ASUS MARS II 3GB Dual GTX 580 Video Card Overclocked

Sure, it's already the fastest card in the world. But let's make the MARS II even faster with the help of ASUS GPU Tweak. Let's get into it!

Manufacturer: ASUS
14 minutes & 29 seconds read time

Introduction and Overclocking


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Already so impressed with what the MARS II has to offer, we knew what had to be done. Using GPU Tweak, the overclocking software that replaced ASUS SmartDoctor, it was time to see just what kind of overclocking performance could be had from the new MARS II from ASUS.

I'm expecting good things from the card to be honest. For starters, the cooler is just massive on the card and we already know it does a fantastic job of cooling the two GTX 580 cores present. With the help of that cooler, we're hoping that we'll get some good breathing room on the cores.

The other thing is, compared to a GTX 580 SLI setup, there's no card squashed up against another. Because we're dealing with two cores on the single card, our fan has got heaps of breathing room making sure plenty of cool air can be drawn in.

Finally; it's an ASUS product and if past experience is anything to go by, we should see some strong performance coming out of the card. Because we've already looked at the card in such detail already, we'll just be getting straight into the overclocking side of things. So, on the next page we'll check out the test system setup and the overclock we managed to achieve.

Once that's done, we'll just get straight into the benchmark line up and see what kind of performance increase we're able to get out of the MARS II when the card is overclocked. That just about covers everything, so with haste, let's get into it!

Test System Setup and Overclock

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital and Corsair.

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The testbed side of things is identical to that of the standalone MARS II review and the comparison line up is identical with the MSI GTX 580 SLI setup included, the Sapphire HD 6990 and the MARS II at its default clocks.

Using the new ASUS GPU Tweak software to overclock our MARS II card, we ended up with our cores coming in at 862MHz. This is 80MHz up on the out of the box speed and 90MHz up on the default GTX 580 speed. This means that of course our Shader clock has been bumped and that now comes in at 1724MHz.

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As for the memory side of things, we pushed our 3GB of GDDR5 up to 4208MHz QDR which is 200MHz QDR up on the default out of the box overclock.

This isn't a bad overclock at all and you have to remember that we're dealing with an 80MHz core increase on two cores along with two sets of Shaders. It helps make the overall overclock a bit more powerful and it's something that's worth remembering.

So with that done, let's find out just what kind of performance increase we get from the MARS II when it's been overclocked.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Coming out of the gate, we can see the extra boost in performance that we get thanks to the overclock. Compared to the out of the box performance, you can see in the P preset we've managed another 1000 points almost and almost 400 in the X preset which equates to just shy of a 10% performance increase.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

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New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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You can see some clear gains under Heaven and compared to the stock HD 6990, the MARS II performance is just offering us some amazing performance.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 has always been a little funny when it comes to overclocking and quite often we see performance fall back just a little. Here is no different; fortunately we've still got very strong FPS across the board.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Under Mafia II we see the MARS II continue to just stretch its lead and compared to the HD 6990 you can see we've got some huge performance increases on this new dual GPU card from ASUS.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

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Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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The overclock on offer just helps us stretch that lead even more over the competing setups and you can just see some amazing performance under Lost Planet 2.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Even under the super intensive Aliens vs. Predator, we can see the MARS II overclock offers us amazing performance with a 91 FPS average at the highest resolution. This is a good 14 FPS on top of what we see the HD 6990 offering.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

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Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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We continue to see that overclock on offer here just strengthen the performance of the MARS II under all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Under the super intensive Metro 2033 we see the overclock on the MARS II bring that 2560 x 1600 average in line with the HD 6990. This was the only test in where we saw the HD 6990 take a lead over the MARS II and it was only at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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Across the board we've just got big numbers and you can see we've got no problem playing Dirt 3 with even the most maxed out settings.

Benchmarks - Total War: Shogun 2

Total War: Shogun 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Onin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.

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Another extremely intensive game in Shogun 2 sees the MARS II overclocked performance jump over 80 FPS at the highest resolution. As you can see above, it's the only setup that manages to break that barrier.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

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The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Massive performance across the board already and we seem to hit a bit of a CPU limitation at around 250 FPS when it comes to the average.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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We can see our overclock helps improve on our performance across the board and we just continue to see excellent performance from the MARS II which puts out extremely playable FPS, even in these intensive situations.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Throwing more volts through the card and we continue to see ridiculously low temperature numbers on both our cores. In this situation the card's actually running slightly cooler and that's no doubt due to the fact that the fans are working a little harder than at stock.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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While overall noise does indeed jump, we're still a massive 10dB below the HD 6990 and you can see overclocked, nothing can touch this card at these noise levels. It really shows us the strength of the cooler.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw jumps again and we manage to be drawing a massive 709 watt off a single card solution which is just insane. Of course, as we said in our initial review, if you're buying something so high end, we like to believe that you've made the jump to a high quality power supply like the Corsair AX1200 which is what we use here.

Final Thoughts

Overclocking is a bit of a funny thing and depending on the way companies set up the fan profiles can depend on the kind of overclock you're able to achieve. We can see for ASUS, silence continues to be something they want to concentrate on and even when we add more voltage to the card, the fans don't ramp up to these unbearably loud numbers.

The problem with that setup, and we see it a lot with Palit cards, is that the overclock just isn't going to be as strong versus a company that tells its fan or fans to ramp up to 80%+ when the cores start to really heat up. The thing is, though, you find that the MARS II creates a much more bearable card in gaming because it doesn't shoot up to 80dB.

Instead, you can give yourself a nice overclock that yields a good performance boost, and you get a setup that is outputting the same noise levels as a stock GTX 580 in SLI setup. Not only that, though, we've got a card running cooler than that stock GTX 580 SLI setup and that's where so much of the appeal to this card is when you step outside of the performance side of things.

It's worth mentioning, though, that if you want to get into the benchmarking side of things you can always hit the little 100% fan button and crank up those two fans to full speed. That will help bring with it lower temperatures which will in turn give you a larger overclock. The good news is that even at 100% the fans aren't that bad thanks to the fact that ASUS have opted to use 120mm fans.

At 100% fan speed the MARS II is less irritating on the ears than the HD 6990 in its AUTO profile thanks to the size of them. If you wanted to, you could crank the fans up to 100% every time you gamed if you wanted the biggest overclock, but I'm not sure why you'd bother. Everything we throw at the card today runs like a dream and the need for even more speed is probably quite unnecessary. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't do it.

Overclocking the MARS II just simply brings us more performance than what we've already got, which to be honest is more than you'll probably need. Of course, that all doesn't change the fact that we just love to see how much more performance we can get out of the card and the fact that we're over 850MHz on both cores and getting noise levels in line with the reference GTX 580 setup in SLI is amazing.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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