Over the past few months nVidia has had it pretty easy. While AMD has been slowly trying to digest ATI and looking in horror at how little change it has left in the kitty, it hasn't produced much in the way of competition for the big green giant.
While we all waited with bated breath for R600, nVidia released the big, brutal and rather overwrought GeForce 8800 GTX Ultra as a pre-emptive spoiler, only to find that it really needn't have bothered. Even in its fastest guise - the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT, R600 was only aimed at nVidia's second tier GeForce 8800 GTS and not the GTX. More recently, nVidia has wowed us all again with the release of its 8800 GT, which has simply taken the market by storm - delivering a large slice of the power of an 8800 GTX card, in a single slot solution, for less cash. What's not to love?
It's into this rather hostile market that ATI is pitching its new RV670. Can it make an impact? Well, once again ATI hasn't gone for the jugular, as the card still isn't aimed at toppling nVidia's 8800 GTX, but is instead intended just to replace it's own the 2900 series, delivering round about the same performance but at lower cost and drawing less power. Instead of playing fast, it's trying to play it smart and on that basis RV670 is again a contender.
There are two cards available in the series - the Radeon HD 3850 and the Radeon HD 3870. The standard 3870 has a core clock of 775MHz and 512MB of 2.25GHz GDDR4 memory.
The former is a single slot card retailing for just over £100, while the more powerful Radeon HD 3870 is a dual-slot card that will set you back around £140, which is around £35 less than a 512MB standard clocked GeForce 8800 GT. All in all, it's a competitive market once again, which is good to see. A small problem though is that despite AMD telling everyone that the yield on these new cards would be fantastic, as of writing it has still to appear on the shelves as an in stock product, though most stores claimed it is days away.
New Generation, New Naming Convention
For the 3800 series AMD has tweaked its naming convention removing the XT, Pro, XTX, TTX, and X$RTGTR and all that gubbins. Now the first number reflects the generation, the second the family, and the third the variant. Simple really.
We were told that the 50 was equal to Pro and the 70 equal to the old XT. So it should be easy to tell what card is faster than the other - it will just have a higher number. The card we ran through our benchmarks was a Sapphire card, and on at least one site I saw the XT's and the Pro's had been tacked onto the name, which is actually incorrect.