AMD's HD 7970 and its more powerful brother HD 7970 GHz Edition have been on the market for a while now. MSI has also launched their HD 7970 Lightning in June. Now ASUS has released the HD 7970 Matrix - a card that will directly compete with MSI's HD 7970 Lightning.
ASUS has increased clock speeds to 1100 MHz. That is 50 MHz more than the GHz Edition and higher than any other HD 7970 card, including the MSI Lightning. Memory clock is, with 1650 MHz, also higher than any other AMD card.
The card comes with a powerful triple slot cooling solution and adds many features for hardcore overclockers like support for VGA Hotwire, voltage control, and three buttons for direct GPU voltage control. We also find voltage measuring points and a Turbo-fan button to set fan speed to 100% on the card.
Price-wise, the HD 7970 Matrix comes at $480, which is quite a price increase given AMD's recent price drops for the HD 7970.
HD 7970 Market Segment Analysis
GTX 660 Ti
| HD 7970
| ASUS HD
||2x 2048 MB
||2x 1536 MB
||2x 2048 MB
|Memory Bus Width
||2x 256 bit
||2x 384 bit
||2x 256 bit
You will receive:
- Graphics card
- Driver CD + Documentation
- CrossFire bridge
- DVI adapter
- PCIe power cable
- LN2 MOSFET heatsink
- ROG Badge
- 3x VGA Hotwire cable
- Diablo 3 mousepad
The HD 7970 Matrix is a big card. Its massive dual-fan cooler extends quite a bit beyond the top edge of the card so make sure it fits your case.
The card requires three slots in your system.
Display connectivity options include two DVI ports and four DisplayPorts. You may use all outputs at the same time. Using the dual BIOS feature allows you to switch the output configuration between 1x dual-link DVI and 1x single-link DVI with fewer DP ports, or 2x single-Link DVI with all DP ports enabled.
The GPU also includes an HDMI sound device. It is HDMI 1.4a compatible, which includes HD audio and Blu-ray 3D movies support. The DisplayPort outputs are version 1.2, enabling the use of hubs and Multi-Stream Transport.
You may combine up to four HD 7970 cards from any vendor in a multi-GPU CrossFire configuration for higher frame rates or better image-quality settings.
Pictured above are the front and back, showing the disassembled board. High-res versions are also available (front
). If you choose to use these images for voltmods, etc., please include a link back to this site or let us post your article.
A Closer Look
The ASUS cooler uses a copper base with five heatpipes to keep the card cool.
A metal backplate protects the card against damage from handling. It does not have any special function for cooling.
Once the main heatsink is removed, you can see a large black heatsink sitting on the card, cooling voltage regulation circuitry and some memory chips. For users of liquid nitrogen, and possibly watercooling, ASUS has included a second, shorter heatsink to avoid it getting in the way of the LN2 setup.
The dual-BIOS feature of other HD 7970 cards is also present on the ASUS MATRIX. Here it is used to switch between two output configurations to support 1x dual-link DVI as well as 4x DisplayPort. This is a great way to do things. The MSI Lightning came without any native dual-link DVI ports!
Below the cooler, we find four buttons. The big red button switches the fan speed to 100% without any software. The two round buttons on the right change the GPU voltage up and down. Undervolting is not possible. The lowest setting is 1.270 V and the highest setting is 1.335 V, which is, if you ask me, quite limited. The third button is supposed to "take you back to stable video BIOS settings". In my testing, it didn't do anything. Neither voltage nor clocks were affected. Voltage changes through the buttons will not persist through a reboot or shutdown. It seems this button only works in conjunction with ASUS SmartDoctor which can save some properties to the card, so you don't have to set them on every reboot.
ASUS has placed three VGA hotwire connectors on their card, which work with ASUS ROG boards to control GPU voltage from within the BIOS. You can also see some solder pads for "secret" enthusiast features that I'm sure Shamino will reveal in due time. Three classic voltage measurement points are also present.
The card requires two 8-pin PCI-Express power cables for operation. This power configuration is good for up to 375 W of power draw.
For voltage control, the card uses a rebranded CHiL CHL8228G, which is a common voltage controller nowadays. It offers software voltage control, comprehensive monitoring features, and is well supported by most overclocking software.
The GDDR5 memory chips are made by Hynix and carry the model number H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C. They are specified to run at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz GDDR5 effective).
AMD's Tahiti graphics processor introduced the GCN shader architecture. It is also the first GPU to be produced on a 28 nm process at TSMC. The transistor count is 4.31 billion.
Benchmark scores in other reviews are only comparable when this exact same configuration is used.
|Test System - VGA Rev. 17
||Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.7 GHz
(Ivy Bridge, 8192 KB Cache)
||ASUS Maximus V Gene
||2x 4096 MB Corsair Vengeance PC3-12800 DDR3
@ 1600 MHz 9-9-9-24
||WD Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS 500 GB
||Antec HCP-1200 1200W
||Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1
||NVIDIA: 304.79 Beta
ATI: Catalyst 12.7 Beta
LG Flatron W3000H 30" 2560x1600
3x Hanns.G HL225DBB 21.5" 1920x1080
- All video card results were obtained on this exact system with exactly the same configuration.
- All games were set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
- AA and AF are applied via in-game settings, not via the driver's control panel.
Each benchmark was tested at the following settings and resolution:
- 1280 x 800, 2x Anti-aliasing. Common resolution for most smaller flatscreens today (17" - 19"). A bit of eye candy turned on in the drivers.
- 1680 x 1050, 4x Anti-aliasing. Most common widescreen resolution on larger displays (19" - 22"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 1920 x 1200, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical widescreen resolution for large displays (22" - 26"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 2560 x 1600, 4x Anti-aliasing. Highest possible resolution for commonly available displays (30"). Very good looking driver graphics settings.
- 5760 x 1080, 4x Anti-aliasing. Typical high-end gaming multi-monitor resolution. Very good looking driver graphics settings.
, released in 2012 for the PC, is a highly successful third-person horror shooter that revolves around the adventures of novelist Alan Wake who has to battle the "darkness" which takes over living and dead things. Alan's signature flashlight is used to strip the forces of darkness of their protection, making them vulnerable to conventional weapons.
The engine of Alan Wake
uses DirectX 9, but features complex lighting effects that make it quite a demanding title. We benchmarked with the highest settings possible.
Batman: Arkham City
is back on the LCD screen with Batman: Arkham City
, a sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum
by Rocksteady Games and WB. It was released on the PC platform in November. Batman is imprisoned in Arkham City, an infamous district of the DC Universe that contains the scum of Gotham, most of whom Batman helped put in there. In order to get out, he must go through scores of baddies. He also encounters many of the iconic supervillains along the way. He's not entirely alone.
Batman: Arkham City
uses the same Unreal Engine by Epic as Batman: Arkham Asylum
, but it has, thanks to the engine's modularity, been overhauled and equipped with the latest technologies, including a graphics engine that takes advantage of DirectX 11.
Arguably one of the most anticipated online shooters of recent times, Battlefield 3
is the latest addition to some of the most engaging online multiplayer shooter franchises. It combines infantry combat with mechanized warfare, including transport vehicles, armored personnel carriers, main battle tanks, attack helicopters, and combat aircraft; pretty much everything that goes into today's battlefields. Its infantry combat is coupled with role-playing elements, which makes the experience all the more engaging. It also has a single-player campaign that added a few gigabytes to its installer.
Behind all this is a spanking new game engine by EA-DICE, Frostbite 2. It makes use of every possible feature DirectX 11 has to offer, including hardware tessellation and new lighting effects, to deliver some of the most captivating visuals gamers have ever had access to. Not playing this game on the PC is a grave injustice to what's in store. Faster PCs are rewarded with better visuals.
, a card-based RTS, was developed by the German EA Phenomic Studio. A few months after the launch, the game was transformed into a Play4Free branded game. That move, and the fact that it was included as a game bundle with a large number of ATI cards, made it one of the more well-known RTS games of 2009. You assemble your deck before the game to select the units that will be available. Elemental force choices can, to complement each other, come from the forces of Fire, Frost, Nature, and Shadow.
The BattleForge engine has full support for DX9, DX10, and DX10.1. We used the internal benchmark tool in DirectX 11 mode, and with the highest settings possible, to obtain our results.
Sid Meier's Civilization V
(or Civ 5
in common jargon) is the latest addition to the franchise of masterfully crafted turn-based strategy games that let you play God to a nascent civilization of your choice all the way up to the space age. Civilization V
uses large 3D worlds that are procedurally generated and takes advantage of the hardware tessellation features offered by DirectX 11 to exponentially step up the complexity of cities, models, terrains, and objects. This generation of GPUs can also be expected to handle large texture loads that come with such eye-candy.
After the tremendous success of Far Cry
, the German game studio Crytek released their shooter Crysis
in 2007. The game was by far the most hyped and anticipated game in 2007, and forums were full of "Can my system run Crysis?" threads because of its high hardware requirements. Just like in Far Cry
, the plot evolves on a small island with a thick and richly detailed jungle world. A lot of attention has been given to small details like accurate physics. When you, for example, fire on a tree trunk, it will shatter and the tree will fall over and leave a stump behind. Enemies in a car can be stopped by shooting the tire of the car. The game graphics are, even today, top notch, yet the game still runs well on most computers.
takes the player into an alien-infested New York City. The game adds a tactical options mode that allows for several ways to attack a heavily infested enemy location. The new Nanosuit 2.0 that the player uses offers more freedom in ability use. Multiple abilities can, for example, be used at the same time. To better accommodate a given play style, weapons can be customized with silencers, laser sights, or even a sniping scope.
For rendering, Crytek's CryEngine 3 is used. It comes with reduced system requirements compared to the first Crysis
game. Since Crysis 2
is a multi-platform game with major development focus on the console, the graphics on launch day were only DirectX 9. DirectX 11 functionality was added later in a patch. We used the DX11 version and the high-res texture pack for our benchmarking.
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age II
is the second game in BioWare's Dragon Age
franchise and was released in March 2011. You will be able to pick your hero, named Hawke, from several classes and grow him over the course of the adventure. Gameplay takes you through a linearly narrated story of Hawke's rise to become the legendary "Champion of Kirkwall".
BioWare's Lycium Engine has support for DirectX 11, using tessellation, advanced dynamic lighting, and camera effects like depth of field. We benchmarked the DX11 version with the highest possible details setting.
Developed by Flying Wild Hog, a studio that prides itself with the fact that its creation is PC exclusive (bless them), Hard Reset
is a first-person shooter that's set in a future cyberpunk setting of a dystopian world. It reintroduces many of the gameplay mechanics that have made classics such as Quake
wickedly fun to play and that are sorely lacking in today's tactical military shooter, creating a 'void' for Flying Wild Hog to fill.
The game uses the studio's in-house Road Hog Engine, which isn't particularly heavy on new-generation DirectX features, but can still be taxing for some GPUs.
Max Payne 3
Max is back! The long anticipated third release in the Max Payne
series is the first game developed by Rockstar, which took over the title from Remedy Entertainment. In this first-person shooter, using an over-the-shoulder camera view, you battle the bad guys using game-changing features like Bullet Time or Last Stand. The maps have scenic locations, which take the player to places like New York, Sao Paulo, and Panama.
The Max Payne 3
game engine uses DirectX 11 with tessellation and very detailed textures. We tested the game with details set to the maximum possible.
is a first-person shooter that is set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow - inside the metro system as the name suggests. You will fight mutants or other humans who want to take away your shelter. The game has many gameplay elements similar to STALKER
; the engine also has similar features. This is because two STALKER
engine programmers left GSC Game World and started their own company that made Metro 2033
The engine has support for all the latest eye-candy like DirectX 11 and tessellation. Unfortunately, it leaves a less than satisfactory impression, making it a candidate to surpass Crysis
for the highest hardware requirements. We tested the game in DirectX 11 mode with details set to "Very High".
Sniper Elite V2
Sniper Elite V2
is a tactical shooter letting you play the Battle of Berlin during early May 1945. You are an American elite sharpshooter who is located behind enemy lines to stop the German V-2 rocket program. Gameplay does not focus on full frontal assault only. Elements of stealth and patience are also required to gain the upper hand. Sniper Elite V2
features a complex ballistics simulation, forcing players to account for factors including gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, and aim stability.
Sniper Elite V2
uses DirectX 11 including tessellation, contact hardening shadows, and DirectCompute-based effects including anti-aliasing.
For our testing, we used the Sniper Elite V2 benchmark tool in DX11 mode with highest settings and super sampling disabled.
STALKER: Call of Pripyat
STALKER: Call of Pripyat
continues shortly after the events of the prequel STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
. The player is one of many stalkers who are attracted to the Zone in hopes of finding fame, wealth, and artifacts. Over the course of the game you meet Strelok, the protagonist of the first STALKER
game and team up with him to progress through the Zone.
The game uses an updated X-Ray Engine 1.6 with support for DirectX 11 using DirectCompute Shaders to improve shadow rendering, and tessellation to improve model quality.
, released in July 2010, is a sequel to Blizzard's award-winning strategy game StarCraft
. In the 26th century three species, namely Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg, are at war. The campaign takes you through many missions on different planets where you have to face various enemy factions or, sometimes, several of them at once. StarCraft II
features a similar number of units - some of them new - as the original game. Due to the massive success of the first game, Blizzard chose to focus a large aspect of the game on multiplayer combat through Battle.net. The campaign serves as a good introduction to units and concepts, but the real action is in competitive multiplayer combat.
The StarCraft II
engine only supports DirectX 9, but several patches have improved rendering quality and available options considerably. We tested the game using a recorded 1 vs. 1 multiplayer replay in the late-game phase. Please note that StarCraft II
is very CPU limited on high-end cards, especially on lower resolutions, so you may not see much scaling between some cards. StarCraft II
does not support multi-monitor gaming because it would provide an unfair advantage in competitive multiplayer as a larger portion of the map would be visible.
Total War: Shogun 2
Set in 16th century feudal Japan, Total War: Shogun 2
takes the player on a quest for domination to conquer and unite the warlords of Japan. Moving away from the European setting of previous Total War
games, the game is now designed around the principles of the brilliant Chinese general Sun Tzu and his book The Art of War
. Gameplay switches between real-time battles, during which units on the battlefield are controlled, and turn-based strategy, which focuses on diplomacy, economy, and production management. Taking control of a castle involves several different stages, adding more complexity to the warfare in Shogun 2.
We benchmarked using the highest settings possible in DirectX 11 mode, which was added via a patch after release.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
This isn't just a game, but a masterpiece. TES: Skyrim
is a very large sandbox game that rejects the quality-quantity inverse proportionality. By genre, TES: Skyrim
is a role-playing game. It combines some of the best elements of older titles in the franchise with some new sandbox elements to churn out an extremely engaging and addictive game. It makes use of Bethesda's Creation Engine which isn't visually intensive in that it doesn't use taxing graphics features; instead, the game's presentation itself, with large open worlds, ends up taxing your hardware. Faster GPUs result in smoother gameplay with most eye-candy turned on.
3DMark 11 is the very latest benchmark test from the house of Futuremark, which has given out some of the most comprehensive benchmark applications for PC enthusiasts and gamers. 3DMark 11, as the name might suggest, makes use of the Microsoft DirectX 11 API and puts every feature of it to use, creating astonishingly realistic visuals. In the process, it evaluates DirectX 11-compliant GPUs and lets gamers know what to expect from upcoming games that make use of the API in terms of visual realism. The tessellation and depth-of-field tests are of particular interest here. 3DMark 11 has no proper support for multi-monitor configurations.
Unigine Heaven 2.0
Unigine Heaven was one of the first demos that supported DirectX 11. Heaven is a technology demonstration for the Unigine engine which supports DirectX 9 through 11 and OpenGL. Version 2.0 adds more scenes and, optionally, more complex tessellation features. Although there is some controversy surrounding the benchmark and as to whether it is an accurate representation of what to expect from future games in regard to DirectX 11, we still decided to use this test to get an insight into the potential of future gaming.
Cooling modern video cards is becoming more and more difficult, especially with users asking for quiet cooling solutions, which is why engineers are now paying much more attention to the power consumption of new video-card designs. An optimized fan-profile is also one of the few things that board vendors can do to impress with reference designs where they are prohibited from making changes to the thermal solution or components on the card.
For this test, we measured the power consumption of the graphics card only, via the PCI-Express power connector(s) and PCI-Express bus slot. A Keithley Integra 2700 digital multimeter with 6.5-digit resolution was used for all measurements. Again, the values here reflect only the power consumption of the card measured at DC VGA card inputs, not of the whole system.
We chose Crysis 2
as a standard test representing typical 3D gaming usage because it offers the following: very high power draw; high repeatability; is a current game that is supported on all cards because of its DirectX 9 roots; drivers are actively tested and optimized for it; supports all multi-GPU configurations; test runs in a relatively short time and renders a non-static scene with variable complexity.
Our results were based on the following tests:
- Idle: Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024, 32-bit) with all windows closed and drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle mode until power draw was stable.
- Multi-monitor: Two monitors connected to the tested card, both using different display timings. Windows 7 Aero sitting at the desktop (1280x1024 32-bit) with all windows closed and drivers installed. Card left to warm up in idle mode until power draw was stable.
- Average: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Average of all readings (12 per second) while the benchmark was rendering (no title/loading screen).
- Peak: Crysis 2 at 1920x1200, Extreme profile, representing a typical gaming power draw. Highest single reading during the test.
- Maximum: Furmark Stability Test at 1280x1024, 0xAA. This results in a very high non-game power-consumption that can typically be reached only with stress-testing applications. The Card was left running the stress test until power draw converged to a stable value. We disabled the power-limiting system on cards with power-limiting systems or configured it to the highest available setting - if possible. We also used the highest single reading from a Furmark run that was obtained by taking measurements faster than the power limit could kick in.
- Blu-ray Playback: Power DVD 9 Ultra was used at a resolution of 1920x1200 to play back the Batman: The Dark Knight disc with GPU acceleration turned on. Playback started around timecode 1:19 which has the highest data rates on the BD with up to 40 Mb/s. Playback was left running until power draw converged to a stable value.
Idle power consumption is higher than any comparable card from AMD. Compared to NVIDIA's offerings, the difference is even greater, especially in multi-monitor and Blu-ray where the relative increase becomes over 3.5 times as high.
During typical gaming, we see slightly better numbers than the HD 7970 GHz Edition. The numbers are only higher in Furmark.
In past years, users would accept everything for a little bit more performance. Nowadays, users are more aware of the fan noise and the power consumption of their graphic cards.
In order to properly test the fan noise that a card emits, we use the Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound level meter (~$4,000) which has the measurement range and accuracy we are looking for.
The tested graphics card was installed in a system that was completely passively cooled. That is, passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, passive cooling on the motherboard, and on a solid state drive.
This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified), the measurement was conducted at 100 cm of distance and at 160 cm over the floor. The ambient background noise level in the room was well below 20 dBA for all measurements. Please note that the dBA scale is not linear but logarithmic. 40 dBA is not twice as loud as 20 dBA. A 3 dBA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing perception is a bit different and it is generally accepted that a 10 dBA increase doubles the perceived sound level. The 3D load noise levels were tested with a stressful game, not with Furmark.
Idle fan noise is great, but even the HD 7970 GHz Edition was very quiet in idle.
Under load, the fan runs pretty fast and ends up "not so quiet". It's not really noisy, especially not when you compare the results to some other AMD cards in our test group. On the other hand, recent NVIDIA cards, especially the NVIDIA ASUS DC II series, have shown massive improvements in fan noise. With those cards, whisper quiet high-end gaming is possible, something that is not the case with the HD 7970 Matrix.
ASUS tells me that their engineers deliberately included an extra-large temperature safety margin for overclocking and overvolting. Our numbers later in this review show that this margin is way too high. Even overclocked and overvolted, the card does not run hotter than 75°C. Another 10°C would be no problem for the card, and would also result in much better noise levels.
The graphs on this page show a combined performance summary of all tests and resolutions from previous pages. Each graph shows the tested card as 100% and all other cards' performance as relative to it. A sixth graph summarizes all tests in all resolutions to calculate the total relative performance of the review sample.
Performance per Watt
The following graphs show the efficiency of the cards in our test group. We used the relative performance scores from the previous page and the typical gaming power consumption result.
Performance per Dollar
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck, you will love this graph. We looked up the current USD price of each card on the popular online shop Newegg and used that value with all relative performance numbers to calculate the Performance per Dollar Index.
The overclocking results listed in this section were achieved with the default fan and voltage settings as defined in the VGA BIOS. Please note that every single sample overclocks differently, which is why our results here can only serve as a guideline for what you can expect from your card.
The maximum stable clocks of our card are 1230 MHz core (12% overclock) and 1790 MHz memory (8% overclock).
GPU overclocking ends up higher than any other HD 7970 we tested, except for the Sapphire HD 7970 Toxic. Memory overclocks well too, but doesn't quite reach the levels we have seen on other cards.
Important: Each GPU (including each GPU of the same make and model)
|Maximum Overclock Comparison
||Max. GPU Clock
||Max. Memory Clock
|ASUS HD 7970 Matrix
|MSI HD 7970 Lightning
|GIGABYTE HD 7970 SOC
|PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13
|Sapphire HD 7970 Toxic
|AMD HD 7970 GHz
|AMD HD 7970
will overclock slightly differently based on random production variances.
This table just serves to provide a list of typical overclocks for similar cards,
determined during TPU review.
Using these clock frequencies, we ran a quick test of Battlefield 3
to evaluate the gains from overclocking.
Actual 3D performance gained from overclocking is 10.6%.
It has been a long known fact that overclocking headroom increases as soon as you increase the operating voltage. Software voltage control on VGA cards has, until recently, been the exception and most users were not willing to risk their warranty by performing a soldering voltmod. Almost all current graphics cards have voltage control in order to lower power consumption by throttling voltage during idle and slight load.
In this section, we will increase the GPU operating voltage step by step, and record the maximum clock speed possible. Voltage is listed as the value that the voltage regulator reports through software, not actual measured voltage. The card was installed into a case with fan settings at default. Memory will not be overclocked. We will, with a card that has thermal throttling, reduce the operating frequency to keep performance as high as possible for a given voltage. Please note that the fan profile will have an effect on observed temperatures: if the card gets hotter, the fan will ramp up to reduce temperatures or keep them from rising too fast.
The following graph shows the overclocking potential we saw on our sample. GPU clock is represented by the blue line, which uses the vertical clock scale on the left. The scale starts at the default clock to give a feel for the card's overclocking potential over its base clock. Temperature is plotted in red using the °C scale on the right side of the graph. An additional graph shows full system power draw in orange, measured at the wall socket while running at the given voltage, clock, and temperature.
I could not find any gains due to increased voltage, which is very surprising. There was absolutely no improvement in clock stability, but voltages, power, and temperatures went up, proving the voltage was applied. I verified this with physical measurements.
Nevertheless, 1240 MHz at stock voltage is already a very respectable result. I'm sure the card will deliver higher numbers in the hands of more capable overclockers using extreme cooling.
Temperatures are very low. I think less noise and slightly higher temps would have been better.
Important: GPU temperature will vary depending on clock speed, voltage settings,
|GPU Temperature Comparison
|ASUS HD 7970 Matrix
|MSI HD 7970 Lightning
|GIGABYTE HD 7970 SOC
|PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13
|Sapphire HD 7970 Toxic
|AMD HD 7970 GHz
|AMD HD 7970
cooler design, and production variances. This table just serves to provide
a list of typical temperatures for similar cards, determined during TPU review.
Modern graphics cards have several clock profiles that are selected to balance power draw and performance requirements.
The following table lists the clock settings for important performance scenarios, and the GPU voltage that we measured. We performed the measurement on the pins of a coil or a capacitor near the GPU voltage regulator.
|CCC Overdrive Limits
Value and Conclusion
- According to ASUS, their HD 7970 Matrix will retail for around $480.
- Large overclock out of the box
- Good overclocking potential
- Quiet in idle
- Nice overclocking features like VGA hotwire, voltage buttons, and measurement points
- Native, full-size DisplayPort outputs
- Dual-link DVI available
- Dual BIOS
- 3 Year warranty
- Support for PCI-Express 3.0 and DirectX 11.1
- AMD ZeroCore power
- High price
- High non-gaming power consumption
- Triple slot design might not fit all cases
- Limited voltage range
- No gains from extra voltage in our testing
||ASUS has engineered the most powerful single-GPU AMD graphics card money can buy right now. The HD 7970 Matrix runs at 1100 MHz GPU clock, which is higher than any other HD 7970 available today. Only the PowerColor PCS+ matches it, but runs a much lower memory clock. Memory clock on the Matrix is also very high, and is, with 1650 MHz, finally a card that goes beyond the 1500 MHz barrier out of the box - good job ASUS. Based on the Tahiti XT2 GHz ASIC, the Matrix also uses AMD's Boost clock feature that runs the card at 1100 MHz during normal gaming and down to 1050 MHz during Furmark or similar testing. Overall, these enhancements result in an 11% performance improvement over the regular HD 7970 and a 3% boost over the HD 7970 GHz and MSI HD 7970 Lightning.|
ASUS has put an extra-powerful, big, triple-slot cooler on the card that uses two 10 cm fans to keep the card cool. In our testing, we see super-low temperatures of around 70°C under load. While that is certainly nice, it is missing potential to quieten down the fan, which is not as quiet as I had expected from such a cooler. Compared to other HD 7970 cards, the HD 7970 Matrix is actually the quietest under load, but some custom design NVIDIA cards do much better here and provide that silent, high-end gaming experience everybody is looking for. ASUS tells me that their engineers deliberately included an extra-large temperature-safety margin for overclocking and overvolting, but the card only reaches 75°C at maximum voltage, which leaves plenty of headroom for cooling.
I have to commend ASUS on enabling a default dual-link DVI output with their card. Other cards, like the MSI Lightning, did away with that option, which left many 30" monitor users standing in the rain. You can, if you don't want the dual-link DVI port, but prefer a single-link port and more DisplayPort outputs, switch to the second BIOS to enable this configuration - smart thinking by ASUS.
The HD 7970 Matrix is loaded with "usual" enthusiast features like software voltage control and measuring points. But ASUS went the extra mile and added some new goodies. Using the VGA Hotwire cables, you can connect the graphics card to your ASUS ROG motherboard, which lets you control the card's voltages from within the motherboard BIOS. Another OC feature are its on-board buttons to adjust GPU voltage without any software. Unfortunately, the range is quite limited and doesn't support undervolting. It also doesn't remember the setting, so you have to set the voltage every time you reboot or turn off your PC. A third button is supposed to enable some kind of safe mode, but didn't do anything at all during my testing. Last but not least, ASUS has added a fourth button that switches fan speed to 100%, which might come in handy if you need to get the card to cool down quickly.
Overclocking worked fine on our card, reaching good GPU and memory clocks that I would describe as "good" for an enthusiast card since other cards in our test group reached higher levels. Manual voltage tweaking did not yield a higher clock frequency, which is quite surprising. Changing voltages actually worked, so the underlying reason is unknown. We have seen this card reach over 1700 MHz In the hands of hardcore overclockers with plenty of liquid nitrogen.
ASUS tells us their HD 7970 Matrix will retail for $480, which is roughly the same as MSI's HD 7970 Lightning, but much more expensive than normal HD 7970 cards. AMD recently conducted several rounds of price drops for the HD 7970 and GHz Edition. The cheapest HD 7970 is available for $390, and the cheapest GHz Edition goes for $400. ASUS tells me their price target is the AMD HD 7970 GHz SEP, which is $449, plus a 30 dollar price premium. However, some board partners have recently started selling the HD 7970 GHz below that price point, which ASUS does not account for. An $80 price increase for a few percent of extra performance is a lot to ask from a typical user who mostly plays games. In the hands of a powerclocker, this card certainly provides a good base design for record breaking results. I like that ASUS included a second VRM heatsink optimized for LN2, and the GPUs also seem to be sorted. Our GPU had an ASIC quality of 62.4% (hardcore overclockers look for lower percentages).