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ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 Review - -

Applications 8.5
Gaming 9.5
Multimedia 9.2
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Distributor: AMD
Joel Williams


ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 Review

When something challenges in the status quo in the world of PC gaming, people begin to notice and wait in anticipation as gaming may once again be revolutionised and the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 is one of those items.

For those users who are unsure of what graphic cards are on the PC, they are basically the brains of the majority of graphics being displayed on your monitor which also affects resolution and how fast they can move and display graphics on your screen.

Of course, your motherboard, CPU and memory do add to the equation but at the end of the day, it is the graphic card and for PC gaming, this is an extremely important feature.

What makes the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 so special is that ATI have placed two RV670 cores on the card which are two distinct graphical processing units and ATI have added 1GB of GDDR3 memory which makes this one of the most impressive and amazing gaming cards on the market.

ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 Specifications

  • Transistors ~ 1.3 billion

  • Manufacturing Process 55nm

  • Stream Processors 640

  • Texture Units 32

  • Render Back-ends 32

  • Core Clock Speed 825+ Mhz

  • Memory Clock Speed 1.8GHz

  • Math Processing Rate 1+ TeraFLOPS

  • DirectX Support 10.1

  • Tessellation Unit Yes

  • UVD Yes

  • ATI PowerPlay Yes

As you can see from the specifications, the card is extremely powerful and with two processors on one card, it is literally like having two graphic cards in your PC with the end performance of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 being extraordinary exceptional. Although all this power does come at a cost and the graphic card requires a minimum of 500W or greater to power and cool this card.

After testing this card with a variety of games, the fan on the card is relatively low at 36dBA. Another noticeable feature of the card is that it quite long and is probably the longest and heaviest graphic card that I have seen (pun intended) in a long time.

Considering the complexities of this card, it's probably a small price to pay but at the end of the day, you will need quite an up to date system to run this beast.

Key Features

  • Ultimate Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 Performance – You’ll be blown away by life-like graphics from the latest DirectX® 10.1 games, with stunning 3D graphics and shading effects.

  • Over 1 teraFLOPS of Compute Power – up to 640 stream processors (320 x 2) on a single card deliver the raw horsepower to attack the most demanding graphics applications

  • ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU – Upgrade to even greater 3D performance quickly and easily thanks to plug-and-play ATI CrossFireX technology with up to quad-GPU support.

  • PCI Express® 2.0 – Get ready for the most demanding graphics applications with PCI Express 2.0 support, which allows up to twice the throughput of current AMD PCI Express cards.1

  • Unified Video Decoder – View and manipulate the latest Blu-ray and HD DVD content with a dedicated hardware video decoder that leaves your CPU free to perform other tasks.

  • Ultimate Image Quality – Performance that rivals high-end HD-DVD and Blu-ray players on displays with resolutions that exceed 1080p – up to 2560x1600.2

  • Integrated Digital Outputs – Enjoy your digital content the way you want to, with built-in HDMI that includes 5.1 surround audio for big screen entertainment.

  • More Processing Performance per Watt – Get up to twice the Gigaflops per watt of previous generations of high-end AMD GPUs.

  • ATI PowerPlay™ Technology – power saving features that reduce power consumption at idle or during low-usage

  • Runs Cool and Quiet – With a smaller chip designed to use less power, your system can take advantage of high-end Windows Vista® features while running more efficiently and quieter than ever.

In order to test this card, an AMD Phenom 9600 Processor came with the review unit, match that with 4GB RAM and a 200GB hard drive and we had everything we needed to run this card through the hoops.

Although installing this card is quite self explanatory, some users may need assistance before installing this card and a technician is generally available at all good computing stores.


We tested this card with Windows Vista 64-Bit and also the latest DirectX to ensure that the card was not disadvantaged in any of the update and software areas. It should also be noted that this card will run on Windows XP systems.

Our first impressions with Windows Vista was the graphical capability of the card which was quite impressive and even though we were only surfing the net and bringing up "Windows", the screens were displayed quite fast and the colours were exceptionally bright, vivid and sharp.

Crysis (Version 1.0) is probably the most powerful PC game on the market at the moment and the graphical detail is quite amazing. Unfortunately this comes at a cost but the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 performed quite well, with the GPU Test displaying results such as 42.8 (1440x900), 38.1 (1680x1050) and 31.2 (1920x1200).

Playing Crysis on a resolution of 1440x900 was exceptionally smooth and this was with high detailed turned on. You can also tweak the game for faster frame rates but at the end of the day, you need to make the choices between quality and performance.

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare continues the popular franchise and to run this game on full detail requires quite a powerful system, however the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 once again performed remarkably with results such as 52.1 (1920x1200) and 75.9 (1280x1024) which gave good performance.

Unreal Tournament 3, another classic first person shooter scored quite well, although not as good as some of the current cards on the market, however this would have been more of a case with a dated gaming engine that does not support the latest technologies. Results were 112.1 (1440x900), 111.7 (1680x1050) and 109.2 (1920x1200). These were fast results but once again it is dependent on customization.

3DMark is one of the most definitive graphical benchmark programs available and ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 had some quite impressive results with the card offering 16499 as its overall score in 1280x1024 which is a rather impressive end result, making this one of the better cards on the market at the moment.


The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 is definitely a powerful card, however it could be more powerful once more companies and software developers support this powerful product.

It's good to see that ATI have reached the levels of NVIDIA once again and if I had to choose between both of these companies high end products, it would be a hard choice, however I would probably go with the ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 due to its features and support which make this an extremely well rounded and powerful card.

The future seems limitless!

ATI Radeon™ HD 3800 Series - GPU Specifications

  • 666 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface5
  • 256-bit GDDR3/GDDR4 memory interface
  • Ring Bus Memory Controller
    • Fully distributed design with 512-bit internal ring bus for memory reads and writes
  • Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 support
    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
    • 320 stream processing units
      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shaders
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant caches
    • Up to 80 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression (up to 128:1)
    • Lossless color compression (up to 8:1)
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
    • High performance vertex cache
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features
    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4, or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Temporal anti-aliasing
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFire™ configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • Bicubic filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.0 support
  • ATI Avivo™ HD Video and Display Platform
    • Dedicated unified video decoder (UVD) for H.264/AVC and VC-1 video formats
      • High definition (HD) playback of both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats
    • Hardware MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and DivX video decode acceleration
      • Motion compensation and IDCT
    • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
      • Color space conversion
      • Chroma subsampling format conversion
      • Horizontal and vertical scaling
      • Gamma correction
      • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
      • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
      • Detail enhancement
      • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
      • Bad edit correction
    • Two independent display controllers
      • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
      • Full 30-bit display processing
      • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
      • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
      • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
      • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
      • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
      • Hardware cursor
    • Two integrated dual-link DVI display outputs
      • Each supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)2
      • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content3
    • Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
      • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x15362
    • DisplayPort output support4
      • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x16002
    • HDMI output support
      • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x10802
      • Integrated HD audio controller with multi-channel (5.1) AC3 support, enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
    • Integrated AMD Xilleon™ HDTV encoder
      • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
      • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
      • Underscan and overscan compensation
    • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcoding
    • Seamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
    • VGA mode support on all display outputs
  • ATI PowerPlay™
    • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
    • Performance-on-Demand
      • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
      • Clock and memory speed throttling
      • Voltage switching
      • Dynamic clock gating
    • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology
    • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two, three, or four GPUs
    • Integrated compositing engine
    • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect1


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