Graphics Cards Guide

MSI RX3870-T2D512E-OC (Radeon HD 3870) review

MSI RX3870-T2D512E-OC (Radeon HD 3870)

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Our first encounter with a Radeon HD 3000 series card was an interesting one indeed. With an overclocked PowerColor Radeon HD 3850 graphics card that has double the frame buffer size for its SKU and a third-party cooler, it was a swell and cool performer, albeit the din of the card could ward off a potential customer. While we haven't had a chance yet to test-drive a stock version of the Radeon HD 3850, today we show you what an overclocked edition of the speedier 3870 variant has to offer with the MSI RX3870-T2D512E-OC.

Just to recap, the Radeon HD 3000 series has a lot in common with the current Radeon HD 2000 series in terms of architecture and features, so don't get carried away with the new naming scheme. In essence, the Radeon HD 3000 series is a 55nm part of the Radeon HD 2000 series where the 3850 and 3870 models take on most the architectural and feature aspects of the Radeon HD 2900 XT. What's new is that the new GPU models are the first to support the DirectX 10.1 standard (and thus Shader Model 4.1 as well), Integrated Universal Video Decoder (UVD, which was formerly lacking on the 2900 XT model) and ATI's PowerPlay technology (a power saving technique in controlling the clocks of the various GPU domains usually found on mobile GPUs).

DirectX 10.1 is completely backward compatible with the existing established DirectX 10 standard, thus there's no incompatibility concerns at all. In fact a lot of the features in the DirectX 10.1 standard are either already supported in the Radeon HD 2000 series (and that of NVIDIA's GeForce 8 series) or can be executed via DirectX 10 code structures. We digress a little further, but it is important to understand that DirectX 10.1 brings about is easier game developer programmability for certain implementations and promotes GP-GPU initiatives with the stricter rules imposed (as opposed to being optional or open ended on DirectX 10). With no prior DirectX 10.1 hardware before the Radeon HD 3000 series and no games targeting this standard, there's simply no concern for any consumer of this new spec. In fact, we've spoken to big time game developers (such as Epic Games - the folks behind Unreal Tournament), small time game developers and Microsoft folks themselves and there is a unanimous consensus among them. None of them have plans to incorporate DirectX 10.1 standards for current or near-term future projects as it is just a slight superset of the established DirectX 10. They view DirectX 10.1 as more of a 'patch' or 'bug fix' than an evolutionary API.

Back to the MSI RX3870-T2D512E-OC graphics card, it stays true to a reference Radeon HD 3870 graphics card, but under the hood, it has been slightly overclocked out of the box to 800MHz for the core. Compare that with the specs of a standard Radeon HD 3870 (and even the Radeon HD 3850 for that matter since they are architecturally similar and differ only in clock speeds). On the NVIDIA front, watch for the GeForce 8800 GT 512MB whose price is in the same ballpark as the ATI Radeon HD 3870.

ATI Radeon HD 3800 Series Compared
Model ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3850 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB
Core Code RV670 RV670 R600 G92 G80 G80
Transistor Count 666 million 666 million 700 million 754 million 681 million 681 million
Manufacturing Process 55nm 55nm 80nm 65nm 90nm 90nm
Core Clock 775MHz 670MHz 742MHz 600MHz 500MHz 575MHz
Stream Processors 64 Shader Processors (consisting of 320 Stream Processing Units) 64 Shader Processors (consisting of 320 Stream Processing Units) 64 Shader Processors (consisting of 320 Stream Processing Units) 112 Stream Processors 96 Stream Processors 128 Stream Processors
Stream Processor Clock 775MHz 670MHz 740MHz 1500MHz 1200MHz 1350MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 16 16 16 56 48 64
Raster Operator units (ROP) 16 16 16 16 20 24
Memory Clock 2250MHz DDR4 1660MHz DDR3 1650Hz DDR3 1800MHz DDR3 1600MHz DDR3 1800MHz DDR3
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 1024-bit 256-bit 320-bit 384-bit
Memory Bandwidth 72.0GB/s 53.1GB/s 105.6GB/s 57.6GB/s 64.0GB/s 86.4GB/s
Ring Bus Memory Controller 512-bit 512-bit 512-bit NIL NIL NIL
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 x16 Supports PCIe 2.0 (x16) x16 x16
Molex Power Connectors Yes Yes Yes (dual) Yes Yes Yes (dual)
Multi GPU Technology Yes (CrossFireX) Yes (CrossFireX) Yes (CrossFire) Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI) Yes (SLI)
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDCP Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Street Price From US$240 From US$150 ~US$329 ~ US$259 ~US$349 ~ US$529 - US$549