Finally. We're finally getting somewhere interesting in the graphics industry. Although they're sure to return, the days of reviewing $600 graphics card after $600 graphics card are on hiatus, and instead we're reviewing a new class of mainstream cards with earth-shattering performance.

NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 GT kicked off the trend, in one fell swoop making almost all of NVIDIA's product line obsolete thanks to the high performance and low price tag (we'll talk about that last part shortly). But what we saw there wasn't a fluke, it was a preemptive strike against AMD, who have been hard at work on an affordable GPU of their own.

This new product, like the 8800 GT, would be aimed squarely at the $150 - $250 market segment, something both AMD and NVIDIA did a horrible job at with mainstream releases earlier this year (2600 and 8600 both sucked guys).

Introducing the RV670

AMD's two new graphics cards launching today are both based off a new GPU, referred to internally as the RV670. The basic architecture of the hardware is largely unchanged from R600; there has been some additional functionality added, and a great deal of internal bandwidth removed, but other than that this is very much an R600 based part.

The biggest news of this part is that it is fabbed on a 55nm TSMC process. This is a half-node process based on 65nm technology, giving AMD an advantage in die size (cost) and potentially clock speed and/or power.

Historically, AMD's RV series has been a cost cut version of their R series designed for lower end volume parts, and that's where RV670 started. Right of the bat, half the external and internal memory bandwidth of R600 was cut out. External bandwidth dropped from 512-bit to 256-bit, but AMD stuck with 8 memory channels (each dropped from 64bit to 32bit).

Internally, the ring bus dropped from 1024-bit to 512-bit. This cut in bandwidth contributed to a significant drop in transistor count from R600's ~720M. RV670 is made up of 666M transistors, and this includes the addition of UVD hardware, some power saving features, the necessary additions for DX 10.1 and the normal performance tuning we would expect from another iteration of the architecture.

Processing power remains unchanged from the R600; the RV670 features 320 stream processors, 16 texture units and 16 redner back-ends. Clock speeds have gone up slightly and memory speeds have increased tremendously to make up for the narrower memory bus.

The RV670 GPU is also fully PCI Express 2.0 compliant like NVIDIA's G92, the heart and soul of the GeForce 8800 GT.

New Features you Say? UVD and DirectX 10.1
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Wanna go double or nothing? How do you think Phenom is gonna turn out? ;)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • chucky2 - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    10% improvement over WHAT Anand? Come on, tell us... :)

    Chuck
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    C'mon Chuck, one AMD launch at a time :)
    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Nice article :)

    3870 can run games decently on 1920x1200 resolutions. Being that i dont care about Crysis (oh no! taboo comment!) or xbox360 games on the pc (gears o war), it seems like it could be the card to get..... If the retailers do not price gouge. Waiting for newegg to inflate this one.

    It seems that the 3850 is the same card as the 3870 in many ways. Any attempt at oc'ing will be really fascinating. I wonder if 1 Gb of gddr4 will make this card more competitive. even 768 megs would be nice/adequate
    Reply
  • Kougar - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Newegg has stock on three HD 3870 cards, all three are priced at $220 right now. Reply
  • DrMrLordX - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    I have to ask, was there any antialiasing in these benchmarks? I suspect not but I'd like to hear an answer anyway.

    The 3850 looks like a good card for overclockers, since it's just a downclocked 3870. At least it's nice to see that the 2900XT and 2900Pro have mostly been rendered obsolete by a cooler, quieter product that can be brought up to snuff with some overclocking.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    We included AA numbers with Oblivion (look for Oblivion AA in the graphs). The problem with AA these days is that most newer games don't really run well enough to have AA enabled and quality settings turned up (read: Crysis). While it's not a problem when testing pairs of 8800 GTXes, we felt it wasn't top priority for the more affordable and less powerful cards.

    That being said, I'll talk it over with Derek and see what we can do for some of our future articles.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Roy2001 - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Well, once I played games with AA enabled, I would never turn it off. I would rather lower the resolution. Reply
  • falacy - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    That's a giant "ME TOO!" for me.

    my old ATi 9800XT would run 4x AA at 1024x768 in most games and I found that more enjoyable than running 1280x1024 without AA. The 60Hz fliker of the monitor at 1280x1024 played a role in that I am sure, but mostly the trouble with gaming without AA is that objects in the distance tend to shimmer in an unnatural way that seems to pull me out of the moment. So, indeed lower resolution + 4x AA = a better experience than higher resolution that has distracting artifacts.
    Reply
  • DrMrLordX - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Alright, thanks. I actually overlooked the AA tests on Oblivion. Silly me.

    Mostly I was interested in knowing if the 3870 had better results running with 4x AA than the 2900XT. Interestingly enough, the 3870 doesn't seem to lose a lot with 4x AA, especially at high resolutions. The 8800GT is another story.
    Reply

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