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ASUS GTX 980 Matrix Platinum Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
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Conclusion

Conclusion


The ASUS GTX 980 Matrix is arguably one of the most eagerly-anticipated graphics cards to be launched this year and looking at raw numbers, there’s no denying the wait was worthwhile. However, in order to truly appreciate its full stable of features and abilities one needs to fall firmly within its target audience of enthusiasts.

When used in its out-of-box format, the Matrix Platinum is only a bit quicker than ASUS’ own STRIX OC. While this is a noteworthy achievement, going the simple plug and play route with this card is akin to buying a Ferrari and then keeping it off the streets as a garage queen. It just shouldn’t be done. It needs to be pushed and pushed hard. ASUS wants you to stretch this thing’s legs and has gone to great lengths to ensure advanced overclocking tools are available to those who know how to use them. Truth be told, the $90 premium over the very capable STRIX OC is completely unjustifiable if the Matrix is left to putter around at stock speeds but if you have the necessary abilities, the sky could be the limit.

Allowing the Matrix to run free under air cooling gave us the first tantalizing glimpses of what ASUS has achieved. Core frequencies hit 1466MHz on a consistent basis and memory nearly achieved 8Gbps. It goes without saying that at those speeds performance was extended far beyond what a bone stock GTX 980 can hope to achieve but as with every other NVIDIA card from this generation, our efforts were once again stymied by the draconian limiters. Basically, the various voltage and power sliders are pegged at exactly the same values as the aforementioned STRIX. Disappointing? Absolutely. Is there hope? You bet because this is no normal card.

While the GTX 980 Matrix may boast one of the best air coolers on the market in the form of ASUS’ DirectCU II heatsink, even it won’t be able to wring the most out of the card. The solution obviously lies in water cooling or more exotic methods of thermal management and those are exactly the situations ASUS has outfitted the Matrix for. With an LN2 jumper that needs to be soldered for access to an unlocked OCP and so-called “memory defrosters”, the possibilities truly are endless for those who push the limits. But while it is good to see ASUS finding ways to overcome the NVIDIA-imposed limitations, though their access through somewhat complicated modifications will still leave a sour taste in some peoples’ mouths.

The GTX 980 Matrix has the potential to be one of the most impressive graphics cards on the market when placed into the right hands. It may even be a record setter. However, those “right hands” are few in number and the vast majority of gamers would be better off looking at much less expensive alternatives.

That’s the crux of the situation here; on one hand the GTX 980 Matrix is an achievement of epic proportions that receives a well-deserved award for giving the extreme overclocking community features they have been looking for on a Maxwell-based GPU. However, if air cooling is all you intend to use, the GTX 980 STRIX provides similar performance, about the same overclocking potential, a quieter fan speed profile and has a more palatable price. ASUS is in a truly enviable situation right now: they have what may be the best overclocker-friendly graphics card around alongside one that wins handily in the price / performance segment. The only thing that’s left is for buyers to choose the ASUS product that fits their needs best.

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