Considering that our Diamond 3870 1GB comes with a bit of an overclock on the GPU core over a standard 3870 we thought it might be tough to get any more out of it, and with the memory already at the rated frequency we weren’t expecting much of an overclock out of this card. Boy were we surprised!
Firing up GPU-z and ATI tool we saw that the memory speed on our card was only at 870MHz. After tinkering with the clock speeds we were pleasantly surprised to see the memory speed jump up to 963MHz (1926MHz effective) and the core speed was up to 864MHz. We let the artifact tester in ATI tool heat the card up a bit at these elevated speeds and found that it had no problems. A 34MHz in GPU and 93MHz over the default settings is a pretty decent increase on a card that was already overclocked.
First and foremost, if you’re playing at extreme resolutions of 2560×1600 a single ATI 3870 is clearly not going to cut it. It is able to provide playable frame rates in some situations but is bested by the Nvidia 8800 GTS in most of those same situations. When it comes to performance compared to a standard 3870 with 512MB, our 1GB version really didn’t show much improvement in our short battery of tests but I believe that the performance is being held back more by the actual GPU than an increase in memory bandwidth and size can help. Our testing at such a high resolution should have given the Diamond 3870 1GB a chance to shine.
While performance is down, we were still ok with the way the Diamond 3870 1GB performed. Sure it’s not the fastest card at our tested resolution but it’s a solid card that has a lot of features. The heat sink and fan solution on this card is stellar, I heard no noise from this card until I started overclocking on a near silent system, and yet it still outperforms the reference cooler by a wide margin. Don’t forget it includes support for DirectX 10.1, hardware offloading of Blu-ray and HD DVD (R.I.P.) decoding at 1080p, HDMI and built in 5.1 surround sound . Did I mention the heatsink is very quiet and the card itself doesn’t use a whole lot of power?
Another thing to consider when purchasing a graphics card is what it can do other than play video games and high definition movies. Recently Stanford and ATI gave HD 2000 and 3000 series owners something to cheer about with a new F@H client capable of running on these two generations of video cards. So far performance has been very good and anyone looking to get a PCI-E gaming upgrade and donate spare horsepower to science when you are not gaming should give the Diamond 3870 1GB a look. Performance with a 4GHz Core 2 Duo was 2095 points per day, and is bound by CPU performance. By our estimation, it would take a 4.4-4.5GHz Core 2 Duo to put this card at 100% usage with the work units that are available at the time of this writing. A standard 3870 512MB needs just 3.6GHz. Stanford and ATI have alluded that to the fact that work units will grow in complexity and size and that having more video memory will be beneficial. With a 1GB card now available, we speculate that it should have no problems doing other things on the desktop while still contributing to science with the more advanced work units.
Finally we come to price and this is where $#^& hits the fan. When you consider the performance of the 3870 1GB was similar to that of the 512MB card you would expect the price to be similar, which is significantly less than $200. As of this writing both Newegg and Tiger Direct are pricing this card at $299. While we do like the card we aren’t liking the price. If the price were in the same ballpark as the 3870 512MB we’d say that Diamond has a homerun. I was not able to find justification for buying the 3870 1GB at a $124 premium over 3870 512MB.
Legit Bottom Line: The Diamond Radeon 3870 1GB offers plenty of features, double the memory, higher GPU clock speeds, and a cooler that likely rivals the very best aftermarket solutions. Once the pricing comes down this will be a great card to own.