For many enthusiasts, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 is nothing but a dream. For others, it’s just a starting point. That latter group was Asus' target when it designed the ROG Matrix Platinum GTX 980. This is a premium product, designed from the ground up with extreme overclocking in mind.
The Matrix Platinum is part of Asus’ Republic of Gamers line, and as such it features the familiar red and black color scheme. Large copper heat pipes are painted black to match the card. The end result is a clean appearance, leaving the cooling hardware inconspicuous. Of course, the huge shroud helps with that.
Built onto a 140mm-tall PCB measuring 280mm (11") in length, it’s hard not to notice how large the Matrix is. While it is technically a dual-slot card, at 40mm (just over 1.5") wide, Asus pushes the limit of what you can cram into a couple of expansion slots. Weighing in at 1158 grams, (2 lbs, 9 oz) the Matrix Platinum feels robust from the moment you pick it up. Just make sure you have space in your case.
As you might expect, the ROG Matrix Platinum is factory-overclocked. Nvida's reference base clock is 1126MHz, and this board sports a 1241MHz GPU. To put that into perspective, the reference card's GPU Boost rating is just 1216MHz. Meanwhile, Asus gives its Matrix Platinum a GPU Boost rating of 1342MHz. All told, that works out to a 115MHz base overclock and 126MHz-higher GPU Boost rating. Memory, on the other hand, is set at 1753MHz, nearly identical to the reference spec.
The cooling solution employs Asus’ familiar DirectCU II technology with five 10mm heat pipes on a copper base much larger than the GPU die itself. Asus claims this heat sink is 2.2x more effective than the reference design. To help dissipate thermal energy more efficiently, two 95mm fans blow past the fins. Both are sealed and dust-proof units, but one is a CoolTech fan that enables multi-directional airflow. The inner blades push fresh intake air down, while the outer blades exhaust warm air out out the sides.
Most of the card is enclosed in a large, stylish shroud with steel reinforcements bolted to the top of the I/O bracket and an aluminum back plate. This provides ample rigidity and makes the heat sink easier to remove. To do so, remove the four screws on the card's back, surrounding the GPU. There's a security sticker on one screw; removing it will void your warranty.
The Matrix Platinum is designed to support extreme cooling solutions like liquid nitrogen. Asus uses a dual BIOS setup that you can flip between with a switch on the PCB. There’s also a Safe Mode button, pictured above, to load factory settings in case something goes wrong. The second BIOS was programmed specifically to accommodate LN2-based cooling, interestingly enough. In addition, Asus installs a memory defroster that should help stomp out cold bugs while working with liquid nitrogen.
Asus also integrates load indicator lights. Along the top edge of the card there is a lit Republic of Gamers logo that goes from blue (light load) to orange (medium load) to red (under heavy load). It'll turn green when you trigger Safe Mode.
Not surprisingly, you need more power to drive the Matrix Platinum than a reference-class GeForce GTX 980. Nvidia's design calls for two six-pin PCIe cables. Meanwhile, Asus leverages two eight-pin connectors. If you plan to use LN2 and want the defroster to work, an additional four-pin Molex lead is needed.
Two SLI bridge connectors are exposed along the card's top edge, though Asus does not recommend installing a second one without water blocks (or at least an extra expansion slot between them). The shroud sticks out too much, so the top card wouldn't get enough air if you dropped them in two slots apart.
Sticking with the reference configuration, Asus includes three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.0 port, and one dual-link DVI output.
Though Asus' box is large, its bunch is not. You get a pair of six- to eight-pin PCIe adapters, a driver disc with a digital copy of the manual and a quick-start guide that (unfortunately) is not specific to this extreme product at all.