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Nathan Edwards Jun 23, 2008

HIS Radeon HD 3870

At A Glance

Rush

HDMI adapter; PCI Express 2.0 support; great value.

Rush Limbaugh

Can't outrun the 8800 GTS or GTX.

This is the second Radeon HD 3870 we’ve reviewed, and we like it just as much as the first. It doesn’t outrun Nvidia’s G92-based 8800 GTS 512 (reviewed above), but it’s a great value among midrange videocards.

This model is based strictly on AMD’s reference design, so it doesn’t feature HIS’s IceQ 3 cooling technology. But the fan on the double-slot cooler is plenty quiet for any application, save deployment in a home-theater environment. This is made possible by the die shrink and 55nm manufacturing process AMD uses to build the Radeon HD 3870, which consumes much less power and generates considerably less heat than its predecessors.

The Radeon HD 3870 supports PCI Express 2.0, but it also boasts several features that Nvidia can’t match at any of its price points. One of the most interesting of these is an HDMI adapter that plugs into the card’s DVI output. The GPU can send the 16-bit PCM stereo or 5.1-channel digital audio stream from a DVD, HD DVD, or Blu-ray disc right alongside the digital video from the same source.

If your display is equipped with good-quality speakers and HDMI inputs (or if you’re using an A/V receiver with HDMI inputs and outputs), this adapter can eliminate a few cables from your configuration. As innovative as this feature might be, we think few people will actually take advantage of it. Most of these cards will be used in gaming PCs—which generally include monitors with DVI inputs and speakers with analog-audio inputs. The 3870’s support for Direct3D 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1 is equally esoteric in light of game developers’ widespread reluctance to embrace even DirectX 10.0.

The benchmark charts reveal that the Radeon HD 3870 can’t outrun Nvidia’s G92-based GeForce 8800 GTS, but since it’s $85 cheaper, it doesn’t need to.

Windows XP (DirectX 9)
  HIS Radeon HD 3870
Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
3DMark06 Game 1 (FPS) 23.1
26.3
3DMark06 Game 2 (FPS) 20.1
20.4
Crysis (DX9) (FPS)
31.3 33.8
Unreal Tournament 3 (FPS) 55.2
73.6

Windows Vista (DirectX 10)
  HIS Radeon HD 3870 Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
3DMark06 Game 1 (FPS) 22.8
24.8
3DMark06 Game 2 (FPS) 20.6
19.8
Crysis (DX10) (FPS) 26.0
21.3
Unreal Tournament 3 (FPS) 50.6
67.3
Best single-GPU score bolded. AMD-based cards tested with an Intel D975BX2 motherboard; Nvidia-based cards tested with an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard. Intel 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPUs and 2GB of Corsair DDR RAM used in both scenarios. Benchmarks performed at 1920x1200 resolution on ViewSonic VP2330wb monitors.
THE VERDICT

HIS Radeon HD 3870

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