Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Toxic

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When we're asked by readers for hardware advice, one of the most popular topics involves the graphics card.  With a myriad of options out there covering the price and performance spectrum, it's not always a cut and dried answer.  First, we need to consider the person's budget requirements, then assess the rest of their hardware to see what best fits their situation.  It's not simply a matter of buying the most expensive card one can afford.  We wish it were that simple.  In the end, it all comes down to a balancing act between price, performance, and user's particular configuration.

On the other hand, there are those who are less concerned with nickel and diming the process of buying a new video card and don't mind indulging themselves with a product that has a little extra panache.  The Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 Toxic 512MB falls more inline with that kind of thinking.  The "Toxic" model is a souped up Radeon HD 3870 that boasts a single slot Vapor-X cooler, which allows the card to be overclocked without the need for a dual-slot cooling solution.  In the pages ahead, we'll assess the overall performance of the Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 Toxic 512MB edition and see how it compares with a pricier competitor and also see whether the "toxic" version makes the card more or less attractive from a price-to-performance perspective.  Finally, we'll test the cooler even further to ascertain whether Sapphire left any more headroom for those looking to overclock the card even further.

Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Toxic
Specifications and Features
666 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process

256bit 8-channel GDDR3/4 memory interface

Ring Bus Memory Controller

  • Fully distributed design with 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads and writes
  • Optimized for high performance HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering at high display resolutions

Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture

  • 320 stream processing units
    • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
    • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
    • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
       
  • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
  • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
  • Shader instruction and constant caches
  • Up to 80 texture fetches per clock cycle
  • Up to 128 textures per pixel
  • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
  • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
  • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
  • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
  • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
  • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
  • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
  • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
  • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
  • Physics processing support

Full support for Microsoft DirectX 10 / 10.1

  • Shader Model 4.0
  • Geometry Shaders
  • Stream Output
  • Integer and Bitwise Operations
  • Alpha to Coverage
  • Constant Buffers
  • State Objects
  • Texture Arrays

Dynamic Geometry Acceleration

  • High performance vertex cache
  • Programmable tessellation unit
  • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
  • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance

Anti-aliasing features

  • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (up to 8 samples per pixel)
  • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
  • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
  • Temporal anti-aliasing
  • Gamma correct
  • Super AA (CrossFire configurations only)
  • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering

CrossFire Multi-GPU Technology

  • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with 2 or more GPUs
  • Integrated compositing engine
  • High performance dual channel interconnect

PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface

OpenGL 2.0 support

Texture filtering features
  • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
  • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
  • Bicubic filtering
  • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
  • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
  • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
  • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support

ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform

  • Two independent display controllers
    • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
    • Full 30-bit display processing
    • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
    • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
    • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
    • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
    • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
    • Hardware cursor
       
  • Two integrated dual-link DVI display outputs
    • Each supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
    • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content
       
  • Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
    • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x1536
       
  • HDMI output support
    • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
    • Integrated HD audio controller with multi-channel (5.1) AC3 support, enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
       
  • Integrated Xilleon HDTV encoder
    • Provides high quality analog TV output (component / S-video / composite)
    • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
    • Underscan and overscan compensation
       
  • HD decode for H.264/AVC, VC-1, DivX and MPEG-2 video formats
    • Flawless DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray playback
    • Motion compensation and IDCT (Inverse Discrete Cosine Transformation)
       
  • HD video processing
    • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
    • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
    • Edge enhancement
    • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
    • Bad edit correction
    • High fidelity gamma correction, color correction, color space conversion, and scaling
  • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
  • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
  • VGA mode support on all display outputs


For some background details on the Radeon 3870, we suggest taking a look back at our launch article from when
ATI first introduced their RV670 GPU.  There is a detailed explanation of the GPU's architecture as well as thorough performance testing including noise and power consumption versus a slew of competitive products.
 

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That's a nice looking card.  I always liked Sapphire, although it is unusual to see them switch from their classic red.  It really loks great though.  I dig single slot coolers, as my current card unfortunately takes up two.  Impressive overclocks with pretty good performance gains.  Yet I'd like to see stock vs OCed performance on Crysis, to see how much performance is gained there.

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I'd like to see the HD 3870 X2 Toxic.. ;)

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I like the fact that the Vapor-X cooler allows for a single slot design, but I wonder if it can handle more aggressive OCing or if it is limited in application to mild OCing. For the money I think I would rather have one of these than a 9600GT, though it would have been interesting to see how they compare.

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It seems most people say the 9600GT is superior to the 3870 in most AA tests, but without AA the 3870 often is faster.  I'd say you can't go wrong with either.

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 what a nice card

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