by Rob Williams on February 18, 2008 in Graphics & Displays
Does a multi-GPU setup with one card interest you? You may want to take a look at AMD’s latest high-end offering, the HD 3870 X2. We are taking a look at ASUS’ version of the card which features a fantastic bundle, including an HDMI adapter and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.
Late last month, AMD’s ATI division unleashed their latest threat to NVIDIA in the form of the HD 3870 X2. Unlike AMD’s recent history with “performance”, however, this new card was indeed an actual threat in some regards, as it became the fastest single-card solution on the planet. But, the only way this was possible was by pairing two GPUs on the same piece of PCB. Some might call it a cheap move, but hey, it works, and that’s what’s important.
But because of this dual-GPU fact, specific issues that arise from normal dual-GPU (including SLI) setups can be seen, most notably in games that won’t do much to take advantage of a second graphics card. If all of the cards available power was delivered through a single GPU core, however, performance would then be increased all around, throughout most titles.
Along with AMD’s official launch came offerings from all of the popular manufacturers – ASUS included. Although most fresh GPU launches from ASUS include a TOP offering (overclocking-series), the 3870 X2 did not. In fact, the only pre-overclocked card I could find was from MSI, proving right off the bat that the card is not overclocking friendly. In our tests, that proved to be the case, so we’ve omitted overclocking reports from this review.
I won’t delve into 3870 X2 specifics in this review since those have been covered by other sites over the past month, but what is important to note is that this is the fastest single-card solution on the market right now, and retails for an average of $475USD, which, depending on the brand you choose, is about a $25 premium over purchasing two HD 3870 cards and pairing them in Crossfire.
So what about CrossfireX mode on this beast? Currently, that is not possible, but it should be very, very soon. It’s been rumored that ATI will unveil that technology at CeBit next month, so all we can do is cross our fingers. At CES early last month, we saw early samples of the card in manufacturers computers and from what we were told, the drivers were not that far off at that point. With CeBit being two full months after this time, the drivers have a good chance of being released… and hopefully deliver the performance we would hope to see.
Like the reference HD 3870 X2, ASUS’ version runs with a core clock of 825MHz and a memory clock of 900MHz (1.8GHz) and includes 1GB GDDR3 – 512MB dedicated to each core. Compared to an HD 3870, everything else is simply doubled, resulting in 640 stream processors, 32 texture units and over 1 TeraFLOPS worth of computational power.
At current time, I’ve been unable to find ASUS’ version of the card available online anywhere, but when it hits e-tail, you can expect it to retail between $475 – $500. ASUS products always carry a premium in price as their offerings normally reflect a premium touch with the help of added accessories and usually a bonus game.
In the case of this card, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the included title – one that’s been available with many recent ASUS cards, including the EN8800GT and EAH3850/3870. Accessories include a Crossfire connector (they are thinking ahead), two DVI to VGA adapters, one DVI to HDMI adapter, one 4-Pin Molex to PCI-E 6-Pin adapter, TV-Out cable and lastly, an ASUS-branded CD case.
The picture is not playing tricks… that is one beastly card. It’s roughly the same size as an NVIDIA 8800GTX, but weighs about 30% more. Going along with reference design, the leaf-blower fan here does a good job of pushing air towards the back of the case. Surprisingly, even with the dual GPUs on this card, it keeps cooler than the 8800GTX I normally use.
Nothing about this card exclaims “weak”… it’s huge, great-looking and features a gorgeous computer generated woman. What more could you want? Seriously.
Like NVIDIA’s top-end offerings, this card requires dual PCI-E 6-pin power connectors. Using an 8-pin connector is recommended for overclocking. On this particular model, however, that is a waste of time and shouldn’t be a focus if your current PSU doesn’t have an 8-Pin connector.
The back includes a massive black brace that makes sure to keep the cooler in place, while exposing the backsides of the two cores in order to allow air to freely move about.
Compared with other current GPUs, the 3870 X2 beats them all in terms of size, thanks to it’s humongous cooler. The PCB is near-identical to the 8800GTX to the right, while the 8800GTS and 8800GT to the left look like runts of the litter.
With a look at the ASUS offering out of the way, let’s jump right into our testing methodology page. This is our first GPU review in quite a while, and since we’ve just re-built our testing suite from scratch, we recommend that you take a look. After that, we will get right into testing.