Imagine a graphics card weighing 5.25 pounds with three (yes, three) 8-pin PCI Express power connectors. Now imagine this card taking up three PCI Express slots and almost sucking the life out of an 850W power supply.
That may be one reason Asus named this card after the Roman god of war. It’s probably the most powerful single graphics card we’ve tested, but that power comes at a substantial cost. You’ll need the right type of motherboard and case, too—one where you can install a three-slot-wide card that’s 12.25 inches long and 5 inches tall.
Did we mention that it also costs $1,400?
The gigantic Mars II packs two 12cm fans and set a new record in our Lab for power consumption.
Now that you’ve recovered from the heart palpitations induced by the price, let’s talk about the real meat of this card. What Asus engineers have done is build a full GTX 580 SLI combo on a single card. We’re not talking about a namby-pamby GTX 590, which sacrifices clock speed to get a reasonable-size card. The Mars II is a pull-out-the-stops, full-steam-ahead GTX 580 SLI on a stick. And the cores aren’t just any 580 cores, either; they’re top-binned GPU dies that run at 782MHz—faster than run-of-the-mill GTX 580 chips. The 3GB of GDDR5 ticks along at 1,002MHz.
Asus built the card using its DirectCU thermal system with a pair of 12cm fans. Despite the monster nature of the card, it was surprisingly quiet under load—somewhat noisier than the GTX 590, but notably less so than the Radeon HD 6990. The card uses 21-phase power. As with the Matrix GTX 580 we reviewed last month, the card ships with Asus’s GPU Tweak utility, one of the easiest tools we’ve used for GPU overclocking.
Double‑wide GPU? That’s for wimps. The Mars II will swallow three slots on your motherboard.
So if this monster can actually run, then it should run at full SLI speeds. (Asus claims that the binned GPU parts can run even higher—above 800MHz—but given that we nearly melted the PSU in our test system, we avoided pushing the card.) As is, it’s no slouch in performance, but we were anxious to put it against a GeForce GTX 590 and AMD Radeon HD 6990.
The mythical Radeon HD 6990 won in just two areas: power consumption and Just Cause 2. The GTX 590 eked out a single benchmark win in Battle Forge, which is likely CPU-bound, since the differences overall are small. The Mars II swept the field in everything else. So you really can get SLI on a single card, if you’re willing to pay a premium.
You'll need a PSU that can supply three 8-pin power plugs to run the Mars II. The little red button manually forces all fans to full throttle.
That premium, by the way, includes the right power supply and case. Our Corsair TX850W survived the experience, but the 785W that the Mars II consumed under load set a Lab record for a single graphics card.
Clearly this card isn’t for everyone. The massive size, power draw, and price will discourage all but the most fanatical gamers. But the Mars II will appeal to those with the moolah, the system to handle it, and the desire to have the shiniest toy. But get in line—Asus will only make about 2,000 of these behemoths.
It’s damn fast, surprisingly quiet, and appealing in a monster truck kind of way.
The price is stratospheric; huge power draw; massive size.
Asus Mars II
Asus GTX 590
XFX Radeon HD 6990
3DMark 2011 Perf
3D Mark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.1 (fps)
BattleForge DX11 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Aliens vs. Predator (fps)
F1 2010 (fps)
Metro 2033 (fps)
Power @ idle (W)
Power @ full throttle (W)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.