ATI HD3870 X2 Review

Admin - 2008-01-26 19:56:33 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: January 27, 2008


Is two always better than one? Sometimes it is and at times it isn’t. Sure, two million dollars or two weeks of vacation may be better than one of each, but would two cases of illness back to back or two mortgages on the same house be better? Fortunately, when you are dealing with computer hardware, two is 99% of the time better than one. Having a dual core processor, two video cards, two hard drives etc, all these help to enhance the performance of a PC, but multiple components do take up more space. So what if you could get two combined into one? A dual core processor would be an example, but two GPUs on one video card, that is something that is not very common. Most video cards are two slot cooling solutions and when combined with a second video card, take up four expansion slots in your case and may cover some onboard PCI or PCI-E connectors that will be rendered unusable since the video card needs that space. So really, in this case two may not be better than one.

The ATI HD 3870 X2 is a video card that might solve some of the problems of having two double slot solutions occupying that extra space. The HD 3870 X2 is a video card with dual GPU cores on one board. In theory, by combining two GPUs, you should be able to achieve about the same performance you would get with two separate units. The 3870 X2 is the second installment of the ATI 680 series of graphical processors, which were single core solutions. Will the ATI HD 3870 X2 prove to be a benefit or a hindrance? So far one benefit is clear, two GPUs on one board will allow you to free up some space, but the question remains, will there be a benefit in performance?


Closer Look:

The ATI HD 3870 X2 in most cases can be considered a large card; this is to accommodate both processors and a two slot solution heat sink.


The 3780 X2 has a PCI-E 2.0 interface, and has two DVI outputs with an onboard S-Video out as well.


At this time we are composing how-to guides for installation purposes. Please click here if you would like to see how a PCI-E video card looks installed inside a computer.


I'm beginning to appreciate the Vista interface.







After clicking the next button a few times and choosing if you would like to use a custom or express install, the Catalyst Control Center Installer will check your system for installed hardware and software.  



After finding the installed hardware and software, you are now ready to accept the driver installation.



Once done installing, you will be prompted to reboot your computer. When the computer reboots, click on the Catalyst Control Center Icon and you will be ready to configure your monitor and video card.



The drivers used for the X2 are sample drivers from ATI; they are not the final release (V8.45).


~1.3 billion
Manufacturing Process
Stream Processors
Texture Units
Render Back-Ends
Core Clock Speed
825+ MHz
Memory Clock Speed
900 MHz
Math Processing Rate (Multiply-Add)
> 1+ TeraFLOPS
DirectX Support
Tessellation Unit
ATI PowerPlay





OverclockersClub will be running the ATI HD 3870 X2 through our benchmarking suite to see how the video card performs. The OverclockersClub series of gaming benchmarks is used to verify the performance of this product. If you would like to see how other video cards performed in an XP platform, please check our Video Card Section under reviews. We will show comparisons to other video cards using the Vista platform, which can be found below. All video card settings were left at setup defaults to eliminate any variables.


Testing Setup:

Comparison Video Cards:



The best overclock achieved was 855/951.





  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 



Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at 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.















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:







I like WW2 games. One thing that I have noticed is that although the game is playable in all of the resolutions tested with no AA, this game can be a card killer.


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.












Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the latest installment 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:









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


The settings we will use are listed below:









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 from 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.









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.















So far I have tested at least one ATI 3870 on all three of the most popular 790FX motherboards, those being from Gigabyte, ASUS and MSI. The ASUS and MSI boards that I used were both first release boards and still have some stability issues even though I have updated them with every BIOS available. I have found that the Gigabyte board is the most stable at this time. I’m not ready to trash MSI or ASUS right now because they have worked very closely with me to get through the problems and have both decided to send me new boards.

I have two concerns. Why does the X2, in some games, perform worse with an overclock, and will there be an increase in performance with the final release of the 8.45 drivers? I want to talk a little about the benchmarks; as you have seen with Crysis, stock scores mimicked more of a Crossfire score than a dual processor. Yes, Crossfire is two processors, but they are separate boards and the architecture is much different than having both on the same board. You also forgo the bridges. Now is this due to Crysis being too nVidia specific and lacks the Crossfire support, or can it be that ATI’s architecture is not ready for such a demanding game? I had thought that the 1.1 Crysis patch would have fixed the problem, but it doesn’t look like it had. Ok, so that is one game, and in the rest it did outperform all 3870s, even those in Crossfire mode.

Getting back to overclocking. Was it worth it? I achieved a stable overclock of 855/951, which I think is pretty decent. Unfortunately, the X2 didn’t like it. Most benchmarks received fairly identical scores and at least two received lower. Don’t we overclock to go higher? In this case I guess not. I hope that with the final release of the new drivers things will change, usually things get better as they come of age.

Dual processors on one board are a great concept as it lowers the amount of space and the number of expansion slots used. The ATI HD 3870 X2 uses a 55nm chip and produces twice the Gigaflops per watt compared to previous high end cards. With these two factors, you should get less heat and increased performance. So far, I have not see an increase in performance but I have seen a decrease in heat, at max load and overclocked while playing Crysis as I only achieved a temperature of 79 Celsius. Compared to other cards I have used, not bad. So I have one last comment I’d like to make. AMD, Give Us More Stable Drivers!


So can we truly believe that when it comes to the ATI HD 3870 X2, that two is better than one? Yes and No.

Yes because with two processors on one board there is less room occupied. Yes because there is less heat produced. Yes because you can get comparable results to nVidia cards at its price point. Yes because you will be able to run Crossfire X and only take up four expansion slots.

No because at present with an overclock, the card performs quite horribly. No because the drivers are not able to produce the results you would expect with a graphics card of this caliber. No because until there are patches (for games) that actually enhance performance when using a dual processor board, you may see a decrease in performance.

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself whether owning an X2 worth the money you will spend and will you be able to achieve the performance that you would expect? If you are willing to wait a while for the drivers to mature and hope that your favorite games come out with a patch that will utilize the card to its fullest potential, then yes. Remember when I first tested the 8800 GT, it did not perform as well as everyone would have thought. Since that review, there have been driver updates and I also found a more stable board to use it on. You can see the results if you compare this and the 8800 GT review. Things get better with age; new is good, but sometimes not always better. So it will be up to you to make the call!