ASUS GTX760 MARS Review
It's not often that a card arrives in our offices without much of a fanfare or with much expectations attached to it. We have done a lot of single card testing recently and haven't yet tried out a pair of GTX760s in SLI, so we weren't too sure how much performance there would be. When you add to that our knowledge that two GPUs on a single PCB is never quite as good as two separate cards, but balance that with the knowledge that ASUS ROG products, and the MARS range especially, are rarely bad, then we were left entirely unsure of how it would perform.
A glance at the specifications gave us a rough idea though. 2304 CUDA Cores is the same as the GTX780, and the 1.1GHz Boost Clock certainly hints at performance around the mark of the regular GTX780. So you can imagine our surprise when rather than being a match for a stock GTX780 it, more often than not, was better than a stock GTX780Ti. A card that has us lusting after it more than almost any other item of hardware on the market.
It's not only the performance in certain tests that had us frothing at the mouth. Usually with these "two GPUs one PCB" affairs there is a point at which the necessary reduction in architecture starts to limit the performance, but the GTX760 MARS ate everything we could throw at it, whether it was the simplicity of a 3D Mark Vantage Performance test, or the extremity of a BioShock Infinite 2560x1440 gameplay session.
In terms of raw power it's unquestionably an incredible card.
There are, as there so often are with these things, a couple of flies in the ointment.
Firstly the logo on the side has been a mine of frustration for us since its introduction. On older cards we want it to just be a single colour at all times, rather than the pointless changing colour they end up being. With the MARS it's thankfully a single colour all the time, but ASUS have seen fit to make the logo a breathing one, with no way to turn it off. It's extremely distracting, even through a smoked case window. Just have it on all the time.
Secondly there is the extremely complicated issue of the price. £520 is the MSRP. Now we accept that the MARS is a custom PCB, and not a card for the mass market. There is a level of kudos in ownership that a standard card doesn't give you. The performance is equivalent to the £30 more expensive GTX780Ti. So it's certainly not stunningly over-priced in performance terms. However, two GTX760s, even ones with ASUS' DirectCU II cooler, are around £440 and will give you the same performance as we've seen here, yet if one of them dies you still have a display. Not likely these days, but something to take into account. So relative to the hardware involved it's quite expensive. Also two cards always looks better than a single one. There is just something about a pair of cards that's more visceral than a single one. Finally, whilst it might run the GTX780Ti close, when the Ti does beat the MARS it does so handily, and we're not sure that £30 saving is worth it. Some games, Company of Heroes 2 for example, don't even take a second GPU into account, so you'll have a £520 GTX760.
In short this is for a very niche audience. If you just want pure power the GTX780Ti is similarly priced and better. If you just want the most power for the least outlay you could buy two GTX760s and run them in SLI for about £100 less. But if you want something a little special, something different from the norm, then the ASUS GTX760 MARS might be just the ticket and for that reason we award it our OC3D Performance award.