The era of identical graphics cards based on the reference designs seems to have come to an end. The unification principle is still upheld by Nvidia’s flagship GeForce 9 models yet the senior GeForce 9800 GX2 is the only card to have a chance to remain unchanged because it represents a very complex design. It is indeed only a chance because we wouldn’t be really surprised to see a unique GeForce 9800 GX2 as well. Few companies would dare release it but such majors as, for example, ASUS have enough resources and experience to experiment. We can recall the triple-processor ASUS EAH3850 Trinity we’ve recently mentioned in our newswire.
Still, even though ATI’s inexpensive RV670-based solutions have become widespread and popular among gamers due to their appealing price/performance ratio, there are but few interesting versions of ATI Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 available. Every model we have tested in our labs so far was a copy of the reference card manufactured by the graphics card vendor or at ATI’s contracted facilities. Occasionally they were pre-overclocked as ASUS’s EAH3870 TOP and EAH3850 TOP but most often the stickers on the cooler made the only difference. Without a special feature such cards could not provoke a genuine interest among hardware testers and enthusiasts.
Gigabyte United is among the first companies to take a creative approach with respect to its versions of ATI Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 cards.
Gigabyte’s people were not ashamed to ask obvious questions such as why does the Radeon HD 3870 need GDDR4 memory which seems to be more expensive than the widespread GDDR3 type while being not much better in terms of frequency potential? And can an inexpensive version of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 be created that would use a new unified design without GDDR4 and would not be inferior in terms of quality and performance? These questions got a positive answer and Gigabyte has released a series of RV670-based graphics cards that are substantially different from the ordinary reference copies of Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850.
This review is about the junior and senior models of the series, GV-RX385256H and GV-RX387512H. We’ll see what’s so special about them and how they compare with the corresponding reference samples.