ASUS Ares II Overkill3D Review
Sometimes you get a product that comes with some expectations, and the Ares II certainly arrived with a lot of expectations riding upon its shoulders. For a start it's a sequel to a pretty spectacular card, or the fourth in the premium ASUS range if we include the Mars. Secondly we know how good the HD7970s are and how brilliant the PowerColor Devil13 was, so we knew that unless ASUS really messed up this would have power to burn. Finally it's a £1200 item. No matter what you think of that cost, and we'll explain our thoughts in a moment, something that's the equivalent of Porsche 911 in a Ford Focus world means we demand the very highest in every area.
Performance is brilliant but not without caveats. Let there be no doubt that in terms of plugging in a single card to your system and having it happily eat its way through everything you throw at it, the Ares II is unmatched. That isn't to say it's not unrivalled though. The Devil13 runs it extremely close in every test. It's usually a hair behind, but we're talking a handful of frames from results normally in the hundreds. We ran a pair in Crossfire and the results were, at best, variable. It worked in maybe 50% of our titles, and of those even fewer saw any benefit at all. Of course if you're a benchmark whore and going for world records then there is nothing, nothing at all, that remotely gets close to the scores available from the Ares II Crossfire arrangement. Gaming though is very hit and miss and we'd recommend you stick to a single card, if only because it's guaranteed to work.
The cooler works very well being pretty quiet, certainly quieter than an air solution, and keeping the card cool even when overclocked. The decision to use this particular type of cooler is a strange one though and we believe it makes a product, that already has a tiny potential audience, desirable to even fewer people than just those who can afford it. When you decide to put your hardware out at £1200 it's only the extreme enthusiasts that are the target audience. But those people are the kind who are very likely to have a water-cooling loop already. So the built-in water loop on the Ares II is actually detrimental to them. The radiator is so beefy that a good-sized air cooler wont fit if you place the radiator where you'd expect (the case exhaust). So it wont plumb into your waterloop and isn't compatible with an enthusiast air cooler. So it's only really viable to those who have a Corsair H100 style cooler, and then you'd need a case that supported putting the GPU radiator on the floor intake, or was tall enough to put the H100 in the roof above the Ares cooler if it was mounted in the back (exhaust).
What it really needs is an air cooler for the 'average' user, and water-block in that suitcase for those who have a waterloop. The current solution suits nobody. Speaking of things in the suitcase that the Ares II comes in, we've seen better accessories included in £150 cards. If the Devil13 was £800, and it is, then the extra £500 of the Ares II should buy T-shirts, stickers, screwdrivers and all the innumerable things we'd expect in such an elite product. Instead you get the standard molex and display converters you get with every other card on earth. Nothing else. No games. No t-shirts. No nothing (if you'll excuse the expression).
So it's brutally powerful. We knew that it would be. It's over-priced, we expected it to be. But it totally lacks anything to justify that price beyond the performance, which isn't much better than the HD7990 Devil13 we've already seen. Even more so the cooling choice is a curious one. It breaks world records, but we can't help coming away from it feeling disappointed. If you're spending the thick end of £1200 on a graphics card you want more than a few adaptors and a suitcase for your money. It's all about e-peen and the Ares II, performance aside, is somewhat lacking. With our sensible hat on you could buy a Devil13, a waterblock and an ASUS PB278Q monitor for the same price as the Ares II, and the Ares II doesn't offer enough to make us take our sensible hat off. Worthy of our Performance Award of course but ASUS, we expect more theatre from the next in the Mars/Ares line if you want that award to be golden.