Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Where do start with this one? ASUS claims in its press materials that the ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 3GB graphics card is about 20% faster than the dual-Fermi GeForce GTX 590 card released by NVIDIA in March and our results show that to be true and possibly even conservative. In games where the bottleneck is still clearly on the GPU such as Metro 2033, Bad Company 2 and even Lost Planet 2 the gap between the two cards was closer to 25-30% with the edge going to the massive power of the MARS II. Games that were a bit older or less GPU bound on today’s hardware like Left 4 Dead 2 and F1 2010 the performance deltas were minimized.
When we throw the AMD Radeon HD 6990 the differences between it and the ASUS MARS II were pretty similar. In general the HD 6990 and the GTX 590 more or less trade blows with the edge going to NVIDIA; and thus the gap between the MARS II and the AMD flagship were a bit higher again proving that ASUS has truly built the fastest graphics card on the planet!
The MARS II doesn’t have as many "features" as the ROG Matrix GTX 580 we tested earlier in the week like support burning in overclocked specs, a Safe Mode button, voltage monitoring leads, etc but that doesn’t really take away much from the total package that ASUS as built. The best "feature" of it is that it simply kicks ass in the gaming performance department.
The DirectCU II cooler that provides 600% more airflow than the reference cooler and gave us temperatures as low as the single GPU GTX 580 card is a big improvement over other dual-GPU card on the market. Not only was it efficient but it wasn’t too noisy either; not silent but definitely not HD 6990 loud!
While most dual-GPU cards can do it, the ability for the ASUS MARS II to support Surround and 3D Vision Surround gaming technology from NVIDIA is a big plus for users of this card as well as you will likely be looking for ways to fully utilize the power provided by the GTX 580 GPUs on board. The only drawback is that you can’t run a set of three 30-in panels but even running triple 1920×1080 screens creates a 6.2 Megapixel image to render, more than the 4 MP one seen on a 30-in display. Going to 3D Vision even doubles down on that if you really want to stress the metal and have some extra cash to throw around.
The ASUS GPUTweak software, while available for ANY GPU now, is still a great overclocking and monitoring tool that you can utilize fully with the MARS II as well.
One thing we would have liked to see is a fancier case and add-on; remember the ASUS ARES came with a sweet-looking locking briefcase and a laser mouse to boot. The MARS II comes in a box with some power adapters and that’s pretty much it.
Pricing and Availability
Things get sticky here. How does the price of $1399 sit with you? If it makes you pee in your pants just a bit, don’t worry, you probably aren’t the only one. (Why is this mop sitting behind me?) Unfortunately that IS the price of the ASUS MARS II card if you want pick up one of these limited-to-999-available graphics cards that is as much a piece of collectible hardware art as it is a killer gaming machine component.
- ASUS MARS II Dual GTX 580 3GB – $1399
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 3GB – $749
- AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB – $729
- GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB – $469
- ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 580 1.5GB – $529
- Radeon HD 6970 2GB – $369
- GeForce GTX 570 1.25GB – $329
- EVGA GeForce GTX 460 2WIN 2GB – $369
The first thing to discuss is the fact that you can get two dual-slot single-GPU GeForce GTX 580 cards for a total under $1,000. Would you be better off going that route than buying into the hype around the MARS II? Sure, if your goal is to save money and build a more cost-effective gaming rig? If you goal is to brag to your friends, show off at LAN parties, break speed records and look going doing it with a metal engraved card attached to your case, then…the MARS II is where you need to look. If you can’t see your chassis because it it blocked by your three 30-in monitors blocking the view, then hey, you even have the option of picking up a second one.
I realize that is a pretty niche market. So does ASUS. That is why they are only making 999 of them. If they thought they could sell 99,999 of them, don’t think for a second they wouldn’t make that many of them.
The ASUS MARS II Dual GPU GTX 580 3GB graphics card isn’t something that is built for most gamers. Instead it is built to show off the engineering talents at ASUS, the capability the company has to produce truly one-of-a-kind designs and to push the limits of the technology they have access to. In traditionally "flagship" mentality the MARS II is priced outside the realm of most gamers’ budgets but I don’t think there will be any problem for ASUS to sell a cool thousand of them. If you truly must own the most seriously intense wicked-ass piece of gaming hardware, then this is it – no substitutes for quite a while. The MARS II is the ultimate gaming graphics card if you can afford it.
Rich uncles anyone?