Conclusions and Final Thoughts
The G92 versus RV670 battle is finally over (or just beginning depending on how you look at it) and we have some very interesting results to ponder over.  Does AMD’s latest entry in the GPU market have what it takes to finally put a fight against the seemingly unstoppable NVIDIA machine?  Find out next episode!  Or just read below…


The new HD 3800 series isn’t going to be breaking the performance records set by the top end NVIDIA graphics cards quite yet, but they are definitely a great addition to a PC gaming market that could use all the lift it can get right now.  Looking at the HD 3850 first, it is very easy to call it the best deal for a graphics card under $200.  When compared to cards of the similar price bracket, like the 8600 GTS and the HD 2600 XT, the new HD 3850 is just leaps and bounds better for current DX9 and DX10 titles as we showed you through our onslaught of benchmarks on the previous pages.  There wasn’t a single instance in which we’d even call the comparison close – the 3850 is really that much better than what NVIDIA has to offer today. 

As much as the HD 3850 debate is cut and dry, the HD 3870 performance outlook is cloudy.  Coming in at a price of about $220 according to AMD, the HD 3870 is cheaper than the new NVIDIA 8800 GT card by anywhere from $30 to $80 depending on your brand preferences.  That’s good news for AMD as the 3870 couldn’t muster enough of a performance gain over the previous generation HD 2900 XT to really compete with G92.  Chances are good that AMD was as surprised as we were by the G92 performance results, since NVIDIA basically killed off sales of their GTS and GTX models by pushing the speeds up so high.  Rather than try to bump up the speeds in a rush to compete, AMD decided to leave the HD 3870 where it was and keep the pricing at a level that would make it competitive with the options from the other green team.

The performance of the HD 3870 is good, just not great.  In most cases the HD 2900 XT was actually slower than our HD 3870 results making it the fastest card in the AMD inventory but not by much.  The real point AMD wanted to make here is that they are back in the game from a performance-per-watt perspective and that they weren’t simply floundering their way through the GPU market any more – and I think they accomplished just that.

AMD Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 Review - RV670 at 55nm - Graphics Cards 140

One final note on performance is for those that might be interested in going down the road of multi-GPU setups.  The HD 3870 and HD 3850 do have an advantage over the NVIDIA competition in that they will offer 3-way and 4-way CrossFire configurations at the $200 price level while NVIDIA (for whatever reason) cut out 3-way SLI support from the 8800 GT cards by only including a single SLI bridge connection on the PCB.  My initial indicators for GPU scaling on three and four card configurations are positive, though on how many titles is up in the air.  The real question for some people might be will you get more gain out of a $200 upgrade in your CPU, moving from an Intel E6700 to a Q6700 for example, or by adding a second HD 3800 GPU to your system?  Or a third?  How about four? 

What, no Crysis testing?

I just wanted to address this quickly since I know I’ll get emails and forum posts if I don’t: I did not include any Crysis demo testing or early-release full game testing because of some issues with the game, drivers and multi-GPU support.  In short, just a few days after the game release, both Crytek and Microsoft are going to be releasing patches for Vista and Crysis that will address performance issues in both single and especially in multi-GPU system configurations.  Rather than waste hours testing a title for results that will be null and void 7 days down the road, I just thought I’d wait for the update to be released and then get a full write up ready for you all. 


Pricing and Availability

Since the cards aren’t showing up in any of the normal pricing areas as I am writing this, the pricing and availability information here is based on what AMD is telling me before hand.  I’m sure I’ll have updates in bold below here as the day and week progress, so feel free to check back often. 

The AMD Radeon HD 3850 is going to be priced at $179, putting it at the same level as the GeForce 8600 GTS cards which range from $159 to over $200.  For as long as those prices stick, the AMD HD 3850 is going to be the dominant card for anyone with a $200 or under budget for a graphics card, no questions asked.

AMD Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 Review - RV670 at 55nm - Graphics Cards 141

As for the HD 3870, the expected price is set at $219 and that puts it in an interesting position.  While we already mentioned that some higher end 8600 GTS cards are priced over $200 we have also seen the new 8800 GT cards reach as low as $249 already though it is out of stock.  The best price on an in-stock 8800 GT card I could find was $299 (!!) though it will vary day to day with new shipments arriving to vendors.  NVIDIA likes to spin this as the card being so popular they can’t keep it in stock while others might say that NVIDIA couldn’t make enough of them to begin with.  The end result is that as long as the 8800 GT prices are high, the HD 3870 will look like a better and better deal to gamers though if NVIDIA can get the G92 card down to the $250 price range reliably, AMD will need to either address it with another card revision or price drop to really stay ahead of the curve. 

Update 1: Great news for anyone looking into buying these cards, they appear to be in stock and at the prices AMD promised us:
And in other news, Newegg is still showing blank on the 8800 GT cards — look here.

Final Thoughts

The AMD Radeon HD 3800 series of graphics cards is ushering in new life for AMD GPUs that is desperately needed.  The HD 2000 series was more or less a flop in terms of enthusiast success though no one wants to admit that in Sunnyvale.  The RV670 core revision is turning it around though by lowering power consumption dramatically and increasing AMD’s competitiveness in gaming performance. 

The HD 3850 is the big winner here today as it stomps the GeForce 8600 GTS and HD 2600 XT cards in terms of your gaming experience while offering lower power consumption and nearly identical prices.  The HD 3870 still can have a bright future with its price point sitting well below the available GeForce 8800 GT cards and its ability to perform better than its AMD HD 2900 XT cousin while maintaining much lower power requirements. 

As the time for PC gaming reaches its climax for this fall with the release of titles like Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3 and Call of Duty 4, it sure helps when you have companies like AMD and NVIDIA fighting to earn your dollar with their graphics hardware.  May the New Year be just as fruitful!

AMD Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3850 Review - RV670 at 55nm - Graphics Cards 142
AMD Radeon HD 3850

Please join us in this thread of our forums to discuss this review and new product!

« PreviousNext »