Graphics Cards Guide

HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB review

HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB

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The HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB

The HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB

Our initial impression of this dual GPU card - it's almost a dumbbell for the fairer sex (or us nerds in the lab). Weighing around 1.1kg, the Radeon HD 3870 X2 from HIS, which is really your standard model with the HIS sticker slapped on it, is much heavier than other similar heavyweights. ATI's next heaviest contender is the original Radeon HD 2900 XT at a close 950g. The weight is mostly from the giant cooler, which consists of a fan and two heatsinks, one for each GPU. Once we removed the cooler, the PCB is like any other board, though it's clearly longer than ATI's other products. However, it is exactly the same length as NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra so while the smaller enclosures will face some problems, it's just standard fare for a high-end graphics card.

As mentioned earlier, the Radeon HD 3870 X2 is simply two Radeon HD 3870 GPUs on a single PCB, albeit with some changes to the specifications. GDDR3 memory is used instead of GDDR4, though the architecture remains the same, with the internal 512-bit ring bus and the 256-bit wide interface with the memory chips. The memory frequencies are adjusted accordingly to 1800MHz, while the GPU goes up to 825MHz, a modest jump. In short, it is really like having two Radeon HD 3870 X2 in CrossFire mode, but on the same PCB. In fact, with a CrossFireX compatible motherboard, like AMD's new 790FX chipset, the hardcore enthusiast could have two of these Radeon HD 3870 X2 together in a quad GPU CrossFireX configuration.

Obviously, the design of the cooler could be a concern for enthusiasts, as the fan is situated at one end. This means that the core further from the fan could be getting a dose of warm air from the earlier core. ATI has tried to alleviate this by having a more expensive and heavy copper heatsink for this later core, while the one closest to the fan only has an aluminum heatsink. The fan does spin at quite an alarming speed and very noisily during startup. It gets much slower after that but you should be warned about its potential noise, especially if you intend to tweak the fan speed up. At idle, it is fairly quiet and should pass the noise test for most users. Surprisingly, noise levels were low during gaming as well; it's certainly wasn't quiet, but it's not bad either. One note here is that our operating environment is air-conditioned at about 21 to 22 degrees Celsius, so your own experience could vary depending on the card's actual operating environment.

Our HIS Radeon HD 3870 X2 came without any applications or games and in fact lacks the driver CD. Since there has been word that ATI is releasing newer drivers together with the official launch of the card that promise better performance, perhaps HIS is planning to bundle that version instead of the Catalyst 8.1 that we used to test the card. The other accessories that we found in the HIS package are as follows:

  • 2 x DVI-to-VGA adapters
  • 7-pin mini-DIN to Composite adapter
  • 6-pin Molex power connector
  • DVI-to-HDMI adapter
  • CrossFire bridge
  • Installation guide

Test Setup

In an ideal situation, we would have the latest PCIe 2.0, CrossFireX compatible motherboard with the fastest processor available now to test this latest high-end graphics card from ATI. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for us and for most enthusiasts either. And it appears that it supports only PCIe 1.1 due to the limitations of the PLX switch. Hence, our trusty platform, consisting of an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66GHz) processor and an Intel D975XBX 'Bad Axe' motherboard is used again for the performance benchmark. It comes with 2GB of low latency DDR2-800 memory from Kingston and a Seagate 7200.7 SATA hard drive. The operating system is Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 and DirectX 9.0c.

Being the top 'single' graphics card from ATI, it's only appropriate that the top guns from NVIDIA get to respond to the Radeon HD 3870 X2. Hence, we have both the old guard, the GeForce 8800 GTX and Ultra, along with the newer GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. We also included a single Radeon HD 3870 in our comparison. All the NVIDIA graphics cards were running ForceWare 169.21 drivers while the HIS was on Catalyst 8.1. The Radeon HD 3870 was using Catalyst 7.12. The following benchmarks were tested using their built-in time demo or benchmarking tools:

  • Futuremark 3DMark06 (ver 102)
  • Company of Heroes (ver 1.3)
  • F.A.R (ver 1.0)
  • World in Conflict
  • Crysis (ver 1.0)
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (ver 1.1)