The Asus Ares (ARES/2DIS/4GD5) is a limited-edition graphics card and currently the best graphics card on the market. A premium offering at every step of the way, the Asus Ares blew away all competition in performance, and even wowed us with its packaging.

Conceptually, the Asus Ares graphics card is simple - it puts together two AMD Radeon 5870 graphics GPUs in the body of a single card. The two are internally linked through CrossFire, have 2GB of memory each, and are well cooled. At a total of 4GB of GDDR5 video RAM onboard, this card contains more memory within itself than most desktop PCs that are around today. But that is only to be expected, for the Asus Ares is a product for only a select few, priced at the level it is.

If the above description of the Asus Ares reminded you of the Radeon 5970 graphics card (which is also dual-GPU), you are partly right. The two could be compared, but the Radeon 5970 runs its core and memory at a slightly slower clock speed. Moreover, the premium positioning of the Asus Ares ensures that its graphics cores are well cared for, with the custom cooling solution used by the manufacturer.

The Asus Ares actually arrived in a box larger than a laptop's package, and was nestled inside a stylish combination lock suitcase. The whole paraphernalia accompanying the graphics card has to be seen to be believed. Carrying the "Republic of Gamers" (ROG) logo, there is a sticker provided that you can stick onto your PC.

Asus Ares design

Asus has provided an exclusive feel to the Ares card. The clean lines, sturdy heatsinks, a fan that claims to provide the card about six times as much airflow (to dissipate heat), are definite highlights.

Since this product is aimed at the best-of-class gaming computers, size apparently is a non-issue. The Asus Ares is really long, stretching beyond the entire width of a full-ATX desktop motherboard. As for thickness, while dual-slot graphics cards are known today, this one should ideally be given free run over three slots (which is not an issue, since higher-end X58 motherboards today offer sufficient space between two PCI-Express x16 slots).

In the same awe-inspiring manner, the card's power input seems to make sure it has plenty of headroom for over-clocking (which usually increases power requirements). Three power inputs stood waiting for us! Two 8-pin connectors and one 6-pin connector, was something we have not seen in any consumer-grade graphics card. Owners of monster PCs will be the main audience, so ensuring that the Asus Ares is used preferably in conjunction with a PC power supply rated at or close to 1,000W should not be a problem.

Asus Ares

Asus Ares features

Display outputs at the rear consisted of one port each of HDMI, DVI and DisplayPort. These ports being aligned in a single row allows for the remaining portion of the card's rear to act as a heat vent. This card has 4GB of GDDR5 video memory clocked at 1,200MHz and a core clocked at 850MHz (unlike the Radeon 5970 which has 1,000MHz memory and 725MHz core clock).

Each of the two GPUs onboard have access to their own 2GB of memory. The Asus Ares has a dual 256bit memory interface (which is better than single, but cannot actually be called 512bit). It has 3200 unified shaders in all, and supports DirectX 11 and tessellation.

Inside the suitcase, there are a lot of goodies. First up, were the functional ones - an HDMI-to-DVI convertor, a CrossFire bridge, and two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors. Each such connector connects into two 6-pin connectors in turn, so if your PSU did not already have two 8-pin connectors, you'd need it to have a total of five 6-pin connectors instead. Yes, that does boggle the mind about the kind of PSU and cabinet you'd need to run this beast comfortably.

A "Speed Setup" manual was present alongside a CD with the driver and manual. Another CD is present, with software for the bundled Asus GX800 laser gaming mouse. To go with this USB mousethat has additional buttons, DPI adjustment and a great grip, there is a tiny four-page quick start guide with instructions.

Next page: Performance benchmarking >>

See also:

Group test: what's the best graphics card?

Group test: what's the best budget graphics card?

Graphics cards reviews

The Asus Ares (ARES/2DIS/4GD5) is a limited-edition graphics card and currently the best graphics card on the market. A premium offering at every step of the way, it blew away all competition in performance.

Asus Ares performance

For comparison with the Asus Ares (AMD Radeon 5870 X2), our colleagues at PC World India juxtaposed its benchmark scores with two other top-end consumer graphics cards. These are the AMD Radeon 5970 (dual-GPU) which held the performance crown until the Ares came along, and the GeForce GTX480, which currently retains the crown of being the fastest single-GPU graphics card. Below is a graph of how the Ares performed in synthetic benchmarks:

Asus Ares synthetic benchmarks

To prevent bottlenecks as much as possible, the test-bed consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 processor, Intel DX58SO motherboard, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, 3GB of Kingston DDR3-2000MHz HyperX RAM, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 Ultimate. PC World India used the latest stable driver as of the time of writing, for the Asus Ares. Below is a graph of gaming performance of the Ares and the two other top cards. Numbers mentioned below are only a selection of the wider set of tests conducted.

Asus Ares gaming benchmarks

In temperature tests, at full load the fan sounded slightly noisy. But that was only because testers were forcing an enormous giant (the Ares) to operate at full speed and flex all the muscles it had. Unless you plan to use the Ares constantly at full tilt in a really silent room, the little sound is nothing to bother about. Moreover, the extra power headroom allows for adjusting the voltage and over-clocking it without having to immediately start thinking about a liquid cooling solution.

Pricing is of course, something that this card does not even try to make pretences about. You could get close to as much performance, if you used two AMD Radeon HD 6870 cards inCrossFire mode. You could opt for one of the other two top-end performance cards (Radeon 5970 or GeForce GTX480) at a lower price, or a mainstream graphics card for far less money. However, price does not quite explain the quality, attention to detail and sheer brute power that the Ares has to offer. For a high-end gaming rig, it is even conceivable to run two Asus Ares cards in quad-CrossFire - without bothering about the heat and reliability.

See also:

Group test: what's the best graphics card?

Group test: what's the best budget graphics card?

Graphics cards reviews

Asus Ares: Specs

  • Max resolution (external): 2560x1600
  • 2 GPUs: ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • clock speed 850 MHz
  • RAMDAC clock speed 400MHz
  • video memory 4GB
  • GDDR5 SDRAM 256bit
  • memory clock speed 4.8GHz
  • Voltage Tweak Technology
  • heatpipe cooler (with fan)
  • Asus Splendid Video Enhancing Technology
  • dual slot fan cooler
  • ASUS SmartDoctor
  • Native HDMI
  • ATI Eyefinity Technology
  • Asus GPU Guard
  • Asus GamerOSD
  • ROG gaming mouse
  • 280x127mm
  • Max resolution (external): 2560x1600
  • 2 GPUs: ATI Radeon HD 5870
  • clock speed 850 MHz
  • RAMDAC clock speed 400MHz
  • video memory 4GB
  • GDDR5 SDRAM 256bit
  • memory clock speed 4.8GHz
  • Voltage Tweak Technology
  • heatpipe cooler (with fan)
  • Asus Splendid Video Enhancing Technology
  • dual slot fan cooler
  • ASUS SmartDoctor
  • Native HDMI
  • ATI Eyefinity Technology
  • Asus GPU Guard
  • Asus GamerOSD
  • ROG gaming mouse
  • 280x127mm

OUR VERDICT

If price is your first consideration, this isn't the card for you. You have to accept the Asus Ares for what it is: a premium, limited-edition offering. But you get exceptional performance, build quality and exclusivity. This feast of a graphics card is simply not meant for ordinary folk.

Find the best price