The current trend in the GPU business is to ‘hard launch’ a product; that is the goal is to have retail-ready products available for purchase the moment they’re unveiled. To coincide with AMD’s announcement of the new Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850, we actually received not one, but two cards in full retail trim courtesy of AMD’s premiere ATI board partner, Sapphire.
What you see pictured above is the Sapphire Radeon HD 3870. The actual card’s specifications don’t differ from ATI’s reference design, and as such, performance between the two is identical. Sapphire’s card also uses the same dual-slot cooler, albeit with a custom Sapphire-branded decal. Just like ATI’s reference design, the Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 pictured here sports an RV670 GPU and 512MB of frame buffer memory.
Sapphire’s Radeon HD 3850 card is also virtually identical to ATI’s reference design. The Sapphire Radeon HD 3850 pictured here sports the same GPU, PCB, and memory configuration as ATI-branded cards. Where Sapphire differentiates their cards, however, is with some value added bundled software. Sapphire’s Radeon HD 3800 series cards ship with Valve’s excellent Black-Box gaming suite, a full retail copy of 3DMark06, and full versions of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD and DVD Suite.
We should also note that Sapphire has an ‘Ultimate’ Edition silent Radeon HD 3850 in the works. The Ultimate Edition will sport a passive, single-slot cooler. We haven’t gotten our hands on one yet, but we suspect a silent, single-slot, Radeon HD 3850 is going to be mighty popular with the HTPC crowd.