If you were with us on Wednesday last week, you'll no doubt be dripping with anticipation at this review.
If you weren't with us on Wednesday last week, where the hell were you? Go and read this immediately and write "I must check OC3D.net every day" a hundred times.
Finally the Asus lawyers have let us off the leash and we can bring you results and performance for this beast of a card. We're sure you're as eager as we are to get the hell on with it, so to save repeating the earlier hands-on preview, let's get down to figures.
My oh my what specifications they are too. 4GB of RAM. Twin 5870s. It's like a geeks wet dream come true. A silicon paradise.
A Quick Look
This will definitely be a quick look. If you want more in-depth pictures and things and haven't already seen our preview, then click this and catch up. We'll wait.
For everyone else, here is a quick refresher.
The Ares covers it's enormous price-tag by being exclusive and packaged in an epic aluminium locking case. Everything is well protected within its own cut out. You also get a ROG mouse to let everyone know what is lurking in your case.
The card itself is stunning, both in size and looks. A 100mm fan and two huge blocks of solid copper help keep the heat under control.
Undressing it we can see quite how much cooling potential this has. The 5870 chip isn't a burner anyway, so with this much cooling everything should be well under control.
Finally here it is in all its naked glory. Extremely high quality board design. You can also see the 8+8+6 pin PCI-E power inputs.
And yes, we have two because we love to look after you all here at Overclock3D.
Test Setup and OC
We've got two test setups today. Although very much on the same lines. We have our standard OC3D test rig that utilises a i7-930, and we also have our i7-980X which we reserve for those products that belong in a "money no object" system.
Another Asus Ares
Corsair Dominator GT @ 1600MHz
ASUS Rampage 3 Extreme
Intel i7 930 @ 3.8GHz
Intel i7 980X @ 4GHz
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Noctua NH-D14 with Arctic MX-3
Naturally with this being very much on the leading edge of technology there are a few things that are still just having the final wrinkles ironed out as we go live. So at the time of our review we were unable to overclock in Crossfire mode. However, the single card... oh boy.
This thing is an overclocking behemoth. Coming in at 850MHz out the box it was easy to just keep dragging that slider north and the card almost shrugged. At 1083MHz we finally hit the stability wall. Although even then it was just a couple of tests in Vantage that weren't happy. Everything else ran like a dream. Even the RAM happily took a 100MHz overclock.
We're positive that there is loads yet to come, but a card costing £1200 isn't the kind of thing we want to throw massive volts through when it's not ours. You most certainly could dump some voltage through it too because the cooling isn't an issue. After running Furmark for what felt like forever we still hadn't gone over 70°C and the fan was whisper quiet even then.
The combination of audio-quality copper and a big fan certainly can keep the Ares well under control.
3D Mark Vantage
I hope you're sitting comfortably. Some of these numbers might cause you to fall over otherwise. Our current 3D Mark Vantage 5870 King is the XFX 5870 XXX with 21000 odd. On a 930 at stock we see 27000 here from the Ares. Before you all go "oh", the realities are that at 1280 the Ares is barely awake, much less working hard. Pair it up with a 980X, overclock it and that quickly hits 32000. Now that's a monster score.
Of course you're not gonna buy a grand card to run on a 19" 4:3 monitor without anti-aliasing. Moving onto the High test which is at 1680 and 2x AA we can see the Ares just about start to get a trot on. At the most basic settings we're still over 20000 points, and with a bit of tweaking over 24000. Now we're really starting to see what this card can do.
We don't often bother to run Vantage at Extreme settings (1920x1080 8xMSAA) because not a lot will make a dent in it. This Ares is frankly obscene, being able to churn out 15000+ even at these settings. With an overclock it's 17000 which is a good performance score for a decent card, much less something with this level of image quality.
The Unigine benchmark is the finest looking thing this side of Alyson Hannigan. As well as being a glorious thing to look at it's also a seriously complex benchmark, capable of slowing even the fastest card.
Except the Asus Ares. With zero anti-aliasing it pushes over 100fps which is far beyond anything we've seen up to now.
Of course we all love a bit of anti-aliasing. Even at monster resolutions (here we're running 1920x1200) those jaggies can be a pain. 2x AA starts to sort it out and without much of a frame-rate hit either, such is the power of Ares.
Moving on to 1920x1200 with 8xMSAA we start to see even Ares struggling a little. Although still pushing 60FPS. Anyone who has seen Unigine running will understand quite how mind-blowing this is.
One small thing to note is the 980X stock test. The drivers for the Ares are still being tweaked and there are occassional micro-stutters and curious frame rates.
For our gaming tests we're putting the Ares up against it's most likely competition, a 5870 crossfire setup and the other twin-GPU ATI card, the 5970.
Stand back. 85 FPS. Eighty-Five. It's taken a while but we've finally found the single-card setup that not only just about breaks the 60FPS average we need for VSync, but also will keep pumping that out regardless of what is going on. The 5970 is annihilated and the 5870 crossfire just about hangs on in there.
Dirt 2 has always performed well on just about anything, but doesn't really take advantage of mental hardware. However 120FPS cannot be sniffed at.
Stalker Call of Pripyat
Our minimum and maximum frame-rates do wobble a little. The combination of the Stalker engine being fairly inconsistent and the drivers not quite being fully rounded yet give peaks and troughs at the min and max end, but the average is rock solid.
If you happen to have won the lottery recently, or had a suitably rich distant relation pop their clogs, then maybe you'll be thinking of purchasing a pair of Ares for the ultimate in power. What if...
3D Mark Vantage
When we saw 32000 on our single card run we were stunned. 41192 is the kind of number most of us haven't seen in 3D Mark 03, much less the strenuous Vantage. The amount of GPU power available here is staggering.
Do you need a clearer demonstration of "staggering power"? When paired together Ares is capable of blowing the P score of a single Ares away, even at High. Wowsers.
Yes of course we ran an Extreme test. Our Crossfire Ares setup is able to deal with Vantage at Extreme settings and spank a single card mightily. It's like the harder the going gets, the better the Ares performs.
Finally a little gaming goodness. Trust Crysis to be completely incapable of taking advantage of the four GPUs we have at our disposal here. We thought we'd be able to see bananas frame-rates, and yet the one game that needs them ignores the extra card.
Dirt 2 has no such problems with the twin Ares absolutely ripping through the game. It's not often we wish that there was something higher than Ultra, but the Ares just eats Dirt 2 for breakfast.
Stalker is one of the poster-boy DirectX 11 games using all sorts of visual trickery to give a very sumptuous experience. Clearly the Ares Crossfire laughs in the face of sumptuous graphics, providing 200FPS average. What more can be said?
At the risk of stating the obvious, because we're pretty sure the name gives it away, but we're overclockers here at Overclock3D. We like nothing more than extracting the most possible performance out of something that is great value for money.
After all, we're only enthusiasts like you. We're not bankrolled by an enormous publisher or similar. Contrary to popular opinion we aren't up to our knees in free hardware either. Or even up to our ankles. We buy it just like you do, via saving hard and sweet-talking our better halves.
So naturally our first reaction to the Ares is exactly the same as yours. Oh my God I want one so much. How much?! But you can buy two 5870s for much less. However let's stop right there.
The Ares is most certainly NOT something for your average user. It isn't something for those who seek the best value for money or the most bang for buck. What it is, and to the highest degree, is engineering excellence. It's an ultra high-end product for those who demand the absolute best.
Let's leap into simile mode for a moment. The UK speed limit is 70 MPH. Absolutely every car you can buy will easily hit 70 MPH. But if that is the sole criteria then why aren't we all driving Fiat 500s? It's because it's not all about the absolute performance, it's also about style, and engineering, and how you get there. Yes a Porsche might be more expensive than a Mini, and both have as much top end, but it's the manner of the drive, how you get to that top end and the sheer class that make it something we all lust after owning.
The Ares is just like that. Let us all be in no doubt, this is fearsomely pricey. Most of our entire computers cost less than this card. It's also insanely fast. Comfortably spanking the other twin-GPU on the market (the 5970) and even a 5870 Crossfire setup. So if you're in the market for absolute performance without any other consideration then of course it's tough not to look at the 4 or 500 hundred pound price difference between a Crossfire setup and an Ares and not think your money is better spent on that. And well it might be. But you're missing the point.
This isn't about value. This isn't about the "sensible" choice. This is about demanding the absolute best that money can buy and not settling for less. It's uncompromising. It's a Bugatti Veyron, a Rolls Royce, Concorde. It's better engineered than you'll ever need, faster than you could ever use and eye-wateringly pricey.
But it's also a work of art. Stunning to look at. Beautifully engineered. It comes in the finest packaging you're ever likely to see.
If you absolutely must have the ultimate, this is it. Cool. Quiet. Faster than the England team exiting a tournament. We love it. It's what dreams are made of. And now sadly they must go back...
Thanks to Asus for supplying our Ares for review. Discuss in our forums.