ASUS MARS 2 SLI Madness
Published: 29th December 2011 | Source: ASUS | Price: £2000+ !!!! |
Frustrating. That's probably the word that we will take away from this review. Quad-SLI isn't exactly a new technology and yet just getting the MARS 2 SLI setup to work was a mission itself, and that's without considering getting the various games to run with the various modes we wanted to test.
In a world where everyone is always seeking the latest thing we can see that it is very reliant upon the whims of the engine that powers the game. The "newness" of the technology doesn't mean that it will take advantage of the huge amount of cores/GPUs we have available to us, as Far Cry 2 with the old Dunia Engine probably gives us the results that best reflect the additional hardware installed. Unigine Heaven with 8xAA and 3D enabled is capable of saturating the MARS 2 to the point that it really starts to chug, which is certainly a surprise.
If you read the advertising and various technical comments one would be left with the feeling that multi-screen, 3D gaming is merely a new graphics away. Clearly that's absolute rubbish. We have a fair selection of games on hand we've run the MARS 2 with and even this giant of a card struggled to make 3D or triple-screen gaming playable in all but the barest handful of titles. Arkham City, Battlefield 3 and Metro 2033 all became slideshows on triple-screen setups and only AvP, Far Cry 2, Mafia 2 and Resident Evil 5 were able to be smooth in the triple-screen arrangement. Remember this isn't your average GTX560Ti as the advertising would lead you to believe, but a £1000 card. You have to make some serious image-quality concessions if you wish to have a playable experience in either 3D or ulta-widescreen.
That, of course, is assuming that you can get the dual MARS 2 SLI to work at all. As you can see from our testing even the latest nVidia (with a few tweaks) drivers couldn't get 3D or 5760 to work on the SLI setup, which kind of defeats the point of having such immense processing power available. But the thing is the two sets of drivers available on the Asus website dont work at all, they actually do not see any compatiblehardware! Leaving only the utterly useless drivers that come with the card itself unless you are willing to faff about like we did with the nVidia ones. Was it worth the effort? Well we got a 2000 point increase in 3D Mark 11 and we could actually get Unigine and games to open so I'd say it was a success!
With the negatives out of the way there are some positives, but they're all exactly what you'd expect. When you can find the perfect balance of a working SLI setup and a game that actually takes advantage of it the performance is staggering. Easily the most impressive game on test was The Witcher 2. The developers have often stated that the Ubersampling setting is only usable on some as-yet-unannounced future computers, but the MARS 2 SLI setup allows you to run with this stunning mode on and still have a ludicrously smooth gameplay experience.
So if you've won the lottery, and desire world-beating 3D Mark scores and performance in a handful of titles then the MARS 2 SLI set up is clearly the one for you. Although we'd definitely advise taking some of your money and using it to force nVidia or ASUS to provide drivers that work properly with this configuration. Otherwise stick to a single MARS 2 and enjoy the smug satisfaction that comes from having the best card on the planet.
Its also not often we get a strange set of satisfaction out of spending days with a set up trying to get drivers to work. I can confirm that the MARS 2 SLI review has left all of us with smiles on our faces even if that does come hand in hand with high blood pressure and grey hair! We all loved it and hope that Asus never stop trying to prove points, its only when vendors do something just because they can that we really see what is possible when all restrictions are removed. Its a shame so very few of them are actually brave enough to take on projects like this. Even rarer that they actually make a good product with it!
We'll leave you on this thought. ARES 2 - Dual 7970. Are they? Will they? Have they?