ATi Radeon HD 3870 in the test: A new name alone is not enough

ATi Radeon HD 3870 in the test: A new name alone is not enough


After the Radeon HD 2900 XT, without a doubt, it turned out to be disappointing for most potential buyers ATi wants to do a lot better with the Radeon HD 3800 series. And although the RV670 did not manage to iron out all the weak points in the R600 architecture, it was nevertheless possible to turn the previously ailing R600 into a worthwhile GPU. The PowerColor Radeon HD 3870 tested today, which follows the reference design established by ATi, is one of the two types of graphics cards that are initially equipped with the RV670. We will test the Radeon HD 3850 in detail in another review.

Without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering shows The ATi Radeon HD 3870 performs well and is in no way inferior to the Radeon HD 2900 XT. So you are - regardless of the resolution - on average the same as the graphics card from the Radeon HD 2000 series. But it doesn't look bad even against the competition. In 1280x1024, the Radeon HD 3870 is only ten percent behind the GeForce 8800 GT, while the GeForce 8800 GTS is noticeably different. In terms of percentage, almost nothing changes in 1600x1200 and the result is also already known in 2560x1600. The GeForce 8800 GT is slightly slower, but is still ahead of the new ATi offspring with a difference of almost nine percent.

Since modern high-end accelerators in the performance segment offer enough power to Playing with the two quality-enhancing features, the speed without anti-aliasing and the anisotropic filtering is probably only of interest to very few readers. And this is exactly where the weak point of the Radeon HD 2900 XT was so far: the card broke significantly more than the GeForce 8800 series from California. And so the Radeon HD 3870 in 1280x1024 with 4xAA and 16xAF achieves this - relativelyseen - worst result of all test series. The graphics card can set itself apart from the Radeon HD 2900 XT by just three percent, while the GeForce 8800 GT easily pulls away with a lead of 19 percent.

PowerColor Radeon HD 3870

However, it already looks different in 1600x1200. There the ATi Radeon HD 3870 is ten percent ahead of the Radeon HD 2900 XT and only eight percent behind the GeForce 8800 GT. The Radeon HD 2900 can work in 2560x1600 (although the 3D accelerators in focus here are mostly too slow for this resolution, you should use a GeForce 8800 GTX, GeForce 8800 Ultra or - better still - an SLI combination) XT is catching up a bit and is on the same level as the Radeon HD 3870. The GeForce 8800 GT remains nine percent faster.

The Radeon HD 3870 also shows its strength in Direct3D 10 applications. Without anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, the ATi card is only five percent behind the GeForce 8800 GT. The Radeon HD 2900 XT is left behind by ten percent. With activated anti-aliasing and anisotropic texture filtering, the GeForce 8800 GT can again do a little better than the RV670 GPUdrop. The lead is a pleasant ten percent. The PowerColor Radeon HD 3870 PCS can set itself apart from the reference design by about four percent due to its higher clock rates.

ATi Radeon Graphics

We have to praise ATi for the reference cooler of the Radeon HD 3870. The Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT was already able to set new records in this discipline, but the PowerColor card even goes one better. The 3D accelerator cannot be made out from a closed case either under Windows or after a load phase of several hours. The measurements confirm that the PowerColor Radeon HD 3870 is slightly quieter than the GeForce 8800 GT, although the small difference can hardly be understood with the human ear. The Radeon HD 3870 is suitable for a silent PC without exception.

ATi received just as much applause deserves the integration of “PowerPlay”. As a result, the power consumption of the PowerColor Radeon HD 3870 drops to the level of a low-end graphics card under Windows. This has not happened for a long time. Compared to this, the GeForce 8800 GT requires a significantly greater amount of power. On the other hand, the two rivals don't do anything under load. Nevertheless, the ATi Radeon HD 3870 is undoubtedly suitable for energy savers and we can only hope that Nvidia will take more committed steps in the near future to reduce the line consumption of graphics cards in 2D mode Image quality has unfortunately not changed with the RV670 GPU. In most cases, the anti-aliasing is on par with the GeForce 8800 GT, but the anisotropic filtering is still at a disadvantage compared to the current Nvidia cards. You have to judge the Unified positivelyVideo decoder on the Radeon HD 3870. This means that regardless of the HD video codec used, you can enjoy high-resolution videos in good picture quality without any problems, even with a slow processor. Instead, the PCIe 2.0 standard belongs more to the category “nice to have, but certainly not a must”. There will be no advantages in games in the near future with the new standard. The configuration of the PowerColor Radeon HD 3870 is a bit (too) economical. Of course, you can't ask for a miracle for the purchase price, but a little more than a few cables and a driver CD should be possible.


After it seemed impossible to us back then, To recommend a purchase for the Radeon HD 2900 XT, we abandon this attitude towards ATi's high-end products for the Radeon HD 3870. In the first place, the (targeted) purchase price of around 210 to 220 euros should be positively emphasized, if it should be confirmed. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to make precise statements about the market price because not a single copy of the ATi Radeon HD 3870 is available. This is expected to change over the course of the next week. The graphics card is currently listed for less than 200 euros, but it is questionable whether it will go over the counter for this price in the foreseeable future. For the GeForce 8800 GT you have to pay slightly more at around 220 to 240 euros - but there are serious delivery problems here too. The GT is usually only available for more than 260 euros.

The ATi Radeon HD 3870 also knows how to please in terms of performance. The 3D accelerator works a bit slower than the GeForce 8800 GT in many resolutions and settings, but the Radeon HD 3870 can easily catch up and even overtake here and there in higher quality settings. The 'old' Radeon HD 2900 XT is almost always slower despite the higher memory bandwidth. The power consumption of the Radeon HD 3870 is (thanksPowerPlay especially under Windows) very good and the picture quality is adequate (although not quite as good as the competition). ATi also has to be praised for the built-in cooling system, which never breaks. How much the Direct3D 10.1 support brings, however, remains to be seen in the future. The support is generally to be assessed positively in any case. But we doubt that worthwhile Direct3D 10.1 applications will appear in the near future.

Finally, you should carefully consider whether you are going for a Radeon HD 3870 or a GeForce 8800 GT. We personally still tend towards the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT despite the good performance, since the graphics card simply shows a very good performance with an (almost) perfect image quality and, apart from the current market price, has no real weak points. Still, you can't go wrong with an ATi Radeon HD 3870, although the graphics card should cost less than the GeForce 8800 GT.

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