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Conclusion

It’s time to come to a conclusion about the new graphics card from AMD, ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2, but our tests produce a rather ambiguous picture.

The new card is a technical success. The developer had managed to accommodate two RV670 chips with all the accompanying components, including memory chips and voltage regulators, together with a rather large PCI Express switch on one PCB and remain within the dimensions of a GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra. The RV670 doesn’t generate much heat and supports PowerPlay technology – this allows the card to do along with a simple cooler without heat pipes which have become a typical attribute of top-performance graphics cards. But what about performance in real 3D applications, the first and foremost characteristic of every graphics card?

On one hand, the developer has indeed created a top-end single-PCB graphics card capable of challenging Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra and 8800 GTS 512MB and even beating them in some cases. This is confirmed by our tests in a number of popular games including such titles as BioShock and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Both versions of Futuremark 3DMark we benchmarked the new card in testified to its huge potential, worthy of a new king of the 3D realm. Unfortunately, we cannot yet crown it because CrossFire technology is not 100% correct, at least at the moment of the announcement.

The new card won six out of the nineteen tests, at least at high resolutions, and in five more was comparable to Nvidia’s top-end single-chip solutions. This indicates its big potential.

On the other hand, it was either equal to or slower than the single-chip ATI Radeon HD 3870 in seven out of the nineteen tests, namely in Call of Duty 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, Tomb Raider: Legend, Hellgate: London, Gothic 3 and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. So, in some of these games only one of the new card’s GPUs was employed, and in others CrossFire technology didn’t work altogether.

It is too early yet to call the Radeon HD 3870 X2 a success or a defeat. A gamer who buys a $449 graphics card touted as a flagship product with unrivalled performance expects it to provide maximum performance in all, or nearly all, of his favorite games, which means ATI still has a lot of work to do until the new card becomes a true king of 3D. If you have already got an interest in the Radeon HD 3870 X2, you may want to make sure it is compatible with the games you play that are not included into this review.

The long-term perspective of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 is rather vague yet because we don’t know about the level of performance of the upcoming opponents as well as about their support for quad-GPU configurations.

Highs:

  • Excellent performance in ATI CrossFire mode;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Excellent quality of anisotropic filtering;
  • 640 shader processors, 32 TMU and 32 ROP;
  • Good start for the future: DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 support;
  • Fully-fledged hardware support for HD video decoding;
  • Superb HD-video post-processor;
  • Integrated sound core with HDMI support;
  • No compatibility issues with contemporary mainboards;
  • Low noise;
  • Potentially capable of working in 4-way ATI CrossFire system.

Lows:

  • Insufficient driver optimization;
  • Performance in each application depends on driver support;
  • Relatively high power consumption;
  • Relatively high price.
 
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