MSI Radeon HD 3870 512MB OC

How does a mildly overclocked HD 3870 fair against the also overclocked Galaxy 9600GT we reviewed recently? We find out!

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Feb 17 2008 11:00 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction





After looking at the new 9600GT just the other day, it became clear to us that the HD 3870 really does still have some life in it. It's not dying off anytime soon thanks to the aggressive pricing that has been implemented recently.

What we found was that the HD 3870 stock clocked card faired quite well against the 9600GT which came with an increased core and memory clock. It did get us thinking though; with an MSI HD 3870 OC sitting around doing nothing, it was time to see what would happen when we put overclocked part up against overclocked part.

It's really going to come down to how well the HD 3870 is able to make use of the increased clock speeds that MSI have offered. Since we haven't looked at the card before, we may as well kill two birds with one stone and check out the whole setup beginning with the package.

The Package




MSI have a very nice package at the moment; everything is very clear and gives us a good idea of what we're getting. The right of the card clearly shows the brand while the bottom shows the model. Just above the model is a sticker that makes note of this card being an OC Edition model.



The right of the card goes into some more details and lets us know about some of the main features including 512MB of GDDR4 memory, Dual Link DVI and PCI Express. The card is also prepared for some Hi-Def goodness supporting HDTV, HDCP and HDMI.



Turning the box over we go into some more details on the card along with some of the other features that are available. The back is more of the same with extended information on the product.



Moving inside the package, on the paperwork and CD side of things there isn't much to see. We have two quick user guides along with a driver CD which carries with it a few MSI utilities.



Diving deeper inside we have a nice little line-up of cables. We have the standard S-Video, Component out, Molex to PCI-E and DVI to VGA connectors. We also have a TV-Out to S-Video/RCA connector and a DVI to HDMI connector.

The package isn't too bad; it would have been nice to see a game included since we tend to get them quite often with MSI cards, but maybe next time. It really isn't make or break these days with an inclusion of a game thanks to the fact that more often than not the game is something we don't want to play anyway.

The Card




The card looks great; we see a fair amount of graphics cards come in and out of our labs, but the brightness of the sticker made the card really stand out. It seems kind of weird to like an otherwise somewhat standard cooler so much, but kudos to MSI as they did a good job of making it catch one's eye.



Of course, apart from the cooler there really isn't much else to the front of the card due to it taking up pretty much the whole front.





Looking around the card there isn't anything out of the ordinary here; we have a single PCI Express power connector located towards the rear of the card, and across the top we have two Crossfire connectors so we can make use of Crossfire X from hopefully next month once the next release of the Catalyst drivers come out.



Looking over the I/O side of things there isn't anything too different here either; we have two Dual Link DVI connectors and our TV-Out port. Also as with all other HD 3870 cards it's dual slot based with an exhaust taking one of the two spots up.


Specifications

As we've mentioned before, this particular card comes pre-overclocked out of the box. The standard core and memory on the HD 3870 comes in at 777MHz and 2250MHz DDR.



As you can see above, while the same 2250MHz DDR memory speed is seen, the core gets a bump up to 800MHz.

Test System Setup and 3DMark06


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): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Catalyst 8.1, Forceware 174.11 (9600GT Win XP), Forceware 171.16 (9600GT Win Vista)

Continuing to use our new test bed we will be comparing the overclocked HD 3870 from MSI against the 9600GT OC from Galaxy, also throwing in a stock clocked HD 3870 from ASUS for good measure.


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.




Straight away we can see some little gains for the MSI offering which helps keep it ahead of the 9600GT.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/





PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.






We can see in PT Boats that the 9600GT manages to come out ahead a little across the board; the gap is smaller though when we climb up the resolution board.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




We can see the overclock manages to show a nice little gain when compared to the stock offering and the overclocked 9600GT.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)


Half Life 2 (Episode Two 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 Two 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 Two 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.




We can see little gains again for the overclocked HD 3870 OC from MSI. It manages to stay ahead at all resolutions compared to the 9600GT.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
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.






WIC finds the cards a bit all over the place here. The overclocked HD 3870 sees it beat out the 9600GT's average at the higher resolutions, though at the lower ones it falls behind the 9600GT just slightly.

Benchmarks - Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Version
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.splashdamage.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.enemyterritory.com/





Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the latest Quake incarnation to make it out of the iD labs and carries with it a fast paced experience that manages to place a good amount of strain on your graphics card.

We use a custom made time demo which shows a bit of everything and manages to give us a good solid benchmark for the graphics cards that we test.




The overclock gives some good little gains, but the OpenGL performance from NVIDIA continues to reign supreme and keeps the 9600GT just in front.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Crysis

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom time demo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here





From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE 2 offers. The CryENGINE 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE 2 Sandbox world editing system.




We again see the HD 3870 lag behind at the lower resolutions and also a little as we move to 1600 x 1200, though at 1920 x 1200 it pretty much evens out with the overclocked HD 3870 coming out just ahead.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




We can see across the board the overclocked MSI HD 3870 gives us some nice little gains and helps extend the lead over the 9600GT.

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



AA/AF performance continues to suffer, though it's not all that far behind the 9600GT.


Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR)



We can see that all three cards are only separated by a single FPS, so really there is nothing in it.


World In Conflict





The HD 3870 can't manage to keep up with the 9600GT here with it getting left behind a fair bit.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06 - XP


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.




We again see the HD 3870 OC from MSI come ahead across the board with gains of over 5% seen at the highest resolution when compared to the 9600GT.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10 - XP


CINEBENCH R10

Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net




CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).




CINEBENCH also shows us gains with the overclocked 3870 beating out the 9600GT.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict - XP


World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.5
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.





The minimums are slightly lower on the HD 3870 OC compared to the 9600GT, but the averages tend to favor the MSI offering.

Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3 - XP


Unreal Tournament 3

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here





Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.




We continue to see the trend where the overclocked card is able to beat out the 9600GT at the higher resolution, while it's a little closer at the lower. Ultimately, only you can decide what's more important.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2 (Episode Two HDR) - XP


Half Life 2 (Episode Two 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 Two 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 Two 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.



We see in Episode Two that the gains are increased with the overclocked HD 3870 compared to the stock clocked offering from ASUS.

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.




The MSI HD 3870 managed to come in under both the ASUS offering and the 9600GT.


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 decreased temperature comes at the cost of increased noise levels coming out of the card.

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.




Power draw between the cards sit quite close together at load; the HD 3870s sit about 10 watt below the 9600GT when idle.

Final Thoughts




The HD 3870 has clearly still got some breath in it. The price drops take it to a different level from the 8800GT along with the ability to get good performance out of them. When you even out the playing field with overclocked HD 3870 vs overclocked 9600GT, the picture becomes a little clearer with the HD 3870 really being able to come out ahead.

Ultimately though, the biggest advantage that the HD 3870 has is that anyone who is after a good motherboard is going down the route of Intel, in which case you'll most likely find yourself with a Crossfire compatible chipset. With the price of the HD 3870 moving nothing but south at the moment, the ability to get into Crossfire and see some extra performance can be done at a pretty good price now.

MSI have done a good job with the HD 3870; a nice little overclock helps give it a decent boost over the stock clocked ASUS card most of the time, whilst also helping the HD 3870 outperform the brand new 9600GT in some situations too.

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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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