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.

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  • bbqchickenrobot - Wednesday, May 07, 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 02, 2008 - link

    Welll dang that bothers me...666...>,< Reply
  • spaa33 - Monday, December 03, 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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