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

    I was talking about http://anandtech.shopping.com">http://anandtech.shopping.com, currently working on getting a solution to the RTPE issues :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • dm0r - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Loved the review and also the 3850....this is the real midrange card ill buy...excellent power consumption.
    Just only 1 thing missing is the temperature of the gpu's, but anyway excellent review
    Thanks
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Why are you recommending people wait for the 256MB of the GT? That model has no bearing on anything for people playing Crysis, CoD4, World in Conflict, etc. All the testing done on the 512MB GT shows that 512MB is really the new minimum for vRAM for gamers running a 19" or larger display and the 256MB model is well and truly irrelevant to their purchase options.
    Instead, the reason they should wait a couple weeks is just to see how the 512MB's availability and pricing changes.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    I really really like the new style to the charts and graphs. Everything is very easy to read and understand! Much improved over some older review designs! =)

    Also, lol @ how pathetic the 8600GT performs! :D
    Reply
  • Iger - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Actually, in terms of power consumption I would call this round a win for AMD. My home PC is on 24/7, but I really get to play on it for maybe a couple of hours a day at best (actually, probably, much less). AMD leads idle consumption by 40w, while losing the load power by 5. I think for pretty much every one 3870 will turn out cheaper than 8800GT. And I think it's important enough to be mentioned in article (no offence - just trying to be helpful).

    About prices - currently on overclocker.co.uk 8800GT 512 is preorderable for 350$, 8800GT 256 - for 290$, 3870 - for 320$ and 3850 - for 235$ (and AMD cards actually are listed in stock(!!) - impressive).
    With such disposition I would be close to buying a 3850 atm, btw... But, anyway, europe's prices are terrible :(

    Thanks very much for the article - it'll serve to satisfy at least some hunger before Phenom's ;)

    Ilya.
    Reply
  • Leadthorns - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Some review sights suggest that the IQ is marginally better on the 3870. Would be interested to know your take on this Reply
  • lux4424 - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    In 2006 there were number of articles and presentations about benefits of new WDDM (Windows Vista Driver Model). These also mentioned WDDM 2.1, coming with DX10.1, and the benefits it should bring. Couple of examples:
    quote:

    WinHEC 2006, http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/b/9/5b970...">Future Directions In Graphics:
    *) Move to preemptive context switching and page-level memory management
    *) Video, Glitch-resilience: Preemptive context switching in WDDM 2.1 is key
    *) WDDM 2.1 – efficient GPU virtualization


    quote:

    WinHEC 2006, http://download.microsoft.com/download/5/b/9/5b970...">Desktop And Presentation Impact On Hardware Design:
    *) Advanced Scheduling with page level context switching
    *) Direct impact on desktop scenarios



    Since then it's absolute silence on the matter. It would be really great if Anandtech would cover the promises made WRT WDDM 2.1 (DX10.1) or even WDDM 2.0 (DX10) after SP1 for Vista is released.

    Regards
    Reply
  • GTMan - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    Sentence with no ending...

    "Hopefully with DX11 Microsoft will be a little more used to the"

    Thanks for the article, interesting reading.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 15, 2007 - link

    eep, thanks :)

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

    I am extremely disappointed in the review of the product.

    1) Only Vista was used, though XP has a lot larger user base.

    2) Limited variety of games.

    3) Limited variation of AF/AA

    4) No UVD tests.

    All could be forgiven if the title would have included First Look: DX10. I understand there is a limited time to do tests and it seems you had trouble getting your samples so this could lead to the problem. I usually look to anand for the most complete review of products (rather than having to look at many different incomplete ones sites use), but I believe this review to be incomplete and not what I expect from Anandtech.

    I await follow up reviews to reinstate my faith in this site. (and yes I am sure I will modded down as I will probably been seen as a 'hater' rather than trying to give constructive critism.

    Reply

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