AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2 Review

AMD's R680 is a huge graphics card with huge potential. Does the HD 3870 X2 mark a return to competition for the Green Team?

Two is always better than one, right? Nevermind the performance decrease that occurred when SLI technology was enabled in its infancy. Forget about how much data is lost in high-performance, high-heat RAID-0 arrays. Don't even bat an eye when huge computer cases are released touting two built-in power supplies. While doubling up has been the source of a fair amount of trouble in the hardware industry, it seems to most often provide a performance increase when all is said and done. But what happens when it doesn't? What happens when a company spends thousands if not millions in R&D reworking and refining a product that ends up flopping when it hits the market? You can rest assured that it has happened in the past, and even though the companies responsible managed to persevere and today are doing quite well for themselves, one needs only to look to AMD and their infamous Quad FX platform to realize just how big of a risk doubling up can be.

It's not that AMD's Quad FX platform was inherently bad, or that their competition's multitasking was a lot better, but that the way the technology was implemented led to other problems that a vast majority of buyers must have considered a pretty big deterrent. In a world where die shrinks and increased efficiency initiatives would have you thinking that perhaps the emphasis has finally switched from 'bigger and better' to 'less is more'- a delusion if you really take a look at what's going on – it is always curious when a company decides it necessary to release something totally against the trend. And yet, we have seen these products – many of them – released in the past year alone. That's why more than a few heads were turned when "R680" showed up on AMD roadmaps and details began to emerge in the second half of 2007.

R680, otherwise known as Radeon HD 3870 X2, is AMD's third attempt at a dual-GPU graphics card. ATI's Rage Fury MAXX launched way back in December of 1999 to a generally mixed field of reviews. Many reviewers applauded the exceptional DVD playback and high-resolution 32-bit gaming abilities of the card while criticizing its astronomical price tag (at launch). Perhaps unlike today, however, ATI's MAXX was not a direct port of a pretty well-designed and respectable existing GPU. Basing a new product on halfway decent technology rather than a poorly executed amalgam of antiquated parts is probably a pretty good idea. The Radeon X1950 Pro dual was another dual-GPU graphics card, but it saw very limited exposure in the press and presumably limited success in the presence of genuinely high-end cards at the time like the GeForce 7900GTX and Radeon X1950XTX (not to mention the fact that it only fit in the very biggest cases). The Radeon HD 3870 X2 on the bench today is a very early sample of the card and the drivers even more so. That's not to say the numbers you're about to see aren't accurate, it's just we wish we could have tested it closer to launch with proper software support.

System Configuration Used:

    Test Setup
  • Case: Vigor Force
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master Real Power Pro 850
  • Motherboard: Foxconn N68S7AA
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital WD2500KS 7,200RPM
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 640, GeForce 8800GTX (stock, reference design clocks), Diamond Viper Radeon HD2900XT 1GB, 2x NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB, AMD Radeon HD3870X2
  • Sound: Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic
  • Memory: 2048MB (2x1024MB) G.Skill PC2 6400
  • Optical Drive: Lite-ON SHW160P6S05
  • Cooling: ASUS Silent Square Pro

    Software Configuration

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • Video Driver: NVIDIA ForceWare Version 169.01, AMD Vista Sample 8.45 RC4
Software Used:
  • 3DMark2006
  • FEAR (DX9)
  • Call Of Juarez (DX10)
  • Team Fortress 2 (DX9)
  • Company Of Heroes (DX9, DX10)
  • Oblivion (DX9)
  • BIOSHOCK (DX9, DX10)
  • Crysis
AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2 Specifications:
  • Core Clock: 825MHz
  • Memory Clock:1800MHz
  • Memory Type: GDDR3
  • Memory interface: 256Bit (x2)
  • Memory capacity: 1024MB
  • Manufacture Process: 55nm
  • Transistor Count: ~1333 Million
  • Math Processing Rate: 994 GFLOPS
  • Shaders: 640
  • Standard Shader Model: 4.1 (Vista Only)
  • Standard DirectX Version: 10.1 (Vista Only)
  • 128-Bit HDR Lighting
  • 8192x8192 HR Textures
  • Interface: PCIe 2.0
Screenshot: 3DMark06 Test
Screenshot of Game Tests: BIOSHOCK (DX9), BIOSHOCK (DX10) | Call of Juarez | Company of Heroes (DX9), Company of Heroes (DX10)
Screenshot of Game Tests: Crysis | FEAR | Oblivion | Team Fortress 2
View: Full Story @ FPSLabs

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Those Crysis settings seem horrible! Hopefully the latest patches and drivers add some FPS to the game. Bioshock in DX10 does better in this review, which is surprising to me!

I wonder how much these awesome things will cost in AUD!?

EDIT: Btw, why does this new card have GDDR3 memory and not GDDR4? Does this mean that 2 3870X2s will suck compared to 2 HD3870s?

Ati has a 3dfx written all over it if they continue doing this **** .... keep up the good work asses .... (i do have 3 ati's in my house and i wish i had some nvidias ... but worst come to worst they all are vid cards that will eventually break ... like my ati ... damn rant ./... sad ati , just sad

well... it's new, it's powerful, it looks good... but hell... AMD has the same results here as comparing its processors with Intel (talking about new Phenoms with B3 stepping that are still to come): results are good but still can hardly beat those analogues that are already here... that's the problem :(

imo, if AMD wants to grab market shares it really has to push more rather than try to release equivalent products

I am seriously thinking about this card now, I currently have an eVGA 8800GTX, it looks as if this card preforms much better than this top end nVidia card. What do you guys think?

(Thrawn said @ #2)
Did you notice that a single 8800 GTS beat it in most of the games they ran?

Did you also notice that it beats 8800GT SLI and the 8800GTS will probably cost more than 3870x2?

(NeoX said @ #6.3)

Did you also notice that it beats 8800GT SLI and the 8800GTS will probably cost more than 3870x2?

The HD3870x2 will cost around 400/450€... (Europe)

I am sure that this will matter to the 1,000 or so on Earth that still actually use their PC to play games. Speaking for at least myself, I could give a flying monkey (one way or the other).

Yes, you are. You are in a minority of the mainstream population like Linux and Mac. I am not talking about people who play games on their PC as a recreation, but rather those that spend $400 on a GPU and $2000 on a box (to put the new GPU and updated PSU in). This is why, when you go to your favorite retailer they have thousands of console games and maybe only, like say... 50 PC games. The only real difference between the PC gaming community and Linux/Mac is that no one actually cares about the PC gaming market (press, trade and general adult population thinking).

The only exception seems to be MMORPG games like World of "Warcruft." Quick, give me the top twenty PC games that you play (find the dates on them and if they are available for consoles). You will find that the majority of games are available for consoles and that a good share of the PC games are actually very dated. Half Life II comes to mind, sure it was a great game, but little has changed since it was released in 2004.

Finally, given the coming recession, I don't believe the majority of retailers and game designers are going to be focusing attention on a niche market. If the PC markets wants to survive; they are going to have to lower prices and reduce the system requirements (yet provide engaging entertainment) so that it does not require a dual core CPU with 2gigs of memory and a $200 GPU just to play (never mind the dropped frame rates).

Thats not really true nowadays, to get a good gaming PC is not very much more then the new consoles, a £500 PC is more then up to the job of playing the latest games as they where intended to look, I don't include monitor in that price tag because consoles don't add that to the price tag and most HDTV's can be used as a monitor.

The funny thing is, I ended up notices that I end up spending less on the PC for games then I do on consoles, a lot of the new games that are out on the PC and consoles cost about £10, £15, £20 less on the PC, if you play and buy a lot of the new games, the money you save you could put to a new upgrade in 2 or 3 years which will blow away the consoles, what makes this worse for the consoles is that most of the games tend to be better on the PC then the console.

The only real downside to PC gaming is that they are more messes, not as easy to use and things can go wrong so for the ones that want the simple switch on and play with each game, a console is better for them, but for most other people, a PC is more then up to the job, better and cheaper if you play a lot of games.

To name just a few games, BioShock PC is £24.99 and the Xbox 360 is £39.99, Gears of War PC is £19.99 and on the Xbox 360 it's £39.99, PES 2008 on PC is £17.99 and on the Xbox 360 it's £39.99, Call of Duty 4 PC is £29.99 and on Xbox 360 it's £39.99.

The list goes on, most of the games are quite a lot cheaper on the PC and you tend to get more for it on the PC version then the consoles, things are even worse for the PS3.

So people should think twice that they are getting a bargin with the consoles, you might get the console on the cheap and thats not quite as cheap as it used to be, but you end up paying for it with the games, now considering thats where most of the money people will spend on it is, they hit us hard there, PC gaming is a lot cheaper now then it's ever been and it's getting cheaper, cheaper then even the next genaration consoles which would be shocking to console owners.

This review was done, before the 1.1 patch and before AMD had optimized Crysis drivers, so that does go a long way to explaining the poor performance.

No it doesn't. For Crossfire you need a Crossfire compatible mobo. THis card however can be used on any mobo with PCI-e 16x slot.