Enter the ASUS Matrix
The ASUS ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum is a unique product. It may be based on a popular GPU from AMD, but the card’s design is completely custom, from its PCB to its gargantuan, triple-slot wide cooler. Except for the piece of silicon at the heart of the ASUS ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum, it’s nothing like reference Radeon HD 7970-based graphics cards.
Some of the more obvious external features of the card include a triple-slot wide cooler, outfitted with dual 100mm fans and an array of aluminum heatsinks fins, which are linked to a cold plate by copper heat pipes. The design employs ASUS’ “Direct CU” technology, which puts the copper heat pipes in direct contact with the GPU, for more efficient heat transfer. The combination of a large heatsink, Direct CU, and the two large fans offer much better cooling performance than dual-slot reference designs, at the cost of an additional slot. However, the ASUS ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum’s cooler is also much quieter than reference designs in all real-world situations. We’ll talk a bit more about the cooler a little later in the review.
Along the top of the card is another cool feature ASUS calls the Matrix LED Load Indicator. The lettering on the top of the ASUS ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum’s fans shroud actually lights up in different colors to indicate the load being placed on the card. Green indicates safe mode, while red indicates extreme loading; light blue, dark blue and purple indicate light, medium and heavy loads.
At the front of the card you’ll spy all of the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum’s display outputs. There are a pair of DVI outputs and quad, full-sized DisplayPorts. We should point out that all of the cards outputs can be used simultaneously for up to a 6-display EyeFinity configuration. As cool as the front of the card looks, there’s a lot more to see at the rear.
At the rear of the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum there are a number of customizations to point out. First, take note of the four buttons visible in the shot above. Two of those buttons (+ and -) can be used to tweak the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum’s GPU voltage on the fly; ASUS calls the feature TweakIT instant voltage adjustment. Voltage tweaks can also be performed through software, but if you’re a hardcore overclocker working with an open-air test bench, the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum make it possible to tweak voltages anytime, regardless of the OS being used. There is also a Safe Mode button, which returns the card to its factory defaults, and a 100% Fan Speed button, which—you guessed it—cranks the card’s fans to their maximum speed.
Adjacent to the buttons is an array of LEDs to indicate the voltage level, and just behind the buttons are the headers for the VGA Hotwire feature mentioned on the previous page. The card requires a pair of 8-pin PCI Express power leads and the card is outfitted with a massive, 20-phase digital power array comprised of hardened Super Alloy Power capacitors, chokes, and MOSFETs. The “DIGI+ VRM with 20-phase Super Alloy Power” as ASUS calls it not only provided cleaner, more stable power than reference designs, but it generates less heat, is more efficient, and should be more reliable in the long run as well.
All of the customizations made the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum allowed ASUS to clock the hard higher than reference designs and ensure good overclocking potential. Like other Radeon HD 7970 cards, the ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum has a 384-bit memory bus with 3GB of GDDR5 memory. The memory on the ASUS card is clocked higher, however, at a speedy 6600MHz (1650MHz actual clock). The ROG Matrix 7970 Platinum’s GPU is also cranked up a few notches. The base GPU clock is 1050MHz, with a boost clock of 1100MHz, making it one of the highest clocked, air-cooled Radeon HD 7970 cards available.