ATI Radeon HD3870 X2 1GB Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     January 28, 2008

ATI Radeon HD3870 X2 1GB Review

Within the last few months we have seen a flurry of new releases from the two main players in the graphics card market. Both ATI and Nvidia have been concentrating on the mid-end performance cards which offer you the most bang for your hard earned buck with products like the 8800GT and HD3870. Both companies have been completely content to let the year-old 8800GTX sit at the top of the heap with its easily-earned performance crown. Never before in recent memory has a single graphics card retained the lead for so long…until today.

After what can only be called an unsuccessful launch of what was originally supposed to be a competitor for the 8800GTX with their HD2900XT, ATI was bought by the (then) high-flying AMD. Since then, many things have changed with AMD but one thing has become apparent: they are hell-bent on clawing back ATI’s place in the graphics card market. With what can only be called a highly successful launch of their HD3870 and HD3850 series, ATI and AMD are riding on cloud number nine but even with these two strong products, they are not content. Why? Because Nvidia is still walking pretty with sole ownership of the high-end performance category and ATI needs to make a renewed assault on this lucrative market for both financial reasons and bragging marketing material (read: bragging rights). While very good in their own right, their current crop RV670 cores is not up to the task of taking on the 8800GTX mono-a-mono so ATI and AMD had to come up with something else. Enter the HD3870 X2.

While it may seem neither elegant nor particularly innovative at face value, the HD3870 X2 (or RV680 as ATI calls it) represents ATI’s resurgent need to hold the performance mantle one more time. Not only does this give hope to investors but it gives a warm fuzzy feeling to anyone who hated the one horse race the current extreme performance segment had become over the past 18 months.

To put it in a nutshell, the HD3870 X2 is basically a pair of HD3870 512MB cards which have been installed on one giant red PCB with a full 1GB of memory. If you bought two HD3870 cards separately, you would quickly rack up a bill of about $480CAD but the HD3870X2’s price is still in a bit of flux. Don’t take this as God’s (or whatever deity you believe in) Own truth but our contacts have pegged the price of this card at anywhere from $500 to $550CAD but remember, this may change for launch. This is a bit more than the public might like but if the price is indicative of how ATI knows this card performs, it means that we may have a new performance champion on our hands. ATI is also pushing this as a “hard” launch with product in the channel on launch day but stock will initially be extremely limited.

This review will be a bit different from the last ones we have done. This is not a retail version of the HD3870 X2 but rather it is an engineering sample which we got our hands on through a story too complicated to mention here (though it would make great reading). So, you will not see any packaging shots nor any Crossfire results since we could only get our hands on one of these cards on short notice. There will also be no final "score" given due to the fact that this is an engineering sample.

One way or another, we were hell-bent on bringing you some info about this product even though the NDA lift date has jumped around more than a pigmy on ‘roids. So sit back, grab your reading glasses and a cup of coffee, take a seat in your favorite chair and enjoy this review.


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