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Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB GDDR4 - The Card and Testing
In the box with this Sapphire card you get your installation CD, and OEM version of Cyberlink Power DVD, Cyberlink DVD Suite, a manual and a voucher for a free copy of 'The Black Box', (available only via Steam), which consists of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2 and Portal - each of which is quite simply superb - so thumbs up Sapphire. You also get a copy of 3DMark 06. Why not install this before removing your old graphics card and running it, so you can get some pleasing before and after numbers, which should put a smile on your face.
Cable wise you get a component cable, a 6-pin PCI Express power adaptor, a DVI to VGA cable, a TV out to composite connector and a CrossFire cable. You also get an ATI branded DVI to HDMI connector. If you want to get proper surround sound out of your card when watching HD movies you must use this, as ATI cards carry the digital audio over the chip and out as there is a audio chip built-in. With nVidia you need an external cable from card to the motherboard, which isn't as elegant.
Our older game tests of Call of Duty 2 and Counter-Strike: Source were joined by Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Crysis. As per usual, each game is run with full in-game detail settings at a variety of resolutions with varying degrees of anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering applied. For all but Crysis, each setting is run three times and the average is taken so we end up with a pretty rock solid figure.
For Crysis we've used the inbuilt time demo that loops four times enabling us to calculate an average from the results. As it's such a demanding game, though, we've kept in-game settings to high (rather than very-high) and also stuck to resolutions of just 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,680 x 1,050. We also use transparency anti-aliasing throughout our testing as we feel it's a processing technique that greatly enhances image quality in a lot of games.
We generally find that any single card configuration struggles to cope at the resolutions demanded by a 30in monitor so we've stuck to testing at 1,920 x 1,200 and 1,600 x 1,200 (or 1,680 x 1,050), and 1,280 x 1,024 for these tests. We will, however, come back to test SLI and CrossFire configurations very soon so we will take a look at performance at 2,560 x 1,600 then.