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ASUS GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
As NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture matures, board partners have become more familiar with the cores and are now launching their highly modified designs. This gradual progression is most evident in ASUS’s GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum Edition which is an engineering tour de force with a myriad of advanced features and a suitably spectacular price that is specifically targeted towards overclockers.

The Matrix series has a long and storied history. Generation after generation, these Republic of Gamers cards have been among the best available and are highly prized commodities due to their longevity and capabilities. This time around ASUS has quite a bit of competition to overcome though. EVGA’s GTX 780 Ti Classified, MSI’s Lightning, Galaxy’s Hall of Fame and GIGABYTE’s Super Overclock have either launched or are waiting in the wings and all of them are hoping to dethrone the Matrix series from its prized position. Naturally, ASUS isn’t taking this challenge lying down and the GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum Edition represents a culmination of countless engineering hours and plenty of enthusiast consultation. As a matter of fact, ASUS worked with some of today’s leading overclockers to create a prefect card for the needs of this exceedingly demanding niche.


As with previous Matrix designs, there are two different versions of the GTX 780 Ti edition: the Platinum and a stock edition. While the Platinum features increased clock speeds, the “regular” GTX 780 Ti Matrix offers up the exact same features but operates at reference frequencies and will cost a bit less. If you’re an overclocker who simply wants to hit insane frequencies without a care about out-of-box speeds, grab the non-Platinum.

From a specifications standpoint, the Matrix Platinum certainly won’t be the fastest GTX 780 Ti on the block. It boasts a respectable Base speed overclock to 1006MHz and the excellent cooler design (we’ll get more into that later) allows frequencies to level out at the 1.15GHz mark. Meanwhile, due to NVIDIA’s limitations to custom designs so board partners' wares can’t compete against the TITAN Black, the memory remains at 3GB, operating at 7Gbps. As you might expect, most of this card’s appeal comes from its overclocking chops.

The GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum targets a very narrow subset of users so it will only be available for a limited time and will cost a whole lot of money. According to ASUS we’ll see it sometime later this month but the price hasn’t been published quite yet. We’d expect it to go for about $825 USD or $875 for those of us north of the border but that will be confirmed in the coming days.

Over the next few pages we’ll go through this card’s features and its substantial overclocking prowess. It goes without saying that the GTX 780 Ti Matrix may be expensive but so is the immediate competition. The real question is whether or not it is more valuable to overclockers than the alternatives.

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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A Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum

A Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum



The ASUS GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum Edition is a unique card in a number of different ways, primarily due to the fact that it has been designed to fit within more compact chassis. This means ASUS’ engineers kept the card’s overall length to just 11 ½” while retaining a dual slot height despite the inclusion of a massive 14-phase PWM layout. Instead of going for an overly long PCB, the width has been augmented to roughly 5” which may cause some clearance issues for more compact chassis but compatibility should still extend all the way into the mini ITX market.

Past the portly width, the usual Matrix design queues are all present and accounted for: there’s a dual fan heatsink that’s covered in a muted black and red shroud alongside black heatpipes. The overall effect is quite sinister in an understated way.


Once again ASUS is using their DirectCU II heatsink, though in a highly modified form. Not only has the internal heatsink been expanded by a drastic amount but the heatpipe payload has been augmented by a single large 10mm unit which supplements the existing 6mm pipes.

ASUS has also added a hybrid 92mm CoolTech fan which features wide-angle, directional airflow characteristics to speed up heat dispersion from the heatsink. At this point you may be wondering why only a single CoolTech fan has been installed while the other uses a typical 92mm axial design. It may seem like an odd choice but the axial fan’s vertical airflow directionality will actually move hot air towards the front-mounted CoolTech unit which will then push it out the backplate. The layout is actually quite brilliant since it can act as a quasi-blower style setup.


The Matrix Platinum uses dust proof fan technology which essentially seals the bearing area, preventing particulate matter from entering. This is supposed to help increase the fan’s average life up to 10,000 hours (for a total MTBF of 50,000 hours) or approximately 25% longer than a typical axial design without this addition.


Alongside the heatsink shroud there is a glowing Republic of Gamers logo which indicates how much load the GPU is under. Green represents a persistent VBIOS Safe Mode (more on this below), blue for light load, yellow for medium and red for heavy. It would be great if ASUS had included an option within their GPU Tweak utility to normalize this to a single color but this is still an interesting feature.


Things really start to get interesting when looking past the major design points of the Matrix since it’s this card’s minute details that will ultimately sell it to overclockers. On the card’s rearmost PCB edge there’s a Safe Mode button which loads a default profile with stock memory and core clocks in case you’ve increased frequencies to a point where booting into Windows is impossible. Not only does this provide you with peace of mind but it also ensures a completely stable system regardless of your overclock.

ASUS has added a backup power connector in the guise of a Molex input just in case the dual 8-pin layout isn’t sufficient for a given set of clock speeds and voltages.


There’s also a toggle switch that turns on the innovative Memory Heater. While this feature may only be handy for extreme overclockers, it activates a defrost element around the memory modules which can eliminate GDDR5 cold bugs from ruining an extreme LN2 run.

Finally, there’s the usual voltage read points. These include GPU, GDDR5, PLL, Ground Over Voltage and Memory Over Voltage and a general voltage limiter.


In order to take advantage of all these features ASUS included a dual BIOS switch which, when switched to the LN2 setting, discards NVIDIA’s required safeguards. It allows for extreme increases in both Power and Voltage Limits to a point where more exotic methods of cooling will be needed.


Flipping the card over we can see how massive the PCB really is; it extends about an inch past where a normal PCB would end. ASUS went with a full coverage aluminum heatsink here in order to better disperse topside component heat. You’ll also notice there’s a warranty void if removed sticker on the heatsink’s mounting bracket.


Underneath that extensive heatsink there’s a DIGI+ VRM with Black Metallic Capacitors and a 14-phase PWM boasting ASUS’ Super Alloy Power features. With concrete-reinforced chokes and hardened MOSFETS which not only avoid coil whine but are also more resistant to heat buildup during longer overclocking sessions. It’s a truly impressive setup and one which befits a flagship GPU.


On the connector front there’s really not all that much interesting going on. The backplate uses a pair of DVI outputs alongside connectors for HDMI and DisplayPort connectors. Meanwhile the main power input is handled by a pair of 8-pin connectors.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Typically our overclocking results are done later in the review and we don't benchmark every single game. However, the ASUS GTX 780 Ti Platinum has been built from the ground up for higher clock speeds so going in that direction would do it injustice. With that in mind, overclocking and complete stability testing was done before our main benchmark suite drew to an end, allowing us to run every single game with higher frequencies. The result is a more balanced approach when discussing the merits of this very special card.

In order to achieve an overclock we considered 24/7 stable, the card needed to retain a relatively low noise profile while also avoiding the Boost throttling that sometimes plagues higher speeds on NVIDIA's latest cards. Temperatures also needed to remain within reason. In addition, we increased memory clocks separately from the core in order to ensure the GDDR5's error correction wasn't artificially limiting performance. For all overclocking tests, the LN2 profile was used which grants a slightly expanded set of options within ASUS' excellent GPU Tweak utility.

In our books, 24/7 stability is exactly that but distilled down into 12 hours of gameplay spread over multiple two to four hour sessions. Since it's my "go to" title for the moment, Star Citizen was used with a smattering of Assassin's Creed Black Flag for good measure.

With those relatively stringent goals set out, anything short of class-leading performance would have been a disappointment for the GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum. It certainly didn't disappoint.


With a core voltage offset to a moderate 60mV and memory boosted by 50mV, we reached some absolutely astounding speeds, especially on the GDDR5. The core was able to easily achieve a rock stable Boost frequency of 1246MHz via an offset of 110MHz which is about 300MHz higher than a reference card.

Now the memory was another story altogether since it kept going higher and higher, all the while achieving marginally improved performance results. Our sample topped out at.....wait for it.....8024MHz! After that point the error correction stepped in and started throttling internal timings so framerates actually decreased.

Unfortunately, there was a ton of gas left in the tank but even with a larger threshold within the LN2 BIOS, ASUS' GPU Tweak's achievements were bottlenecked by NVIDIA's Power Limit. Increasing core voltage further resulted in throttling as the software and BIOS fought for control. Memory may have gone further as well but we were limited with a mere 50mV of overhead. ASUS will likely roll out an "unlocked" GPU Tweak that has nearly unlimited thresholds for extreme overclockers but on air cooling, what's given is more than sufficient.

One of the most noteworthy achievements here is the temperatures. We set the fan speeds to 60% which, as you will see in the acoustic testing section, isn't loud at all and yet the core never got above 69C. Considering the speeds this thing was running at, that's nothing short of astounding.

So how did the GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum perform with these modifications? Check out the next pages.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
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Test System & Setup

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell 2412M (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 14.4 Beta
NVIDIA 337.50 Beta


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


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The fourth iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the first to make extensive use of DX11 graphics technology. In this benchmark sequence, we proceed through a run-through of the Havana area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.


2560 x 1440




Battlefield 4


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Amidst its teething problems since its release, BF4 has been a bone of contention among gamers. In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.

2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Call of Duty: Ghosts / Far Cry 3

Call of Duty: Ghosts


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gzIdSAktyf4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest Call of Duty game may have been ridiculed for its lackluster gameplay but it remains one of the best-looking games out there. Unfortunately due to mid-level loads, getting a “clean” runthrough without random slowdowns is nearly impossible, even with a dual SSD system like ours. Hence why you should ignore any massive framerate dips as they are anomalies of poor loading optimizations. For this benchmark we used the first sequence of the 5th Chapter entitled Homecoming as every event is scripted so runthroughs will be nearly identical.

2560 x 1440




Far Cry 3


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mGvwWHzn6qY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

One of the best looking games in recent memory, Far Cry 3 has the capability to bring even the fastest systems to their knees. Its use of nearly the entire repertoire of DX11’s tricks may come at a high cost but with the proper GPU, the visuals will be absolutely stunning.

To benchmark Far Cry 3, we used a typical run-through which includes several in-game environments such as a jungle, in-vehicle and in-town areas.



2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Hitman Absolution / Metro: Last Light

Hitman Absolution


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Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.


2560 x 1440




Metro: Last Light


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/40Rip9szroU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest iteration of the Metro franchise once again sets high water marks for graphics fidelity and making use of advanced DX11 features. In this benchmark, we use the Torchling level which represents a scene you’ll be intimately familiar with after playing this game: a murky sewer underground.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p-a-8mr00rY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.


2560 x 1440





Tomb Raider


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/okFRgtsbPWE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Temperatures & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped..

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



As we already saw in the overclocking section, when the GTX 780 Ti Matrix’s fans are set to 66% not even a core frequency in excess of 1.2GHz will phase its heatsink. At default speeds, acoustics are better but the temperature still don’t go above 62°C which is an incredible result.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


Due to the massive size of ASUS’ DirectCU II heatsink, its fans don’t have to spin at high rates to keep temperature in check. This means at the card’s out-of-box speeds, the Matrix remains blissfully quiet. Meanwhile, even at 66% the fans remain virtually unnoticeable which goes to show how much engineering when into their respective designs.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


As expected, power consumption is quite high especially when pushing higher voltage and frequencies through the core and memory.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion; One of the Best Gets Better

Conclusion; One of the Best Gets Better


There’s something about ASUS’ Matrix cards that makes enthusiasts dish out immense sums of money without a second though. It could be the looks or the incredible cooling capabilities or in inclusion of more features than we know what to do with but we think this craze really boils down to one thing: consistency.

Consistency is a big word in the graphics card world because even some of the best, most highly regarded product lines have had their flops. For example, GIGABYTE’s HD 7970 Super Overclock and EVGA’s GTX 680 Classified had some serious pedigree being their namesakes yet their efforts fell short for various reasons. The Matrix series on the other hand has remained among the industry’s top tiers since its inception and the GTX 780 Ti version is absolutely no different. If anything, this latest Matrix Platinum Edition is the most impressive addition yet to ASUS’ RoG lineup.

While we couldn’t test many of the GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum’s extreme overclocking features like the memory defroster, the limits of the LN2 BIOS or the well-planned Safe Mode, every one of them will be welcome additions for certain customers. On the other hand, we can attest to the overclocking prowess of this card; its completely stable frequencies easily outpaced every other GTX 780 Ti we’ve reviewed to date. The memory in particular hit absolutely insane levels before the GDDR5’s error correction stepped in.

As you can imagine, the higher speeds really allowed the GTX 780 Ti to stretch its legs. In practical terms there was a 20 to 25% framerate boost over a reference card and that makes a huge difference in terms of onscreen fluidity, particularly in borderline cases like Metro Last Light.

Overclocking is what the Matrix is designed to do but that factoid may also cause a small problem for the Platinum Edition. You pay extra for its higher out of box frequencies but they’re mostly superfluous in the face of its overclocking prowess. We’d recommend you save a few bucks and go with the non-Platinum version which will likely have the same about of clock speed overhead anyways.

The GTX 780 Ti Matrix’s performance in both overclocked and base speed scenarios may be impressive but the way it achieved those results is incredible. Even with additional voltage coursing through its veins and the fans set to 66%, it was barely audible over the other case fans. At its default settings and clock speeds, it barely registered above ambient noise levels on our decibel meter. That DirectCU II heatsink has some absolutely titanic abilities.

Trying to find negatives on this card is nearly impossible. ASUS has created a highly overclockable, feature-rich product that is worthy of its Republic of Gamers Matrix namesake. Granted, the GTX 780 Ti Matrix Platinum won't even be close to affordable when it's launched later this month but if you’ve got the cash, it may be the best GTX 780 Ti available for a good long time.

 
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