Poseidon is the Greek God of the sea, which should give you a clue as to the party piece of the ASUS ROG Poseidon.
Water-cooling is helpful for CPUs but almost demanded for graphics cards given their huge work-loading and subsequent heat. Heat has to be dispersed as quickly as possible to keep the card running at its optimum. Also, although CPUs respond well to overclocking in purely calculative tasks, the majority of PCs are gaming ones and graphics cards give a much bigger performance increase when overclocked on a stock CPU when compared to an overclocked CPU and a stock graphics card.
Heat is the enemy to high-overclocks and also noise. With more and more computers being part of the home, rather than tucked away in a bedroom or spare room, then the ability to game without deafening the rest of your family is vital. Finally the nVidia GPU Boost 2.0 technology is now refined to a point that if you can give it a huge amount of thermal headroom you can obtain results that would be extremely difficult to replicate on air.
Of course water-cooling requires the purchase of a third-party waterblock which is an extra expense and one guaranteed to invalidate your warranty. If only you could have the best of both worlds. The convenience of air, the cooling option of water, and no need to break out the screwdriver. Enter the ASUS Poseidon.
In pure specification terms the Poseidon seems like any other GTX780. However, as we'll see on the next page, specifications don't tell the whole story.
Take a look at the card up close with our RushKit video below - the full OC3D TV review is in the conclusion where it always is
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking the Poseidon is the same as any other ASUS ROG card. But clever tricks lie beneath the standard red and black looks.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the huge heat-pipes at the top of the card above the left hand fan, of the two PWM fans the Poseidon comes equipped with. It's also nice to see a back-plate to add rigidity and, unlike some cards we could mention, the name is facing the right way.
Power is supplied by the standard 8+6 arrangement that's nearly obligatory on high-end GPUs. Outputs are also an nVidia standard with two DVIs, an HDMI and a DisplayPort.
Those holes aren't just for show though...
The Poseidon's pièce de résistance is the inclusion of a water-channel that surrounds the vapour chamber above the GPU. By combining this with the industry standard G1/4" threaded fittings the Poseidon is capable of being run either as an air card or put into your water-loop without the need to void your warranty with a third-party waterblock, or even worry whether your PCB is a reference design or not.
ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
XSPC RX360 Radiator
XSPC Raystorm CPU Block
XSPC Bay Reservoir with D5 Pump
3x Corsair SP120 fans with FSR's fitted
It's worth noting that even with our 90° barbs, the Poseidon is still fairly wide when watercooled and thus you should make sure that you're not looking to fit it into a narrow chassis.
As always with some extra cooling it would be easy to imagine that there is a swathe of extra performance on tap, but as we know well the silicon lottery ensures that, barring some major cherry picking, you'll more than likely end up with a chip that performs much the same as any other.
So it is in some regard unsurprising that the Poseidon hits nearly 200MHz more than it comes out of the box. We'd expect nothing less from a ROG branded card. The primary function of the cooler though is to cool, as we'll see in our temperature graph.
With air-cooling the Poseidon is right on point, with a maximum of 73°C under loading. Given that some compromise has to be made for the water-cooling element, this is very good indeed. Under water it is vastly superior, as we'd expect. It's a fantastic way of demonstrating the difference between air and water. 30°C is nothing to sniff at.
3D Mark Vantage
In 3D Mark Vantage the results show that the Poseidon is actually one of the lower performing cards we've tested. Whether at overclocked settings or stock ones, there are obviously better options here.
3D Mark 11
Things improve greatly in 3D Mark 11, with the Poseidon showing itself as the best non-Ti GTX 780 we've tested. A great demonstration of why you should look at a wealth of results before making a decision, rather than living and dying by a single test.
The Ice Storm test is almost useless as a gauge of performance, but the bottom of our two graphs is more useful and, again, the ASUS Poseidon makes a great fist of it with some impressive scores. We've sorted the graph via the Fire Strike test, which we feel is the best balance between image quality and performance. Few cards are capable of running Fire Strike Extreme smoothly, and Cloud Gate is good, but when buying a top-end card you expect top-end visuals, so Fire Strike seems to work the best.
In our first gaming benchmark the Poseidon scores strongly, with both the stock and overclocked offerings ahead of most of the GTX780 pack.
As only the second 'vanilla' GTX780 we've run through BattleField 4 the Poseidon does well, although it's clear that the extra horsepower of the Ti variants counts for a lot.
Things aren't so good for the Poseidon in BioShock Infinite. The overclock doesn't really manifest itself in a big frame-rate jump and some cards, such as the Gigabyte GTX780, are a long way ahead.
Another result showing the variances of the Poseidon results, with it well ahead of the chasing 780 pack when overclocked, and in the stock trim it's above a lot of highly regarded options.
Crysis 3 reminds us of Warhead with it's "no system likely to give playable results" performance. You have to look a long way down the graph until you find the Poseidon with the overclock only giving a mild improvement. 5FPS behind the MSI Gaming is a long way when you consider that an identical GPU beats at the heart of them.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is kinder to the ASUS card. If anything the volume of products above the GTX Titan, which redefined performance when it was released, shows how far we've come in driver and GPU terms.
A title that unquestionably favours the maximum possible performance from your graphics card, Hitman Absolution is definitely not a game on which the Poseidon shines. There is a step below overclocked GTX780Ti's, and another performance step down to the stock cards. Even overclocked the Poseidon just hovers at the top of the "stock step".
If we thought Hitman was bad, then Metro 2033 is a horror show. At stock the ROG Poseidon is the worst GTX780 we've tested. Sure it's only a frame, but they all count otherwise we wouldn't measure them.
Metro Last Light
As a newer title we have fewer regular GTX780s on the Last Light graph, but still the Poseidon is lower than we'd hope to see. Of course in any game as poorly optimised as this a single card will never get it done, but we're still disappointed.
Resident Evil 6
Finally an improvement and the Poseidon finds itself above some very highly thought of GPUs, and when overclocked it's above some GTX780Ti's too. Much better.
Sleeping Dogs isn't the first title where we've found the 200MHz overclock on the Poseidon to return a much smaller increase than you would imagine if you just looked at the raw MHz numbers. 5FPS is nice, but it's not earth shattering.
Variable seems to best describe the Poseidon. Unquestionably in Tomb Raider it's looking good though, heading the GTX780 pack and just edging out a reference GTX780Ti.
Unigine Heaven is extremely predictable in its results. Plug in a certain GPU and you can almost guess what result you'll get. So minor improvements have a higher weighting than they would in another title. The Poseidon is, as reflects nearly all of our benchmarks, a little up and down. It can be found right at the peak of GTX780 performance here though.
Finally Unigine Valley and the ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX780 ends up back at the top of the GTX780 pile.
To paraphrase a quote from the world of Football, the ASUS Poseidon is very much a card of two halves, so let's get the negatives out of the way first before we roar back in the second half.
The unexpected arrival of the nVidia GTX780Ti breathed new life into the GTX780 range of graphics cards. By unlocking extra CUDA cores and combining them with higher clock speeds there was a stunning amount of performance found by the boffins in Santa Clara. That did, however, leave the ASUS R&D department caught on the hop as they put the finishing touches to a complicated heatsink design, only to discover the GPU at the heart of it was already beaten by a newer model.
Now that doesn't mean that the GTX780 has become a terrible choice overnight, far from it. It's still a great performer, just when you look through the results we obtained from the Poseidon it is clear that the GTX780Ti offers the higher frames per second in nearly ever scenario, and even more so once you overclock it. This performance deficit isn't helped by the hugely variable results we obtained. For every test that saw the ROG Poseidon take its place at the very pinnacle of vanilla GTX780 offerings, so there was another that showed a lack of performance, or only a tiny benefit to be gained from overclocking it, which is surely the point of water-cooling? Finally ASUS seem hell-bent on making their damn ROG logo pulsate. It drives us mad. By not using the same API as the nVidia logos it cannot be controlled by the GeForce Experience software, so we can't just leave it on. It's very annoying. ASUS, stop it.
Where the Poseidon claws back all of its lost ground though is in the DirectCU H2O cooler.
An extremely clever design indeed. It would be easy to think that a card which ticks both air-cooling and water-cooling boxes must have compromises to both and so, by trying to be a jack of all trades ends up being a master of none. Nothing could be further from the truth. As an air-cooled card it's capable of some very good temperatures and the fans are nice and quiet. Connecting it up to our water-loop test rig and the temperatures plummeted to a very low degree, showing that the GPU is getting cooled efficiently. It does seem that only the GPU is getting cooled though, as the VRM section of the card got very warm to the touch indeed. So at least in that area there is some compromise when compared to purchasing a full-cover waterblock.
Cost has to be taken into account too, so whilst it may seem that at £499 the Poseidon is very pricey for a GTX780, you have to take into account that a full-cover waterblock will run you the best part of £80, and fitting it will invalidate your warranty. So take a regular GTX780, around the £400 mark, add a waterblock at £80, and you're basically getting a manufacturers warranty and zero fitting hassle for £20, with the added benefit that if your pump dies you can switch back to air at any point. By that margin the Poseidon is good value.
The ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX780 is a very clever solution to a long-standing problem, and should pave the way for this method to become more prevalent on future cards. It is both watercooled and air-cooled, without compromising the cooling performance of either option, and for that we have to award it our OC3D Innovation Award.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the ROG Poseidon GTX780 for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.