HD 3870 in Crossfire vs. HD 3870 X2

You've seen the HD 3870 X2 in action; but can't decide whether or not to run two HD 3870s instead? We set you straight.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Jan 28 2008 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction





The one downside about graphics cards which carry two cores on the singular PCB is that they're normally slower than buying two separate cards based on the same tech. What we're going to look at here today is the performance of the HD 3870 X2 compared to the HD 3870 in Crossfire.

Okay, let's clear that up a little bit more. What we have with us is the HD 3870 X2 from MSI coming in at 860MHz core and 1800MHz DDR on the 1GB of GDDR3 memory. At the other end of the spectrum we have two HD 3870 cards running in Crossfire which carry a core clock of 775MHz with the 512MB of GDDR4 coming in at a hefty 2250MHz DDR.

We're not going to look at the packages etc. since we've covered that side of things with the cards separately in the past. We're simply just going to get stuck straight into the benchmarking, so let's leave it at that and move on.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05


Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Cooling: Corsair Nautilus500 (Supplied by Corsair) with Arctic Cooling MX-2 Thermal Compound (Supplied by Arctic Cooling)
Motherboard(s): ASUS Blitz Extreme (Supplied by ASUS)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair XMS3 DDR-3 1066MHz 7-7-7-21 (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk(s): Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM SATA-2
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista
Drivers: Catalyst 8.1

Instead of worrying about all the lower resolutions and what not we've decided to keep it simple. The minimum resolution we've run here is 1920 x 1200 and when possible we've also ran 2560 x 1600. The only game to differ from this is FEAR which uses resolutions as close to the aforementioned ones as possible.

We're still using the official Catalyst 8.1 driver as well.


3DMark05

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark05/
Buy It Here




3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.




Our first test shows the X2 coming out in front, though not by a huge margin.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Moving over to the more intensive 3DMark06 we can see that the X2 is again ahead of the Crossfire setup, but nothing too major.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from Steam
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.com
Buy It Here




By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism, responsiveness and new HDR technology, Half-Life 2 Episode One opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 Episode One with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.




The leads continue to be seen in our first real world benchmark, though we can see at the highest resolution only 2 FPS separates the two setups.

Benchmarks - Prey


Prey

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com
Product Homepage: http://www.prey.com
Buy It Here




Prey is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.




We only have support of up to 1920 x 1200 in Prey but we can see that while the X2 is ahead again, it's only by 2FPS.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


F.E.A.R.

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.vugames.com
Product Homepage: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/
Buy It Here




F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.





We can see here that the minimums favor the Crossfire setup while the average tends to favor the X2. Ultimately the minimums are more important.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.






Checking out Company of Heroes we can see again that the X2 is ahead of the CF solution; though the gaps continue to be quite small.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict (DX9)

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com




World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.





World in Conflict paints a similar picture to what we have seen all along. The X2 manages to stay ahead of the CF solution but doesn't stand out.

High Quality AA and AF




Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.


3DMark06



We continue to see the X2 come out ahead.


Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)



Our Source based games sees the X2 ahead again, but by a small 2.5FPS margin.


Prey



Prey sees a bigger gap between the two setups, though at over 100FPS average on both setups you're going to be happy either way.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - Vista


3DMark06

Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here




3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.




Moving to Vista we see the X2 continuing to just hold the lead.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista


Call of Juarez (DX10)

Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/
Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.com

Buy It Here



Call of Juarez is a Western-themed FPS from Techland. The North America release was one of the first games to utilize DX10.

Call of Juarez is loosely based on a number of Western movie hits from the last four decades, particularly the Spaghetti Westerns that became popular in the sixties and early seventies. The game features two different characters: Billy "Candle", a young fugitive accused of murder and the Reverend Ray, an ex-outlaw who turned to religion, believing that God himself has chosen Ray to be the instrument of His wrath.





COJ is the first time we have really seen the X2 come out ahead in such a large leap.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet (DX10) - Vista


Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com
Product Homepage: http://www.nzone.com/object/nzone_lostplanet_home.html




Driven to the brink of extinction on ice-covered wastelands, humankind fights to survive. From extreme conditions and insurgent Snow Pirates to hostile gargantuan alien Akrid, all that you can trust are your instincts.

Combining a gripping single player campaign and intense multiplayer modes with support for up to 16 players online, Lost Planet is an epic gaming masterpiece. Enormous world maps unfold as players' battle across vast snow fields and deserted cities either on foot or in armed, robotic Vital Suits.



Lost Planet shows the typical 1/2FPS increase for the X2.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista


Company of Heroes

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.relic.com
Product Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.com
Buy It Here




Company of Heroes, or COH as we're calling it, is one of the latest World War II games to be released and also one of the newest in our lineup of benchmarks. It is a super realistic real-time strategy (RTS) with plenty of cinematic detail and great effects. Because of its detail, it will help stress out even the most impressive computer systems with the best graphics cards - especially when you turn up all the detail. We use the built-in test to measure the frame rates.




Finally we leave with COH and we see that the X2 manages to be ahead, but not with any major gains.

Final Thoughts




Performance between the two setups is quite close, but the X2 consistently manages to beat out the Crossfire solution. However, it looks like the original HD 3870 is going to take a bit of a price drop which is always a good thing.

So if you can get two HD 3870s for less than the X2, is that the route you should take? Yeah, probably; the performance difference between the two setups is minimal and if you're able to get the CF solution cheaper than the X2 one it works out to be a better deal.

The other thing is that if you're not running a PCI Express 2.0 motherboard you can't unlock the full potential of the X2; initial results show some decent gains for the X2 when moving to a PCI-E 2.0 motherboard.

If you're after this kind of performance we would break it down for a few particular groups :-

1) If you're on a tight budget and already have a CF capable motherboard, get the CF setup.

2) If you already have a single HD 3870 then don't bother upgrading to an X2; just nab a second HD 3870 and you're in business.

3) If you're not running a PCI Express 2.0 motherboard but have a CF one on say a P35 based chipset, then it's probably best to stick to the CF solution.

4) Finally, if you need four monitors the CF solution is better when compared to a standard X2.


On the other hand, the perfect user group for the X2 is :-

1) If you have a PCI Express 2.0 motherboard and want Crossfire performance.

2) Money isn't really a problem.

3) You have intentions for CrossfireX.

4) AMD Crossfire on a non-Crossfire motherboard.

Both setups are good and both really do sit in different market segments. Hopefully the X2 is a sign of good things to come from the AMD camp. The next few months will be interesting, not only from AMD but also NVIDIA. The good news is that Hi-Def gaming is a little more attainable now thanks to cards like this which also allow for future support with Quad-Core video card performance.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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