ATI Radeon HD 3870 & 3850: A Return to Competitionby Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on November 15, 2007 12:00 AM EST
- Posted in
Pricing and Availability
It wasn't too long ago that every time we reviewed an ATI video card we had to complain about pricing and availability, not to mention that anytime either company released a new graphics card we'd get a friendly reminder email from NVIDIA letting us know how highly it values hard launches and immediate availability. This time around, the tables are turned, and while we still love NVIDIA's GeForce 8800 GT, the fact of the matter is that the pricing and availability of those cards are just not what NVIDIA promised.
Leading up to the day the 8800 GT NDA lifted, you could actually purchase the 8800 GT for as little as $220 from a variety of online vendors. Once the embargo was lifted, the story changed considerably. Prices went from the expected $199 - $249 to a completely unexpected $250 - $300 range. Looking at our own price search engine we see that only Amazon is listing a card available at $249, but it's not in stock, nor are any of the other more expensive 8800 GTs listed.
The cheapest 8800 GT we can find at Newegg.com is $269 for either a XFX or PNY card, but neither are in stock, not to mention that the listed price is still $20 over what NVIDIA told us the maximum would be.
AMD will have you believe that NVIDIA simply can't make the 8800 GT cheap enough, citing die sizes and bill of materials costs. Without access to that sort of information, it's tough for us to verify, and NVIDIA isn't really willing to let us know exactly how much it costs to build one of these things. It's more likely however that NVIDIA didn't produce enough 8800 GTs to meet demand, which is understandable given how fast the part is. As we mentioned in our review of the card, it basically makes NVIDIA's entire product lineup obsolete. We've heard that during launch week, hundreds of thousands of boards were shipped out to add-in board vendors, which should start appearing soon, but at who knows what price.
It simply doesn't matter how good the 8800 GT if you can't buy it, and right now it's just not available. NVIDIA is promising that in the next two weeks we will see an influx of 256MB 8800 GT cards, and more 512MB cards are coming. NVIDIA's recommendation is to hop on a pre-order list if you want one, as new cards are coming in regularly and pre-orders are filled first. We don't know how the 256MB variants will perform, but NVIDIA claims that they will arrive at $179 - $199. Whether or not they will stay that way is another issue entirely.
All this brings us to AMD, and its proposed pricing/availability of the Radeon HD 3870 and 3850. The 3870 is supposed to retail for $219, while the 3850 will carry a $179 price tag. We've already mentioned that neither card is faster than the 8800 GT (we'll get to the numbers momentarily), but if AMD is actually able to hit these price points then the cards are still quite competitive.
We've gotten a lot of information about quantities of boards shipped from various manufacturers and vendors, and here's what we've been able to piece together. While there will be quantities of the 3870 and 3850 available at launch, it doesn't look like there will be any more of these two than there were of 8800 GTs at launch. Production will continue to ramp up and we expect to see multiple hundreds of thousands of cards from both AMD and NVIDIA by the end of this year, whether or not that will be enough to satisfy demand is a different question entirely.
If the supply satiates the demand, then AMD shouldn't have a problem hitting its price points, meaning that the Radeon HD 3870 would actually be a viable alternative to the 8800 GT. You'd have less performance, but it'd be met with a lower price.
Now if AMD can't hit its price points, then none of this matters, we'll be stuck with two GPUs from two different companies that we can't buy. Great.The Test
For this test, we are using a high end CPU configured with 4GB of DDR2 in an NVIDIA 680i motherboard. While we are unable to make full use of the 4GB of RAM due to the fact that we're running 32-bit Vista, we will be switching to 64-bit within the next few months for graphics. Before we do so we'll have a final article on how performance stacks up between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista, as well as a final look at Windows XP performance.
Our test platform for this article is as follows:
|CPU||Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
|Motherboard||NVIDIA 680i SLI
ASUS P5K-E (CrossFire)
|Video Cards||AMD Radeon HD 3870
AMD Radeon HD 3850
AMD Radeon HD 2900 XT
AMD Radeon X1950 XTX
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS
NVIDIA GeForce 7950 GT
|Video Drivers||AMD: Catalyst 7.10
|Hard Drive||Seagate 7200.9 300GB 8MB 7200RPM|
|RAM||4x1GB Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400 4-4-4-12|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit|