Radeon HD 3870 X2 Round-Up: Asus, HIS

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The first card we’re going to show you here is the Asus EAH3870 X2 1GB.  As you’ll see, the card is much like AMD’s reference design, save for a couple of minor details...



    

    
 Asus EAH3870 X2 1GB


The Asus EAH3870 X2 1GB has a custom decal affixed to its fan shroud, and it is bundled with a leather CD / DVD case, a driver and utility disk, and a second utility disk that includes a number of proprietary Asus applications in addition to a copy of 3DMark06.  The card’s bundle also includes two DVI-to-VGA adapters, a DVI to HDMI (with audio) adapter, a CrossFire bridge connector, a dual Molex-to-6-Pin PCI Express power adapter, a HD component output dongle, and a full version of the current, DX10 game Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.  Although not as popular as a game like Crysis or CoD4, the inclusion of CoH:OF is welcome considering the card’s price.

We should note that the Asus EAH3870 X2 1GB is not factory overclocked.  Its GPUs are clocked at 825MHz and its memory is clocked at 900MHz (1.8GHz DDR), just like AMD’s reference design.  And the card carried a carries a 3-year warranty.

 



     

     
HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2
 

The HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 is also based on ATI’s reference design (and is clocked the same too), sans the large decal on the fan shroud.  With this setup, it’s easy to see the dual aluminum / copper heatsinks affixed to the GPUs and the aluminum heatsinks fins in the center that cover the on-board PCI Express fan-out switch.

HIS includes a couple of noteworthy accessories with their Radeon HD 3870 X2 card.  Along with a DVI to HDMI adapter, dual DVI to VGA adapters, a CrossFire bridge connector, and HD component output dongle, the card ships with a driver CD, a case badge, and a certificate for Valve’s Black Box gaming bundle, which is comprised of Half Life: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.  Also included is a handy pen-screwdriver branded with a large HIS logo.




     

    

    
 Asus EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP


Although its box looks similar, the Asus EAH3870X2 1GB TOP is a different animal than the “non-TOP” version pictured at the top of the page.  The Asus EAH3870X2 1GB TOP differs from AMD’s reference design in a number of meaningful ways.   First of all, the cooling apparatus used on the card is completely different.  Asus’ design employs a pair of heatsinks with heat-pipes with dual, dedicated fans – one for each GPU.  We found the cooling apparatus to work well too.  Whereas the GPUs on a reference 3870 X2 typically idled at about 55ºC and hit about 85ºC under load, this dual-fan solution kept the GPUs at about 52ºC while idling at 80ºC under load.  And it does its job quietly.

The Asus EAH3870X2 1GB TOP is also factory overclocked.  The GPUs on the card are clocked at 850MHz and the memory it cranked up to 950MHz (1.9GHz DDR).  We should also note that Asus uses .8ns Hynix GDDR3 RAM on the card, which is rated for up to 1200MHz, so there should be some headroom available for the overclockers out there.  Finally, the EAH3870X2 1GB TOP differs from the reference design in that is has four dual-link DVI outputs.  What Asus has done, is utilize both of the outputs on each GPU, so the EAH3870X2 1GB TOP works just like a pair of standard Radeon HD 3870 X2 cards running in CrossFire mode.

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I was really hoping to see HIS turbo model. Rumored to use DDR4. The asus one looks good but I am not crazy about the cooler than doesnt tunnel the heat outside of the case.

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i do have one question for you, why is it that every single review of these cards, no matter who does them, no matter which site, never bothers to explore/test this feature:

 HD video processing:

MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding

any reason why you chose not to test this feature, because if it works as advertised, it definately gives the end user a big incentive to choose this card over something from nvidia. 

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They used to do those tests. But I think that with processors so powerful today its not quite as important of a feature as it once was.

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FlyinBrian:

They used to do those tests. But I think that with processors so powerful today its not quite as important of a feature as it once was.

 

Indeed...I tested the HD capability of a 8600 GT for a rig I built for someone, the 1080p movie by itself on a q6600 @ 3ghz ran flawlessly without the assistance of the GPU, but on a certain segment the video lagged up due to a lot of processing needed on screen for a certain scene. CPU usage shot up and it just couldn't handle it. Renamed the file the MP4 (It was a h24 mkv container filer), popped it into power dvd that support HD and GPU decoding..and the cpu usage was around 1-4 percent. So yea, there really is no need anymore..The low end can handle it easily..so we know the high ends that support a UVD would do it without worry.

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I just got around to the article and thought it was great.  The only choice which I thought was poor was using a 680i based board for the testing with a quad core chip.  The 680i chipset was released before the quad core was a gleam in most peoples eye.  The only reason it even recognize's a quad core chip is on account of BIOS updates.  At some point, and I think that point was reach with the QX6850, the 680i cannot be modified enough with mere BIOS changes to keep up with the tremendous differences beween the Extreme Quad and previous generations of cards.  I know that when I switched from an X6800 to a QX6850 using my Striker Extreme, without overclocking, I started to see far too many BSOD.  After much research I decided to purchase an X38 based board because it seems to be about the only chipset acutally designed for and built around the quad core chipset.  I purchased the Gigabyte GA-EX38-DQ6, traded my 8800 GTX for an Asus 3870 X2 1gb (thus the reason for my writing) and have never been happier.  Without any overclocking whatsoever, I tested the system the day I got it put together and my 3dMark06 score had, due to a combination of the X38 vs 680i and the 3870 x2 vs 8800 gtx, jumped from 12,800 to 16,889.  I am right now looking at how I can reconfigure my hard drives to fit another Asus in my case to effectively run four cards in crossire, assuming the drivers are available.  For years I have bought nothing but Nvidia cards.  I even bought the 7950 GX2 (same concept) even though I think to this day they still have not gotten the driver right for it.  While I may have had a few ATI's over the years since my PCjr, since Nvidia started cranking out cards I have been a fan.  The X38 chipset has forced me to take a fresh look at ATI and so far I like what I see!  Hopefully this competition will hold as competition in the high end graphics card market is good for us consumers,  Once again thanks for a well written review and I can't wait to see how this card overclocks, just waiting for my cooling solution to get in. Gigabyte  X38 Motherboard (soon to be Crossfire Quad)

One Asus HD 3870 X2 1GB

Gigabyte X38 Motherboard (GA-EX38-DQ6) 

Intel Quad Core Extreme QX6850 

Coolit Freezone II Refrigerated Water Cooling

Thermaltake Tsunami Case

1,000W Modular PSU

4GB DDR2

1 Mad Dog DVD +-RW

1 High Speed CD

2 x 300gb Diamond HDD

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 Actually  quads had been out for some time when the 680i's were release. The only issue with quads has to do with their overclocking abilities with certain boards. There is ZERO difference between the 65nm regular and extreme quads other than multipliers (and the unlock extreme's). 45nm quads are not supported on most 680i boards, but that is a board issue not chipset.

 

Your BSOD issue is an issue with your overclock and settings, most 680i boards are unstable at stock settings, you have to manually find a stability point via adjusting your voltages.

 

Also, the enter key on your keyboard is there for a reason.

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Actually, I believe the first retail quad core from Intel came out in late 2006.  I recall the first quad core came just about one and a half weeks after I purchased a new X6800 dual core.  I distinctly remember this because I timed my purchase to get a better deal on the X6800.  Also I remember installing the X6800 in my old Asus Striker Extreme motherboard based on the 680i chipset.  Therefore, the 680i was around at least awhile before the Intel quad cores were released to the market, not to mention the time between manufacturing, marketing and final release.  You can do a Google seach to confirm this timeline, I did.

Also I have a right to an opinion and it is mine that the X38 has to be better able to handle features of the newer quad cores chips than the 680i, simply because, like the new Nvidia 790i chipset (but possibly not the 780i which seems to be a minor tweak of the 680i) the X38 was built and designed around newer quad core specifications; this is a fact if everything I have read on the matter is to be believed.  Therefore, it is my opinion that a newer quad core will be more stable in a board with the X38 chipset or the 790i chipset then one trying to get by with the 680i chipset with a number of radical BIOS updates.  

As for your other comments re overclocking being the only issue with quads, I have been building, writing code for and overclocking computers on and off since 1979.   For the last 10 years I have built every computer I have owned and the computers for my kids.  Therefore I am somewhat familier with with computers, the methods of overclocking them, the numerous reasons for BSOD,s, and the reasons for a lot of them.

The BSODs I was getting after no change other than installing a quad core (before I even had a chance to overclock a single setting, no voltage overclock whatsover, not even anything as simple as a multiplier change) led me to the conclusion that something about the Striker or the 680i chipset could not handle the quad core to . 

I tried voltage changes in the hope that I could force the board to become more stable, it just made matters worse to the point where some profiles would have me racking up 10 BSODs a day.  With stock settings and the latest BIOS which was supposed to solve all compatiblity issues with quad core, I was getting at least one or two a day, as you know one a year is one too many.

The performance of the CPU in my new x38 based board seems to bear my conclusion out.  I simply do not think you can keep breathing new life into a chipset forever with BIOS updates, there comes a time when you have to call it quits, thus the 790i.

Please do not take offense again at my comments and opinions.  And I am sorry if I do not use the "enter" key enough but I do not like unnessessarily long posts.

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