AMD's Radeon 5970 dual-GPU video card is the fastest consumer graphics card available, but Asus is cooking up a customized monster that steps things up a notch. Codenamed Ares, this 'true' dual-5870 solution is point to leave everything else on the market in the dust.
AMD's current 5970 GPU carries the same number of stream processors and memory as a standard 5870 but runs its core and memory 15 percent and 20 percent slower. The Ares scoffs at such limitations; Asus has combined two 5870's back-to-back, kept them running at full speed, and slapped the whole shebang into a single PCI-Express slot.
A Pair of Radeon HD 5870 GPUs Full-Bore On One PCB
The resulting card is something of a monstrosity. At 2.5 slots thick, Ares is geared for war (pardon the pun) and easily surpasses the benchmark scores of mere standard 5970s. We were able to run 3DMark Vantage at both its "Performance" and "High" detail settings. Asus' didn't have a high-resolution monitor on the demo machine so we couldn't test the program's "Extreme" mode, but the performance and scaling we saw in the lower modes bodes well for the upper ones.
Asus isn't sure if they'll bring Ares to the US, but the company reps we talked to implied that yields were fairly good (keeping in mind that this is a top-margin part). We brought up the issue of power--the current 5970s are listed with a maximum board power of 294W and this card sports a third auxiliary power connection, which implies it's already leaning pretty heavily on the power supply. According to Asus, AMD's maximum board power supply numbers are a bit conservative; the current set of 5970s coming off the fabs are hitting around 260W at maximum power draw while the Ares is sitting just under the 300W mark.
We'd love to see Ares in the channel, but if it does become available we'd caution against using it in anything but a top-end board with a very good PSU. This is precisely the sort of situation where 'invisible' differences in board construction can come into play and top-end features and/or additional validation can suddenly become important.
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