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ASUS Radeon HD 3870 512MB G-DDR4

AMD's RV670 has been discussed a lot and it's finally almost here. We check out the ASUS HD Radeon 3870 in fine detail!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, Nov 13 2007 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:26 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

IntroductionHere it is!The new AMD offering! It's the 55nm DX10.1 HD Radeon 3870 and not the 3870 XT or XTX but just the 3870. The other model to launch is the 3850. In the old naming scheme the 3870 would represent an XT while the new 3850 is a PRO.We have on hand today the brand new 3870 from ASUS. There are a lot of questions that have to be answered and mainly, how does it perform? Where does it sit on the market? How much is it going to cost? Should you buy it? Are NVIDIA in trouble?We intend to answer all this and more as we look into the 3870 from ASUS.

The Package

The PackageIn typical high-end ASUS style we have another large box. The front of the box is covered by Company of Heroes with the mention of the hottest DX10 game. The top left corner of course has our brand while across the bottom of the box we get the main information like the model, in this case the EAH3870 including other features like 512MB GDDR-4 and PCI Express 2.0 support.
Turning the box over we have some extended information on the card. There is also some explanation on the ASUS specific features along with a system recommendation. The good news is that you don't need a PCIE 2.0 motherboard to get the card up and running.
With the box out the way it's time to move inside. In the paperwork department we have a SpeedSetup guide. In the CD department we have a Driver CD, which we needed to use since the ATI Catalyst 7.10s didn't like the 3870, along with an ASUS Multi-language manual and a copy of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.
Onto the cable department we have a pretty standard setup for a high-end AMD graphics card. Included in the package is an S-Video to Component cable, Molex to PCI Express connector, DVI to VGA connector, DVI to HDMI connector and Crossfire connector.
All in the entire package is very standard for a high-end AMD card. The inclusion of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is nice and it's good to see a new game included in the package. There isn't much you could really complain about while it would be nice to have a HDMI cable included in the package it's safe to say that majority of users won't use it and that good old DVI cable is more than enough for most.

The Card

The CardThe card looks good as soon as you pull it out of the package, it isn't over whelming in size and the cooler seems to be an improved version of the previous HD 2900 XT type. Card length comes in the same as the HD 2900 XT but the cooler is slightly smaller, you can see the memory sinks across the top of the card.
Having a look around the card the first thing we notice is that we move back to a single PCI Express connector, which is great news. The 8-pin connector was really annoying, a lot of power supplies don't offer it and without it you lost ATI Overdrive functionality.
Across the top of the card we have the same Crossfire bridge that was found on the last generation of HD 2K cards.
Moving to the I/O department we can see that the card is dual slot which again is pretty normal for high-end cards. It's good to see that AMD decided to go down this route instead of doing what NVIDIA did with the GeForce 8800GT and making a single slot cooler with a small fan that absolute screams along and doesn't cool all that well.
There are also of course our two DVI connectors of which both support Dual Link connectivity and a TV-Out port if your TV doesn't support HDMI which can be used with the help of the included adapter.New FeaturesThe card isn't the beast that we thought it would be. While it carries with it a next generation naming scheme and some fancy new features it seems to be more half step like the 8800GT was for NVIDIA.The particular core name is the RV670 and carries with it new 55nm architecture, what this give us is a smaller, cooler and hopefully faster core. It runs at 777MHz comes with 320 steam processors. The Samsung GDDR-4 memory comes clocked in at 2252MHz DDR and uses a 256-bit interface. The card is of course PCIE 2.0 like we mentioned and there will supposedly be support for Quad Crossfire on the RD970 chipset when it is launched along with the Phenom later this year.Other new features include DX10.1 support, Shader Model 4.1 is also supported and like NVIDIA, AMD have chosen to include their hardware decoding feature which in this case is UVD or Unified Video Decoder.

Test System Setup and 3DMark05

Test System SetupProcessor(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 and Windows VistaDrivers: Catalyst Beta (included with driver CD) and ForceWare 169.01With a whole bunch of cards in hand it's time to see how the new Radeon HD 3870 goes under a whole bunch of tests and both Windows XP and Vista.We have also added the Crysis demo into the mix to make things more interesting.There's no point going on and on because the simple fact is we want to know just how the card goes, so let's more forth!3DMark05Version and / or Patch Used: Build 130Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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.
We can see that the 3870 is just behind the 8800GT from NVIDIA, we can see though that the card is able to beat everything else though.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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 3DMark06 we see a similar picture, while the 3870 is able to come out ahead of everything else on offer except the newly released 8800GT.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)

Half Life 2 (Episode One HDR)Version and / or Patch Used: Latest from SteamTimedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com Product Homepage: http://www.half-life2.comBuy 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.
Even the AMD favored source engine can't seem to give the 3870 the jump on the 8800GT.

Benchmarks - Prey

PreyVersion and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: HardwareOC Custom BenchmarkDeveloper Homepage: http://www.humanhead.com Product Homepage: http://www.prey.comBuy 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.
The new 3870 offers some good gains over the HD 2900 XT but it still just can't catch up to the 8800GT.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R.Version and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
Low res F.E.A.R. is up while the higher resolution doesn't do as well. We tested a few times just to make sure the results were consistent.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes

Company of HeroesVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.7Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.relic.comProduct Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.comBuy 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.
COH performance hasn't changed much at all from the HD 2900 XT, the 8800GT continues to dominate in the MIN FPS department, when you move to AVG though the performance is up when compared to the HD 2900 XT.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict (DX9)Version and / or Patch Used: DemoTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
WIC performance is way up and pretty much lined up with the 8800GT for the first time.

Benchmarks - Crysis Demo

Crysis Demo
The new 3870 lets us run Crysis at 1920 x 1200 but you can see it struggles against the competition with it only coming out ahead of the 8800GTS.At the lower resolution we can see the same picture the 3870 beats everything up to the 8800GTS after that the NVIDIA offerings come out ahead.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AFOur 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.
AA performance is only slightly up from the HD 2900 XT and again we see the 8800GT really come out ahead.
We again see that performance is only just up over the HD 2900 XT. The 8800GT comes out 60% faster.
For the first time we can see the 3870 show a major improvement when AA is enabled though it still lags roughly 30% behind the 8800GT here.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - Vista

3DMark06Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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 3DMark06 the 3870 performs very close to the 8800GT at the lower resolution but as we climb it begins to lag behind.

Benchmarks - Call of Juarez (DX10) - Vista

Call of Juarez (DX10)Version and / or Patch Used: DX10 Benchmark DemoTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.techland.pl/en/ Product Homepage: http://www.coj-game.comBuy 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.
Call of Juarez which is more of an AMD favored game sees the new card get a decent jump on performance against the whole pack.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet (DX10) - Vista

Lost Planet: Extreme ConditionVersion and / or Patch Used: DemoTimedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper 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.
While performance is up from the HD 2900 XT it still lags behind the 8800GT.

Benchmarks - Company of Heroes (DX10) - Vista

Company of HeroesVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.7Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in TestDeveloper Homepage: http://www.relic.comProduct Homepage: http://www.companyofheroesgame.comBuy 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.
For the last of our games test we can see at the higher resolution the 3870 comes out ahead of the pack.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
While the card is warm it's not as bad as the 8800GT. That extra 5c really seems to make a difference when you place your hand around the card.Sound Tests
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
The new fan is fantastic, it's extremely quiet. If the fan decided to speed up a bit we could get the temperatures down a bit though the card really runs like a dream at these settings.

Power Consumption Tests

Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Moving to the new 55nm has given us a big power drop under load when compared to the HD 2900 XT, at idle it's the lowest and load it's only slightly higher than the 8800GT.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsThe Radeon HD 3870 is good but it's not fantastic.We don't doubt though that as we see new drivers from AMD performance will begin to go up. You have to remember though that this card is priced at $250 US (or roughly $350 AUD) so it's not an expensive card like your normal next-gen offering.Looking over our questions from the intro the card does perform quite well and is a nice step up from the HD 2900 XT at a very good price. It's really in direct competition with the 8800GT although it never really manages to perform as well as it, bar a few cases. It's a good card and if you want a multi card setup on your P35/X38 motherboard, it's going to be a better option than a single 8800 Ultra. Should NVIDIA be worried? Not really. By the time AMD get a really kick ass driver out for the 3870 the new models from NVIDIA could be around the corner and the whole fight starts over again.The card is good, there's no denying that and it's a decent purchase for someone who wanted an AMD offering and was looking at the HD 2900 XT. The bottom line though is that it's not fantastic, which is okay, the price is good and little things like the quieter fan, HDMI convertor and DX10.1 support make it a more attractive card for some people but as a straight out performer it's just good.As we come up to the jolly season it's time to start buying yourself a new video card and if AMD can get a good driver out in early December and then make sure it's covered well over the world wide interweb it could be a fantastic card. Personally I would probably almost opt for the 3870 for a few reasons we have already mentioned - the noise level is great, the 8800GT is really just a loud and hence annoying card. Really who wants to bother messing around with aftermarket coolers and taking the risk of voiding the warranty? Stock also doesn't seem to be an issue and price is pretty good. The inclusion of HDMI and UVD are nice so it could be retired to my HTPC when the true next generation cards come out and as someone who tests the Catalyst drivers monthly I've seen firsthand the improvements that happened on the high-end AMD offerings and I don't doubt in no time this card will be screaming along.
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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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