Diamond Viper HD3850 Crossfire Reviewccokeman -
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So how well did the Diamond HD 3850 Crossfire combo perform? If this set of cards was run against the mid-ranged cards it is meant to compete against, it would have blown them out of the water. I wanted to test these cards against the higher end hardware to see how well the Crossfire combination performs. Showing a dominating performance is really nice, but that only presents half the story. The fact is that the cards performed above their class level at many times, keeping pace with the heavyweights in the video card world on some of our benchmarks, though not all of them, mind you. Crossfire performance was not what I was expecting on some of the gaming benchmarks. In Crysis, the game would hard lock when in Crossfire mode, and in Bioshock the Crossfire performance was worse than single card performance. In the Quake 4 benchmark, the Crossfire combo did outperform the single card, but only by between 3 and 10 FPS. I feel this is not a video card problem but a support issue on the part of the game developers.
The single slot cooling solution is great in one aspect but bad in another. What I mean by this is that the fan noise reduction on this series of card is amazing. The fans run in the 31 to 34dB range and are for the most part quiet. Temperatures, on the other hand, peaked at 89 Celsius during my testing. This seems much too high for long term use, but ATI assured us that it was within specifications. Overclocking the card through the CCC was a simple affair. By using the included auto tune utility, the clockspeeds are slowly ratcheted up to the point the software determines the card is stable. The numbers looked great, but are a little optimistic. Adjusting the clock and memory speeds down, I reached a stable overclocked speed of 740MHz on the core and 989MHz for the memory. Both of these were substantial increases that did help with performance.
At a price of $179 each, ATI/Diamond have positioned the HD 3850 series to compete on both price and performance in the $150 to $250 price range. With the migration to the 55 nanometer process, the consumption of power has been reduced. Using Powerplay technology, the drivers underclock the video card to reduce the power draw when not in a demanding 3D environment. The HD 3800 series of cards uses a built-in hardware decoder (Unified Video Decoder) that relieves the CPU of the burden of managing HD-DVD and Blu Ray content. Couple this with built-in HDMI 5.1 sound, and you have a potent combination for that HTPC build. Setting up Crossfire is a matter of just installing the interconnect cables, powering up the system and checking the "Enable Crossfire" check box in the Catalyst Control Center. No fuss no muss. Does this card in Crossfire meet the demands of today's latest games? Sure it does, just not at the maximum settings.
- Performance Value
- Low Noise
- Power Consumption
- Ease of Crossfire Setup
- High Load Temperatures