The Asus Matrix GTX 580 Platinum is quiet, fast, and really, really easy to overclock. It's also massive.
How massive? When we got the box, we thought Asus had shipped us a motherboard by mistake because the box was so large.
The size of the pacage is a clue to the size of the card itself. Asus builds a variant of its DirectCU II dual-fan technology onto the GTX 580, resulting in a card that's fully three expansion slots wide. If you ever plan on running two of these in SLI mode, you'll have to pick your motherboard carefully.
Asus's Republic of Gamers Matrix GTX 580 is three slots wide, takes dual 8-pin connectors, and overclocks like nobody's business.
It's not just about the cooling, though. To get chips that will clock up, Asus cherry-picks the GPUs that get built onto the Platinum version of the Matrix GTX 580 (the company also sells a lower-clocked version). This card also requires two PCIe 8-pin power connectors—one more than the standard GTX 580. However, it's worth nothing that at the card's 816MHz core clock—not quite 6 percent above the stock 772MHz—this is one quiet GTX 580. With the case cover on, we could barely hear the fans spin up under full load. Even when we overclocked the card to 906MHz (more on that in a bit), the fan noise was quite low.
The Matrix card offers some cool amenities. First, it's got manual transmission—there are buttons on the side of the card that allow you to manually adjust the voltage on the fly. There's another, larger button that runs the cooling fans at full speed when pressed. At full speed, the fans do get pretty loud, so use this sparingly, and only with extreme overclocks. One last button allows you to completely reset the card to its factory defaults (816MHz core, 1002MHz memory) if you've gone overboard with your overclocking attempts.
You can manually change voltage on the fly by pressing the + or - button. A pair of red/green LEDs adjacent to the PCIe power connectors warn you if you've forgotten to connect power (or if the power connectors are loose). Green means the card is gettign sufficient power.
As with most high-end GPUs, the Matrix GTX 580 Platinum ships with overclocking software. The Asus GPU Tweak is one of the easiest such tools we've used. In its default state, the voltage and clock speeds are locked, so if you increase GPU core clocks, the voltage increases to maintain proper current. You decouple these if you want maximum manual control.
As an experiment, we pumped up the core clock to 906MHz and memory clock to 1,015MHz. The core voltage went up from 1050mv to 1113mv. It doesn't seem like much, but it's worth noting that the system power draw under our full-load test increased from 369W to 420W. That's why Asus ships this puppy with two 8-pin power connectors. Asus claims that it's hit more than 1GHz on a GTX 580 just using the Matrix 580's air cooling. Note that you can actually burn the new settings into the BIOS, but the safe-mode button will rewrite them if you get into trouble.
The text on the top fin lights up and changes color depending on system load.
We tested performance at the default 816MHz core/1,002MHz memory and the 906MHz core/1,015 memory clock speed settings. The result was an eye opener.
Now, 906MHz is more than 17 percent higher than Nvidia's reference clock speed. The card was completely, utterly stable at those speeds—and pretty quiet, as well. And as the numbers show, we saw fairly substantial performance gains in many of our benchmarks.
The Matrix GTX 580 Platinum does cost more than your average GTX 580, coming in at roughly $530 versus about $480 for an EVGA GTX 580 SC. But for your $50, you get lower noise, great performance, and impressive overclockability—if you're willing to lose one more expansion slot in the process.
Incredibly easy to overclock; fast even at default speeds; quiet.
Pricey; three PCI slots wide; two 8-pin PCIe connector.
Asus Matrix GTX 580 @ 906MHz
Asus Matrix GTX 580 @ 816MHz
EVGA GTX 580 SC (797MHz)
XFX Radeon HD 6970
3D Mark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.1 (fps)
BattleForge DX11 (fps)
Fary Cry 2 / Long (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Aliens vs. Predator (fps)
F1 2010 (fps)
Dirt 3 (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.