It's common to see video cards featuring aftermarket cooling come along after reference cards arrive during the initial launch. Overclocked versions almost always pop up as well. These models give each company a way to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack, since almost all AIB partners initially release identical reference design cards at launch.
The PCB used on the Matrix 5870 is an inch longer than the reference design. It measures 11.5" in length, which makes it one of the longest cards you can buy. It is an inch longer than the GTX 480, which measures 10.5", and only half an inch shorter than the foot long HD 5970.
Along the top edge of the card, we find some interesting features. As expected, the Matrix offers two CrossFire connections, enabling multi-GPU configurations. But a new feature is the five level LED load indicator. This provides users several different visual cues that light up depending on the load being placed on the card. Blue indicates a light GPU load, and red shows heavy loading. In addition, there are a pair of 8-pin PCI-E connections. This is unlike the stock design which has one 6-pin and one 8-pin connector. The additional power reserves should allow for more stable overclocking.
The customized cooling system found on the Matrix 5870 serves two primary purposes. First, the fully shrouded design expels hot air to the exhaust grills on the rear bracket. It uses a slightly larger fan than reference designs to further aid in cooling. Second, the angled lines give the Matrix a unique look that helps distinguish this ROG product from every other 5870 currently offered.
Those familiar with the reference design 5870 will notice that the Matrix sports a different rear bracket layout. Instead of four possible video outputs, Asus decided to go with three - one dual link DVI, one DisplayPort, and one HDMI port. They occupied the extra space with a much wider exhaust than the stock model, and a Safe Mode button which serves as video BIOS recovery in case of overclocking instability.
Asus is known to provide extensive bundles with their high end products, and the Matrix 5870 is no different. First, we find a manual disc which has an installation guide and software reference documentation, in 24 different languages. It should be helpful to new enthusiasts who require step-by-step installation instructions and additional information on software utilities. The other disc includes the VGA driver and two utilities, Gamer OSD and iTracker 2. Additionally, a disc wallet is provided to carry and protect the discs, along with room for any games you decide to insert. There's also a quick start guide, iTracker 2 documentation, ROG decal, CrossFire bridge, a pair of dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCI-E adapters, HDMI-to-DVI adapter, and DVI-to-VGA adapter.