Sapphire HD 3870 ReviewMakaveli -
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The Sapphire HD 3870 is by far the best video card that I have ever tested by ATi. It proved that it is a card that is almost as good as an 8800GTS 640MB which, to me, falls a little short of being the best of the best. This card did extremely well in 3DMark06, knocking the 8800GTS out in every resolution by more and more points as the resolution got higher. I’ve never seen a video card do so well at high resolutions. In the 1680x1050 widescreen resolution, the Sapphire HD 3870 never scored below 46 frames per second in the gaming tests. To further impress me, this video card was sitting at 48 Celsius at idle and only reached up to 60 Celsius at 100% load. Even at 100% load, I couldn’t hear the HD 3870 over my CPU cooler. I did notice that when I powered up my machine, the fan on the card spun really fast, making a loud noise for about a second. This didn’t alter my opinion on this card the slightest bit. A Moderator from the Sapphire forums has informed us that this is perfectly normal and it's just a short POST (Power On Self Test) that the cards do. The card was extremely easy to disassemble and adding my own thermal paste to the card couldn’t have been easier. This is especially good for anyone who plans on installing an aftermarket cooler. Installing the display drivers for ATi video cards hasn’t always been the best of experiences for me in the past, but with this card I didn’t have a single issue. The Catalyst Control Center is still a great program to use to optimize the video card's performance for your machine. With HDMI, DirectX 10, and HD support, this card does it all and it is very cheap considering the performance it puts out - retailing for $219.99. So put this Sapphire HD 3870 on your holiday wish list because this video card does exceptionally well at high resolutions and supports some of the most recent and sought after technologies, all at a very affordable price.
After looking over the graphs in the gaming benchmarks, it's clear that this card's results fluctuated quite a bit. The scores weren't too impressive in some of the games, but it did great in others and definitely started redeeming itself in BioShock - which is a very recent game. It'll be interesting to see how this card performs once we start implementing new games into our benchmark lineup.
When I overclocked this video card, it definitely went higher than I thought it would. I had this preconceived notion that since I haven’t had too much luck with overclocking my ATi cards in the past, that I wouldn’t be able to overclock this Sapphire HD 3870 too much. This card proved me wrong when I got the core clock up from 777MHz to 850MHz and the memory up to almost 1300 from 1126 with the fan on “Auto”. The video card obviously performed better overall but what surprised me is that the overclocked card didn’t do too good during the Need For Speed: Most Wanted benchmark. Other than that, the overclocked results were better than the results using the new drivers by a good margin. Although the fan spun faster while it was overclocked, I could barely notice the fan over my CPU cooler’s fan.
UPDATE: With the new drivers, the results were not what I expected. The card performed the same or slightly worse in most of the benchmarks. It did do better in BioShock and a few points better in 3DMark06 - other than that, I can't say the drivers did much but bring the card's performance slightly down. The Catalyst Control Center is working very well with the new drivers. I'll be working on overclocking this card over the next couple of days so check back soon for another update!
- Above Average Performance
- Ease of Installation
- Overclocking Ability & Performance
- Fan at Startup (Can be a annoying for some)