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Appeared on: Thursday, January 03, 2008
Club3D HD3850

1. Introduction

- ATI Radeon HD 3800 series

ATI enters a new era of performance with the arrival of the 3800 series.

The two released products, the 3850 and 3870, are both based on a new GPU, the RV670. There have been several major changes in the architecture of the hardware compared with the previous R600 (2900XT series). What AMD is proud of, is that the RV670 is fabricated on a 55nm TSMC process. That should give an advantage in die size, cost and hopefully clock speeds and power consumption.

Other noticable improvements are the PCI-E v2.0 and DirectX 10.1 new extensions support. AMD has supported video playback performance with a Unified Video Decoder (UVD). The UVD specifications indicate full decode support for both VC-1 and H.264, that should be enough for both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats.

Lastly, here is a comparison from AMD of the ATI Radeon HD3870, HD3850 and the previous HD 2900XT series:

You might have noticed that AMD changed the naming theme for the new video graphics cards. You won't again see the XT, LE, PE names that previously confused users. AMD now uses a different coding that can be explained as follows:

AMD explains that the first digit is the product generation, the family follows, while the next two digits refer to the performance within that family. Finally, we can compare both products in terms of performance, features and of course, appearance.

The ATI Radeon HD3850 is a single slot graphics card with a low price, while the HD3870 uses dual slot volume and has an additional 512MB that should give it an advantage in performance. Lastly, with an AMD 790FX based motherboard, you can enjoy Quad-Crossfire setup, called Crossfire-X by AMD.

2. Full specifications


3. Club3D HD3850

The Club 3D HD3800 series delivers a new experience of HD with your workstation or entertainment PC. Enjoy your games with incredible performance and the best image quality achievable. Be prepared for upcoming games with Microsoft Direct X® 10.1 delivering stunning 3D graphics and shading effects. Use the new PCI-Express® 2.0 for faster throughput and thanks to ATI CrossFireX™ for the easy plug-and-play upgradability. The Unified Video Decoder offers smooth playback with your Blu-ray and HD DVD movies at full 1080p without taxing your CPU. Get the ultimate in image quality and watch your content with resolutions upscaled beyond 1080p.

The ATI PowerPlay™ technology reduces power consumption at idle or during low-usage and provides you with the power and maximum performance when you need it. These new break-through efficiencies will save you money and serve the demand for intelligent modern graphic cards.

Key features

* ATI Avivo™ HD video and display architecture
* Unified Video Decoder (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD DVD
* Built-in HDMI and 5.1 surround audio
* Support for DirectX® 10.1 / Shader Model 4.1
* ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU Support
* PCI-Express® 2.0 support

The Club3D HD3850 costs around €145~155, depending on the e-shop and local VAT. The retail package is compact:

The retail box opened...

The Club3D HD3850 includes two CD-ROMs with software/drivers, printed manuals and of course the various connectors: D-Sub15 and DVI-HDMI. Of course, a Crossfire adapter is needed if you want to add a second HD3850 card.

The Club3D HD3850 is a single slot card of relatively small dimensions. The graphics card is 23cm in length so it might still pose problems in crammed cases.

There are two Crossfire connectors in order to accommodate a Quad Crossfire setup.

You need a 6-pin power supply feed to power this graphics card.

After installing the graphics card, we can get more details about its main features and specifications. The GPU core runs at 669MHz, while the memory at 829MHz.

All tests performed with ATI Catalyst 7.11 drivers

- Full specification

Order code
GPU Speed
668 MHz
Memory Type
256 MB GDDR3
Memory Speed
1656 MHz
Memory Bandwidth
Stream Processors
API Support
DirectX® 10.1
Shader Model
Max. Resolution
2560 X 1600
Dual Link DVI Out
DVI to VGA Adapter
Video Out
HDCP Support
Bundled Equipment
S-Video & HDTV Cables
Crossfire Bridge
Driver CD

4. Tests and Setup

All tests were conducted with the same PC setup:

We enabled Adaptive Anti-aliasing to Quality, Mipmap Detail Level maxed out at High Quality, Catalyst AI to advanced, and left Anisotropic filtering/Anti-aliasing to "application decide" mode. We used several games and applications to evaluate a VGA card's performance, but we separate them into two categories:

DirectX 9


5. Testbed DirectX9 & DirectX10

3D Mark 05 (v1.2.0)

For all tests, we used the default settings of 3DMark05 as follows:

Here too, we left all settings at default:

For all tests, we used the retail version with the v1.08 patch applied. We maxed all details for processor and disabled Soft Shadows. AA/AF were set according to each test.

We used the retail version with the v1.2.0 patch applied. For all tests, we used hocbench with the Guru3D timedemo

COF offers a built-in benchmark that was used to measure the performance of each graphics card. All visual quality settings are maxed out:

In order to benchmark a graphics card, we used the Demo version that includes a "Performance Test" function. There are two test results from two different animated courses that are referred to as "Snow" and "Cave":

We used the following visual settings for all tests:

We set the maximum details under game preferences:

And used the Unreal Tournament III benchmark utility to measure the performance of each graphics card in several timedemos. Note, that bSmoothFrameRate  was set to FALSE to disable frame-rate smoothing/ limiting.:

We used the built-in benchmark and all details are set to HIGH.

- Testbed DirectX10

We used the built-in benchmark and we maxed out "Shadows quality".

6. Hall Of Fame

Before starting our tests, let's find out what we should expect from the Club3D HD3850. At 3D Mark 05, the card is ranked just below the 8800GTS, which is very good performance.

Passing on to 3D Mark 06, the Club3D HD3850 manages to surpass the Gainward 8800GTS 640/320 series and is just below the below EVGA 8800GTS 640.

7. Scalability AA/AF

The new ATI 3800 series promises high frame rates, even when AA/AF is enabled. How well does this card perform with 8xQ AA and up? In the F.E.A.R. game title, we see impressive performance from the Club3D HD3850 without AA/AF enabled. After that though, the performance drop is significant and rival 8800GT cards prove to be much faster.

Moving on to Prey, we noticed a major drop in performance here, at least compared with the 8800GT series.

More demanding games with more details might prove harder to play if you decide to enable anti aliasing. Company Of Heroes after 2x AA stresses the system considerably, even though the game is a RTS, so users might want to avoid enabling AA. Strangely, the Club HD 3850 performed very well, up until the 8xAA point. The Gainward 8800GT showed strange performance, with inconsistent results from no AA to 8x AA.

8. Test Results DX9

We have seen that the Club3D HD3850 performed quite well under various games. Let's now see how well the cards handle the newest release games, like Crysis. The Crysis demo showed that even with all details set at HIGH, the game is playable at 1280x1024, but without AA/AF enabled. The Club3D H3850 delivered around 24.90 FPS, much higher than what the 8600GTS can deliver.

Passing on to Half Life 2 Episode 2, without any AA enabled, the Club3D HD3850 produced very good performance, with 77.61 FPS:

In the Lost Planet game, the 8600GT SLI and Club3D HD3850 had exactly the same performance.

Lastly, Unreal Tournament 3 was very playable, with an average of 66FPS in all the benchmarks.

9. Test Results DX10

Passing on to DX10 and VISTA (32bit), we maxed all possible visual details for all tested games. This way we can identify if a graphics card can be used for high quality gaming and therefore greater gaming experience. Starting with Company Of Heroes, under D3D10 shaders, the game is really stunning. The Club3D performed better than the 8600GTS cards with 31FPS average performance.

Call Of Juarez is one of the first titles with full DX10 support. The Benchmark gives rather low frame rates with all cards. The Club3D had a good, if average performance with 25FPS. However, the lowest frame rate dropped down to 5 FPS.

The Crysis Demo can work either under Windows XP or under VISTA and DX10. With DX10, users can enable Very High details for Crysis. This also implies a massive performance hit, since most cards performance drops 50% compared to what we get under the DX9 benchmarks with all details set to HIGH. The Club3D HD3850 again produced good performance, with 10.85FPS.

Lastly, Lost Planet another game that affects performance when all details are maxed out. This time,the 8600GTS SLI setup was faster than the Club3D HD3850.

10. Overclocking/Noise/Heat

The Club3D HD3850 can be overclocked with the ATI Catalyst 7.11 drivers. Select the overdrive section and prepare to do your own tests. We can see the default clocks for memory/GPU as reported by ATI Catalyst.

The Auto-Tune function offers automatic detection of the highest core/memory clock speeds. In our first attempt, the ATI Overdrive managed to reach 759MHz for core and 1104MHz for memory. Pretty high numbers, which unfortunately didn't manage to produce the goods in our real life tests.

We had to lower the memory frequency down to 984MHz to get a stable system.

After applying the overclocking settings (13.60% for GPU and 18.70% for memory), we saw only a slight improvement in the 3D Mark 05 and 3D Mark 06 scores, which showed that overclocking won't give much of a performance boost.

3D Mark 05
Club3D HD3850
3D Mark 06
Club3D HD3850

11. Conclusion

The new Radeon HD3800 series gives ATI and AMD a new performance boost compared with the previous 2900XT series. Many users complained that the previous 2600 and 2900 series didn't exactly offer any real performance boost, but was more a re-polished product that couldn't really compare with the Nvidia lineup.

Things have changed and the new HD 3800 series seems to give ATI a product to be proud of. While we didn't test the HD3870 graphics cards, we are happy to announce that HD3850 series can easily surpass even the fastest 8600GTS series cards, making it more than just a good solution for middle of the road users.

Depending on the game and AA/AF settings, users can experience really high frame rates. The retail package for the Club3D HD3850 doesn't include any retail games, but that keeps the overall package cost low, something that most ATI partners are looking for.

Comparing the retail prices of the various graphics solutions, we have:

Graphic card
€145~155 Euro

I think the retail price of the Club3D HD3850 and other similar cards, indicates that the HD3850 series is really worth a look, with high performance. So, if you are looking to upgrade your graphics system, the Club3D HD3850 will cover most of your needs, from high frames gaming, to high definition playback content and the most important, will save you money to boot. Overall, a great product, at a great price.

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