ASUS has been know to pop out an ARES or MARS Dual GPU video card once in a great while and then include it in the ROG product line. They’re at it again with the newly released ROG MARS 760, which features dual GTX 760 GPU cores in a single card solution. Armed and ready with its dual GPU cores, 4 GB (shared) of onboard memory, and several other unique features, ASUS touts the ROG MARS 760 as outperforming the GTX Titan. It’s not only said to outperform the GTX Titan, but at a substantially lower price too. It all sounds good on paper, so let’s get this bad boy on the bench and see what ASUS has up their sleeve with the ROG MARS 760.
Specifications and Features
The specifications below were pulled from the press deck we received from ASUS. Because of the dual GTX 760 cores, you can see we have twice the CUDA cores you normally see on a standard GTX 760. Combined, the MARS 760 offers a total of 4 GB of video memory that’s equally split between the two GPUs. The memory interface runs at 512-bit, again split equally between the two GPUs. Also of note is the GPU core speed itself, which is factory overclocked to 1006 MHz base clock and 1072 MHz boost clock. The actual boost clock runs at 1136 MHz when the card is under load. It’s common to see the actual boost clock run higher than rated, so no big surprise there.
A quick glance at GPU-Z confirms the specifications above.
We’ll get into many of these features in more detail later in the review, but let’s begin by looking at some of the high-level features the MARS 760 offers. We’ll start off with some in-house testing ASUS performed that shows it beating out the GTX Titan in a few benchmarks. The first slide below shows 3DMark 11 favoring the MARS 760 not only over the GTX Titan, but also over a few other recently released high-end cards. The last three slides show the MARS 760 coming out on top of the the GTX Titan in a few popular game titles.
The MARS 760 has several unique features that ASUS has implemented, which cover both performance and the aesthetic value of the card. Other than the obvious dual GTX 760 GPUs, we also have their omnipresent DIGI+VRM and DirectCU II cooling solution. The red and black ROG color scheme, coupled with a pulsating LED certainly makes for a fine looking piece of hardware. They even applied a “soft touch” paint job to the card to top off the good looks.
The next slides give us a look at the overall design concept of the MARS 760. As you can see, the enthusiast level features are abundant to say the least. In addition to what we’ve talked about above, the card features an aluminum back plate and another stiffening apparatus called the High-Endurance Frame, which is located below the DirectCU II cooler. Additionally, 12-phase super alloy power and POSCAPs being positioned at the back of the PCB are also highlighted here. Also worth noting is that running two of these cards connected with a SLI bridge will give you the world’s first GTX 760 QUAD SLI option.
Because of the Dual GPUs, the DirectCU II cooler looks a little different than what we have seen in the past. Here we have two blocks needed to cover both GPU cores, but externally it looks a lot like the single GPU implementation. We’ll get a much closer look at the DirectCU II cooler later in the review, but according to the slides below it should perform quite well… We’ll check that out for sure!
Underneath the DirectCU II cooler, we find the bits that make this thing go. As is typical with anything ASUS slaps the ROG name on, you’ll find robust components being used for power delivery. The black metallic 10K capacitors are all Japan made (Nichicon GT Series) and said to offer a temperature range between -70 °C to 125 °C. The 12-phase Super Alloy Power consists of hardened Super Alloy chokes, capacitors, and MOSFETs. Handling the voltage regulation for all this power is ASUS’ critically acclaimed DIGI+VRM.
Packaging and First Look
Now that you have a basic understanding of the MARS 760’s design concept and many of the features, let’s have a look at the packaging and take our first look at the card itself. As expected, the box is decked out with the familiar red and black ROG coloring. The box front is a rather quiet affair and only has a quick mention of the card and some branding. The back of the box is where you find some high-level features, specifications, and a display output schematic. The box sides are home to additional branding and system requirements. Under the top flap, there is more marketing related to the DirectCU II cooler, DIGI+VRM, GPU Tweak software, and the claim of the Mars 760 being faster than a GTX Titan. There is a window under the flap that reveals the card beneath, which is nice to have if you’re able to actually hold the box before purchasing.
Inside the outer carton is another black box that houses the MARS 760 and all the accessories. There is thick foam padding all around the card to protect it during transportation. As far as accessories go, here is the list of what’s included.
- Magnetic ROG Emblem
- DVI to HDMI Adapter
- Dual 6-Pin to 8-Pin PCI-E Adapter Cable
- Driver/Utilities/Manual Disc
- Setup Guide
Ok, so my surgical tools are itching to get this card apart. Before we do that, let’s have a look at several glamor shots. Obviously, the aesthetics go perfectly with a ROG motherboard, but the MARS 760 would actually look darn good on any black colored motherboard.
The ASUS MARS 760 Up Close
Dual 8-pin PCI-E power connectors are needed to fuel the MARS 760, and you’ll find both of those connectors at the top-rear of the card. The SLI bridge connector is located at the top-front area of the card and will allow for Quad-SLI if you hook two of these cards together. For display outputs, we have two DVI-I, one DVI-D, and one mini-DisplayPort.
In order to disassemble the MARS 760, there is a series of screws that need to be removed at the back of the card. Once the back plate is removed, we can see an unobstructed view of the back side of the PCB.
After the back plate is removed, the DirectCU II cooler assembly can be separated from the PCB. From here, we can see the thermal pads applied to the aluminum High Endurance Frame, which cover several strategic locations (think memory, MOSFETs, etc.). The TIM applied to the GPUs was well applied, if not just a tad too liberal.
Removing a few more screws allows us to dig a little deeper into the DirectCU II cooler and what makes it up. The plastic shroud houses two FirstD fans featuring the ASUS dust proof technology. Measuring across the widest area of the fan blades, I come up with right around 85 mm for fan size. Built into the top of the plastic shroud is the small PCB that makes up the pulsating “MARS” light effect. Finally, with the dual heatsinks removed from the frame, we get our first look at the dual setup that is the heart of the DirectCU II cooler.
Each of the two heatsinks are comprised of an aluminum fin stack and four copper heatpipes. All four copper heatpipes make direct contact with their respective GPU surface. I would expect this design to work quite well, but we’ll find out for sure later in the review. The last picture below shows the MARS 760 completely disassembled and ready for us to explore the PCB in more detail.
Having a closer look at the bare PCB, the back of the card is where all the POSCAPs are located. These POSCAPs are said to reduce power noise and offer better stability over traditional designs. Flipping the card over, it’s easy to see this is a 100% custom PCB design. There is a 12-phase power design implemented on the MARS 760 (10 GPU + 2 Memory) that is equally split between the two GPUs. Furthermore, each GPU’s voltage regulation is handled by it’s own DIGI+VRM chip.
In order for the two GTX 760 GPUs to communicate, a PLX PEX8747 has been used. I was glad to see Hynix memory being used on the MARS 760; and in this case, we have 4 GB (shared) of H5GQ2H24AFR-ROC. The memory is set to 1502 MHz (6008 Quad Pumped); but because we typically see better overclocking on Hynix memory when compared to the Elpida and Samsungs of the world, we should see a fair amount of overclocking on the memory. We’ll see if that holds true here as well. The last picture below is an up close look at one of the Kepler GK104 GPU cores.
GPU Tweak Overclocking Software
GPU Tweak is a full featured video card utility that allows for overclocking functions, fan control, monitoring, and plenty of other useful tools. The interface is easy to navigate and even easier to learn how to use. ASUS has recently released another cool utility called GPU Tweak Streaming. As the name implies, it can stream your on-screen activity through the internet in real time.
As you peruse the below slide show, you’ll see the available overclocking options. There is a minimal amount of added GPU voltage (maximum of 1.212 V), but unfortunately, no voltage option for the memory. Not having memory voltage options is not surprising, especially being a NVIDIA based card. If I remember correctly, you pretty much have to get into the GTX 780 and above category to see memory voltage options.
Performance and Overclocking
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Formula|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2×4 GB|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX 3KSSD 240 GB|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||ASUS MARS 760 W/DirectCU II Cooler|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 3X120 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
We’ve had a recent change in the benchmarks we use for games, but our synthetic tests have pretty much remained the same. Below is the down and dirty explanation of what we do, but please visit our GPU Testing Procedure page for a detailed rundown of the process.
- 3DMark Vantage – DirectX 10 benchmark running at 1280X1024 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark 11 – DirectX 11 benchmark running at 1280X720 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark Fire Strike – DirectX 11 benchmark running 1920X1080 – Standard test (not extreme).
- Unigine Heaven (HWBot version) – DX11 Benchmark – Extreme setting.
- Batman: Arkham Origins – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, PhysX off, V-Sync off, The rest set to on or DX11 enhanced.
- Battlefield 4 – 1920X1080, Ultra Preset, V-Sync off.
- Bioshock Infinite – 1920X1080, Ultra DX11 preset, DOF on.
- Crysis 3 – 1920X1080, Very high settings, 16x AF, 8x MSAA, V-Sync off.
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – 1920X1080, Maximum preset.
- Grid 2 – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, Intel specific options off, Everything else set to highest available option.
- Metro Last Light – 1920X1080, DX11 preset, SSAA on, Tessellation very high, PhysX off.
Overclocking for Stability
Overclocking proved to be easy to achieve using GPU Tweak. Because the memory is already running at its rated speed and we have no voltage option for it, the best I could get was a 100 MHz increase. That landed us at 1602 MHz or 6408 quad pumped. On the GPU core, things turned out a bit better. Out of the box, the GPU core speed is 1006 MHz base clock, 1072 MHz boost clock, and an actual boost clock of 1136 MHz. I was able to get up to 1145 MHz base clock, 1210 MHz boost, and an actual boost clock of 1267 MHz. So, in the end, we get a 7% increase in memory speed and a 11% increase in actual boost clock speed. We’ll take it!
For comparison cards, we chose to incorporate the NVIDIA GTX Titan, EVGA GTX 780 Classified, AMD R9 290, and an EVGA GTX 760 SC. Starting off with our synthetic testing, you’ll see a clean sweep for the MARS 760, except in the 3DMark Fire Strike results. The EVGA GTX 780 Classified managed a slight victory there. However, once the MARS 760 was overclocked, it came out far ahead of everything else in the comparison list. The MARS 760 scaled extremely well once overclocked and tossed out some great numbers.
In our game benchmarks, we see the MARS 760 dominate the competition in all tests. Metro: Last Light is the only game test where the competition cards held tight to the MARS 760, but the MARS 760 was able to squeeze out a win over the GTX Titan by less than one FPS there. Please note – we didn’t have enough data to include Grid 2 in our testing, but we did get all the other game benchmarks included for you. In case you are interested in the Grid 2 results for the MARS 760, it obtained 118.47 FPS at stock speed and 128.70 FPS when overclocked.
Nvidia Surround / AMD Eyefinity Testing
Running NVIDIA Surround at max settings requires more memory than the MARS 760 can offer. While each GPU has 2 GB of memory, SLI technology does not combine the memory dedicated to each GPU. We compared the same GTX Titan, GTX 780, and R9 290 in the single monitor testing above across five of the games in our suite. Each of the games we tested draw a different amount of memory as they run. Below is a table showing memory usage each game produced for each card in the comparison. Other than Metro: Last Light, every card in the comparison list used more than 2 GB where more was available. I’m not quite sure why Metro: Last Light shows such a small amount of memory usage, but more than likely the monitoring utilities have trouble reading it correctly, or it’s simply a game coding issue.
|Batman: Arkham Origin||Battlefield 4||Bioshock Infinite||Crysis 3||Metro: Last Light|
|MARS 760 (2 GB)||2040||2043||2044||2046||1589|
|GTX 780 DCU II (3 GB)||2578||3037||3053||3059||1552|
|R9 290 (4 GB)||2767||3073||3092||3849||1497|
|GTX Titan (6 GB)||2614||2804||2498||3749||1542|
As you look through the below chart, your first impression might be that the MARS 760 performed quite well based on most of the FPS results. However, due to the small amount of memory, all of the games showed moderate to severe screen flickering and stutter. In fact, Crysis 3 wouldn’t even run at our max settings, and the FPS were so low it would take several seconds for each mouse maneuver to even register. Of all the games tested with NVIDIA Surround, Batman: Arkham Origin seemed to perform the best with only an occasional stutter. Unfortunately, the MARS 760’s 2 GB of memory simply isn’t up to the task of high resolution, multi-monitor gaming at high settings. If you expect a playable experience, you’ll definitely have to back way off of maximum game settings/resolution. This is definitely the Achilles’ heel of the MARS 760. There are single card solutions out there with more memory that will perform much better in Surround/Eyefinity and almost as well in single monitor gaming.
Temperatures and Power Consumption
I’ve always found the ASUS DirectCU II coolers to perform extremely well, and I doubt that will change this time around either. Our temperature testing procedure entails running HWBot Heaven at both stock and overclocked settings. The results are normalized to 25 °C ambient. Testing includes the fan control set to auto and then again with the fan speed set to 100%. In the graph below, you’ll see the DirectCU II cooler does a good job of keeping the GPUs cool. It did get pretty warm when the fan was set to auto and the card was overclocked, but that’s to be expected and can easily be remedied with a slight bump in fan speed.
Our power consumption tests are done using a Kill-a-Watt with wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to hopefully get the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I take this testing one step further and also provide results with the video card overclocked. Being a dual GPU card, we saw wattage readings from the mid-400W to a tad over 500W. Keep in mind, this is total system draw and not just the video card draw.
Pushing the Limits
This section is going to be short and sweet as I pretty much maxed the card out during the first overclocking session. I was able to get a suicide run of 3DMark Fire Strike done at 1250 MHz boost clock, which actually ran right at 1300 MHz actual boost clock. I had to drop the memory speed down to its stock value in order for the run to complete, which resulted in only a slight increase from our previous overclocked score.
The MARS 760 won’t be available in North America until the end of December or early January, but we were told to expect a MSRP of $649. At that price, I think it’s going to be a real tough sell. There are several factors working against the MARS 760 selling at that high of a price. For starters, you can buy two GTX 760 2 GB stand-alone cards for $500. True, you lose the convenience of having a single card solution, but is that worth an extra $150? Even two GTX 760 4 GB cards can be had for around $580, which would help tremendously with the NVIDIA Surround performance that the MARS 760’s memory just can’t cope with. There are also single card solutions costing much less that will perform similarly in single monitor gaming and out perform the MARS 760 when using NVIDIA Surround/AMD Eyefinity simply because they have more onboard memory. For instance, there are several GTX 780 3 GB cards that sell for right around $500 and several R9 290X 4 GB cards selling for $550. My gut tells me the MARS 760 has been in the pipeline for quite awhile, and unfortunately, it was caught in the middle of the recent AMD/NVIDIA price restructuring when the last round of new cards were released.
There are also several unique advantages the MARS 760 offers. If you have a motherboard with a single PCI-E x16 slot (think mini-ITX), the MARS 760 offers SLI capabilities that are otherwise not obtainable. If your motherboard can run SLI at only x16/x8 speeds, you can plug the MARS 760 in the x16 slot and run SLI at true x16/x16 speeds because of the onboard PLX chip. Another advantage is that the MARS offers the only GTX 760 path to quad-SLI… four single cards won’t do it. On the performance side, the MARS 760 outperformed every card in our comparison list during single monitor testing at maxed out game settings. Just as ASUS claimed, it does indeed outperform the GTX Titan in single monitor gaming. I would expect the MARS 760 to perform quite well at 2560×1600/2560×1440 resolutions too, which many of the popular IPS monitors run.
Aesthetically speaking, the MARS 760 is one of the best looking video cards I’ve seen. The rubberized finish and the pulsating MARS lighting effect make the MARS 760 stand out in the crowd. It’s a perfect aesthetic fit to any ROG motherboard.
We’ll wrap this up by saying the MARS 760 is a fantastic performing card, but is hampered by the shared 4 GB of onboard memory and its high cost. If you compare the cost of buying two GTX 760 2 GB stand-alone cards, and then add a premium for the convenience of it all being on one PCB… I think an asking price of $499 to $525 would be much more palatable. If ASUS decides to offer a version of this card with 4 GB of memory per GPU, people would stand in line to get their hands on one for $649. If the advantages I listed above are what you need, and you don’t mind paying a hefty premium for them… then by all means, grab one. For the rest of us, it’ll have to be the “Meh” stamp based solely on price.