First let’s quickly sum up the performance of the Radeon HD 3870 powered ASUS EAH3870 and see how it went against the GeForce 8800 GT competition.
In Crysis at the best playable resolution the Radeon HD 3870 was 20% slower. In Far Cry with AA/AF disabled the 3870 was 10% quicker, but with 4xAA/16xAF enabled they were even.
Next we ran F.E.A.R and with AA/AF or without it the 3870 was about 14% slower. Prey found the 3870 to be 7% slower with AA/AF disabled and then 11% slower with 4xAA/16xAF enabled.
Quake Wars really hurt the Radeon HD 3870, it was 21% slower at 1920x1200. This margin was increased to 30% with 4xAA/16xAF enabled. Supreme Commander saw the Radeon HD 3870 overcome the GeForce 8800 GT with a 31% victory with AA/AF disabled, followed by a 7% victory with 4xAA/16xAF enabled. The victory was short lived as the 3870 was found to be 26% slower in S.T.A.L.K.E.R at 1920x1200. Then UT3 showed the 3870 to be 11% slower and finally World in Conflict found the 3870 to be 6% slower with AA/AF disabled and 29% with 4xAA/16xAF enabled.
So while the Radeon HD 3870 is clearly not able to match or beat the power of the GeForce 8800 GT, at least in a consistent manner, it is able to get within a 20% range from it for the most part. Given we are already finding the Radeon HD 3870 on sale for 15-20% less than the GeForce 8800 GT, it appears to be a fairly even match up. It would seem that those wanting to spend closer to $300 will be better off buying a GeForce 8800 GT, while the Radeon HD 3870 is targeted at those looking at spending closer to $200.
Let's also not forget that so far Nvidia has failed to supply any 256mb GeForce 8800 GT cards, while AMD is also making immediately available such a model (Radeon HD 3850) which comes with less memory and is slightly lower clocked - our review of such a card is coming pretty soon.
Something worth noting is that I have extensively tested the Radeon HD 3870 in Windows Vista 64-bit edition and the performance is much less desirable in this operating system compared to Windows XP (which we used for this review). While the Nvidia GeForce graphics cards appear to deliver similar performance, the Radeon HD 3870 does tend to drop quite a lot of performance in some games.
Performance aside, the Radeon HD 3870 appears to be no more than an updated version of the 2900XT and it is. The Radeon HD 3870 offers greatly reduced power consumption levels while doing away with the annoying 8-pin power connector and still delivers the same performance.
For such an affordable graphics card, the Radeon HD 3870 offers quite a lot and although it was disappointing to find it playing second best to the GeForce 8800 GT, at this price point we can get over it. For under $450, the prospect of placing two of these graphics cards in Crossfire mode is also very appealing and we will be investigating this shortly.
If AMD is able to keep supplying the Radeon HD 3870 in large enough quantities, at $220 they are no doubt going to sell a ton of them, even more so with the 8800 GT running short in supply. With no further cards planned from either Nvidia or ATI for the remainder of the year, it will also be interesting to see how the Crossfire vs. SLI game plays in the coming months and how either company can squeeze some extra performance from current drivers.