Date: Monday , January 19, 2015
ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, it manufactures a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, it sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.
On our test bench today is the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX Platinum (MATRIX-GTX980-P-4GD5) video card.
In today's evaluation we are looking at a GeForce GTX 980 chip from NVIDIA, which is the next generation Maxwell architecture. More specifically the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P version. This is the second high-end custom version of the GTX 980 from ASUS we are examining. ASUS also offers the Poseidon GTX 980 Platinum version which requires you to have water cooling.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P we are reviewing here today is designed for gaming at 1600p and other high resolutions. This video card also supports 4K resolution on its own, and can be arranged in a quad SLI formation. This video card contains 2048 CUDA cores and 16 SM units. The memory is 4GB of 3GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus configured to run at 7GHz. There are 64 ROPs on this video card, 128 texture units, and the board has a TDP of 165W. It was priced at $659 at Newegg, but has gone out of stock. It can be found in stock at Amazon for a much steeper $799, but Amazon does offer it for $659.99 with Prime Shipping as well, but is out of stock too at that price.
Since this Matrix 980 price is significantly higher than the ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC, and these are both GTX 980 video cards we will use the STRIX version in this evaluation for comparison. This should give us a baseline GTX 980 performance but at a much lower cost. We will also use the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P. This video card features the same custom cooling as the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P, with an AMD GPU at the heart of the card. It is currently out-of-stock at all major online retailers but generally goes for $439. Other custom R9 290X video cards range from $320 up to $475. Since the prices are so steep currently, we will also provide some apples to apples performance comparisons with an AMD Radeon R9 295X2 currently priced at $719 after $30 rebate.
This is a higher-end and more expensive version of a GTX 980 video card than the ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC we reviewed not too long ago. There are many similarities, but just as many differences between these two video cards. The STRIX GTX 980 was geared towards gaming in silence, while the MATRIX Platinum version is all about overclocking potential. It is specially outfitted for LN2 cooling provided you have the means.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P is a factory overclocked video card. A reference GTX 980's boost clock operates at 1216MHz. The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P's boost clock operates 126MHz faster than the reference model at 1342MHz out-of-box. This frequency runs even higher in-game at 1380MHz. ASUS did not apply any overclock to the memory, it operates at the reference 7GHz. Comparatively the ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC's boost clock was 1279MHz out-of-box which boosted to 1304MHz. That means the MATRIX-P version should operate slightly faster at stock operating speeds.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P features the more traditional ASUS theme of red and black, whereas the ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC is predominately black. The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P is also larger, and uses different fans. The ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC houses two traditional silent fans, whereas the MATRIX-P version sports the CoolTech fan. This is a hybrid, radial blower and pedal fan that maximizes airflow in and around the GPU. This allows a higher volume of air to move across the heatsink to dissipate heat than the STRIX version, but it won't be as quiet while doing so. Both fans have a dust proof design.
The cooling system on the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P is still largely the DirectCU II cooling system found on the STRIX model. It features 5 copper heat pipes that extend off the GPU to various areas on the heatsink. This heatsink provides 2.2 times more surface area than the reference model.
This model takes full advantage of ASUS GPU Tweak, the overclocking utility unlocks all voltage capabilities. The STRIX model only had voltage control over the max GPU voltage. The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P can adjust this, as well as the memory voltage, PEX_VDD, VRM clock, and 3.3 voltage. These won't have much use unless you are using LN2 for extreme overclocking. Additionally ASUS GPU Tweak allows you to instantly stream your games to all of your friends.
There are three VBIOS supported on the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P. First is User mode. This is the standard operating mode. By enabling LN2 mode you immediately unlock GPU Tweaks highest operating values and are ready to overclock. With the BIOS in LN2 mode you can enable the memory defroster to remove ice buildup from the liquid nitrogen. The third VBIOS setting is Safe mode. This button will reset the board to the default BIOS and settings. This is an excellent fallback when appropriate.
ASUS has also implemented its DIGI+ VRM, part of a 14-phase (12+2) power design. This allows true freedom and best results when pushing your video card to its limits. This will best be utilized under LN2 or extreme overclocking conditions. The ASUS GTX 980 STRIX DC II OC featured a 10-phase (8+2) power delivery design, both of which are more capable than the reference 5-phase (4+1) design.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P is out-of-stock at Newegg for $649 after $10MIR, and out-of-stock at Amazon for $649 after $10 MIR with Prime Shipping. ASUS also offers a 3-year limited parts and labor warranty. You can read more about the ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P here.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P ships in a large, secure box. This has a fold-up tab that allows you to see the video card inside the box. The box touches on several of the video cards features. There is a driver installation CD and quick start guide. We also received two dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe connectors. ASUS also included a Republic of Gamers PC badge to the collection.
The ASUS ROG GTX 980 MATRIX-P features the commonly known red and black color scheme. The overall design is sleek, making the video card appear fierce and professional. There copper heat pipes running along the base of the video card and the largest heat pipe is noticeable along the top edge. These are painted black to help the color scheme flow continuously. There is a sturdy backplate that covers all rear mounted components and keeps the hardware extremely safe. This video card looks and feels durable, as do most video cards from ASUS.
There are several other features that are distinguishable on this video card. Along the top edge is a color coded LED plate, which regulates itself depending on the GPU load. This gives you instant feedback about the level of performance your video card is operating at. The standard and LN2 bios switch can be found along the top too. The back edge of the video card hosts several other features. This is where the Safe mode BIOS switch is located, as well as the 4-pin Molex connector that powers the LN2 memory defroster.
At the back edge of the video card is a small voltage monitoring port. This allows you to read the GPU, memory, and PLL voltages directly from the board with voltage readers. ASUS recommends 300W additional power for this video card to run properly, and it requires two 8-pin PCIe power connectors. There are two LEDs that are red without proper connection, and turn white when connected directly beside the 8-pin PCIe connectors. The rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI-I connector, an HDMI connector, and 3 display port connectors. It measures 11.75 inches in length, 1 and 5/8th inches wide, and 5.75 inches in height.