R680 Has Landed: ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2

Article Index

Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Radeon HD 3870 X2 proved to be a strong performer throughout our testing.  In most of the games we tested, the Radeon HD 3870 X2 was usually the highest performing single-card in the group.  It loses some benchmarks to a dual-card Radeon HD 3870 CrossFire setup, and wins others.  The same can be said of the Radeon HD 3870 X2 in comparison to the GeForce 8800 GTX.  The 8800 GTX was the better performer in Company of Heroes, and at a couple of resolution is Crysis.  But the X2 pulls ahead in HL2: EP2 and ET: Quake Wars.  The Radeon HD 3870 X2’s video playback performance was also quite good.

We’re cautiously optimistic about the Radeon HD 3870 X2.  On one hand, our benchmark results are undeniable; the card simply performed well throughout testing and it marks AMD’s re-entry into the high-end 3D graphics card market.  During the course of testing, however, ATI supplied us with three different sets of drivers, with each set either improving performance or fixing bugs (the final set was used for testing).  This brings us to an important point.  Because the Radeon HD 3870 X2 is essentially “CrossFire on a card”, the X2’s performance is determined by how well the card’s drivers scale in a particular game.  If a new game hits store shelves and the drivers don’t recognize the executable, the $449-$499 Radeon HD 3870 X2 will perform much like a single-GPU Radeon HD 3870 that is half the price.  ATI assures us their software team will try to minimize this situation, but it will be an issue at some point in time no matter how hard they work unless a universally compatible multi-GPU rendering technique is devised.  This is something you must be aware of if you’re contemplating the purchase of Radeon HD 3870 X2.

For now, AMD should be proud of their achievements.  We’re sure many ATI loyalists are going to look at today’s launch as a huge success.  Ultimately though, the real long-term value of the Radeon HD 3870 X2 will be determined by AMD’s driver team.  If they work closely with game developers and consistently improve performance and scaling for existing and upcoming games, then the X2 is worthy of praise.  If the drivers can’t keep pace with hot game releases, however, and users have to wait weeks, or even months to fully utilize their graphics card, that would be a great disservice.  We’re hoping for the best, because the hardware is impressive indeed.

  • Strong Performance
  • Single-PCB
  • UVD
  • Relatively Quiet Operation
  • Hefty Power Consumption
  • Scaling is Still Software Dependant
  • Pricey

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