ATI Radeon HD 3850 CrossFire Video Card Review

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Power Consumption and Conclusion

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers, we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the game World in Conflict at 1600×1200 with medium graphics quality.

Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results:  When it comes to power consumption the ATI Radeon HD 3850 looked pretty good across the board. When a pair of Radeon HD 3850 graphics cards are run Crossfire, the load results are just shy of what a GeForce 8800 Ultra is putting out. The Radeon HD 3850 did have impressive idle results at just 96W.  That is lower than the 100W GeForce 8600 GT and the 105W Radeon HD 2600XT.

Final Thoughts

The move to 55nm and the overall features of the RV670 core were obviously much needed for ATI and have boosted graphics card performance across the board. The ATI Radeon HD 3850 256MB video card has an MSRP of $179.99 and I have confirmed with ATI and Newegg that the Radeon HD 3850 will go on sale today at the suggested retail price of $179.99 and the Radeon HD 3870 will be $219.99. At this price point, ATI has come up with a wonderful solution for the mainstream market.

Competition in the $150-$250 video card niche is fierce now that NVIDIA has released the G92 GPU on their GeForce 8800 GT 512MB video card that can be found for $249.99 and out performs the Radeon HD 3850 across the board. The Radeon HD 3850 makes up for this performance gap by being $70 less expensive and in this day and age of the credit crunch, many of our readers are trying to save money. The Radeon HD 3850 did great on DirectX 9 games, and only did it start to show signs of needing more muscle when run on DirectX 10 game titles with medium to high quality settings. To sum up the Radeon HD 3850, it works great when gaming at resolutions of 1600×1200 with roughly medium quality settings as you saw throughout the six games we benchmarked it on. In turn this can be translated to, if you are a gamer and have an LCD that is 20” or less then the Radeon HD 3850 should be able to keep up with your gaming needs. Of course, there are more things than just gaming and with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD high definition movies becoming increasingly popular on PCs, the Unified Video Decoder (UVD) being fully on the GPU is a nice touch. It will free up the CPU to do other things rather than being occupied with all the H.264 or VC-1 decoding. When it came to CrossFire the Radeon HD 3850 either scaled really well or only so-so. Hopefully, AMD/ATI can inspire game developers to work with them to fix some of the issues we are seeing as it’s not all ATI’s fault with the drivers. It should also be noted that while I couldn’t get CrossFire to work correctly on Crysis, neither can NVIDIA. NVIDIA is waiting on a game patch in order to fix SLI and we can only hope that the patch also fixes the background object flickering that was witnessed during out testing.

ATI PowerPlay is a nice touch as it dynamically adjusts clock and voltage settings based on what you are doing, which leads to power savings. Processors have had dynamic clock gating and voltage switching for some time now and it’s amazing it has taken video cards so long to catch up. Another nice touch is including the GPU percentage utilization rate in the Overdrive CCC panel. Applications like ATI Tool show how much of the GPU is being used, so if they can show it, why couldn’t ATI? Now you can monitor both your GPU temperature and GPU usage all from CCC.

AMD CrossFireX Test System

That about sums up our impressions on the ATI Radeon HD 3850 graphics card in both single mode and CrossFire. We will be bringing you our thoughts on the ATI Radeon HD 3870 in an upcoming article as we just got ouu hands on one a bit later than expected and sadly couldn’t include it in this article. The Radeon HD 3870 performs at roughly the same level as the Radeon HD 2900 XT, so I won’t leave you hanging when it comes to expectations. At the same time it will run roughly $220, which is nearly half of what the Radeon 2900 XT cost when it was launched eight months ago at $399. It would have been nice to see the Radeon HD 3800 series launched a couple months ago before the GeForce 8800 GT was announced and launched, but what can you do? Hopefully, the RV680 will come out ahead of schedule. Actually, I just got done playing UT3 on a pair of RV680’s in CrossFire, so it might!

LR Value Award

Bottom Line: The ATI Radeon HD 3800 series fills the $150 to $250 price gap and offers better performance per watt than the previous generation Radeon HD 2XXX series.

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