It’s quite possible that no manufacturer will build a better Radeon HD 5870 card than Asus’ Matrix 5870. In many ways, the Matrix 5870 is an exercise in engineering overachievement: A videocard that’s likely to outperform other Radeon HD 5870 cards, but that's priced so high that it’s really competing against the higher-end GeForce 480 GTX.
The Matrix ships with a core clock set at 894MHz and the memory clock at the default 1,200MHz. The card is designed from the ground up to be overclocked and over-volted, with premium components used throughout. Asus also added their Super Hybrid Engine control chip, which ensures clean power delivery, plus a new cooler design.
The card is outfitted with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, rather than the stock 1GB. It also differs from stock cards in its output connectors. Due to the more robust cooling fan and exhaust, the connectors are now mounted on just one half of the mounting bracket – which means there isn’t room for two DVI connectors. So Asus equips the card with one DVI, one DisplayPort, and one HDMI port. This limits you to using two 2560x1600 or 2560x1440 displays, rather than three; still, few people run three displays large enough to require the high bandwidth that DisplayPort and dual-link DVI deliver.
Asus' Matrix 5870 comes with only one each dual-link DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI to make room for the ventilation slots on the right-hand side.
The Matrix 5870 uses two eight-pin power connectors to deliver the current required for robust overclocking, so you’ll need a strong power supply with dual eight-pin cables if you want to drive this card to its limits. Asus’ iTracker utility contains all the monitoring and tweaking tools you’ll need for overclocking and over-volting in one handy panel. iTracker automatically saves any overclocking settings you make and applies them on reboot. But if you take things too far and get into trouble, there’s a handy “safe mode” button on the back of the card. Pressing the button returns the card to its default parameters.
Since the Matrix 5870 is designed with overclocking in mind, we pumped up it as high as it would go and remain stable. We didn’t experiment with over-volting, which would have allowed us to take the clocks even higher, because that can shorten the card’s useful life. Still, we managed to hit 925MHz core and 1,250MHz memory clocks while remaining completely stable in all our benchmarks; 1,300MHz memory clocks, however, were out of our reach.
Looking at the performance numbers for actual games, the result is pretty much a wash between the Matrix and the lower-priced XFX XXX Edition card. The Matrix edges out the XFX card in a few tests, but the margins are quite small; there’s no substantive performance difference between the two.
Compare both these products to Asus’ ENGTX480, on the other hand, and the $500 GeForce card wins most gaming tests hands down. That comes as no surprise when considering the $430 XFX card, but the Matrix 5870 costs $10 more than the ENGTX480 (before taking factory rebates into account). Sure, it has 512MB more GDDR5 than the GTX 480 card, but the extra memory isn’t really a factor in gaming.
When the card is under a medium load, the Matrix LED glows blue; when it's under a heavy load, the LED changes to purple and finally red when under extreme load.
The idle and load temperatures tell an interesting story. We ran the Heaven benchmark at 1920x1200, 8x AA and extreme tessellation to push the Radeon GPU as hard as we could. The Asus card runs hotter both at idle and under load; but remember, we’re pushing the core clocks higher, and the card has 2GB of GDDR5. The XFX beats both the other cards in terms of power consumption, but the Matrix card is more efficient than the Asus ENGTX480.
The Matrix 5870 is an impressive technical achievement, but its price/performance ratio is more than a little out of whack. A little tweaking can render it the fastest Radeon HD 5870 out there, but it’s also the most expensive Radeon HD 5870 out there (barring the Eyefinity models). XFX’s XXX Edition is almost as fast—and a whole lot cheaper. Meanwhile, Asus’ ENGTX480 is faster than both.
Asus Matrix 5870 Videocard
Highly overclockable; excellent engineering; good performance; easy-to-use overclocking utility.
Expensive; slower than some cheaper GeForce GTX 480 cards.
Asus Matrix 5870
GDDR5 Memory Clock
Frame Buffer Size
Asus Matrix 5870
XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition
Unigine Heaven 2.0 (fps)
Battle Forge (fps)
Dirt 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Action (fps)
Tom Clancy's HAWX (fps)
Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising (fps)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat (fps)
Aliens vs. Predator (DX11) (fps)
Just Cause 2: Concrete Jungle (fps)
Power Consumption (watts), at idle
Power Consumption (watts), under load
Core Temperature (C), at idle
Core Temperature (C), under load)
Best scores are bolded. Our zero point uses a Core i7-975 Extreme Edition, an Asus P6X58D Premium, 6GB of DDR3/1333, 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate, and a Corsair TX850 PSU. All games tested at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.