ASUS ARES II graphics card

This massive water-cooled graphics card is the fastest Radeon available

  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5


  • Huge benchmark performance figures
  • Excellent design


  • Painful price tag
  • Massive power requirements

Bottom Line

ASUS’ ARES II graphics card is one of the most powerful graphics cards available. Of course, it’s also one of the most expensive. It’s an excellent tour de force of ASUS’ card-making abilities and of the sheer calculating grunt of the twin Radeon 7970 chip setup.

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The ASUS ARES II is a high-end graphics card designed for multi-screen gamers, serious overclockers or anyone with too much money to throw around. It’s based on AMD’s Radeon 7970 premium graphics chipset, but instead of using one core, it’s got two — twice the power, twice the performance, twice the price.

ASUS ARES II: Design, setup, and features

The ARES II has two AMD Radeon 7970 GPUs and 6GB of GDDR5 RAM on a single PCB, but you won’t be able to peer underneath the heatsink to see them. That’s because the entire card is covered by a black rectangular die-cast metal block, covering up all the ARES II’s internal components.

There’s a centrally-mounted fan on the ARES II for air-cooling, but what’s most impressive is the twin water-cooling blocks that sit on either end of the card underneath the metal cover. Two tubes snake their way out of the card’s metal cover, carrying coolant to and from a 120mm water-cooling radiator that’s designed to be mounted in one of your computer case’s front or rear fan points.

This is a graphics card that calls for a lot of spare space. Its metal cover means it occupies the space of three PCI slots, so most motherboards will lose the majority of their expansion slots. We installed the ARES II’s external radiator in a rear fan point, also choosing to add the second bundled 120mm fan in a push-pull configuration to maximise airflow across the unit. The entire setup weighs a hefty 2.8 kilograms.

Just like the ARES II calls for more space than a standard graphics card, it calls for more power as well. There are three 8-pin PCI-E connectors on the ARES II’s top, and ASUS recommends a power supply of at least 850 Watts to run this thing smoothly. We chose an even safer option and went with a Corsair AX-1200 1200 Watt unit.

Once you’ve got the card settled in your PC’s PCI-Express x16 port, power connected, and everything screwed securely into place, you’re ready to go. The card has four DisplayPort outputs and one DVI-I port with a second dual-link DVI-D — it’s set up for Eyefinity out of the box but can run a maximum of six monitors simultaneously. We used DisplayPort for our testing.

ASUS ARES II: Performance and benchmarks

We tested the ARES II with the most up-to-date AMD Radeon Catalyst 13.2 Beta 6 drivers to maximise its performance, running on a system with an Intel Core i7-3770K CPU clocked to 4.3GHz, a 256GB Crucial M4 SSD, and 16GB of DDR3-2400 RAM. The system was running a clean installation of Windows 8 Pro 64-bit, outputting to a Samsung SyncMaster S27A850T at its 2560x1440 native resolution..

The ARES II’s Radeon 7970 cores are clocked at 1050MHz each, which is a slightly 50MHz boost from the standard 7970 GHz Edition cores it’s based upon. Similarly, the card’s 6GB of unified memory — 3GB for each core — is running at 1650MHz with a GDDR5 effective rate of 6600MHz. This is an enormous amount of bandwidth.

If you’re looking for a turn-key solution to ridiculously high benchmark figures, the ARES II is it. We ran through Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, Skyrim, 3DMark 11 and the Unigine Heaven benchmark to determine how this behemoth of a graphics card performs both in the real world and in synthetic tests.

Crysis 2 on Ultra settings used to bring even the most powerful of PC gaming rigs to their knees, but the ARES II on this high-end system never dropped into unplayable territory. Our ARES II-equipped system generally stayed around its average performance frame rate of 75FPS. Battlefield 3 on its Ultra preset just cracked triple digits at an average reading of 101FPS in our first level run-through. Skyrim, which has always been stressful on graphics cards, breezed along at a full 103FPS.

The Performance and Extreme presets in 3DMark 11 show the ARES II’s massive potential. We recorded overall scores of P16968 and X6711. Unigine Heaven was similarly impressive with an average frame rate of 90FPS at native resolution with no anti-aliasing.

ASUS ARES II: Conclusion

The ARES II decimated all the benchmarks we threw at it, delivering consistently playable performance at the highest possible single-screen settings in today’s most graphically-intensive games. This card is a limited edition run, and has already been snapped up by keen enthusiasts, but it goes to show what ASUS can do when given free reign to tinker with AMD’s best Radeon cores.

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