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:

Test Setup
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
NVIDIA: 169.01
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


2, 3 or 4 GPUs: Introducing CrossFire X Let's Get It Out of the Way: Radeon HD 3870 vs. GeForce 8800 GT
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  • bbqchickenrobot - Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - link


    But - now new Catalyst drivers have been released - so an updated benchmark needs to be completed as the drivers provide better support for the hardware and thus, better performance.

    Also, you used a non-AMD MoBo and Chipset... if you went with XFire + AMD 790 chipset + Phenom X3/X4 processor (Spider platform) you would have seen a better performance as well. There are other benchmarks that are/were done with these components (spider) and the results weren't nearly as mediocre. Just a little tip...
    Reply
  • Adamseye - Tuesday, February 12, 2008 - link

    I cant see how every review I have read differs from your charts, the 2900 xt can't be faster then the 3850.I mean I spent a month researching cards and the winner was the 3850 overclocking it to 3870 speeds. To think that AMD spent all that time to make a new 2900xt and name it the 3850-70, is just foolsih. from the benchmarks you provided only an idiot would buy the new gen cards for 60-100 buxks more when the 2900xt is on par. Could you please explain to me how this happened? I feel like ordering a 3850 was a waste of money because the old 2900 is better anyway. Reply
  • aznboi123 - Saturday, February 2, 2008 - link

    Welll dang that bothers me...666...>,< Reply
  • spaa33 - Monday, December 3, 2007 - link

    It looked to me that the biggest complaint on the HD Video Decode article was that the 2600/2900 options did not provide an off switch for the Noise Reduction. Did you notice if this option appeared to be present in the newer drivers of this card (3850)?

    Regards,
    Dan
    Reply
  • emilyek - Tuesday, November 27, 2007 - link

    So AMDTI is still getting stomped by year old hardware?

    That's what I read.
    Reply
  • jpierce55 - Saturday, November 24, 2007 - link

    This is really a good review, some others are very Nvidia biased. I would like to see you do an update with the new drivers in the near future if possible. Reply
  • gochichi - Friday, November 23, 2007 - link

    Anand,

    First Nvidia with its 8800GT... I clearly recall seing those at about $200, now they're $300 or more. At least these may come bundled with a game... they also "hold the crown".

    Now the HD 3870 has gone up to $269.99 (at newegg) and availability is every bit as bad as the 8800GT.

    This review assumes that AMD/ATI was going to deliver in volume, at a fixed price and they haven't delivered either. It would be really nice if you could slap their wrists... as individual consumers we are being tossed about and we don't have the "pull" to do anything other than "take it".

    Shouldn't AMD be accountable to deliver on their promises?
    Reply
  • SmoulikNezbeda - Thursday, November 22, 2007 - link

    Dear Anand,

    I would like to ask you what exactly results in individual games represents. Are those average FPS, or something like (min + max + ave)/3 FPS. On one czech website there were similar results to what was presented here, but they were showing (min + max + ave)/3 FPS, which is a complete nonsense as this would be advantageous for cards which have more volatile results. In case when they were comparing average fps the radeon had the same results as GT card. Also I would like to ask you whether you have used the same demo for both cards or you were playing a game and therefore testing a game in different situations?

    Thanks in advance

    Petr
    Reply
  • SmoulikNezbeda - Thursday, November 22, 2007 - link

    Dear Anand,

    I would like to ask you what exactly results in individual games represents. Are those average FPS, or something like (min + max + ave)/3 FPS. On one czech website there were similar results to what was presented here, but they were showing (min + max + ave)/3 FPS, which is a complete nonsense as this would be advantageous for cards which have more volatile results. In case when they were comparing average fps the radeon had the same results as GT card. Also I would like to ask you whether you have used the same demo for both cards or you were playing a game and therefore testing a game in different situations?

    Thanks in advance

    Petr
    Reply
  • Sectoid - Sunday, November 18, 2007 - link

    If I'm not mistaken the 8800GT is DX10 only right? Is DX10.1 so insignificant as to not count to the favor of the 3800's over the GT's? Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to defend AMD; I just want to know if it's a good idea to sell my 8800GTS 320mb still at a good price now(I live in Brazil and they're still pricey here) and buy a 3870 or a 8800GT with 512mb. I recently bought a 22" monitor and the GTS is somewhat disappointing at 1600x1050. Nah, it's just that crappy game world in conflict. It runs similar to crysis demo at max! I have to play at medium and the textures are really crappy for a high-end pc 8-month old :(
    Who knows, maybe I'm already CPU or memory bound with a core 2 duo 6400@24xxMhz and dual ocz platinum 2 1gb 800mhz(2gb total)...
    Thanks in advance for any more input on the qualities of DX10.1 :)
    Reply

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