Asus R.O.G Mars limited-edition graphics card

The mother of all graphics cards? It just might be...

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ASUS R.O.G Mars
  • ASUS R.O.G Mars
  • ASUS R.O.G Mars
  • ASUS R.O.G Mars

Pros

  • 1024-bit memory bandwidth, 4GB of GDDR3 memory, huge bragging rights

Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive, significant overheating issues

Bottom Line

The limited-edition Asus R.O.G MARS is essentially porn for hardcore PC enthusiasts. With the possible exception of AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5890, it's the fastest graphics card money can buy. If you can afford it -- and are wily enough to track one down -- the MARS will not disappoint.

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The Asus R.O.G MARS is a limited-edition graphics card for PC gamers with more money than sense (i.e. nearly all of them). But since when has PC gaming been about "sense"? Water cooling, LED lights, Perspex windows, hydraulic panels — all this stuff is overpriced and completely mental. Which is exactly how we like it. Even so, the Asus GTX 295 MARS is in an entirely new class of nuts. It’s blisteringly fast, ridiculously expensive and big. (Did we say big? We meant BIG!)

Billed as the world’s fastest graphics card, the Asus R.O.G MARS is a custom-designed, ultra-enthusiast board based loosely on the Nvidia GTX 295 chipset. However, it boasts completely different specifications to its forebear — including a 1024-bit memory bandwidth and a whopping four gigabytes of GDDR3 memory (spread across two GPUs). The board comprises two full GT200b chips with GTX 285 frequencies on a pair of mirrored Printed Circuit Boards that are linked via SLI. In other words, it’s like having two GTX 285s on steroids.

The cores are clocked at 648Mhz — a modest boost of 72MHz over the GTX 295. More pertinent improvements include a faster shader clock (1.476GHz vs. 1.242GHz) and a boost in memory clock speed — 1.242GHz (2.484GHz effective), compared to 999MHz (1.998GHz effective) on the GTX 295.

Asus claims that the R.O.G MARS is 23 per cent faster than a generic GTX295, and we see little reason to doubt it. One thing’s for sure: this thing will eat almost anything AMD can dish out for breakfast. Its only serious rival is the AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970, which also boasts DirectX 11 support.

Here’s a look at those Asus R.O.G MARS’ specifications in full:

Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 x2
Architecture: 55nm
Transistors: 2 x 1,400
Shader ALUs: 2 x 240
Bus Standard: PCI Express 2.0
Video Memory: DDR3 4G
Engine Clock: 648 MHz
Shader Clock: 1476 MHz
Memory Clock: 2200 MHz ( 1100 MHz DDR3 )
Memory Interface:1024-bit
Texture fillrate: 2 x 51,840MTex/s
Memory bandwith: 147,456MB
CRT Max Resolution: 2048 x 1536
DVI Max Resolution: 2560 x 1600
Texture fillrate: 2 x 51,840MTex/s
Memory bandwidth: 147,456MB

The first thing that stands out about the Asus R.O.G MARS is the sheer size of the bloody thing. It makes former heavyweight cards, such as the ASUS EAH4870X2, look like Fischer Price toys in comparison. Measuring a faintly ridiculous 275x115x48mm and requiring two eight-pin connectors to run, the Asus R.O.G MARS will be a tight fit for most PCs. This may make Quad-SLI setups next to impossible. Indeed, we couldn’t even fit one of these monsters inside our Antec Skeleton enclosure, let alone two. We consequently had to slide the motherboard out of its enclosure during testing. (As we said earlier, this card is nuts!)

The Asus R.O.G MARS has a suitably monolithic design to match its looming size. With its metallic grey colour scheme and assortment of fins and grills, it looks like a futuristic gun or sprawling sci-fi space ark. Needless to say, if you have a transparent PC chassis, this is the card to own!

Now, you’d think over-heating would be an issue for such a power-hungry card — and you’d be absolutely right. When under load, the MARS’ twin GPUs reached temperatures that came perilously close to triple digits (98 degrees Celsius, to be precise). By contrast, the AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 peaked at 72 degrees. Needless to say, you’re going to need an additional cooling solution for this baby if you plan on extensive overclocking.

On to testing. We ran our benchmarks on a Vista 64-bit machine running an Intel Core i7 965, 6GB of DDR3 RAM and a Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD3000GLFS) hard drive, installed in an Antec Skeleton case. We then compared the results to other graphics cards we’ve reviewed in the same testbed. Unless otherwise stated, we have used the DirectX 10 version of games with maximum settings enabled. Here are the results:

Graphics Benchmarks
Model Chipset Memory 3DMark 06 3DMark Vantage Crysis Warhead (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Lost Planet (fps)
Call of Juarez (fps)
Half Life 2:
Episode Two (DX9)
ASUS R.O.G MARS Nvidia GTX 285 x2 4GB 9076 P13988 32.17 60.56 34 43.1 128.54
AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB 9968 P13988 41.37 92.70 83 96.8 138.71
Manli GTX295 NVIDIA GTX295 1GB 9688 P16245 38.9 74.25 N/A 74.3 129.87
ASUS ENGTX285 NVIDIA GTX285 1GB 9708 P13532 35.3 60.17 50.1 52.4 131.32
Manli Radeon HD 4890 ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB 9896 P9379 34.72 49.38 46 57.4 140.11
ASUS EAH4870X2 ATI Radeon HD 4870X2 2GB 10360 P10486 32.64 N/A 27.8 66.8 137.27

As you can see, the Asus R.O.G MARS is a pretty tough card to beat, with solid benchmark results across the board. The AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 did manage to gain a slight edge in the majority of our tests, but if you’re in the Nvidia camp like a lot of gamers, this is the best card that money can buy.

The first batch of MARS graphics cards is limited to a run of 1000, each with its own serial number. Frankly, we think owning a MARS is enough reason to brag already!

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Read more on these topics: pc components, graphics cards, asus

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