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Asus ENGTX580 DCII/2DIS/1536MD5

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    1 Review
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      23.08.2011 15:38
      Very helpful


      • Reliability


      A high-quality graphics card which is well built and performs, if a little loudly.

      So, Battlefield 3 is coming soon and it looks like it's going to be quite taxing on most PCs. I haven't upgraded mine in a while and while most of it is still reasonably high end, my old graphics card (a BFG 280gtx) was looking rather dated. So I decided to treat myself to something crazy.

      It had to be Nvidia. I've always had Nvidia graphics cards and have never had issues. They're excellent. Plus, I've heard nothing but bad reviews about the driver support for ATi cards, so it was the only choice. Alas, the manufacturer of my previous graphics card (BFG) have since stepped out of the gaming GPU arena, so they weren't an option, which was a shame because the old 280 had held out for a good few years, running everything at max with no problems or grumbles. The other thing I liked about BFG was the fact that they overclocked their GPUs out of the box and still included a warranty with it. Normally, if you overclocker a card yourself, you'll reduce the lifespan, but BFG were so confident they'd offer upto x3 overclocking but still under the standard warranty. Well, they weren't an option anymore, so who did I choose? It's always been my opinion that if you're going to do something, you should do it properly. There's no point in scrimping and buying a cheap bog-standard graphics card. A friend that made mistake and it barely survived a year. But which brand woud be reliable? I'd bought a Gainward card a few years ago, but it only lasted about a year before it popped. So I wasn't going to risk going with them again. There's dozens of GPU manufacturers out there, but who could be trusted?

      My current machine is running off an Asus P6T motherboard which has some very nice settings in the BIOS, allowing easy overclocking and various other functions. Asus have quite a reputation for releasing solid products. I'd recently purchased an Asus Transformer, so 2011 was obviously the year for Asus products. Their motto of 'Persistant Perfection' obviously appealed.

      I'd already decided I wanted a 580, as the reviews were clear that it was far superior to the older 480 in terms of power useage and performance. BI knew that it would run hot though, so I wanted something that looked like it could cope. The Asus GTX580 Matrix card obviously looked like it meant business. Copper cooling pipes and heatsink and two large fans on the case of the card. There was no doubt this card would be beefy, but cool.

      I splashed out and bought the card from Novatech.co.uk. It was delivered the next day in a box which frankly was big enough to house a small PC. The bright red box and loud text screamed class. There's a flap on the front of the box which allows you to peep at the graphics card through a little window before you've even thought about removing it from the case, which is good, because it had arrived at work at lunch time and I could hardly get it out and have a ganders there and then. The box was so huge I assumed the card would be the same. I wasn't wrong.

      This is the first point to note. If you're into PC gaming, then you probably already know that graphics cards are generally large. There's no messing around. They're large, loud and proud. You better make sure you have room in your case. Mine is a full tower (Coolermaster HAF-932) and even despite that it's a bit of a squeeze. I could probably fit two cards in, but not much else. The GTX580 was noticeably larger than my old 280gtx and that was chunky enough on its own. The Asus 580 is fatter and longer than the old 280, it also takes up and extra slot on the back of the case, just because it can - 3 compared to the 2 taken up by my old 280. My first, instant worry was the sheer amount of power the card required. The box recommends a minimum of 700watt power supply unit. I gulped. My old Coolermaster 620watt PSU wasn't going to cut it. It could reach 700 watt, but that was it's top end and it might well struggle to perform. I didn't want to risk ruining a brand new graphics card with an under-powered PSU, so I purchased a Corsair HX1050watt PSU (again from Novatech) and waited a day for delivery before I even fitted the card. The GPU takes two 6pin PCI-E power connectors and it's easy to see/hear why when you boot the machine up.

      The 580 fitted without too much hassle, as if it and the new Corsair PSU were meant to be. It popped nicely into my motherboard and just fit perfectly. On first boot, the computer failed to pick it up, giving me a long beep followed by three short ones to signal no VGA detected - eeek! Panic! Nope, just loose power cables. Phew...

      With everything working properly, I turned the rig on, it sounded like a jet taking off. I assumed that the card just made an excessive noise when booting, but apparently that's just it's usual tone. This card is LOUD, there is no denying it. The two fans should probably have given that away. But I really wasn't expecting it to be so loud all the time. If you're after a nice quiet machine, this is not the graphics card for you. However, I run a 7.1 sound system while gaming, so it's easy enough to drown out and frankly I'm happy it's loud as long as it's keeping the card cool. I looked in the GPU tweak tool and can't see a way to actually turn the fans down, so I'll just have to put up with it.

      For the last few years, I've been running most games on maximum settings. So I really wasn't expecting to notice any difference when I started using the 580 compared to the old 280. After all, most of the games I play are dated (Battlefield Bad Company 2, Company of Heroes, Far Cry 2) and I'd only bought the card ready for Battlefield 3.

      To give you a comparison idea, this is my machine as it was:

      Asus P6T motherboard
      Intel Core i7 920 (Bloomfield) CPU (2.63ghz)
      BFG 280GTX GPU
      Corsair Dominator DDR3 16000mhz 6gb RAM
      Coolermaster 620watt PSU
      Western Digital Velociraptor 10,000rpm HDD
      Coolermaster HAF 932 Case
      And as it is now:

      Asus P6T motherboard
      Intel Core i7 920 (Bloomfield) CPU (2.63ghz)
      Asus GTX580 Matrix
      Corsair Vengeance DDR 2000mhz 12gb RAM
      Corsair HX1050watt PSU
      Western Digital Velociraptor 10,000rpm HDD
      Coolermaster HAF 932 case.

      Note, the slight difference in RAM and power but otherwise my system remains unchanged. Yet on running my current games there was a noticeable difference. I'm not the sort of person to run a constant overlay with my FPS (Frames Per Second) displayed - many gamers are and it's a point of pride "Oooh, I'm running 90FPS" - blah, blah, blah. If it runs well and looks pretty, I'm happy. I pay good money for my equipment, so I expect to be able to run the games at max settings with good performance. There's no point in spending loads of money on a good system, then running low settings just so you can get a better FPS and KDR. If you do this, you're an idiot frankly. So when I started running BFBC2 I expected to see no difference in the graphics. Yet, something was different. I couldn't tell you what exactly as I haven't run the FPS tool for a before and after comparison. But everyone seemed to be moving about faster and things were smoother. I knew there would be less lag during explosions or graphically intensive moments of gameplay, but I wasn't expecting it during normal combat. Yet there it was, it was running better. My KDR seemed to improve, whether that was fluke or just sheer power - I'm not sure, time will tell. But I am pleased to report the card delivers, even where I wasn't expecting it to.

      Just for giggles I ran a benchmark in Far Cry 2. With everything set to maximum or 'ultra high' the test reported a rough average of 62FPS. Which is pretty bloody good really. I'm told (by my ultra-geek friend) that anything around 60 is good, anything more you won't appreciate anyway, because both your monitor and eyes won't notice a difference. Blu ray films run at 25FPS and they look good don't they? Other friends claim I need to overclock my CPU to improve the performance further. I'm testing this to see if it will make a difference, but so far, the graphics are pretty spanky. Despite it's age, Far Cry 2 is quite intensive and it handles it just fine.

      The question is how will the Asus GTX580 handle load? Asus have obviously considered this at some point. The graphics card is emblazoned with the word MATRIX across its side. This lights up various colours depending on the load. Under normal load, its a lovely calming shade of blue. Heavy load is purple, extreme is red, safe mode is represented by a shade of green. This is a nice touch if you have a window in your case to actually see the side of the GPU, otherwise it's probably useless.

      In the end, the Asus Matrix GTX580 lives up to expectations. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for. If you can handle the noise, you'll enjoy the power and performance levels.

      Main factors to consider:

      Card size
      Cooling fans
      Overclocking options
      Heat/speed measurement
      2 DVI and 1 HDMI output



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