VisionTek Radeon HD3870 X2 Overclocked Edition Review
Reviewed by: Makaveli
Reviewed on: May 7, 2008
A magnitude of enthusiasts would love to have a multiple GPU solution for their machines. The problem is that many of them cannot or will not because multiple cards take up too much space, power, and money. But what about these new single cards with dual GPUs on them? The all-new VisionTek Radeon HD 3870X2 Overclocked Edition video card claims to pack unbelievable performance and it probably consumes less power than a multiple video card setup. This 3870X2 from VisionTek is, without a doubt, the best single card from the ATI side of the coin. How will it compare against tough competitors such as the nVidia 9800GTX?
VisionTek is one of the most popular manufacturers of ATI graphics cards and it continues to provide quality, reliable, and innovative products to its customers. I find that the cooling solutions that the company comes up with are unique and work very well. Hopefully, this Radeon HD 3870X2 Overclocked Edition won't be any different in regard to cooling. Now let's take an in depth look at everything this card has to offer and see if it truly is the best single video card available.
The VisionTek Radeon HD 3870 X2 Overclocked Edition video card comes packaged in a sleek box that is fairly long but not very deep. On the front and back of the box, you'll find the key features of the video card proudly displayed. If you want to find the specifications or the system requirements, just look on either side of the box to find them neatly organized and easy to read.
The VisionTek 3870 X2 is held securely in place by white foam and is wrapped in an anti-static bag to ensure the card doesn't get exposed to any static during shipping. Before we take a look at the card, let's take a glance at the accessories. Included is a driver CD, a "Ruby ROM" disc, an installation guide, HDTV breakout cable, VGA to DVI adapter, DVI to HDMI adapter, 4-pin molex to 6-pin power adapter, and an S-Video cable. Not too shabby, huh?
Let's take the VisionTek Radeon HD 3870 X2 Overclocked Edition graphics card out of the box to get a closer look at it!
The VisionTek 3870X2 has two large copper heatsinks on the card that use a quad-pipe cooling solution. The heatsinks aren't too large but they are heavy, making the card even heavier than the nVidia 9800GTX. This 3870X2 is made for a PCI-Express x16 slot on the motherboard and it does support CrossfireX technology, so you can run Crossfire with two VisionTek 3870 X2s with no problems.
When you take a closer look at the heatsink on these GPUs, it's quite astonishing! The heatsink almost covers the entire card! It definitely seems like this card does very well in the cooling department, but we'll have to test it to be sure. Also, notice how there are two DVI ports stacked on top of the two DVI ports integrated to the actual card.
It was a little bit harder to see in the other pictures, but the VisionTek 3870X2 has four DVI ports, which is great for users who use multiple monitors. So what does it take to power this beast? It takes two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors plugged into the back of the card to power it sufficiently.
Now that we've examined the card itself, let's go ahead and get the drivers installed and take a look at the software included.
To install the drivers, insert the included Catalyst Control Center disc and follow the onscreen instructions. It's very simple to complete this process and once everything is installed correctly, you'll be prompted to restart your computer. Upon restarting, you will be all set and ready to go.
The other included disc with this 3870X2 was called "Ruby ROM Volume 1." On this disc, you'll find that it is jam-packed with games, applications, wallpapers, screensavers, and more.
Now let's take a closer look at some of the basic features of the Catalyst Control Center.
Catalyst Control Center:
The included version of Catalyst Control Center is 8.2, which is a little bit outdated compared with the latest version (at the time of this review) of 8.4. There are a plethora of options available to alter in CCC, but the most important tab for me is "A.I. Overclocking" because I live to overclock my components. We'll be able to see how much farther from the stock core clock of 840MHz and stock memory clock of 960MHz that I can push this card soon enough.
Now let's test the card to see what it is capable of!
- Dual HD3870 high-definition GPUs on single card for better performance, and failsafe GPU redundancy
- Ideal for high end gamer or workstation professional
- 1GB high-speed GDDR3 memory
- ATI CrossfireX technology enabled on single card
- Internal CrossfireX technology enabled design, without additional flexible CrossfireXTM bridge
- 4 Dual-link DVI outputs (2 active when CrossFire is enabled)
- Integrated audio multi-channel audio (5.1 surround) thru. DVI-HDMI dongle (optional)
- Quad Heatpipes Silent Fan
- Variable speed quiet, Dual 7.5cm fans controlled by temperature
- Massive copper Quad heatpipe driven cooling apparatus
- 48 PCI-E lanes for switching – 16 lanes communicate with PCIE bus, 16 lanes to 2 GPUs respectively.
- Superscalar unified shader architecture
- 320 x2 stream processing units
- 256-bit memory x2 interface
- DirectX® 10.1 / Shader Model 4.1 support
- PCI Express® 2.0 support
- High-speed 128-bit HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering
- Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing
- ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
- Support for the ATI Radeon™ DVI to HDMI adapter
- Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD DVD
- Dynamic geometry acceleration
- Game physics processing capability
HD Video Beyond 1080p
The latest Blu-ray and HD DVD movies play smoothly at full 1080p and your CPU is unbound for other tasks thanks to the Unified Video Decoder. Enjoy ultimate image quality with resolutions upscaled beyond1080p for the most processing-intensive content. And with a choice of digital outputs, you have more options when enjoying your digital entertainment.
- Unified Video Decoder – Enjoy the latest Blu-ray and HD DVD movies with a dedicated hardware video decoder that leaves your CPU unbound to do 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.
- Integrated Digital Outputs – Enjoy all your digital content the way you want to, with built-in HDMI and DVI output capability.
ATI Radeon™ HD 3800 Series graphics processors have breakthrough efficiency, with up to twice the processing performance per watt than previous generations of AMD GPUs. Take advantage of the latest graphics features that can help drive productivity at an extraordinary price. 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
Ultimate HD Gaming
Advance to ultimate HD gaming with incredible performance, life-like graphics and support for Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1. With dual ATI Radeon™ HD 3870 GPUs working in exquisite precision, you’re ready to dominate the battlefield from over one teraFLOPS of GPU compute power. And thanks to plug-and-play ATI CrossFireX™ upgradeability, you can scale your performance to even greater heights.
ATI Avivo™ HD Technology
The ATI Radeon™ HD 3870 GPU features ATI Avivo™ HD technology with advanced audio, video processing, display and connectivity capabilities for high definition entertainment solutions
- Introducing a breakthrough for the playback of Blu-ray™ and HD DVD discs
- UVD (Unified Video Decoder) is a new HD video processor that provides hardware decoding of Blu-ray and HD DVD
- UVD is designed to enable a cool, quiet media PC with low GPU and CPU power requirements
- ATI Avivo™ HD technology includes fully integrated HD audio capabilities and supports playback of multi-channel (5.1) audio streams. When combined with the integrated HDCP copy protection, ATI Avivo HD enables a one-cable HDMI™ connectivity solution to high definition home theaters
ATI Unified Video Decoder Technology
Connect your PC to your home theater and start watching HD content from your computer using new ATI Radeon™ HD 3800 series graphics cards. The ATI Radeon™ HD 3800 Series is designed to decode and playback Blu-ray and HD DVD formats using dedicated hardware within the GPU. This technology, known as UVD or Unified Video Decoding, is part of ATI Avivo™ HD, the new collection of technologies that are designed to improve the visual and connectivity capabilities of ATI Radeon™ HD 3800 Series GPUs. The new and improved UVD offloads the intensive process of HD video decoding and playback from the CPU while improving the visual quality. This means you can get smooth, high quality HD video playback at full HD 1080p from most entry level PCs, or free up the CPU for other tasks while you enjoy the movie. And with HDCP* built into the GPU, the new cards easily enable playback of HDCP protected content.
-All information sourced from VisionTek's website: http://www.visiontek.com/products/cards/retail/3870_x2_overclocked.html
In order to test the VisionTek Radeon HD 3870 X2 Overclocked video card, I'm going to be running it through seven different games and graphics benchmarking programs at four different resolutions. This allows us to gauge how this card does at higher resolutions and common resolutions for some of today's hottest games. Everything is tested at bone stock for the stock testing and then we'll follow that testing by overclocking the card. Also, the VisionTek 3870X2 has a core clock of 840MHz and a memory clock of 960MHz at stock. All of the latest available display drivers were used for all of the cards.
- Processor: Intel Q9450 Core 2 Quad 333x8
- Motherboard: Gigabyte X48-DQ6
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 8000 Redline 2 x 2GB 5-5-5-12
- Video Card(s): VisionTek 3870X2 Overclocked Edition
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800watt Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Opticals: Sony Dual Layer Burner
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
Comparison Video Cards:
- ZOGIS 9800GTX
- Asus 8800GTS (G92)
- Asus 8800GTX
- VisionTek HD 3870X2 850/975
Overclocking a pre-overclocked card? Can it be pushed any further? The answer is yes. It didn't take me long to discover that this video card does not like to be pushed, but I was able to obtain a minimal overclock on the already overclocked beast of a video card. I reached 850MHz on the core clock from the stock frequency of 840MHz, and on the memory I obtained a frequency of 975MHz over the stock 960MHz. It's not much, but we'll see if it gives a performance increase at all.
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Juarez
- 3DMark 06 Professional
Crysis is one of the most popular DirectX 10 first person shooters on the market today. This game features unbelievable graphics that really take a toll on video cards.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
Surprisingly, the 3870X2 didn't blow the competitors out of the water.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DirectX10 game that allows the gamer to fight a war at sea. This game features its own graphics engine that is currently in development.
The settings we will use are below:
- AA: x0
- Image quality: High
- DirectX version: 10
- All resolutions 60HZ
Wow! The 3870X2 got smacked around in this benchmark.
BioShock is a fairly recent Sci-Fi first person shooter that can deal quite a blow to video cards.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync off
Here it is! The 3870X2 has finally shown up and taken down the 9800GTX by a considerable margin.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the latest chapter in the Call of Duty series. This installment is by far my favorite in the Call of Duty line-up. The graphics are absolutely stunning and they can be pretty tough on a video card.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings max
The 9800GTX kept up in the first resolution, but then the 3870X2 smoked it in the last three resolutions.
World In Conflict is a new DirectX 10 game that simulates an all out, disastrous war that seems hopeless at first.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- 0x AA
- 16x AF
- Graphic Detail: Very High
The resolution change didn't seem to faze the VisionTek 3870X2 at all.
Call of Juarez is a new DirectX10 Wild-Wild-West style first person shooter that features some challenging graphics.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size: 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti-Aliasing: MSAA 4X
The 3870X2 absolutely wrecked the 9800GTX in the first three resolutions, but tied in the final resolution. We all know this a really bad benchmark so don't give to much thought into the numbers. We only include this because readers asked for it.
Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is a newer installment in the Company of Heroes series. This game allows you to play as either the British or Germans in a World War 2 setting.
- 8x AA
- All other settings to maximum
It wasn't a complete blowout in this game, but the 3870X2 took all of the resolutions by a decent margin.
3DMark06 is the benchmark that everyone brings up when they're bragging about their systems.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: CPU1 - Red Valley, CPU2 - Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1 - Canyon Flight, HDR2 - Deep Freeze
The VisionTek 3870X2 took every resolution by more than 1000 points!
The VisionTek Radeon HD 3870X2 Overclocked Edition video card is, without a doubt, the best graphics card that I have ever tested. It absolutely demolished the nVidia 9800GTX video card in almost every test, but you can attribute its performance to the dual GPUs on the card. I was impressed by how quiet this beast of a video card was; my CPU fan's sound overpowered the sound of the video card, so I didn't hear the 3870X2 at all. The only problem with the cooling solution is that it is very heavy. I prayed that this card wouldn't snap the PCI-Express x16 slot on my motherboard right off - thankfully it didn't. How well did this video card cool? The quad-pipe heatsink solution did not disappoint me one bit, because the card idled at 44 Celsius inside of a room that has an ambient temperature of 18 Celsius. Since this card comes pre-overclocked, there isn't much headroom for overclocking, as expected. Currently, there is no better performing single video card out on the market than this VisionTek Radeon HD 3870X2 Overclocked Edition. So in order to get the best card available, you will have to shell out quite a bit of money. The main question is, is it worth it to get the best performing video card? In my book it is, because as an added bonus, this card is very quiet and is pre-overclocked. If you are looking for the best video card available, look no further than the VisionTek 3870X2 Overclocked Edition video card!
- Very quiet
- Copper dual fan heatsink
- Heavy heatsink