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ASUS RoG GTX 580 Matrix Platinum Review

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SKYMTL

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In the last few months we’ve seen a long line of GTX 580 cards which have been fed a good helping of steroids for increased performance and cooler core temperatures. MSI was one of the first with their Lightning and Gigabyte closely followed with their own Super Overclock card; both of which put forth some impressive benchmark results. The march of 3GB cards came next with EVGA’s GTX 580 3GB and yet another MSI Lightning which sported the Xtreme Edition branding. During this back and forth competition between some of the market’s biggest names, there was one conspicuous absentee: ASUS. That’s about to change.

ASUS has finally taken the covers off of the much anticipated and endlessly previewed RoG GTX 580 Matrix Platinum Edition. As with many of its competitors it features an overclocked core, a high end heatsink design and additions which will surely appeal to the overclocking community. Why it has taken this long to come out is anyone’s guess but the Matrix is here now and it is certainly making some waves.


Interestingly enough, this generation of Matrix-branded cards comes in two flavors: a standard edition and the slightly more expensive Platinum. The Platinum version is the one we’re reviewing today and it comes with an overclocked highly binned GPU core, loads of add-ons for overclockers and ASUS’ new triple slot DirectCU II Matrix cooler. Meanwhile, the non-platinum branded card features a very minor clock speed increases and a non-binned core but is otherwise identical to the Platinum in terms of overall design.

With a price of $529, the Platinum isn’t all that expensive when compared to the MSI Lightnings of this world and the premium over most reference cards isn’t extreme either. Its closest competitor will likely be the $545 Gigabyte Super Overclock which does sport higher clock speeds but is becoming increasingly harder to find. One thing we should mention is the fact that the Matrix series isn’t built for out of box performance. Rather, these cards designed to allow end users to push clock speed limits with the included software suite while retaining the full warranty.

This is a card which many enthusiasts have been eagerly waiting for since it was first seen right before this year’s Computex. But with the competition having boots on the ground in the high end custom GTX 580 market for months now, has ASUS waited too long?

 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 580 Matrix Platinum

A Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 580 Matrix Platinum



Unlike nearly every other card we have seen in the past, ASUS ships their Matrix Platinum in what looks like a motherboard box. You’ll likely pay a small fortune for shipping but it does come with more than enough interior padding to guarantee the card’s safe arrival.

In terms of accessories, there really isn’t anything to write home about with a pair of PCI-E power adaptors and a DVI to VGA adaptor being pretty standard fare. ASUS has also included an ROG case badge and an extra long SLI cable since the Matrix occupies a full three slots.


So here we have it; the ASUS GTX 580 Matrix and it sure is one unique card with a triple slot heatsink and the usual black / red ROG colour scheme as seen on their gamer-grade motherboards. Unfortunately, as with all custom graphics cards, beauty is all in the eye of the beholder so some may think this design looks absolutely hideous. We happen to love it.


The DirectCu II heatsink is an absolute beast with a slightly cantilevered layout which is capped by a pair of downwards-pointing fans. Unfortunately, while ASUS’ design promises extremely low temperatures there is one major drawback to the particular iteration of the DIrectCu II: its triple slot height could interfere with multi card setups. This shouldn’t cause an issue for those of you with motherboards featuring the necessary PCI-E slot spacing but just make sure you check before buying a pair of Matrix cards.


Along the Matrix’s outer side ASUS has installed a backlit logo but this isn’t your typical aesthetics only “bling” since the LEDs change colour as the GPU load increases and decreases. Granted, a case window is necessary if you want to watch this lightshow but it is a nifty addition nonetheless.


In order to ensure ease of design, the GTX 580 Matrix has been broken down into five distinct elements: the primary PCB, a ventilated aluminum backplate, an aluminum VRM heatsink, the main aluminum and copper fin array and finally the shroud which houses the fans.

The main heatsink consists of five copper heatpipes which make direct contact with the GPU core’s IHS and run up into both fin arrays. These arrays are each paired up with a dedicated fan to ensure optimal cooling efficiency. Supposedly ASUS has been able to achieve a 20% temperature reduction and a 600% airflow increase over the reference design. Whether or not this bears out in real world testing remains to be seen.


We all know that dust is a constant problem within a computer case and it can shorten the life of certain components like fans and power supplies. ASUS has implemented what they call a “dust proof fan” which is basically a hub design that ensures dust does not enter the bearing area which will in turn extend the fan’s lifespan. With this feature it is claimed that the fan’s life will be extended by nearly 10,000 hours.


Quite a bit of time and effort has gone into this card as evidenced by the high quality machining on the backplate and VRM heatsink.
 

SKYMTL

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An Even Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 580 Matrix

An Even Closer Look at the ASUS GTX 580 Matrix



Below the heatsink lies a massive 19-phase PWM (16 phases for the GPU, 2 phases for the GDDR5 and a single phase for the PCI-E bus) which incorporates ASUS’ Super Alloy Power design. Much like Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable technology and MSI’s Military Class components, Super Alloy Power (SAP for short) is just a fancy way of saying that the Matrix’s components have been significantly upgraded over those found on the reference design. In this case ASUS has implemented chokes which increase efficiency while decreasing electrical noise output, long life capacitors and MOSFETS that allow for a higher current threshold and thus should improve overclocking potential.


The last piece of the Super Alloy Power puzzle is a single NEC/Tokin Proadlizer “supercapacitor” which is instlled directly behind the GPU core. We’re used to seeing a number of these placed directly below the PWM sections of some other custom cards but ASUS claims that longer distances between these capacitors and the core propagates voltage loss and higher amounts of EMI.


As we already mentioned, ASUS has added some very unique features to this card which are supposed to appeal to overclockers. Alongside the pre-requisite dual 8-pin PCI-E power connectors there are ProbeIt voltage read points for the GPU, memory and PLL along with areas for measuring the stability of incoming voltages from the power supply and motherboard.

The TweakIt buttons on the other hand are something we really came to appreciate during overclocking. The “+” and “-“ buttons allow for on the fly GPU core voltage adjustments in 0.0125V increments up to a maximum of 0.125V. We suggest being careful with this setting since temperatures could spiral out of control when too much voltage is applied. Meanwhile, large the red button jacks up the fan speed to 100% which should allow for some very high clock speeds to be achieved under air cooling.


The final section on our overclocking tour of this card is the so called Mod Zone which really should only be used by professional overclockers. Instead of playing Where’s Waldo with possible solder locations, this section has convenient access to the points necessary for disabling the OCP, doubling the Super Hybrid Engine’s clock to increase overclocking stability and PLL / Memory voltage modifications. Since solder is involved and using this section WILL throw your warranty out the window, we suggest avoiding it unless you are well versed in GPU hard mods.


While surge protectors and most UPS units will protect your computer from harmful surges, there are plenty of people out there that don’t have one of these units installed between their PC and the wall outlet. In order to add another layer of protection between the sensitive components on a graphics card and harmful power surges, ASUS has begun implementing Fuse Protection. This means a pair of fuses have been installed on the card just in case your power supply’s Over Current Protection fails as well. Let’s call this a last line of defence when all else fails.


The backplate of the Matrix is certainly unique since it takes up a full three slots and it incorporates full sized connectors for both HDMI and DisplayPort. For those of you wondering, NVIDIA Surround is not supported in a single card configuration regardless of the DisplayPort’s presence.

The Safe Mode button allows you to clear the card’s clock frequencies and voltage modifications by resetting everything back to the ASUS defaults. Think of this as an onboard Clear CMOS button and it is especially important on the Matrix since ASUS’ revamped GPU Tweak utility allows for overclocks, voltage increases and other items to be written directly to the card’s BIOS (more on this in the next section).


In comparison to the reference version, ASUS’ Matrix looks absolutely massive from a vertical perspective but the PCB retains a similar length. As such, this card should have no issue fitting into most ATX-sized chassis.
 
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SKYMTL

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Introducing the New ASUS GPU Tweak Software

Introducing the New ASUS GPU Tweak Software


We’ve been uncharacteristically hard on ASUS in the past for their lack of focus upon the overclocking software which comes bundled with their graphics cards. While MSI, EVGA and to a lesser extent Gigabyte were making forward progress by offering their customers advanced tweaking capabilities through an easily accessible interface, ASUS was stuck in the stone age. Even their bleeding edge ARES card came with the woefully outdated and clunky SmartDoctor software. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/34531-asus-rog-ares-4gb-review-17.html While basic overclocking functionality was there, it was time to move forward and the result is ASUS’ new GPU Tracker software.


To say that we were impressed with this utility is a serious understatement and to make matters even better, it is compatible with cards from ASUS’ competitors as well (though with slightly less functionality). On the main screen we are greeted with a straightforward overclocking interface with the usual clock speeds as well as generous voltage adjustment options for the core, PEX_VDD and memory.

Meanwhile, the left hand side of the utility houses navigation symbols for the various sections contained within GPU Tweak. There are also options to options to open up the monitoring utility as well as a handy “benchmark” button that opens up the benchmark application of your choice provided the benchmark’s .exe file has been properly located in the Settings section (more on this below).

The bottom bar’s functionality closely mirrors the profile setup found in programs like AfterBurner and Precision. It allows for settings to be saved to a file for later use but ASUS has added another option that will surely appeal to overclockers: the ability to burn a selected profile to the card’s BIOS. This may sound like a risky proposition but the addition of a Safe Mode recovery button on the Matrix’s backplate means any changes can be easily undone.


The ASUS RoG branded cards are given access to a few more advanced options like the ability to tweak memory to your heart’s content. Every GDDR5 timing setting is available but we’re going to recommend taking things slow in this area since a small adjustment can have a large –and sometimes not always positive- impact upon performance and overclocking headroom.


Alongside the overclocker-friendly tweaking interface is a robust monitoring window which looks a lot like the one found in AfterBurner and Precision. Unfortunately, ASUS hasn’t included a continual result logging option yet but this is planned for a future release.


An RoG version of TechpowerUp’s GPU-Z graphics information application is accessible through a quick-start button which really does make GPU Tweak an all-in-one utility for overclocking and monitoring a graphics card.


Last but not least is the extensive Settings section which allows nearly every aspect of GPU Tweak to be modified within clearly defined tabs. The aforementioned Benchmark application quick start “destination” (ie: where your chosen benchmark’s .exe is located) can be found at the bottom of the Tuning tab while the Live Update area allows for GPU Tweak, the BIOS and the built in GPU-Z application to be automatically updated. For the time being, in-game recording isn’t available but it has its own tab where various output options can be selected. The final area is used for hotkey definitions.


All in all, we think ASUS’ GPU Tweak is currently the best all in one overclocking, monitoring and tweaking utility available. Once ASUS adds their additional functions like game recording, framerate monitoring and a possible artifact scanner, there really won’t be any reason to recommend another application. It may be late in relation to competing solutions, but ASUS seems to have hit all the right points even though we were using a beta release. Expect the mass production version of GPU Tweak with some of these additions to become available sometime in September.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consumption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD / / 3x Acer GD235HZ 23.5" 1080P LCDs
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Testing Platform:

Processor: Intel Core i5 750(ES)
Memory: OCZ Platinum 2x2GB PC3-12800
Motherboard: Intel DP55WG (Warrensburg)
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE w/Noctua NF-P12
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200



Graphics Cards:

ASUS RoG GTX 580 Platinum Edition
EVGA GTX 580 3GB
MSI GTX 580 Lightning X 3GB
Gigabyte GTX 580 Super Overclock
MSI GTX 580 Lightning
NVIDIA GTX 590 3GB (Ref.)
NVIDIA GTX 580 (Ref)

AMD HD 6970 2GB(Ref)

Drivers:

NVIDIA 270.61 WHQL
ATI 11.4 + CAP 11.2 R4

Note: Even though AMD claims the “AMD Optimized Tessellation” feature in the 11.1a drivers has not yet been implemented, we have changed the setting to “Off” in order to ensure additional, untested optimizations are not enabled.

Applications Used:

3DMark 11
Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
F1 2010
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- 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 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

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Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


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2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

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BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.


1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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F1 2010 (DX11)

F1 2010 (DX11)



1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 
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