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PowerColor Radeon HD 3850 Xtreme VGA Review
Published on November 15th, 2007


Introduction
It was not an easy year for AMD and ATI in the graphics market. After the merger, it felt like they were having some complications internally getting on the same page as their new AMD counterparts. During the transition a few high profile ATI employees got lost in the shuffle and in addition, AMD has received a lot of pressure thanks to Intel's very successful Core 2 Duo lineup and Nvidia's GeForce 8800 series of graphics cards. During the last two years, AMD has lost the performance crown in both venues. They tried to cut prices and to launch affordable products but Nvidia and Intel were both there chomping at the bit trying to crush the competition.

The most recent example of this was the latest Radeon HD 2900 PRO and GT products that were supposed to offer good performance at a lower price point. Nvidia ruined their plans by introducing the GeForce 8800 GT. The 8800 GT has performance almost equal to their flagship 8800 GTX and Ultra cards in many comparisons so once again ATI/AMD are left trying to claw their way back into the performance picture. When it come to processors after AMD has sliced prices drastically yet Intel has managed to do the same and offer more attractive products like the Intel Quad Core processors (such as the Q6600).

AMD had to do something to survive this crisis, and finally today their response has arrived. AMD is launching a new family of products, the Radeon HD 3800 series. Currently this family has only two members: The ATI Radeon HD 3850 and the ATI Radeon HD 3870 series, also known as RV670PRO (3850) and RV670XT (3870). Both of these cards are based on the 55nm RV670 GPU. These two new products have 666 million transistors and were made on the 55nm fabrication process. These new cards offer support for PCI Express 2.0, DirectX 10.1 and Shader Model 4.1. What about memory? The HD 3850 will use GDDR3, and the HD 3870 will use GDDR4. The RV670 is the first product to hit the market that supports DX 10.1/SM 4.1. AMD is also introducing their new CrossFireX technology. CrossFireX is an improved version of the original CrossFire technology.

Today thanks to PowerColor we have the opportunity to test one of AMD's newest GPU's The Radeon HD 3850. This version is not a stock HD 3850 card. The card we received from PowerColor is their Xtreme edition with 512MB of GDDR3. The Xtreme edition is a factory-overclocked card, equipped with a ZEROtherm VGA Cooler to offer better cooling performance. The reference Radeon HD 3850 card has 320 stream processors; the core is clocked at 670 MHz and has 256MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.66 GHz. The PowerColor Radeon HD 3850 Xtreme's core is clocked at 720 MHz and has 512MB GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.8 GHz. This is a major difference from the default specifications. The Radeon HD 3870 is aimed to replace the Radeon HD 2900 PRO and to challenge the GeForce 8800 GT, while the Radeon HD 3850 is aimed between the Radeon HD 2600 XT and the Radeon HD 3850 and meant to challenge Nvidia's GeForce 8600 GTS.

As we already mentioned, the Radeon HD 3800 family are the first GPUs with DirectX 10.1 support. It was bit surprising to hear about DirectX 10.1, especially since DirectX 10 is still young and many users have not even upgraded to Windows Vista yet. Microsoft is planning to include DirectX 10.1 in their upcoming Windows Vista service pack. Until then, we will not be able to see any real-time DirectX 10.1 action. Let's move on to the next page where we will reveal more information on the new features and test it.

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