Diamond Viper Radeon HD 3870 Showcase


Throughout most of the 1990s, Diamond Multimedia was one of the major players in the graphics card world.  Their well made cards with solid performance resulted in some of the most well known brand names of the time including the Speedstar, Stealth, and Viper.  After merging with S3 Incorporated in 1999, the resounding failure of their joint contribution: the Diamond Viper II Z200 based on S3's Savage 2000, eventually led to the combined Diamond/S3 company backing away from third-party graphics cards. 

In 2003, however, Best Data stepped in and purchased the rights to the brand name and assets from SONICblue Incorporated, including the Stealth and Viper brand names.  Focusing on ATI's Radeons as their GPU of choice, the original line-up seemed to be focused mostly on the lower-end, more mainstream cards, including the Stealth S80 we took a look at in early 2003.  The good news is, with some more time and resources under their belt, Diamond has completely revitalized the Viper name in both body and spirit.  Once again, with high-end products at the core, Diamond is a force to be reckoned with in the market.  Today, we've got two of their HD 3870's in the labs for comparison - one is mostly plain vanilla but the other is an overclocked version utilizing GDDR4 memory.  Let's get a bit more acquainted with them, shall we?

Diamond Viper Radeon HD 3870s
Features & Specifications

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
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

    PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface

    OpenGL 2.0 support




An odd thing about the cards we received is in regard to their associated bundles.  Now, as you will see on the next page, the packaging and even the cards themselves are nearly identical.  The driver CD and manual are also the same, which should be expected as the drivers are universal and there's only so many ways you can show someone how to install a PCI-Express card into their system. 

Viper Radeon HD 3870 1GB                                                         Viper Radeon HD 3870 512MB

What becomes odd, then, is the included cables and adapters.  With the 1GB overclocked Viper, we found a collection of component and S-VIDEO out cables, as well as a power splitter for providing 6-pin power to the card.  Two adapters, one for VGA and the other for HDMI complete the collection.  On the other hand, with the 512MB version, there's a component video cable and the same adapters, but a CrossFire bridge replaced the S-Video cable and there's no power cable.  We seriously doubt there is much cost saving in either direction, and there's nothing wrong, per se, with either bundle.  We just like a little consistency now and then, and feel both cards should come with all of the pieces we found in the separate sets. The 1GB card especially should also include a CrossFire bridge at the very least.

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