be the fastest AMD powered video card in the world and a conversation piece. Who has $1500 to spend on a video card? Keep in mind that the current world population is over 7 billion and there are around 25 million people alive today that have over a million dollars in net assets. ASUS shouldn't have a problem moving 1000 of these cards with statistics like that!

Overclocking the ASUS ARES II was simple and we were more than impressed when we were able to get the card to 1325MHz with full stability. This is a very impressive overclock for such a card and we were able to get a score of over 18,000 on 3DMark 11! This is the highest score that we have ever gotten with a single card and the ASUS ARES II looked like it was running in its natural element. The power draw of our system neared 900 Watts at the wall, but the Corsair AX1250 power supply easily handled the power demands. If you plan on buying one of these power supplies and overclocking, it is highly suggested by us that you get a high-quality 1000+ Watt PSU!

If you are looking for the ultimate AMD powered video card and you don't have any budget concerns the ASUS ARES II is one damn fine card that will power pretty much any display setup that you have. It would have been nice to see ASUS release this card sooner, but after using it we can see why it took them seven months to design this fully customized card! NVIDIA is rumored to be releasing the GeForce Titan soon, but who knows what that will exactly be! The ASUS ARES II performance numbers are top dog today and that is what matters now.

The ASUS ARES II easily earns our innovation award.  It has been nearly six months since we have given out this award and we are finally glad to see a product worthy of such an honor. We hope ASUS keeps rocking the boat and coming up with new innovations despite the declining desktop PC market.

 

Legit Reviews Innovation Award

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 7990 never came to market, but who cares now that the ASUS ARES II is out!