Sapphire ATI Radeon HD3870 Toxic
The two big players in discrete graphics these days are nVida and ATi. nVidia won the performance crown with the release of the 8800-series in late 2006. ATi, now owned by AMD, released the new HD-series of Radeons. Sapphire was nice enough to send us the Radeon HD3870 TOXIC edition for review.
The HD3870 features the latest PCI-Express 2.0 technology, which doubles the original specification's available bandwidth. The card is also bundled with 512MB of GDDR4 memmory clocked at 1152MHz, and a core clock of 800MHz. To keep the card's form factor to a single expansion slot, Sapphire developed the Vapor-X cooling solution, which utilizes heatpipes to transfer heat from the GPU to the cooling fins faster than traditional GPU coolers.
Before I get to the card itself, I wanted to find out exactly what kind of hardware I was dealing with. As I said before, the card features the latest PCI-Express 2.0 interace, doubling the bandwidth of the previous generation of PCI-Express. The GPU of this unit is built on a 55nm process and features 666 million transistors, which is roughly 200 million more than AMD's latest Phenom CPU has. The GPU features a unified architecture, providing faster performance and DirectX 10.1 support with Shader Model 4.1.
The Unified Architecture provides 320 stream processing units, which enables parallel processing much like a multi-CPU computer. Aside from superb texture rendering and anti-aliasing capability, the card also delivers physics processing support with the Havok physics engine.
Pairing with the GPU and PCI-Express 2.0 interface is a 256-bit GDDR4 memory interface, providing more than enough bandwidth for graphic-intensive applications such as 3D rendering and gaming. The Toxic ships with 512MB GDDR4 RAM standard.
While the card supports DirectX 10.1, it also supports OpenGL 2.0, which should aide performance under Linux and Windows OpenGL games. The card also supports ATI's Avivo HD Video and Display platform, which enables video decoding acceleration for the MPEG and DivX video formats, along with great control over colors, gamma, and conversion/scaling of video.
On the rear of the card are two DVI ports and a single S-Video output. The Radeon HD3870 supports up to two displays, each capable of running at it's own resolution up to 2560x1600. The DVI ports are also capable of HDMI transmission with an adapter, and the cards is HDCP compliant, enabling playback of digital content such as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD over HDCP compliant displays. The HDMI connection also supports multi-channel AC3 audio support, meaning the HD3870 also has it's own sound engine.
The HDMI connection supports displays up to 1920x1080 in resolution, and the integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder is able to output high-quality HDTV and SDTV pictures.
To meet the demands of those seeking "green PCs" and lower power bills, the HD3870 Toxic features ATI PowerPlay for throttling speed based on usage and temperature.
One of the biggest selling points of the Radeon HD3870 is support for CrossFireX, which allows you to scale from two to four GPUs for incredible performance. CrossFire bridges are required between the cards, as well as a matching number of PCI-Express x16 slots, but the performance gain should be more than enough to attract those with the currency.
Enough with the product specifications. A full list can be found on Sapphire's product page for the Radeon HD3870 Toxic. I want to get the card out of the box.
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