Huge graphics cards are nothing new. Since the 3DFX Voodoo 5, graphics cards longer than the motherboards they sit in have amused high-powered PC enthusiasts. But, in the 13 years since the Voodoo 5, GPUs have become more powerful. A lot more powerful.
Enter the ASUS ARES II. It inherits its name from the original ASUS ARES — a 2010 graphics card based on dual AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics processors, with 4GB of RAM and a massive heat-sink and fan cooler. It was exclusive enough that it came with its own limited edition metal carry case.
The ARES II is no different. It arrived in our office in a box nearly as big as a computer tower. Open that box, and you’ll find, again, another box. This is the Limited Edition case in which the ARES II ships, holding all the goodies you’d expect with a graphics card that costs $1899.
That’s right — this behemoth of a GPU costs as much as the rest of a high-end gaming PC combined, with change left over for some flashy lights. It runs twin AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics processors and a ridiculous 6GB of DDR5 RAM. This is a huge amount of processing power in a single piece of silicon — ASUS says it’s 13 per cent more powerful than NVidia’s current GTX 690 flagship, which itself uses two of its fastest GTX 680 GPUs on one board.
The cooler of the ARES II is fascinating. It combines a dual-slot heatsink and single heat-sink fan with an external closed-loop water-cooling circuit, using an 120mm radiator that ships with one fan attached, and another optional one included (for push-pull airflow). This is a serious cooling solution for a serious card.
There are six video outputs on the ARES II — four DisplayPort and two dual-link DVI-I connectors — and theoretically you could use them all simultaneously. This is a card that will excel with the most demanding games of 2012 and 2013 on a single monitor; you’ll need to use an Eyefinity setup (let’s say three 27-inch monitors) to push it to its limits.
You’ll need an extremely powerful power supply to run the ARES II — ASUS suggests at least 850 Watts — but the rest of your system is a minor expense compared to this class of graphics card. If you want the current best of the best when it comes to high-end gaming performance, it’d be hard to find anything better than the ASUS ARES II.