The world of ultra-high-end graphics cards is ruled by dual-GPU monsters that squeeze CrossFire or SLI onto a single circuit board. ATI has some history in this space; long before being swallowed up by AMD, its Rage Fury MAXX put two GPUs on a single card to take on 3dfx's Voodoo 5 and Nvidia's very first GeForce. More recently, AMD paired a couple of its Cypress GPUs on a single card to form the Radeon HD 5970. With the GPUs clocked at only 725MHz, or 125MHz slower than a Radeon HD 5870, the 5970 ended up being a little slower than a pair of AMD's flagship single-GPU Radeons in CrossFire. But it was easily the fast single graphics card of the moment, and even some eight months after the card's official release, examples are still listed at $100 over the original $599 list price.
If you think that's expensive, brace yourself for Asus' latest entry into the CrossFire-on-a-stick sweepstakes. The Republic of Gamers Ares 4GB retains the dual Cypress GPUs on display in the 5970, but it doubles the onboard memory to 4GB (2GB per GPU), and jacks the price up to a whopping $1200. I'll say that again, slowly. Twelve hundred dollars.
For that price, one might expect four Cypress GPUs rather than just two. At least the Ares' GPUs are running at their full potential, though. As they are in the Radeon HD 5870, the Ares' GPUs are clocked at 850MHz. The memory is up to speed, as well, with a 1.2GHz clock frequency combining with GDDR5 to deliver an impressive 4.8Gbps data rate.
According to this review at Hardware Canucks, the Ares will have a limited production run of about 1,000 units. That's probably a good thing, because based on its performance, the card will need a measure of exclusivity to sweeten the pot. The Ares ends up being a little bit slower than a pair of Radeon HD 5870s running in CrossFire, which will only set you back around $800. Surprisingly, the single Asus card also consumes more power than the CrossFire pair. And, despite sporting a 100-mm fan and several pounds worth of heatsink, it's reportedly rather loud under load.
Of course, Hardware Canucks did manage to push the GPU cores of its sample up to a dizzying 971MHz with only a "very minor voltage bump." The Ares also comes bundled with a fancy Asus gaming mouse and is packed into the sort of suitcase one might expect to see cuffed to someone's hand. If you have $2400 burning a hole in your pocket and want four GPUs churning out frames for your Eyefinity wall, there's a CrossFire connector, too.