Page 3 - A Closer Look, Test System
It seems to us that 23cm length is pretty much the standard size for all midrange cards lately -- like the NVIDIA 8800 series midrange cards, the Asus 3870 TOP based off the ATI reference design is identical in length with the rest. The shot above shows three 8800 series cards -- from the left: NVIDIA 8800GTS 512MB G92, the Asus 3870 TOP we are reviewing today, and an 8800GT modified with Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 w/Turbo Module. Most cases are long enough to accommodate these cards with adequate clearance between the edge and whatever's next to it -- typically, a hard drive cage.
Our Asus 3870 TOP graphics card uses the ATI stock dual slot heatsink with direct heat exhaust out the back. The only difference is Asus' logo on the side near the back of the heatsink and Asus' logo and slogan on the fan, as usual. The face of the heatsink has graphics and logos from Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts like the box; as Asus promotes this particular game with this video card and the full version is included out of the box as well.
As a high midrange card, the ATI Radeon HD 3870 is a dual slot card with direct heat exhaust to push air out of the case directly; as previously mentioned. I still found it quite interesting that in comparison with NVIDIA's G92 die shrink that permitted the 8800GT to be a single slot solution, the 55nm RV670 on the 3870 still takes two slots for cooling. That aside, the Radeon HD3870 features the same connectors at the back -- two dual-link DVI connectors with a TV out in the middle. Each dual-link DVI out has its own dedicated pair of crypto-ROMs. Asus also included a DVI to HDMI adapter out of the box as well to support the HDMI audio passthrough.
Crossfire connectors are located on the side on the card. Over the top is an X-shaped bracket on the opposite side of the GPU that's designed to more evenly distribute the weight when heatsink is attached.
The beautiful red heatsink residing on the red colored PCB is something I haven't seen for a while after all the NVIDIA cards I've been using -- certainly aesthetically pleasing after all the green colored boards anyway. The fan brings some airflow over the copper VRM coolers on the HD 3870; while the enclosed heatsink design guides air to the back and out of the case. The 6-pin PCIe connector faces forward and is located on the outer edge of the board -- something we've gotten quite used to as it's a standard configuration on majority of NVIDIA video cards.
The AMD stock heatsink is attached to the 3870 using a total of four small screws located on the X-shaped bracket -- which proves to be very convenient to be removed. Taking off the heatsink reveals the relationship between the board and the heatsink. As we can see, the heatsink doesn't actually cool the memory and VRMs. The RAM and VRMs actually have independent copper heatsinks for heat dissipation, while a large copper block covers the GPU core for cooling. Thermal paste is used on the GPU core.
Removing the heatsink/fan unit off the ATI Radeon HD 3870 board reveals the copper heatsinks we've been talking about -- a straight unit over the voltage regulator modules; and an L-shaped single piece copper heatsink over the entire RAM configuration. These copper heatsinks are attached to the board separately via their own screws and are completely independent of the main heatsink/fan unit -- very convenient for modding, I might add -- especially without the requirement of using aftermarket RAM and VRM heatsinks.
The copper heatsinks make contact with thermal pads as its conducting medium. The RAM used with our Asus EAH3870 TOP 512MB graphics card are the Samsung K4U52324QE-BC08 DDR4 units rated at 2.40GHz. Surprisingly, Asus didn't run them at stock -- they were well underclocked at 2.28GHz. A bit of spoiler before we hit the testing section is that we were actually able to hit past 2.60GHz effective stable in our overclocking tests. Now that is something to show.
Our test platform showing the Asus EAH3870 TOP 512MB loaded up for our benchmarking and other tests.
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 @ 2.80GHz (400MHz*7 - 1600MHz FSB QDR)
CPU Cooling: Asus Arctic Square
Motherboard: Asus P5K-Deluxe/WiFi-AP
Chassis: Danger Den Torture Rack (1x Thermaltake 120mm LED Fan)
Power: Tagan TurboJet 1100W
Sound: Integrated ADI SoundMAX 1988B
Optical Drive: Liteon 16X DVD-ROM
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar 7200RPM 80GB 8MB Cache
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2
Compared graphics cards:
- ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB
- NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 320MB
- Asus EN8800GT TOP 512MB (NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT 512MB @ 700/1000)
- Asus EN8800GTS TOP 512MB (NVIDIA GeForce 8800GTS 512MB @ 740/1035)
- Asus EAH3870 TOP 512MB (ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MB @ 851/1140)
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. AMD 3870 Architecture
3. A Closer Look, Test System
4. Benchmark: FEAR
5. Benchmark: Prey
6. Benchmark: Half Life 2: Lost Coast
7. Benchmark: CS:Source HDR
8. Benchmark: 3DMark06
9. Power Usage, Overclocking
10. Noise Factor and Conclusion