Given the potential threat of the GeForce 8800 GT stealing the buy, ASUS has priced the Extreme AH3870 conservatively at just $220, which is good. However being an early introduction in the market do not expect a typical well elaborated ASUS graphics card, as the Extreme AH3870 could easily be mistaken for an AMD reference card. Other than the ASUS label on the fan, there is very little distinguishing the two.
The smaller 55nm design of the Radeon HD 3870 allows it to operate at 775MHz which is just 30MHz higher than the 2900XT. The GDDR4 memory also works at an impressive frequency (2.25GHz) on this particular model. The 3870 features 320 SPUs along with 16 TAUs (Texture Address Units) and 16 ROPs (Rasterization Operator Units). All in all these are extraordinary specifications for a graphics card that costs a little over $200.
Compare those specifications to the Radeon HD 2900XT which also features 320 SPUs along with 16 TAUs (Texture Address Units) and 16 ROPs (Rasterization Operator Units). Where the 2900XT comes out on top is through the use of a 512-bit wide memory bus whereas the new Radeon HD 3870 uses a much smaller 256-bit bus. This has drastically reduced the available memory bandwidth of the Radeon HD 3870.
ASUS is shipping their Radeon HD 3870 with Samsung ICs on-board (K4U52324QE-BC070 parts). These GDDR4 modules are rated for 2.2GHz operation, so given that they are already working at 2.25GHz, we do not expect to be able to push them much further.
The EAH3870 uses the standard AMD reference cooler. Its biggest advantage is that the fan is very very quiet. While the only down side is that because this cooler is so quiet, we found it to get very hot when under load. Unlike the 8800 GT we tested just a few days ago, the 3870 makes use of a dual slot cooler.
At the rear of the ASUS Extreme AH3870 there is the standard S-Video output along with dual DVI outputs. The DVI output supports a dual-link or single link interface for resolutions up to a staggering 3840x2400. There are also a number of cables supplied with the card which will help using some of these features.
The Extreme AH3870 comes in the usual massive ASUS graphics card box with all the typical cables and connectors. Once inside this box the user will discover a few CDs, cables and the users manual. ASUS has bundled the Radeon HD 3870 with ASUS Splendid, ASUS GameLive Show, ASUS GameReplay, ASUS GameFace Messenger and ASUS OnScreenDisplay (OSD).
There is also included a full-version copy of the new action RTS game Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts included, valued at $40.