Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic

Written by Tim Smalley

February 4, 2008 | 12:43

Tags: #3870 #article #atomic #card #evaluation #hd #overclocked #overclocking #performance #radeon #review #rv670

Companies: #amd #ati #sapphire #test

Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic

Manufacturer: Sapphire
UK Price (as reviewed): £188.02 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $299.99 (ex. Tax)

Core Clock: 825MHz
Memory Clock: 2400MHz
Warranty: Two years (parts and labour)

RV670 was a sign of change at AMD/ATI—change for the better—after a slew of delays and problems getting its R600 GPU out of the door. And when AMD/ATI did get it out of the door, what followed was a pretty underwhelming product.

It therefore came as no surprise that the Radeon HD 2900 XT was discontinued fairly sharply before being replaced by the RV670-based Radeon HD 3870 – a card that we found fixed many of the problems with the 2900 XT, but still wasn’t quite enough to match Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GT.

Back in the middle of December, Sapphire announced its new Atomic Gaming Portal and with it came the Atomic series of graphics cards. The first member of the series is based on the RV670 GPU – one of our favourite GPUs from last year, mainly thanks to some clever innovations and incredible bang for buck on both products that use it.

Today we have a look at Sapphire’s Radeon HD 3870 Atomic which, as the name might imply, is a pre-overclocked Radeon HD 3870 but, unlike the Asus EAH3870 TOP, it’s quite different from the ATI reference card. Will this card come through our battery of tests unscathed, making it a card worth some serious consideration, or will it trip over one of the many hazards in its way? Let’s find out...

Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic
Click to enlarge

Box and Bundle

The packaging that most hardware is boxed in these days is typically pretty boring, with Far Eastern vendors opting for extravagant and sometimes tacky science fiction characters plastered on the front of them in the hope to catch the customer’s eye in a crowded retail store. Sadly, most don’t succeed and it almost becomes a competition to see which manufacturer can design the most garish-looking box.

Anyway, Sapphire decided not to go down that route with its Radeon HD 3870 Atomic and instead packed the card inside a branded aluminium suitcase that’s filled to the gills with bundled extras that we’ll get to in due course. The idea is novel, but I can’t help but think what would happen if a not-so-friendly local police officer felt you looked a little suspicious walking home with a metal briefcase with ‘Atomic’ on the side. Try explaining that to your wife/girlfriend/mum when you’re late home from the local computer hardware store.

Inside the case, Sapphire used some disgusting pink foam, which unfortunately puts me off the whole design a little, but the company’s representatives did say that later batches should use grey foam instead. It was simply a matter of time to market and it would’ve been stupid to delay the launch by a couple of weeks in order to wait for the right foam packaging.

Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic Sapphire Radeon HD 3870 512MB Atomic
Click to enlarge

To hide this, the company used a plastic cover that actually serves a good purpose because it outlines some of the card’s features and also tells you what’s inside the box. Once you’ve taken the graphics card out of the box, you can then remove the top portion of the foam to reveal the bundle which, I have to say, is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen for a while.

It includes a 3m HDMI cable, two ultra-violet mini cold cathodes, DVI-to-HDMI and DVI-to-VGA converters, a TV-out to Composite adapter, a TV-out to Component cable, a Molex to 6-pin PCI-Express power adapter and a CrossFire bridge connector.

There’s also a Steam voucher for Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal, the full version of 3DMark 06, copies of Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 (six channel version) and DVD Suite, a driver CD and a paper manual. Sapphire decided that this wasn’t quite enough though, and decided to add just one more thing: a £15 game voucher.
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