Final Words

Without a doubt, AMD is back in the graphics game. When the Radeon HD 2900 XT launched, we couldn't be more surprised at how poorly the product did. The lack of competition allowed NVIDIA to sit back and relax as the orders for more 8800-based product kept on flowing in. While the Radeon HD 3870 isn't faster than the GeForce 8800 GT, if AMD can hit its price point, it is a viable alternative if you're looking to save money.

AMD is in a lot of trouble however if the 8800 GT pricing/availability problem does get worked out; the 8800 GT does offer better performance-per-watt and better performance in general, at the same price the decision is clear, but luckily for AMD the two don't appear to be selling at the same price.

The Radeon HD 3850 is a bit slower than its more expensive sibling and as such ends up being tremendous competition for current mid-range cards like the GeForce 8600 GTS or Radeon HD 2600 XT. We only compared it to the 8600 GTS in this review, but the 3850 similarly obsoletes the 2600 XT.

Both cards from AMD are quite competitive today, but the balance of competition could easily shift depending on pricing and availability of either these cards or their competition. If AMD can't deliver on the prices it is so adamant about meeting, it loses serious cool points. Similarly, if NVIDIA can get enough 8800 GTs in the market, or if the 256MB version actually hits at $179 - $199, AMD would be in a lot of trouble.

Today the Radeon 3870 seems like a nice, albeit slower, alternative to the 8800 GT. But it's difficult to make a thorough recommendation without knowing how the 256MB 8800 GT will stack up and where it'll be priced. Given how the 8800 GTs sold out, if you're truly interested in the 3870 pick one up now, but if you're like us and want to carefully weigh all options - wait a couple of weeks and see what happens with the 8800 GT 256MB.

There is one more point to discuss, and that is: what happens to the high end GPU market? AMD is talking about sticking two 3800 GPUs on a single card and NVIDIA has been very quiet about its next-generation high end GPU plans, but with games like Crysis and Gears of War out on the PC, it'd be nice to actually advantage peak performance as well as affordable performance. What we do like about these new affordable GPUs is that they finally leave us with a feeling that you're getting something for your money, whereas mid-range GPUs of recent history seemed to just give you mediocre performance while lightening your wallet a lot more than they should.

While this may seem like a blip in an otherwise very profit-centric product lineup, we'd love to see similar performance revolutions at other price points in the graphics market. Give us a $100 graphics card that's actually worth something, and maybe we'll end up seeing a resurgence in PC gaming after all.

Power Consumption
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  • Iger - Friday, November 16, 2007 - link

    Another interesting question is warranty. Main manufacturers of 8800GT (eVGA and XFX) give lifetime warranty on their products - that's much more impressive than saphire's 1 year... Reply
  • Odeen - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    In one word, kinky. Reply
  • Xcom1Cheetah - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    At techreport they show that the 3870 power usage under full load is full 39W less than the 8800GT... thats a huge difference..
    Any idea why there is such a large difference.

    http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/13603/9">http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/13603/9
    Reply
  • GlassHouse69 - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    that makes immensely more sense than the results shown here. the 3850-70 isnt a massive leap and the ram requires alot less juice to run as well. (according to other articles of 3vs4 gddr) Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    First off excellent article.

    As to the sightings .. Ok here in Canada we tend to get things a little later then those in the states BUT the local shop I deal with already has 3850/70s in stock for
    179/239 respectively.

    For some reason even tho our dollar is finally on par (accually higher then the us greenback) we still seem to be paying higher prices. Perhaps price gouging from the retail stores.. (what ever) But anyhow it's in stock here in Calgary and there's not a 8800GT to be had... which sells at 329(ish) so yeah ... I think ill pick one one up based on this article.
    Reply
  • forPPP - Friday, November 16, 2007 - link

    quote:

    ... 3850/70s in stock for 179/239 respectively. For some reason even tho our dollar is finally on par (accually higher then the us greenback) we still seem to be paying higher prices.


    You are extremely lucky. In Poland 3870 is listed for $440 !!! OK with VAT (without $360), but it's the same price as for 8800GT. Well, who will buy it then ??? It's a joke - same price, much slower and more power hungry ! ATI what happened !?
    Reply
  • just4U - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    mmm ok so I was wrong. Shops around here have them listed but don't yet have them in stock. They are expected over the next few days. Reply
  • falacy - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    This is something we should all keep in mind, given that nothing has fundimentally changed in PC computing in the last 8 years. There is still a lot of fun to be had from the plethora of older PC games, which even the lowest end harware can play in full detail (with the exception of Unreal, which really taxes older hardware). And hey, if you're not going to complain about waiting 10 seocnds for it load, Open Office works great on lowend hardware too. Heck, even the lowest end Conroe CPUs trounce the 3.0GHz Pentium4 line in video tanscoding (and it would be interesting to see how the new Celeron 4xx series stacks up against a Pentium4 with 512K of chache, as they are both single core...).

    I just purchased a EVGA E-GEFORCE 8600GT Superclocked 567MHZ 256MB 1.5GHZ GDDR3 PCI-E Dual DVI-I HDTV Out Video Card for $95 CAD, which sure beats the $110 CAD that the 8500GT was priced at a couple of weeks ago. As far as usefullness goes in the $100 price segment, the 8600GT is a great buy, as it has playable graphics at 1280x1024 and 1024x768 in many games, where the 8500GT just does not.

    Hopefully now the passively cooled 8500GT models, which have smaller heatsinks and price tags than the passively cooled 8600GT, will be the standard for HD player PCs and we can all forget about the 8400 line of cards.

    It would have been nice to get one of the 3850s, but for the extra $80 it's not really worth the performance boost for people like me who are still using a 1024x768 CRT and Windows XP, playing older games and who perhaps have gotten too old to want to chase the latest gaming craze. I do have the hardware for Vista 64bit, but it's not worth hassle of the side-grade, when there isn't anything out there I feel compelled to play in DirectX 10. Maybe in a couple years there will be more DX10 titles that it will be worth upgrading the OS and monitor, rather than spending money on hardware.

    I'm running an ASUS P5K-VM, Pentium-Dual Core E2160, 1GB DDR2 667, which leaves my Pentium4 531 and 1GB DDR in the dust! Apart from only supporting PCI-E 1, this board will stand the test of time, so long as games/applications become more quad-core optimized, but for right now it's a super fast, super cheap computer compaired to what I paid for my Celeron 300a based uber-computer I had less than 10 years ago!
    Reply
  • poeticmoons - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    It’s seems like you just ran over the fact that the 3870 is a dual slot card. Now I know that the 8800GTS and GTX were dual slot, but the 8800GT isn’t and I feel that is a very important factor. I don’t see how you would run 4 dual slot GPU’s in an ATX form factor case. Yes I know that the 3850 is a single slot card, but the high memory GT isn’t competing with that card it’s competing with the 3870. With a die shrink I would have just assumed that a dual slot card would be unnecessary. Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Text hints at 3870 actually being quieter, while the slide mentions otherwise. Any data to back this up? Also, is the quieter part during idle or load, or both? Reply

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