VisionTek Black Box HD3850 Review
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06
Reviewed on: December 30, 2007
So now that you have all this extra Christmas cash, what are you going to spend it on? Have you been needing a new video card, especially for all of those new computer games you just received? Have you always wanted to overclock your video card, but you don't even know where to start? Well, that is where VisionTek comes in, with its VisionTek HD3850 512MB video card, which comes factory overclocked. This video card comes just in time for all you who need a new video card, but failed to receive one from Santa. I wonder how this video card will stand up against its relatives, the HD3870 and the other HD3850 cards on the market. We will find out when we put the VisionTek HD3850 512MB video card through all the tests to see how it holds up.
When I received the VisionTek Black Box HD3850 video card, it was, not coincidently, in one of VisionTek's black boxes. The box is a very plain black with a B2 on it, as well as a flame. There is a white sticker located on the box to let you know what is inside, but it gives no indication as to what the video card specs are nor what the box is going to look like at launch.
Once you open up the box, you are able to get the first glimpse of the VisionTek HD3850 video card and all the accessories that were packaged with it. Inside the packaging is a Crossfire Rev. C bridge, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, and a few video adapter cables. The package also included VisionTek's Quick Installation Guide and a Catalyst version 7.11 installation CD.
Once the VisionTek HD3850 was removed from all the packaging, I was able to notice that the the fan housing has a very sleek and sophisticated design to it. The housing extends from the rear of the video card where the fan is located up to the expansion slot bracket, and the card features a dual-slot setup, which makes it a little easier to cool the GPU.
As previously mentioned, the heatsink and fan is that of a dual-slot setup, allowing more air to be circulated through the housing, thus cooling the GPU and memory more effectively. The VisionTek HD3850 has two DVI output connectors as well as a single S-Video output port between them. Like most of the other video cards on the market today, the power that the video card draws from the PCI-E slot is not enough so the card requires you to add additional power directly from the power supply via a 6-pin power adapter.
Now that we know what this thing looks like, I think its time to put it my computer and fire it up.
The installation of a video card is one of the easiest things that can be done. This is because all you have to do is turn the computer off and open up the side of the case. When the side of the case is opened up, you then locate the current video card, remove it by releasing it from the expansion slot. and then pull the card out. Once this is done, you are ready to place the HD3850 in the PCI-E slot and secure it in place. Attach the PCI-E power connecter to the card and then close up the case and start it up. Once you get into Windows, you are going to need to install the drivers to run the card.
Once you have powered up the computer and got into Windows, you need to insert the Installation CD that came with the card. A screen will pop up asking what you would like to do; choose the "Install Drivers" option.
You will then need to go through all the usual installation screens and accept the terms that apply.
You can choose to install the drivers and Catalyst Control Software one of two ways, Express or Custom. The Custom way will allow you to disable some options that you may not want to have installed on your computer.
When everything has been installed you will need to restart your computer. When you get back into Windows, you can open up Catalyst Control Center (CCC) and configure all the nifty little settings.
With all ATI based video cards, including the VisionTek HD3850 512MB video card, you can install Catalyst Control Center. This is not a necessity for operation of your video card, however it is a nice way of tweaking the video card settings and overclocking the video card.
When you start it up for the first time, you will be prompted with a screen asking you if you want to go into Basic or Advanced mode. Of course you want to go into the Advanced mode, as that's where all the goodies are located. There is also a check box at the bottom of this screen that you can check so this screen does not come back again. When you click next with the Advanced Mode selected, you will receive a notification letting you know that it needs to close to be able to open up the Advanced Mode and that you are able to switch back to Basic mode at a later time if you wish. Click yes to continue.
Once you are in, you are able to go to the different areas of the Advanced options and tweak the settings for your needs. The first page that comes up is your welcome screen; very basic and not much there. The next screen we are taking a look at is the Information Center; this is where you can view all the different features of the currently installed and selected video card.
The Displays Manager screen is where you are able to set all the options, such as refresh rates, resolution, color quality, and rotation of the monitors connected to the card. The Digital Panel is where you are able to tweak all the color properties and what the colors look like when they are displayed. Under the 3D menu there is a page called Standard Settings, which is where you can choose if you want better quality picture displayed in 3D mode or if you would prefer performance; there is a slider bar that allows you to choose which you like best.
The last screen in the Catalyst Control Center that we are going to look at here is the ATI Overdrive screen. On this screen you are able to adjust the frequency at which the GPU, as well as the memory, operate at, thus overclocking the video card. There are two different ways to do this; you can have the software detect which are the most stable by going through and bumping up the frequencies by 10MHz at a time, or you can manually change it and then test the settings. Not only are you able to overclock the video card from this screen, but you are also able to view the temperature of the GPU and a percentage of the GPU activity.
PCI-E x16 (PCI-E 2.0 Support)
Stream Processing Units
- Powered by ATI Radeon™ HD3850
- Dual Link DVI-I x2 with full resolution HDCP Support
- 512MB Ultra High Speed GDDR3 Memory
- x16 PCI Express
- PCI Express® 2.0 & 1.0 support
- Superscalar unified shader architecture
- ATI Avivo™ HD display enhancement technology
- ATI PowerPlay™ energy conserving technology
- DirectX® 10.1 / Shader Model 4.1 support
- Dual DVI-I, TV/Component HDTV
- Built-in HDMI Video and 5.1 audio
- Support for the ATI Radeon™ DVI to HDMI adapter
- Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD-DVD
At OverclockersClub.com, we use a series of gaming benchmarks to stress the graphics card. The VisionTek HD3850 is a pre-overclocked card. As such, the expectation is that it will indeed perform better than the stock speed cards in this comparison. I'll be comparing this card against the Sapphire HD3850 and Diamond HD3850, as well as the Sapphire HD3870. I'm really curious to see how the VisionTek compares to the three of them. In addition to those ATI cards, I'll also be comparing it to the eVGA 8800GTS 640MB. Let's see how the VisionTek HD3850 stands up to all those cards.
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Processor
- Gigabyte GA-P35-DQ6
- VisionTek HD3850 512MB
- G. Skill 2GB (2x1GB)
- OCZ GameXStream 600W Power Supply
- Western Digital 160GB SATA 3.0GB/s Hard Drive
- Windows XP Professional SP2
- Thermaltake Armor Extreme Edition
- Driver Version 7.12
- Far Cry: Hardware OC (Ubisoft Volcano)
- F.E.A.R. (Performance Test)
- Call of Duty 2: Stalingrad (FRAPS)
- Quake 4: Hardware OC
- Need For Speed: Most Wanted (FRAPS)
- BioShock (FRAPS)
Benchmark: Far Cry
To kick off the benchmarking of this card, I will begin with a well known first-person shooter called Far Cry. This game demands a lot from your video card. Let's see how this card can handle what Far Cry dishes out.
- Maximum quality option, Direct3D renderer
- Level: Volcano, demo: Volcano.tmd
- Pixel shader: model 2.0b
- Antialising: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 8×
- HDR: disabled
- Geometry Instancing: disabled
- Normal-maps compression: disabled
Against all the HD3850 cards, the VisionTek ended up finishing behind at a resolution of 1680x1050, which definitely surprises me considering the card comes overclocked.
Next up is another first-person shooter called F.E.A.R. This is an exciting game that takes paranormal mysteries to the next level. Let's see what happens when we stress the VisionTek HD3850 with this game's built in benchmarking tool.
- FSAA: x4
- Anisotropic: x16
- Effects: Max
- Computer: High
- Soft Shadow: Off
At 1024x768 the VisionTek offering finished 2nd in the comparison of the HD3850 cards, but it pulls ahead at the higher resolutions.
A newer game called BioShock is a very interesting first-person shooter where you can get special power ups that allow you to have new and different powers. This game is another one that demands a lot from your video card.
- All settings to Maximum
Again the VisionTek HD3850 shows its worth at the higher resolutions.
Benchmark: Call of Duty 2
The Call of Duty series is one that has a ton of history to it. This game is a prequel to the newly released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which will be in our benchmark lineup soon.
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Texture Filter: Trilinear
Running the table in Call of Duty 2, the VisionTek HD3850 performed up to the level of the 8800GTS or better. An impressive performance.
Benchmark: Quake 4
How often have you wanted to be in outer space fighting bad guys with cool guns? I know you probably have played one of the games in the great Quake series.
- Demo: Hardware OC
- Quality: High
- Aspect Ratio: [4:3]
- Antialiasing: 4×
- Anisotropic filtering: 4x
- Symmetric MultiProcessing (SMP) enabled
Against the other HD3850 cards, the overclocked VisionTek outperformed each by 5fps to 9fps at the highest resolution.
Benchmark: Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Who does not love driving fast, especially when you are trying to get the attention of the police? Well okay, in a video game at least; we dont want to try this in real life. With the right video card, however, you can almost feel like you are in the driver's seat of the car in this action-packed game.
- Track: Clubhouse and Hollis
- All basic video settings set to ¾ on scroll bar
- All geometric features: High
- Vsync: Off
The Diamond offering just beats out the VisionTek overclocked model in this benchmark. The margin is between 1fps and 3fps.
Benchmark: 3DMark 06
With 3DMark 06, you run a few tests on your computer and it will give you a score. This score is what fuels the computer enthusiasts community with more and more people attaining scores that they are able to brag about. Do you want to get a better score? Maybe the VisionTek HD3850 can help in that department.
- 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
When the resolution starts to increase, the overclocked VisionTek starts to rise to the top of the HD3850 ladder, besting the Diamond and Sapphire offerings by almost 400 3DMarks.
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 on the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
At 1024x768 the VisionTek HD3850 is soundly beaten by Diamond's non-overclocked model. The tables are turned, however, when the resolutions are increased; the additional 256MB of memory, as well as the higher clock speeds, pay dividends with Crysis.
If you are looking for a new video card to play some of those new games that you just got for the holidays, you are in luck. The VisionTek HD3850 is the best HD3850 card I have seen. Like all other VisionTek video cards, it comes pre-overclocked, which is great for those of you who are either new to overclocking video cards or who are not very comfortable doing it yourself. The VisionTek HD3850 beat the Sapphire HD3850, as well as the HD3870, in almost all the benchmarks, and stayed right up there with the other cards it was compared against. At the lower resolutions the results were close, but once the resolutions increased, the additional memory and clock speed on both the core and memory really show the benefit to getting a factory overclocked video card. The VisionTek HD3850 came installed with a dual-slot cooling solution, which helps battle the high temperatures that video cards these days reach. This will come in handy during those long hours of playing GPU intensive games. This video card will definitely be replacing the current HD3850 that I was using. More processing power, more memory and better cooling means VisionTek has improved the HD3850 to become a better performance value.
- Relatively quiet
- Drivers CD was simple
- Dual-Slot cooling solution
- Great looks