Every so often, I get to review something so over-the-top, it transcends common understanding. This is one such product. The ARES II is ASUS’ “go big or go home” approach, putting in two AMD GPUs, as well as putting the combination in a custom-built closed-loop liquid cooling solution for good measure. I’m not sure what the folks at ASUS were consuming when conceptualizing this product, but I have to to say, I’m impressed.
Looking at the outside, the ARES II bears the familiar markings of the manufacturer’s gamer-specific ROG branding, with a black-red colour scheme strewn throughout. To keep the whole setup cool, as well as providing some overclocking opportunities, the ARES II comes with a closed-loop liquid solution, akin to Corsair’s Hydro series. The radiator supports a pair of 120mm fans, and ASUS has bundled that exact number to go along with this monstrosity of a graphics card. When I say “monstrosity”, I mean exactly that – the card towers over the rest of the components on our testbed (even the tower cooler). It occupies a little over two slots, so owners of small chassis need not apply.
Inside, the ARES II consists of a pair of Radeon 7970s, and packs an impressive 6GB of GDDR5 memory. If you think that’s impressive, then consider this: there’s a CrossFire connector located on top. Yes, you can hook it up to an additional graphics card for performance that I would term as “overkill”. Get another ARES II and you need not upgrade for years. You might want to get one fast, as the ARES II is in very limited supply, with only 999 of them in the wild. For your information, this review unit is number 512.
Unfortunately, AMD GPUs still have hefty power requirements, and the ARES II, with its dual-GPU solution, is no exception. The card requires three 8-pin power connectors, so I recommend a power supply that is at the very least 800W, and is 80 Plus certified. And that’s for one card, mind you. Also, the radiator-fan combo needs a vacant 120mm spot, which should not be an issue, with most mainstream cases having abundant space for fans.
Looking at the bracket, the ARES II rocks six display connectors: DVI Dual-Link and four DisplayPort. Of course, it is EyeFinity-capable, so you can get six decently-sized displays to form one jumbo-sized screen for you to play with. That said, you will need to bring some settings down if you want to get a smooth gameplay experience.
For the benchmarks, the ARES II was put into the following setup:
- Intel Core i7-4770K
- Intel DZ87KLT-75K
- 2 x 8GB Kingston HyperX Beast, 1333MHz
- 128GB SSD
Scores from previous reviews will be entered for the sake of comparison. Do note that FSAA is an NVIDIA-exclusive technology, and AMD cards can only go up to 8xAA, so do take these results with a grain of salt.
Right off the bat, you can see the twin-HD 7970 configuration proving itself. In 3DMark, the ARES II overtook the competition by a significant margin. Compared to a single GTX 780, the ARES II led by 27%.
In Unigine Heaven, the ARES II eked out an extra 24fps in average framerate compared to the single-GPU GTX 780. Maximum framerate on the other hand was a 63fps gap, and all of that courtesy of the second HD 7970 GPU tucked within.
Crysis Warhead, despite its age, can still manage to bring modern cards to their knees. At 8xAA, the ARES II managed an impressive 91.39 frames per second on average. The NVIDIA cards were benchmarked at 16xCSAA, hence the lower scores.
The card seemed to come to a standstill in Batman: Arkham City, churning out almost the same framerate as the GTX 780. In fact, the card only mustered a 10% advantage in average framerate.
The ARES II resumed curb stomp with Resident Evil 5 and 6. In RE5, the card led the pack by a 30% margin over the current NVIDIA flagship, the GTX 780.
In RE6, the dual-GPU solution again led with a 27% performance gap over the GeForce GTX 780.
Finally, in the recent Tomb Raider reboot, the ARES II did just fine with VSync enabled. Disabled, the card can run the game at an average of 100fps, so you might want to consider investing in a 120Hz display.
And that concludes our benchmarking section of the article. Head on to the last page for my concluding thoughts.
The ARES II is in one word, impressive. It showcases what a dual-GPU solution is capable of, and the physical design of the card is ASUS just adding icing on a rather delicious cake. However, the price is a main issue, but considering it’s a limited edition item, I can let that pass. If you’re looking for a monstrosity of a graphics card in both size and performance, the ARES II might just be the one for you. Just be prepared to fork out some precious moolah.