Asus EAH3870X2 1GB Top Review

ccokeman - 2008-02-03 10:40:23 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 7, 2008
Price: $449.00

Introduction:

When we visited CES we caught a few glimpses of the 3870 X2 floating around in manufacturers' demo rigs. Since then, the anticipation has been killing me to see whether the 3870 X2 series can take away the graphics crown that Nvidia has been wearing for the past few years. The Asus EAH3870X2, as well as all of ATI's partners' boards, are made up of the marriage of two ATI RV 680 graphics processors attached to a single PCB. Using two processors on a single card is not a new idea, but this time around it is ATI and its partners taking a shot at making it work correctly. Since two of most things are better than one, will the 3870 X2 follow suit and provide the competition to Nvidia's dominance that ATI so desperately needs to be capable of having? Or will it fall just short of reaching the performance zone it should be playing in?

The Asus EAH3870X2 1GB TOP (Top Overclocking Performance) video card features core clocks of 825MHz, memory clocks of 900 and an Asus designed heatsink assembly that promises to be a step above the standard fare delivered by ATI. Another couple notes of difference to separate the Asus model from the crowd are the four - yes four - DVI ports as well as .8ns memory for some nice overclocking potential on the memory. Will a two GPU solution based on the RV680 GPU be the cure for the ATI blues?

We recently reviewed the ATI version of the 3870 X2 on an AMD platform to see how well the manufacturer's components performed as a platform. Now we are giving equal time to the competition to show what the other side of the fence is capable of. In this election year it just seems right!

 

Closer Look:

With the size of the box, the EAH3870X2 has got to be huge. The front panel highlights the the fact that the 3870 X2 has two GPUs. Some of the other highlighted features are that the EAH3870X2 has .8ns memory, four DVI outputs, HDMI connectivity and the inclusion of one of the newest DX10 games on the market, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. The rear panel lists some of the exclusive features of the board, including Splendid, Gamer OSD, Video Security, and Smart Doctor. The text is available in several languages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flip up panel on the box shows off the features of the Gamer OSD (On Screen Display), as well is giving information about Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts.

 

After opening the box you can see that it is partitioned off, with the EAH3870X2 securely packed into a foam block to eliminate any chance of damage. All of the accessories have been packed under the divider. The Quick Start Guide and software are kept up top.

 

 

The accessory package that comes with the EAH3870 X2 includes adapters to manage all of the connectivity options available with this card. Included are a DVI to HDMI adapter, two DVI to D-sub, one S-video to component, one crosslink Crossfire connector and a dual 4-pin molex to 6-pin PCI-E connector. Asus has sent a DVD disk holder, the Quick Start Guide and the driver, manual and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts full game discs.

 

 

Closer Look:

The Asus EAH3870 X2 is a full size video card. By video card standards it is huge. At just over 11 inches in length you will need a full tower to take advantage of the benefits of the 3870 X2 video card. The 3870 X2 series, as the name suggests, uses two HD3870 R670 cores. It uses a unique dual slot cooling solution to dissipate the heat generated by two of ATI's latest chip. The fan shroud is made of anodized aluminum which helps to support the EAH3870 X2 and keep it from flexing the 12 layer PCB. The Asus EAH3870X2 has each core clocked at 825MHz with the 1 GB of GDDR3 memory clocked to 1.8GHz (900MHz). Asus has chosen to use .8ns GDDR3 instead of the standard fare 1ns memory found on the ATI design. This should give a fair amount of overclocking headroom for the enthusiast in us. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the top side shows the two main power connections. One 8-pin and one 6-pin. The 3870 X2 will still run if you only have two 6-pin PCI-E connections available on your power supply. Overdrive will not work unless an eight and 6-pin power connection are used. There is only one Crossfire bridge connection on the EAH3870 X2. The reason for this is that there should only be a need for one since Crossfire X can be accomplished with only two cards instead of four.

 

 

The Asus EAH3870X2 differs from the standard ATI partner cards in a few different ways. First and formost is the cooling solution used by Asus. This is a far cry from the hair dryer models of the recent past (think 2900XT and 1900XTX). The cooling solution chosen by Asus uses the same style heatsink on each card instead of the separate copper and aluminum sinks used on the reference ATI design cards. Each heatsink on the Asus EAH3870X2 has a copper base and dual heatpipes leading to the fin assembly to cool down the GPUs. Each heatsink has its own individual fan so that each processor gets it own fresh air. This is in stark contrast to the blow through design used by ATI.

 

 

The fans used to cool the heatsinks are manufactured by Y.S.Tech. They are 70mm x 10mm and move 27.5 CFM at 4300 RPM with a noise level of 35dBA.

The second big thing is that this card has not two, but four DVI ports to send a signal to the display device of your choosing. The yellow port matches up with the DVI to HDMI adapter included with the bundle. From the assembly line, the ports are covered with protective caps assuring the end user that none of the ports sustain damage in transport.

 

 

After removing the heatsinks, the GPU cores were visible as well as the PLX technologies PCI-E bridging chip that helps make the whole dual GPU video card a reality and not just a dream. It is basically a 48 lane PCI-E switch that allows 16 lanes to each core as well as 16 lanes down to the motherboard interface.

 

 

 

Installation:

The installation of the EAH3870 X2 is the same as any other video card. Because of this, I will document the software installation and configuration. Start by installing the driver disc and have it launch the autorun feature to start installing the drivers and contol panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have chosen the install package for the drivers in the Catalyst install manager, you can proceed with the installation. Choose to install and move forward.

 

 

Those of you familiar with the Catalyst installation process will notice a change in the interface. The install welcome page allows the user to chose a custom or easy install. For most of the world, the best option is easy. There will be a prompt to create the ATI directory, do so and accept the EULA and it's off to the races. Just a couple of more steps to go till the wonders of the Dual GPU world amaze you.

 

 

Once the install is complete, the installer prompts for a reboot. Do so and all that is left is to configure the EAH3870 X2.

 

 

Configuration:

ATI provides a utility to adjust the quality and performance settings that are used to make the most of the video experience. It does not matter what the application, quality and performance can both be set in this utility. The Catalyst Control Center is an easy-to-use interface that includes more than a few tabs to adjust preferences to the individual's tastes. Let's look at the options that are available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information Center: The Information Center gives detailed information about the graphics software and hardware. 

 

 

 

Display Manager: Display Manager and Monitor Properties are the tabs that allow a detailed configuration of the attached monitors.

 

 

3D:This is where you make all of the performance and visual enhancements that make or break the performance of the video cards. Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, MipMap detail, Catalyst AI, V-Sync and Adaptive Anti-Aliasing are all done through this tab. You will also find the OpenGL settings and basic color correction settings.

 

 

Avivo Video: This tab allows for basic color adjustments and setting up of the theater mode for the display used with your system.

 

 

ATI Overdrive: Once opened, this feature must be unlocked to use. The standard overclocking of the hardware is not guaranteed and may lead to system instability. Warnings must be viewed and agreed to before using this utility. Here is where clockspeeds and temperatures can be viewed. Manually setting the 3D clockspeeds can be accomplished for the more advanced user while the Auto tune utility will test for you and attempt to find the highest overclock combination for the card(s).

 

Crossfire: This tab is for enabling or disabling the Crossfire configuration of the Asus EAH3870 X2 video card.

 

Specifications:

Graphics Engine
ATI Radeon HD 3870X2
Bus Standard
PCI Express
Video Memory
DDR3 1G
Engine Clock
825 MHz
Memory Clock
1.8 GHz ( 900 MHz DDR3 )
Memory Interface
256-bit
DVI Max Resolution
2560 x 1600
D-Sub Output
Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1 )
DVI Output
Yes x 4 (DVI-I)
HDMI Output
Yes x 1 (via DVI to HDMI adaptor x 1 )
HDTV Output (YPbPr)
Yes
HDCP Support
Yes
TV Output
Yes (S-Video to Composite)

Adapter/Cable Bundled

1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor
1 x DVI to HDMI adaptor
1 x HDTV-out cable

Software Bundled

ASUS Utilities & Driver
Hottest 3D Game: Company of Heroes – Opposing Fronts

Note
Other Accessories: Leather CD Wallet

 

Compatible Motherboard Chipset
AMD 790FX
AMD 790X
AMD 580X
AMD 480X
ATI CrossFire XpressTM 3200
Intel® X48
Intel® X38
Intel® 975X Express
Intel® P965 Express
Intel® P35 Express

 

Features:

Testing:

 

At OverclockersClub.com, we use a series of benchmarks to stress the graphics card. We will use a series of newer, as well as a few more seasoned, gaming benchmarks to show how well the Asus EAH3870 X2 compares to some of the performance video card offerings on the market. All driver settings and clockspeeds will be left at factory default settings on both the CPU and GPU to minimize or eliminate any variables from impacting the results. The test system used in this review is listed below. After testing the card at stock speeds, I will overclock the video card to see what kind of performance can be gained by overclocking it.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the EAH3870 X2 was full of ups and down. Using the auto tune feature in the Catalyst Control Panel yielded some seriously unstable results. Was this due to immature drivers? Only time will tell. So that left the good old fashioned trial by error method of overclocking. Increaseing the memory speeds was just a simple matter of upping the speed until the drivers crashed (again with the drivers). I finally settled at a memory speed of 1056MHz, an overclock on the memory of 102MHz. Not too shabby. The GPU core clocks on the other hand really did not have much left with a core clock already at 851MHz. Anything after 862MHz was a no go and the drivers would crash the application. This was not game specific, it was 3D specific. With the final clock and memory speeds set I was able to successfully complete all of the benchmarks in our Gaming benchmark suite. The performance increase was minimal with the increase in clock speeds but it was something. Such small gains seemed to be wrong based on prior experience, so to see if the CPU was holding the card back I gave the Q6600 a small overclock to 3.0GHz to test the theory out. When the 8800GTS 640MB card I usually test with was installed, normally with an overclock on the CPU I would see an increase of at most a couple frames per second. Across several games the increase was in the neighborhood of a 25% increase. As an example in the Knights of the Sea benchmark, with the small overclock on the GPU (860MHz) and an increase of the clock speed of the processor to 3.0GHz, the average FPS increased from 38.6 FPS to 47.3 FPS. That is almost a 10 FPS gain that is left on the table at 2.4GHz on the processor. The potential is there, you just have to work for it.

Benchmarks:

  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Jaurez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

 

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the gaming community. The Crysis single player demo includes both a CPU and GPU benchmark to test the performance of the processor and video card installed in the system.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Crysis is the game of choice than it looks like the Asus EAH3870X2 is the way to go. An 11 frame improvement over the current top dogs is impressive.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

The results in Knights of the Sea show the 3870 X2 performing just better than the single HD3870. The comparison to the NVidia 8800 series in this benchmark is close but not quite enough.

Testing:

Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lower end of the resolution spectrum, the 8800 seris cards have a decisive lead in performance. As the resolution cranks up, the 3870 X2 holds its own against the current cream of the crop from Nvidia.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the latest successor in the Call of Duty series. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper. SInce this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

The Asus EAH3870 X2 holds its own, but still falls short against even the ATI HD3870.

Testing:

World In Conflict is a newly released DX10 real time strategy game that simulated the all out war that the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical generate wealth and build type of game. You advance by conquering your foe.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance in this game shows that the 3870 X2 can keep up with, and at times surpass, the 8800 beasts.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired in part by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The X2 takes on all comers in Call of Juarez.

Testing

Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)

Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The Mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

The results in this benchmark show the G92 8800 just blowing away all of the other cards in comparison. Testing was run over a total of ten times to verify the settings and results. The X2 again shows its worth at the top end.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark06 was just a blood bath. The EAH3870 X2 never dropped out of the 13,000 point range. None of the other cards even came close to matching the performance of the X2.

Conclusion:

So the question still stands. Are two GPUs better than one? It sure looks like it in most cases. The ability of this card to scale well into the higher resolutions makes it a good choice for the gamer who wants a dual GPU solution but just has a single PCI-E slot available on the motherboard. Performance across the board was within a few frames, better or worse, than the competition. Kind of a surprise that it happened with the testing that we have done showing that Crossfire support in games is not quite there yet. Whether it is game developers or driver development that is the root cause, the performance should be there and better. With several driver revisions available to test the Asus 3870 X2 out in the open (besides the driver included on the Asus disc), I found that the beta drivers offered no performance increase over the Catylyst 8.1 drivers or those included on the driver disc.

Will the next generation of drivers be the key to the castle and allow those out there that prefer ATI/AMD video cards the right to start bragging about comparable performance again? Time will surely tell the tale. Or is this offering a tad late to the party considering the upcoming launches from Nvidia? Again, only time will tell. But for right now, ATI has put itself and its partners into a winning position with the release of the 3870 X2 series of cards. Asus has come up with unique features that make its version the EAH3870 X2 stand out from the crowd. A unique cooling solution, 1GB of GDDR3 .8ns memory for great overclocking potential, four DVI outputs for maximum connectivity, bundled software and hardware, and a price for performance point that will be hard to beat.

Pros:


Cons: