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Roundup: a review of the super GeForce GTX 580s from Asus, EVGA, Gainward, Gigabyte, MSI and Zotac
by Damien Triolet
Published on October 26, 2011

Asus GTX 580 Matrix Platinum
Asus is marketing an extreme GeForce GTX 580: the Matrix Platinum. A Republic of Gamers card, it's looking to make space for itself among overclockers with a voluminous cooling system and numerous overclocking features. Of course it has factory overclocking, although this is down on what you might think you’d get from this sort of a monster: 816 MHz for the GPU against 772 MHz for the reference card. An increase of 6% which isn’t however matched by the memory, which remains at 1002 MHz (like on the reference card). Note that Asus only offers a 1.5 GB model, which isn’t a problem given the fact that the 3 GB versions don’t really bring anything extra to the table.

Asus GTX 580 Matrix Platinum: €519.00 to €539.96

The card

Very big, the Matrix is bigger than the reference GTX 580 in height, width and depth: 3 slots in place of 2, 29.5 cm long in place of 27 cm and an extra 2.5 cm on the top of the card. This last part isn’t however because of the cooling system and is only there for aesthetic reasons: it reinforces the massive feel of the card and houses the colour diodes for the Matrix logo. The diodes change in colour as the GPU load increases or decreases.

To cool the GF110 GPU, Asus uses an extreme version of its Direct CU II cooling system. Five large heatpipes run over its large base and are then cooled with two large radiators. A metallic frame ensures the rigidity of the card and supports the two large 10 cm fans. A cover closes the card and channels the flow of air towards the radiators.

There's an aluminium radiator for the sensitive components on the power stage at the level of the PCB. Although the flow of air from one of the two fans passes across it, in load this air will be hot as it will previously have passed through the radiator that evacuates the GPU heat. The Samsung HC04 GDDR5 memory modules, which are identical to those used on the reference card, are open to the air, which isn’t a problem as the GDDR5 doesn’t heat up too much and is positioned in the flow of air.

There’s a perforated metallic plate at the back of the card but it isn’t in contact with the PCB or other components and isn’t part of the cooling system but rather there for aesthetic reasons and to protect the back of the PCB.

Of course it was out of the question to base this extreme model on the reference PCB and Asus has developed an entirely customised PCB with numerous improvements. The power stage benefits from this of course with no fewer than sixteen phases for the GPU in addition to the two phases for the memory. Moreover Asus has used a NEC TOKIN Proadlizer, a very sophisticated capacitor which facilitates the implementation of a compact power supply circuit that doesn’t produce too much noise. In other words, this fashionable component has replaced a series of capacitors to simplify what is a high quality design. It's ideally placed just behind the GPU so as to be as close as possible to the source that’s supplied with power. Two 8-pin PCI Express connectors are required to supply this power stage.

Asus says that it has put a double protection system in place with the addition of fuses between the OCP circuits and the power stage. In practice, according to what we could see on the PCB, Asus has simply replaced the shunt circuits with fuses with known resistance close to that used by NVIDIA. This means that this isn’t a double protection system but rather a strengthened version of OCP, based as it is on the same components.

These fuses represent relatively high values: 2 x 12A for each 8-pin PCIE connector and 12A for the power supply via the bus. This makes for a total of 720W! This is of course far beyond what is authorised by the PCI Express spec, especially in terms of the motherboard as a PCI Express bus isn’t supposed to supply more than 5.5A. Moreover this card is already over the 5.5A limit without overclocking and can be by a lot more if you push the voltage and frequency up. Some motherboards may not respond well to this… In any case Asus has given itself a generous margin so that the GTX 580 Matrix doesn’t limit extreme overclocking potential, as long, of course, as you happen on a card that is generously endowed here.

In terms of bonuses, Asus provides for better connectivity than on the reference card with the addition of a DisplayPort connection. A Safe Mode button allows you to return to your original clocks if you’ve been too ambitions when modifying the clocks in the bios.

For advanced users and bench table overclocking enthusiasts, Asus has provided voltage read points to meaure the voltage of ins (3.3V and 12V) as well as GPU, memory and PLL voltages. These points are pierced, with a marking on either side of the PCB for ease of use.

There's a large red button for forcing the fan up to full speed. On our test system, moving up from 40% to 100% brought the GPU temperature down from 80°C to 72 °C, at pretty annoying noise levels however. There are two other buttons under this red button and these allow you to increase the GPU voltage progressively (in 0.0125V increments), with a set of diodes marked from 1 to 10 which allow you to identify the level you're at.

Finally, for pro overclockers Asus says, connection spaces you can fill with neutral resistance or conduction pencil have been provided to turn the OCP off, allow modification of the memory and PLL voltage and double the power stage controller clock to improve stability in the case of high overclockjing.

In terms of software, Asus supplies GPU Tweak, based on Rivatuner and GPU-Z. Very thorough, this software allows you to modify clocks and voltages, offers full monitoring and bios updates. For ROG cards, you can also modify memory timings as well as the clocks straight in the bios.

Infrared thermography

[ At idle ]  [ In load ]

[ At idle ]  [ In load ]

The Matrix Platinum is very well cooled both at idle and in load.

Temperature and noise readings

The readings confirm the decent performance of the Matrix Platinum with a significantly better cooled GPU than on the reference card. There’s a margin to play with as the cooling system fans run at 43%. Noise levels are very low at idle.

Our opinion
The GeForce GTX 580 Matrix Platinum is probably the most advanced GeForce GTX 580, thanks to a very high performance cooling system and a PCB that has been designed to handle high overclocking and satisfy the most advanced users who are the people most likely to be prepared to shell out for it.

Our main reservation about this model is that it doesn't respect the maximum PCI Express bus energy consumption limit and this could be a problem with certain motherboards if you overclock the card. Its triple slot format will also prevent it from being used in mini-PCs as well as most SLI systems.

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