Asus ARES: Is This The One Graphics Card To Rule Them All?

Test System And Benchmarks, 3DMark Vantage

We wanted to test the Asus ARES against a host of different graphics card configurations in order to really see how it sits in the high-end hierarchy. We're pitting the card against a Radeon HD 5870, a GeForce GTX 480, a Radeon HD 5970, a Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire setup, and a GeForce GTX 480 SLI setup.

Without enough reference hardware on-hand, we ended up underclocking some non-reference models down to reference speeds for SLI and CrossFire benchmarking. While this works fine for performance testing, it doesn't work well for noise and temperature measurements because non-reference cards often have aftermarket coolers on them. For this reason, the noise and temperature measurements will only be done on the ARES, a GeForce GTX 480 reference card, and a Radeon HD 5870 reference card.

It is particularly important to note that we simulated reference Radeon HD 5970 performance by underclocking the ARES to reference Radeon HD 5970 specifications, 775 MHz core and 1000 MHz GDDR5 memory (4000 MT/s effective). While this change will emulate the clock speeds of the reference Radeon HD 5970, it will not emulate the 2 GB found on 5970 boards versus 4 GB on the ARES card. We do know from past investigations that it is very rare to see a larger frame buffer yield increased performance, but this is something to keep in mind when looking at the benchmarks.

We ran the tests at the highest settings at which we felt these cards could deliver playable performance. This means that some games were complemented with high levels of anti-aliasing if the graphics cards could handle it, but that anti-aliasing was turned down if the cards were struggling. With high-end cards like these, we only tested 1920x1080 and 2560x1600 resolutions, although we did add a 5760x1080 triple-monitor test, too.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Graphic Test System
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8 MB L3 CacheOverclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz BCLK
MotherboardASRock X58 SuperComputer Intel X58, BIOS P1.90
NetworkingOnboard Realtek gigabit LAN controller
MemoryKingston PC3-10700 3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
GraphicsAsus ARES Radeon HD 5870 X2 4 GB GDDR5(also representing Radeon HD 5970 when underclocked)Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1536 MB GDDR5Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edition 1536 MB GDDR5Reference Radeon HD 5870 1 GB GDDR5Gigabyte GV-R587SO-1GD Radeon HD 5870 1 GB GDDR5*all clock rates have been set to reference specifications for the purpose of benchmarking
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s
PowerThermaltake Toughpower 1200 W1200 W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversCatalyst 10.6, Asus ARES Custom Driver, Nvidia GeForce Drivers 257.21 (normal use) and 258.69 (Triple-monitor)
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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 32-bit executable, Benchmark Tool, High Settings, No AA, No AF
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, in-game benchmark, Ultra-High Settings, 8x AA, No AF
Aliens vs PredatorDirectX 11 Default Benchmark, no AA, No AF
World In Conflict: Soviet AssaultDirectX 10, Timedemo, Very High Details, 4x AA/4x AF
DiRT 2DirectX 11, Timedemo, Ultra Details, 8x AA/4x AF
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, Total System score

3DMark suggests that the Asus ARES performs very closely to a pair of Radeon HD 5870 cards in CrossFire. That's not much of a surprise, since this is more or less what the ARES card is. This benchmark also suggests that the ARES is about 13% faster than a Radeon HD 5970 (not quite the 30%+ that Asus mentions in its marketing materials).

  • Tamz_msc
    I want that briefcase!
  • rohitbaran
    On the second page, that should be Radeon 5970, not Radeon 5890. There isn't any card on the market as 5890.
  • jasonz001
    it actually looks quite small
  • rohitbaran
    BTW, it would be really cool to see a 5890, for that would give the GTX 480 a run for its money, something it is already not earning! :D
  • thedreadfather
    This card is so overkill for most of us, but so awesome. :D
  • Maziar
    Great review,
    However i agree with Tom's about that there are better options in terms of price/performance ratio.This card looks good and packs lots of power but i wish that it had a lower price.
  • anamaniac
    I was excited, but after reading the article, I'm dissapointed.
    Maybe they set the bar too high when they made the MARS, a $1200 GTX285x2.
    I wish the MARS/ARES came with waterblocks though.

    Sounds like the card needs some better drivers.
  • rohitbaran
    Well, the card is heavy, power consuming and expensive, but its performance is truly great. BTW, they could have kept the Sapphire Toxic 5970 in the benchmark tests for the sake of immediate comparison. Anyway, this is a great review.
  • rohitbaran
    Lets see if Southern Islands top offering can take on this monster.
    Where's the Radeon HD 5970 Crossfire?