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ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 3GB Graphics Card Review

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Manufacturer: ASUS

Is a GTX 590 just not enough for you?

A Legacy of Unique Engineering

ASUS has often been one of only a handful of companies that really pushes the limits of technology on their custom designed products including graphics cards, sound cards, notebooks, motherboards and more.  Just a little over a year ago I wrote a review of the ASUS ARES Dual Radeon HD 5870 graphics card - the first of its kind and it was labeled the "Ultimate Graphics Card" at the time.  Life on the top of mountain doesn't last that long in the world of the GPU though and time (and the GTX 590 and HD 6990) left the Greek god of war in the rearview mirror.

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This time around we have a successor to the MARS - the NVIDIA version that combines two top-level GPUs on a single PCB.  The new ASUS MARS II we are reviewing today is a pair of binned GTX 580 GPUs paired together for full-time SLI and built with a limited edition run of 999 units.  In many ways the MARS II and the ARES share a lot of traits: custom designed cooling and PCB, a unique aesthetic design, limited edition status and significant physical weight as well.  Of course, the price tag is also pretty high and if you aren't comfortable reading about a $1300 graphics card you might as well turn around now...  For those that dare though, you can be sure that the MARS II will have you dreaming about PC gaming power for years to come!

Continue reading our review of the ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 50 3GB!!!

The ASUS MARS II Graphics Card

Interestingly, having just finished our review of the ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 580 card this week, we are quite prepared to discuss the benefits and traits of ASUS Republic of Gamers lineage.  

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The other current top-end dual-GPU graphics cards available on the market are the Radeon HD 6990 and the GeForce GTX 590 and the ASUS MARS II trumps them both - by the company's claims with a 22% performance edge.  We'll of course test that in our own benchmarking.  What makes the design of the MARS II more impressive though are the combination of the DirectCU II cooler, 21-phase power control and the newly revised GPUTweak software that allows for really good monitoring and overclocking actions.

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Without much discussion it should be obvious that the ASUS MARS II graphics card is HUGE - take a look at the image above and see where the brackets for the case retention sit.  If you don't have a pretty sizeable case you are going to want to double and triple check your measurements before placing and order for this card.  For those that want the exact details the MARS II measures 13-in long by 6.2-in tall by 2.5-in thick.  

One thing that I will say here is that I am not a big fan of the design.  While the ASUS ARES was very sleek and sexy with sharp edges, the MARS II looks very boxy and most people when first seeing it call it "the brick" which isn't usually a compliment.  Normally we put aesthetics on the very furthest back burner for graphics cards but when you are shelling out $1300 for a card you might make more of it that most users.  

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The back of the card shows the back plate that helps cool the memory as well as protecting the PCB from any kind of ancillary damage.  You can also see the two SAP CAPs that keep noise on the card low for improved stability and overclocking.

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Power design on the MARS II is impressive with a 21-phase implementation though the single-GPU Matrix GTX 580 we reviewed earlier in the week from ASUS has a 19-phase design of its own.  The Super Alloy Power capacitors are directly behind the GPUs on this card and this gives the MARS II an advantage for overclocking margin.

Another interesting note is that ASUS has removed the power limiter that existed in the GTX 590 so you are free to run Furmark and destroy your hardware to your heart's content!  Be careful of course - but this does add to the overclocking flexibility of the MARS II.  

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Ahh, external connections!  The MARS II sports a pair of dual-link DVI connections, a full-size HDMI port and a full-size DisplayPort connection - almost identical to the configuration seen on the ROG Matrix GTX 580.  Unlike the Matrix card though, the MARS II can support NVIDIA Surround and 3D Vision Surround using the two DVI ports and the HDMI port.  Hopefully users that are going to pay this amount for a new card either have or are looking into the possibility of multi-display gaming; we really love it here.

I do kind of wish that the card would have had three DVI outputs so that it could have supported three 30-in panels for Surround gaming.  As it is now you are limited to a set of three 1080p displays, while even though it is much more likely to be utilized, doesn't give us the option to move on to bigger and better things.

Make sure you note that this card uses THREE back panel slots and to make sure your motherboard configuration will work with any other accessories or add-in cards you want to include in your build.

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Yes, this card WILL support SLI with another MARS II card and, in theory, another GTX 580 for 3-Way SLI configurations if your motherboard has the right layout for it.

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Rated at 600 watts (!!), the ASUS MARS II does require a lot of juice from your power supply.  ASUS recommends having at least a 1000 watt unit though in my testing getting over 700 watts consumption required some overclocking; obviously ASUS is preparing you for the worst case scenario.  For power connections the MARS II requires three 8-pin connectors and most power supplies of that capability should have the necessary outputs.  

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Simply put, the ASUS MARS II is a beast; we have an entire page coming up that is dedicated to showing the card compared to OTHER cards you might have reference with like the standard GTX 580, GTX 590, Radeon HD 6990 and more.  

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Because of the size issues in fact, ASUS even went as far to as create a support system for the card that sticks to the bottom of the MARS II and keeps it level rather than have extra stress put on the PCB itself when installed in a system the normal way.  These are optional (though I recommend you install them) and are basically rubber pads with double sided tape on them.

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Taking the exploded view of the ASUS MARS II, the PCB design and cooling infrastructure is impressive both for its efficient and that it fits in as small of an area as it does.  There are two heatpipes and dual 120mm fans that push as much as 220 CFM across the card.

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This gives MARS II 600% more airflow than the GTX 590 while still running at lower noise levels; something our testing verified.  

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In this naked photo of the MARS II you can see the 21-phase power circuitry that litters the middle of the PCB and keeps the powerful GTX 580s fed with consistent and reliable power for intense gaming and even some overclocking (as we'll show you later).  

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Now, for the details you have been waiting for - the product specifications.  The GPUs are clocked at 782 MHz core speed each with 1.5 GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1002 MHz.  Everything else is right where you would expect it to be and if you are still interested in the MARS II then I am guessing you are familiar with what makes the GTX 580 one of the best GPUs on the market.

August 26, 2011 | 12:43 AM - Posted by Sharpe (not verified)

Interesting engineering exercise, but for economic and practical reasons, I'd rather run my triple monitor setup with two 3GB GTX 580s with waterblocks.

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August 26, 2011 | 06:40 AM - Posted by P1NZ (not verified)

then ill definitely break in your house and steal all two lol, i have to get me this card

August 26, 2011 | 08:21 AM - Posted by mark (not verified)

We want a SLI Mars II review, just tell nvidea you'll give em right back :-P

August 26, 2011 | 09:32 AM - Posted by Bro (not verified)

@mark: here you go.
http://www.sweclockers.com/recension/14358-asus-rog-mars-ii-i-sli/1

August 26, 2011 | 12:32 PM - Posted by mark (not verified)

thx a bunch BRO

August 26, 2011 | 12:32 PM - Posted by mark (not verified)

wait...its german

August 27, 2011 | 05:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's swedish, not german

August 26, 2011 | 05:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

use google translate :D

August 26, 2011 | 10:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

wtf, comparing benchmarks on the 6990 to a stock clocked 6990 with a retardedly high end dual 580? pathetic, flick the oc switch and throw those in too

August 27, 2011 | 07:15 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You can of course check our results with the OC switch enabled here: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/AMD-Radeon-HD-6990-4GB-Dual-...

But we tested stock versus stock in this article...

September 1, 2011 | 04:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Honestly... for people who solely game... THE HECK YOU WANT 2 OF THESE FOR, spend it on tuition!
P.S. I'm in for 1, Thanks financial Aid!

September 1, 2011 | 10:13 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

+1

September 3, 2011 | 04:00 AM - Posted by Shawn heus (not verified)

This is a great card but not for the price. Seriously you can get 2 6990's for only around 200 more and it's only a small amount faster than one 6990. Save your money and go AMD for now.

September 5, 2011 | 04:27 PM - Posted by Kayden

What I don't understand is why the card does not have 3 DVI connections. I know you can use a converter for the HDMI to DVI for surround gaming but still, it's not something included with the unit nor is it a cost I would consider for almost $1500.

None the less good review. I currently have 2x EVGA 580 GTX FTW Hydro Copper 2 for SLI and I all ready paid that price for those two. I am thrilled to see that my synthetic benchmarks did a little better then that card, they are over clocked at 850mhz out of the box and I wonder if there maybe a bottle neck performance wise with that card. Here is my results

Extreme
http://3dmark.com/3dm11/1532760

Performance
http://3dmark.com/3dm11/1532773

November 3, 2011 | 12:44 AM - Posted by Gphish (not verified)

When two gtx580's reference boards are in SLI what is the estimated power consumption at full load? I see that one gtx580 at full throttle is around 395 (W). So am I to assume that in SLI the pair would hit at 790 (W)?

I have a x58 Sabertooth and a Corsair HX 1000 power supply.

December 7, 2011 | 11:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Normally we put aesthetics on the very furthest back burner for graphics cards but when you are shelling out $1300 for a card you might make more of it..."

you've GOT to be kidding me. this is like saying fancy set of ball bearings in a compressor need to be neon-lit. barring the moment you open the box, YOU WILL NEVER EVER EVER SEE THE GRAPHICS CARD AGAIN! EVER! who the hell cares what it looks like?!

January 15, 2012 | 05:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

100% agree. Hell if Hello Kitty had a fully branded card that had an performance advantage over this card at the same cost I would buy that and watercool it with pink fluid just to match.

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May 5, 2012 | 07:52 PM - Posted by Komander Maut (not verified)

i've my alienware aurora r4, can i use this grafic card ( MARS II Dual GTX 580 ) in my aurora... plzz comment urgent plzz...

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