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Josh Norem Jul 08, 2013

Asus Ares II 2x HD 7970

At A Glance

Kratos

Record-breaking performance; absolutely silent; runs very cool.

Ares

Requires a lot of power; super-expensive; rare.

The fastest single-card GPU we’ve ever tested

Just before the release of the GeForce GTX Titan , AMD held a conference call with tech media to reiterate its position in the market today, its plans going forward, and to drive home one particular point: AMD has the fastest hardware available, period. At the time of the call, we thought, “Well, that’s debatable.” But AMD pressed on, and further clarified its position by stating that the Asus Ares II was the fastest GPU available, bar none. Since most of us on the call hadn’t seen that card, and most people never will since only 999 were produced, we didn’t dispute the claim, nor did we have the data to know if the claim was correct. Well, about a week later, the card arrived from Asus and now that we’ve run the benchmarks, it looks like AMD was telling the truth—the Ares II is without a doubt the fastest single-card GPU available. So step aside, Nvidia GeForce GTX 690, there’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s not only faster in benchmarks, it runs cooler and quieter, to boot.

Each Limited Edition Ares II comes in a swank briefcase and is individually numbered. We got #71 out of the total 999 made.

If you’re surprised by this development, you probably aren’t familiar with the Ares II’s $1,500 price tag with specifications to match, so let’s start by examining those. First, it comprises two HD 7970 GHz Edition GPUs on a single PCB in CrossFireX configuration, and the GPUs are overclocked slightly to 1,050MHz, with a 1,100MHz Boost Clock. Second, the card sports 6GB of memory that’s also slightly overclocked, and it can power up to six displays at once. Third, both GPUs on the Ares II are water- and air-cooled. You read that right—the GPUs themselves are water-cooled via an Asetek kit with a 12cm radiator and a push-pull fan setup, and the entire PCB is wrapped in Asus Thermal Armor and cooled by an 8cm fan that sits between the GPUs.

There are only 999 of these cards in the world, and each one arrives in a combination-lock briefcase with custom foam cutouts for the card and its cooler, and a metal business-card-size “certificate of authenticity,” designating which unit you’re lucky to own. It’s totally over-the-top and ridiculous— ridiculously badass, that is.

During testing, the Ares II demonstrated why its price tag is so exorbitant, with a display of Pure PC Power, the likes of which we haven’t seen from AMD in a very long time. It crushed the former-champion GTX 690 both in benchmark performance and in noise output, which is something we never thought we’d say about an AMD card in relation to a Kepler card, but it’s true. We didn’t hear it with our very own ears; it was absolutely silent throughout testing and was never hotter than 63 C, even when tortured. It defeated the GTX 690 in nine out of 11 benchmarks, making it the fastest single-card GPU we’ve ever tested, and the quietest. Would we buy an Ares II over a GTX 690? No, the price is still too high, but everything else about this card is the very definition of Kick Ass.

$1,500, www.asus.com

Benchmarks
 Asus Ares II 2x HD 7970
EVGA GTX 690
PowerColor Devil 13 HD 7990EVGA GTX Titan
Driver 13.2314.0713.2314.09
3DMark Fire Strike
12,2999,448
10,5358,854
3DMark 2011 Performance
15,920
15,195
14,84612,811
Unigine Heaven 4.0 (fps)
50
39
4135
Catzilla Beta9,643
9,8378,1607,355
Crysis 3 (fps)42312322
Shogun 2 (fps)65615749
Far Cry 3 (fps)58484939.3
Dirt 3 (fps)153120.3145100
Metro 2033 (fps)3629.63226.3
Hitman: Absolution (fps)63475443.9
Batman: Arkham City (fps)1001099697

Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P9X79 motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.

THE VERDICT

Asus Ares II 2x HD 7970

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