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ASUS EAH3870 512MB Graphics Card Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Prey / Unreal Tournament III

Prey

Even though Prey may be a bit older game compared against many of the other ones we are testing, it still provides a workout of even the best graphics cards on the market. This time we have enabled its Graphics Boost feature (Gboost in the charts) and run through a custom timedemo.

EAH3870-26.JPG

Even though this game may be getting on a bit in age, it seems that even at the highest resolution supported the HD3870 TOP is able to hang tough against some pretty fierce competition. It once again stays about 5% faster than a stock card but this time it seems that clock speeds don’t make much of a difference.


Unreal Tournament III

With absolutely stunning graphics, this popular online FPS provides great visuals to go hand-in-hand with palm-sweating gameplay.

For these tests we set up a 15 minute Bot Match on the Serenity level and let it play though. All of the results were recorded with FRAPS.

EAH3870-31.JPG

In Unreal Tournament, the higher clocks of the ASUS card do not make any noticeable difference in gameplay whatsoever. In every one of the resolutions, we are actually seeing a LESS than 5% increase in frame rates which really isn’t anything to write home about. If you are someone who plays this game and is considering a HD3870, it is best to stick to the lower-priced stock card rather than pick of an overclocked HD3870.
 

SKYMTL

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World in Conflict DX9

World in Conflict DX9

This is one stunning game. World in Conflict has provided us with some of my most memorable gaming experiences since the first Homeworld game was released and it has not stopped wowing me. In its DX9 form it provides eye-popping visuals and pushes most modern GPUs to their limits. However, in DX10 mode this game will cause nearly every graphics card to beg for mercy.

For this test we used the in-game benchmarking tool.

1280 x 1024

EAH3870-32.JPG


1600 x 1200

EAH3870-34.JPG

EAH3870-33.JPG


2560 x 1600

EAH3870-37.JPG

EAH3870-35.JPG

World in Conflict has always been a game which benefits Nvidia cards but the HD3870 TOP is able to provide perfectly playable framerates right up to 1600x1200 resolution without AA turned on. Once again the ASUS card is about 10% faster than the stock card when it comes to average frames per second but the all-important minimum FPS stays dead even between the two cards.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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World in Conflict DX10

World in Conflict DX10

1280 x 1024

EAH3870-38.JPG


1600 x 1200

EAH3870-40.JPG

EAH3870-39.JPG


2560 x 1600

EAH3870-41.JPG

ATI cards really, really don’t like DX10 in World in Conflict and even the overclocked ASUS card suffers here since not once did it provide playable framerates.
 

SKYMTL

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Heat & Acoustical Performance / Power Consumption

Heat & Acoustical Performance

For this test we loaded the core of the ASUS HD3870 with 3dMark06’s Batch-Size rendering test at the highest triangle count with a resolution of 1600x1200 and 2xAA. This puts a constant high load on the core for the indicated time. All temperatures were recorded with Rivatuner’s temperature logging program.

EAH3870-46.JPG

While we were expecting to see the same high temperatures we experienced with the stock HD3870 cards, it seems like ASUS has done something a bit different with their TOP edition. Temperatures are kept much more manageable at ten degrees cooler than the stock card which is good to see.

However, this reduction in temperature comes at the penalty of the noise being produced by the fan. The original pre-release HIS HD3870 card we used for the stock tests barely ramped up its fan speed which resulted in quite high temperatures for a 55nm core. However, it seems ASUS has used different fan speed parameters in the BIOS they loaded the HD3870 TOP with since its fan constantly spins up to quite high RPMs in order to keep temperatures low. This results in a much larger acoustical footprint for this card by way of the “whoosh” of air it produces when the fan is asked to push massive amounts of air through the heatsink assembly. Don’t get us wrong; this card is still quite a bit quieter than a card like the 8800GTS 512MB and the noise it produces is not annoying in the least if you tend to play games at anything above low volume.


Power Consumption

For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption.

EAH3870-24.JPG

With the Batch Render Test we are able to put MUCH less load on the CPU which results in a truer power consumption figure for the HD3870 cards than if we just loaded up a game. As we can see, the power used by even the overclocked 55nm core is well below the competing Nvidia cards. The additional overclock on the ASUS card does result in a 17W (peak) increase in power consumption over a stock HD3870 but this is still next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking…so close, yet so far away

Overclocking…so close, yet so far away

Overclocking the ASUS HD3870 TOP WILL void your warranty.

Max Overclocks

Core: 857Mhz
Memory: 2700Mhz (DDR)

Unfortunately, we were not able to get much of any overclock on the core of this card since it seems to have the same BIOS core lock as the original HD3870 cards which were released months ago. This BIOS lock limits the core to between 855 – 860Mhz and this is exactly what we see here where our journey into further bumping up the speeds of this card ran straight into a brick wall at 857Mhz. This pathetic overclock of 6Mhz is not fitting with the Top Overclocking Performance name associated with this graphics card and could have been avoided by ASUS simply using an updated BOIS for this card.

This lack of additional overclocking headroom on the core lies in stark contrast to what we were able to achieve with the GDDR4 memory. This we were able to take it from a “paltry” 2286Mhz all the way to an absolutely blistering 2700Mhz.

EAH3870-48.JPG
 

SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion

Since its release, the HD3870 name has been synonymous with affordable performance and with the HD3870 TOP, ASUS has continued this tradition in their own unique way. In the past, ATI’s board partners have left pre-overclocked versions of their cards off their proverbial “to do” lists and have left their Nvidia-totting competition to run away with this portion of the market. ASUS has bucked this trend and has pushed out a TOP edition which finally adds some spice to an otherwise drab ATI presence in the graphics card arena.

While the performance potential of the RV670 architecture can be debated until doomsday, what can’t be denied is that ASUS has made their HD3870 TOP extremely appealing to gamers and multimedia aficionados alike. While it provides a small boost in games (more on this later), where it really shines is its adaptability to different usage scenarios. With its included DVI to HDMI adaptor, it caters to HTPC users who are gung-ho to have a card that is just as comfortable decoding HD signals as it is gaming. Indeed, many other ATI board partners have conspicuously left this adaptor out of their packages so we have to give some major credit to ASUS for including it with their card. The inclusion of a full copy of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is also great since we are rapidly seeing the death of included games in the face of cost-cutting by many manufacturers. Also, where the majority of the competition is stuck in the Stone Age with their ridiculous 1 or 2-year ATI warranties, the three years ASUS provides is second to none when it comes to ATI graphics cards. Companies like HIS, Diamond and Sapphire better bloody well sit up and take notice since potential customers are pointedly ignoring them due to their lack of proper length warranties.

After that ringing endorsement, it is time for some brutal honesty: from a purely gaming standpoint we really can’t recommend buying an overclocked HD3870 card. Some people like pre-overclocked cards because they act like a kind of security blanket where the customer thinks they will actually be getting a better gameplay experience through higher clocks. Indeed, we have seen in the past (with the ASUS 8800GT TOP) that some overclocked cards can provide an increase in game playability right across the board if they are clocked high enough. Unfortunately, the HD3870 TOP just doesn’t have the speed to provide any tangible gaming benefits over a bone stock HD3870 512MB in nearly every game we tested. Also, we have said it once and we will say it again: the RV670 architecture which is at the center of every HD3870 card hates anti-aliasing with a passion. Whenever AA was enabled, even the overclocked ASUS HD3870 TOP saw its frame rates go spiralling out of control. Unfortunately for ATI, with Nvidia’s latest price drops the 8800GT is retailing for nearly the same price as the HD3870 and as we have seen, if you are first and foremost a gamer the 8800GT 512MB is a better choice.

So, where does this all leave the ASUS HD3870 TOP? It is a great card which has more tricks up its sleeve than David Copperfield but it faces an uphill battle when it comes to the price you pay for pure unadulterated gaming performance. That doesn’t stop it from being a potential multimedia powerhouse which is something almost none of the Nvidia cards in this price range can attest to. All in all, if you are looking for an all-round good performer with a lengthy warranty, HDMI output and the ability to run Folding@Home, this card should be near the top of your list.


Pros:

- Good performance
- Efficient
- 3-year warranty
- Great accessory package


Cons:

- Price vs. performance
- Louder than reference HD3870
- Overclock gives very little performance increase



 
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