Performance Summary: The new Radeon HD 3870 performed much like a Radeon HD 2900 XT. The two cards generally traded victories over each other depending on the game and resolution being tested. Due to its smaller frame buffer and lower clock speeds, the Radeon HD 3850's performance was somewhat lower, but in comparison to what are expected to be similarly priced mid-range cards like the Radeon 2600 XT and GeForce 8600 GTS, the Radeon HD 3850’s performance is quite strong. NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 GTS, GT, and of course GTX usually performed better than the new Radeons, however.
There is a lot to like about the new Radeon HD 38x0 series. Both the Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 performed well throughout our entire battery of tests, in terms of framerates and image quality. Video playback performance was also good and thanks to design tweaks, PowerPlay, and a new 55nm manufacturing process power consumption, temperatures, and noise levels are way down in comparison to the previous generation. The RV670 GPU also offers support for DirectX 10.1, which is a first in the industry.
According to AMD, the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and Radeon HD 3850 have MSRPs of $219 and $179, respectively. Both cards should be available immediately. If these cards end-up being widely available and have actual street prices approaching these MSRPs, we suspect they are going to be very popular this holiday buying season. Considering how much cheaper they must be to produce than the 2900 XT, we’re sure AMD is hoping for some big numbers. If street prices end up much higher, however, the Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 face some stiff competition from the GeForce 8800 GT, which outperforms the new Radeons in just about every game engine we tested. And don’t forget a less expensive 256MB GT is on the way as well. Fortunately for AMD, the GeForce 8800 GT is tough to find at the moment and it’s selling for much more than its MSRP.
It’s going to take a couple of weeks to see what pricing and availability look like for both AMD and NVIDIA’s latest offerings. They’re both looking strong though and are worth the upgrade. If you were waiting for the right moment to jump on the DX10 bandwagon, that time is rapidly approaching.