The ASUS ROG Matrix platinum video cards are well known among many enthusiast circles. From the hardcore liquid nitrogen-using, competitive overclocker down to the hardcore gamer that wants some of the fastest clocks and “best of the best” hardware. I remember this line of cards from the HD5870 series on forward being a beast in nearly all aspects of its use. I have a funny feeling that will not change with the latest flagship, the ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition video card, we have for review today. We will talk about some of its unique features, as well as check out its performance. Seat belts on, tray tables in their upright and locked positions…we are a go for launch!
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications and features from the ASUS website (images from the webpage as well). The Matrix Platinum version of the GTX 980 Ti has the same base features as reference cards such as 2,816 CUDA cores, and a 384-bit bus for its 6GB of GDDR5 memory. Out of the box in its default gaming mode, the clocks come in on the core at 1190 MHz (base) with a listed boost clock of 1291 MHz. The actual boost achieved at the stock settings reached 1418 MHz a typical, but whopping, 228 MHz over the base clock. That 6GB of GDDR5 runs at 1800 MHz or 7200 MHz GDDR5. Both of which are well over the reference GPU’s clockspeeds.
The card supports a resolution up to 5120×3200 with dual DisplayPort connectors. For its outputs, the Matrix Platinum has a total of three DisplayPort connections, as well as HDMI(2.0), and DVI-I Dual Link.
Contrary to other subjects, size does matter! In this case the ASUS card measures 11.62″ in length, 5.44″ in height, and 2.44″ wide (or 2.5 slots wide). Make sure whatever case you put the card in has the room for it as it is nearly a foot long and 2.5 PCIe slots wide.
|ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition Specifications|
|Graphics Engine||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 TI|
|Bus Standard||PCI-Express 3.0|
|Open GL||Open GL4.5|
|Video Memory||GDDR5 6GB|
|Engine Clock||OC Mode – GPU Boost Clock : 1317 MHz , GPU Base Clock : 1216 MHz|
Gaming Mode (Default) – GPU Boost Clock : 1291 MHz , GPU Base Clock : 1190 MHz
|Memory Clock||7200 MHz|
|Resolution||Digital Max Resolution:5120×3200|
|Interface||DVI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (DVI-I)|
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (HDMI 2.0)
Display Port : Yes x 3 (Native) (Regular DP)
HDCP Support : Yes
|Accessories||2 x Power cable|
1 x ROG Metal Sticker
|Dimensions||11.62″ x 5.44″ x 2″|
29.52 x 13.82 x5.09 Centimeter
|Note / Software||• To have the best cooling performance, ASUS MATRIX-GTX980TI-P-6GD5-GAMING extends the fansink to 2.5 slots. Please double check you Chassis and Motherboard dimension prior to purchase to make sure it fits in your system!|
• Note that the actual boost clock will vary depending on actual system conditions. For more information, please visit http://www.geforce.com/
• Please remove the protective film on back plate before use.
• 5120×3200 at 60Hz with dual DisplayPort connectors. ASUS GPU Tweak II & Driver
Below we see a screenshot of GPU-z which will confirm some of the specifications listed above. The 980 Ti uses the same 28nm GM200 silicon found in the Titan X but with two of its Streaming Multiprocesors disabled. It sports 96 ROPs (Render Output Units), 176 TMUs (Texture Mapping Units) along with 2,816 unified shaders (versus 96/192/3072 respectively from the Titan X). This equates to a 114.2 GPixel/s fillrate. GPU-Z shows the memory IC used is Hynix-based which, historically, is a better overclocker than most Elpida or Samsung modules. Like all other 980 Ti’s, it has a total of 6GB (6144mb to be exact) which runs at 1800 MHz (7200 MHz GDDR5) on the 384-bit bus. That adds up to an available bandwidth of 345.6 GB/s. The specifications table does not lie to us yet again!
Below we list some high-level features (images/text from the ASUS webpage).
We first start off with their perennially high performing Direct CU II cooler. A total of five large copper direct contact heatpipes, with one of those being a 10mm monster, meander their way through the fin array. Copper? Aren’t they black? Why yes, imaginary reader in my head, that is true they are black, but really there is copper underneath. ASUS says it has a 325% larger dissipation area (from the reference blower) along with their patented wing-blade fan technology, is said to keep the Matrix up to 30% (17 °C) cooler and three time quieter than reference. We should have some great thermal headroom for overclocking and a pretty silent gaming experience.
Next are more details on the wing-blade fan design. ASUS mentions that the design is inspired by the U.S Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt (fins on the turbines in the engines?). This design is said to improve airflow and increase static pressure by 105% compared to conventional fan designs. If you look closely at the blades, you will see it has folded wingtip ends which helps reduce energy loss by blocking the vortex created by typical spinning blades. This along with the larger blade size, result in maximum airflow and pressure.
What card made with sub-zero cooling in mind doesn’t have a memory defroster on it? Oh, wait, apologies, the ASUS Matrix Platinum is the only one I know of that does! This is a great feature for those wanting to cool this monster using LN2 or Dry Ice. Typically, with this generation of GPU, the memory tends to halt progress because of cold quicker than the core will. All you need to do is plug in the molex power adapter, flip the switch to turn it on, and that should slow down or eliminate the onset of a cold bug because the memory got too cold.
Another cool feature on this card is the Safe Mode button found on the opposite end of the outputs (side of the card). When pressed, this green illuminated button will restore default clock speeds and voltages to make sure you can start over from too high of an overclock. I wish more cards had this feature says the overclocking enthusiast! But for now, it is only found on a few.
Getting clean power to the GPU and memory are key aspects of reaching the card’s overclocking potential. To that end, ASUS has equipped their flagship card with a 14 phase digital VRM driven by their Digi+ controller. The Super Alloy Power II consists of 10K black metallic capacitors, concrete core chokes, and hardened MOSFETs. The use of these premium parts on the VRM are said to run cooler (to the tune of 30%), be more efficient, minimize whining and buzzing, and have a longer lifespan (up to 5x).
Last but not least, a little bling! To spice things up a bit from the grey shroud with orange/copper highlights, ASUS added a color coded load indicator LED. There is light blue for light loading, yellow for medium loads, red for high loads, and finally, green for safe mode.
The next image is a nice break apart view of the Matrix Platinum showing most of the features mentioned above.
Photo Op – Meet the ASUS GTX 980 Ti Matrix Platinum
Retail Packaging and Accessories
As usual, our first images are of the retail packaging. Being the flagship card, it comes in nearly briefcase sized box (it is as wide, but not as tall as a briefcase). If you are familiar with recent Republic of Gamers (ROG) packaging you will certainly recognize the box. It comes with a black and red/maroon theme with the Matrix Platinum name on the middle left, the ROG symbol in the top left, and the GTX 980 Ti in the bottom right in the ‘base’ NVIDIA black and green. Flipping the box around, you will see more features described here as well as the picture above of the ‘break out’ view of the card detailing some of those features. The box also has a flip top lid which displays more features. In this case, the Direct CU II cooler, memory defroster, safe mode BIOS button, LED load display and the ASUS GPU Tweak II software.
When first opening up the box, you are greeted with another box! Inside here is where the card rest snug in its form fitting foam, protected from the bumps and bruises of shipping. Below that is where the included accessories are stored.
A Closer Look – Meet the ASUS ROG Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition
Our first look at the card shows us the unique color scheme on this ASUS ROG card. Gone is the typical black and red, in is a grey shroud with darker orange to almost copper color scattered here and there. The ROG logo on the left side by the outputs is dark orange, along with being in side both fan hubs, as well as above and below the right fan. On the top orange part, it has the ASUS Matrix 980 Ti branding in small letters.
Flipping the card over, you see a nice brushed aluminum finish of the back plate. It has some holes around the core area for ventilation as well as a few dozen hexagon shaped holes for additional airflow on other areas of the PCB. There is not a direct cooling effect from this backplate as it does not have contact with the PCB via thermal pads. It is mostly aesthetic and likely structural as well…this is a pretty heavy card.
The last two pictures show the top and bottom of the card. In keeping with the sleek theme, ASUS has applied a black paint to the heatpipes instead of a more showy natural copper or nickel plating as is typically done. The last picture in this grouping shows the top of the card. Here you can see the LED load indicator (surrounded by the orange color) and also the two 8-pin PCIe connections required to power the card. If you look hard enough, you can see the LN2 switch as well.
The next set of pictures will focus on the outputs and the power connections. The first picture shows the Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition has the following:
DVI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (DVI-I)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1 (Native) (HDMI 2.0)
Display Port : Yes x 3 (Native) (Regular DP)
Plenty of choices!
The next picture shows us the required two 8-pin PCIe connections to power this card. What you cannot see on the back are the LED’s for letting you know if there is good power or not coming from these plugs. When all is well, they glow a bright white.
Below we see the right side/end of the card. In this picture you are looking at the molex connector which is only needed for sub-zero cooling sessions when using the memory defroster. Otherwise, this is left alone. To the right of it is the on/off switch for the defroster. Last, to the right of that switch is the Safe Mode BIOS button. Push this green LED button and the card resets its clocks and voltage to default, likely getting you out of an overclocking jam.
Moving on, the next picture shows the BIOS DIP switch. There is standard and LN2. The LN2 side is said to unlock voltage and power limits (requires soldering of the LN2 pads to unlock it). I will be using that mode when pushing the limits a bit later in the article. The switch is located to the right of the SLI bridge locations on the top of card.
The next step in my review is to take apart the heatsink and see what is shaking under the hood. First glance shows a liberal application of thermal paste on the exposed copper heatpipes (See? I told you they were copper!). After removing a couple of screws and a couple fan power leads, I was able to separate it from the board. Again we see the exposed copper heatpipes as they make their way through the moderately dense fin array.
After cleaning up the core and taking off the MOSFET heatsink, you are now looking at the card in its birthday suit! I also took off the back plate to expose the backside of the card. Notice how the PCB is raised quite a bit from the I/O area, this is a full height card and then some.
Last up are pictures of the GM200 core, The Hynix memory, ASUS’ DIGI+ VRM controller, and the International Rectifier (IR) IR355M MOSFETs.
Monitoring/Overclocking Software – ASUS GPU Tweak II
Next on the list is overclocking software. Those familiar with ASUS know their GPU Tweak II software and below we have some screenshots showing what it looks like. The first screen shows the main page in “Simple Mode.” On this screen you can swap through a couple different modes; Overclock, Gaming, and Silent. Each mode has different clockspeed settings.
Most of us, however, will be playing in Advanced Mode. Here is where you find more granular control over the GPU. Your usual suspects are there with clockspeeds, boost, fan speed, and voltage control. Depending on the card you will have access to other, not as common, items such as the PEX voltage, VRM frequency, and even memory voltage control (including the Matrix Platinum of course!). There is also a real time monitor/graphing to show temps, speeds, voltages, etc.
|CPU||Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz)|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme|
|RAM||2×4 GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35 V|
|Graphics Card||ASUS ROG MATRIX GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition|
Stock: Core: 1190 MHz, Boost 1291 Mhz (actual 1418 MHz)/ 1800 MHz Memory
Overclocked: Core 1293 MHz, Boost (actual) 1533 Mhz / 1952 MHz Memory
|Solid State Drive||OCZ Vertex 3|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP (80+ Platinum)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP3+|
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to their reviews here):
Note all testing below uses 1920×1080 screen resolution (settings also carry over to 2560 x 1440 and Surround/Eyefinity testing if applicable).
All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings, with game benchmarks at noted settings:
- 3DMark 11 = Performance Level, 3DMark Fire Strike = Extreme, default setting.
- Unigine Valley Benchmark v1.0 – 1080p, DX11, Ultra Quality, 8x AA, Full Screen
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) – Extreme setting
- Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
- Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High, Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
- Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
- Final Fantasy XIV:ARR – Default Maximum setting
- Dirt: Rally – 1080p, 8x MSAA, everything on Ultra that can be, enable Advanced Blending
- Grand Theft Auto V – 1080p, high settings (see article below for details).
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – 1080p, everything Ultra that can be (Lighting quality High), FXAA and Camera + Object Blur, DOF/OIT/Tessellation enabled.
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures
I have changed things up a bit here with the results section for the synthetic testing Since most people don’t play Futuremark software, there isn’t much need to get granular here as the results stand on their own. Instead of going over each individual test, I am going to let our readers look and see for themselves how the card fared against the other cards.
At a high level we know the GTX 980 Ti easily beats out its little brother in the GTX 980 (the highly overclocked ASUS Poseidon) and the youngest, the GTX 970. It makes quick work of the R9 390 as well, but that card was never intended to compete with the 980Ti. This card is 390x territory, but we do not have one to utilize for comparison purposes.
When you compare apples to apples, I chose the highest clocked 980 Ti we had in the stable, in this case the MSI GTX 980 Ti Gaming 8G, and put it up against the ASUS Matrix Platinum. In all tests here, it beat it out hands down by 3-5%. It should be doing this because it does have higher boost clocks and memory.
In regards to gaming, as Led Zepplin says, “The Song Remains the Same” here. In Crysis 3, with our demanding settings, the 980Ti shows its brute strength here with the Matrix Platinum reaching 61.4 FPS at stock speeds. That result was nearly 50% faster than GTX 980 in this case. Against the other 980 Ti, it was about 3 FPS or almost 5% faster.
Dirt:Rally also shows just about the same result with the Matrix Platinum averaging 85.5 FPS out of the box. This is is around 33% faster than the GTX 980, and 1 FPS faster than the MSI GTX 980 Ti.
Last up on this graph is Metro: Last Light. Here it reached 83.7 FPS stock is around 34% faster than the GTX 980. In this title the other 980 Ti was over 5 FPS (~8%).
Looks like this is the fastest 980 Ti we tested so far…
Next we will take a look at what is now becoming an ‘oldie but a goodie’ in Battlefield 4. In this title, we are seeing average FPS at 134 right on the nose. Easily beating out its little brothers, and coming out on top of the other 980 Ti by over 5 FPS (a bit over 4%).
In Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the Matrix Platinum average 121.6 in this in-game benchmark and absolutely throttled everything here outside of the other 980 Ti. I would imagine, at least with the NVIDIA cards, that driver improvements helped here.
Last is GTA V. The ASUS 980 Ti, hit 110.6 FPS making short work of the 970/980 and is a bit over 3 FPS faster than the MSI 980 Ti.
Clearly all titles we benchmark are more than playable with any 980 Ti. The difference here is this 980 Ti beat all others we tested. With a quick glance to Newegg.com, this appears to be the second highest clocked 980 Ti they have listed falling just short of the Zotax AMP! card, but who knows what that card boosts to.
2560×1440 and 5760×1080 Results
Below are the results from our 2560×1440 and multi-monitor testing at 5760×1080. We can see the 980 Ti easily runs all titles at the 2560×1440 resolution fairly easily with all titles well over 30 FPS, with everything not named Crysis 3 50 FPS on up.
In the surround testing, everything not named Crysis 3 is again above the magic 30 FPS value with our settings.
Temperatures and Power Consumption
In the graph below, we will cover temperatures from the Direct CU II cooler ASUS uses. The highest temperature reached during our testing was 64 °C in the Unigine Valley testing. At this temperature the fans spun up to around 42% and were still practically inaudible. It seems like there is plenty of headroom left in the tank for overclocking, at least temperature wise.
One thing to note on this card is the lack of a 0dB fan setting. The two wing blade fans in the Direct CU II cooler will not shut off on idle or light loads like many other cards do these days. The fan will spin at 20% on idle. The good news about that is they are nearly inaudible at that speed so it isn’t a huge deal except for those that demand silence on idle.
Regarding power use, the ASUS Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition peaked at 410W at the wall with our always accurate (hehe) Kill-A-Watt meter. This reading is in the ballpark of the others we tested so things seem to line up there. A quality 550W PSU will be plenty to power this card overclocked as well as overclocking any Intel CPU. If you are looking to push things with an AMD FX Octo core, you may want to nudge that up to 600W for more headroom.
Pushing the Limits
I have been chomping at the bit to get to this part of the testing with this caliber of card. I thought out of the gate that the overclocking I did (+100 on the core and +300 on the memory) was perhaps a bit aggressive considering how much it was overclocked out of the factory. To make this story short, I found that I was right, at least with the core. In my testing above, I found that I would occasionally see it drop a boost bin or two. According to software, this was because it was breaking its power limit of 110%. Seriously?! Seriously. That was pretty much a downer for me. I would have loved to at least TRY to use the rest of the voltage we are allowed to add to see if I could push the core more, that is for sure. So with that, there really isn’t too much to show here as if I keep on pushing with the default BIOS, I’ll keep on dropping bins in order to fit within the defined power limit. To that end, I pushed up on the memory and hit 2003 MHz (8012 MHz GDDR5). I needed to add a bit of voltage to the memory to get it there raising it to 1.625V from 1.60V. Not too bad there. I believe that is the first time I had a decent memory overclock out of a 980 Ti. So, I cranked the CPU on up, pushed the memory up a bit more, and here is where we landed. Even with a glass ceiling limiting potential, this is still a good overclock and result all around.
As far as overclocking in LN2 mode, as noted earlier, you will need to connect the pads on the back of the card (near the Safe mode button) in order for the card to unlock the voltage and power limits. I do not have any conductive tape, nor ink around, so I tried with a good old #2 pencil (that takes me back to 2004!!!), but was not able to get it to work. Never fear!!! I was able to modify the BIOS power limits and see what we could get on the max available voltage this side of the LN2 mode. Check out the comments section for those results!
ASUS really brought another stellar Matrix offering to the table with their GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition. While the card can certainly be used by everyone, it is clear that heavy overclocking was a priority. From the more robust power delivery area sporting 14 phases and the power bits like black metallic caps, hardened MOSFETs, and concrete core chokes, should get a lot of clean power to the GPU and memory for those overclocking endeavors. Do you want to take the card below zero? No problem, the Matrix Platinum has you covered with its LN2 mode, memory heater, and a safe BIOS for when you push things a bit too far.
As we know, the card’s appearance breaks from their typical red/grey ROG theme here and uses a dark orange, almost copper color, which looks pretty cool by itself. However, there are not many boards out (particularly in the ASUS lineup) that match such a theme.
Having the fancy hardware to support overclocking wouldn’t mean a thing if it didn’t come with a cooling solution to support it and keep things cool. The Direct CU II cooler with its massive 10mm copper heatpipe (and four other smaller ones) do a great job at getting the heat away from the core and VRM area allowing you to push on without heat getting in the way. The wing-blade fans do a great job at moving air through the fin array and keeping things cool and being quiet while doing so. While you really cannot hear the fans on idle I would like to see a 0dB fan technology on this card as well. But I suppose this is like a track car… no heat/AC, no navigation, no radio, just pure unadulterated machine.
What does get in the way, and my only real gripe, is NVIDIA’s power limit they put on the card that ASUS (and other partners) must abide by. The problem here is that I clearly ran out of room on the power limit side of things as anything over 25mV and the +100MHz on the core. I started to see throttling and dropping boost bins because I was hitting the 110% limit. I am not sure why ASUS chose such a low limit. The MSI Lighting 980 Ti is higher at 122% and the EVGA Classified at 115%. There are two ways to get around this. First, use the LN2 BIOS and connect the jumpers, or modify the first BIOS. The good news is that there are two BIOS on the card so flashing really isn’t as risky versus a card that has just one. I really wish NVIDIA would let the partners go on this power limit jazz, at least with their flagship cards… something! ASUS makes it easy though with their LN2 switch at least.
Pricing on this card comes in at $709 on Newegg.com. This puts the card towards the top of the pricing scale (not including hybrids and others with AIOs) for sure. Only the Lightning costs more. That said, this card has several premium features on it and is, for all intents and purposes, sub-zero ready out of the box. A bit of conformal, or liquid electrical tape, a modded BIOS, some cold juice, and you are on your way up the Hwbot.org charts!
Overall you have quite a card here. For the enthusiast on air, you have no worries with the hardware holding things back. Once you get into water and better cooling, you will likely want to modify the BIOS to increase the power limit as, at least on this sample, I had more voltage to go but was stopped by the power limit.
As a consumer, you really have some tough choices regarding this type of card. They each have their pluses and minuses. Regardless, when you are shopping for a 980 Ti, particularly a high-end/flagship model or plan on going sub-zero cooling, you must include the ASUS Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum Edition on your short list. This has been Overclockers.com approved!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)