Benchmark Analysis & Real-World Performance
The overall gaming performance of the Gigabyte Radeon HD 3870 512MB is quite good, and since this is the less-expensive GDDR3 version, it's still not quite up to challenging the GeForce 8800 GT 512MB. It's more of a GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB killer, and does so with low power usage and cool thermals. It also presents a noticeable upgrade to the lower-clocked Radeon HD 3850, and at not much of a price premium. This is a very good performer for its class, and Gigabyte offers a very competitive card.
The real world performance of the Gigabyte Radeon HD 3870 512MB card is also very nice, and with the right platform, it can handle virtually any game on the market. The Gigabyte card also zipped through our benchmark suite without issue, and showed excellent stability, even while overclocking. As for the orb-like cooler, we still like the reference design that covers the onboard memory and exhausts hot air out of the case, but this one worked just fine as well. The fan doesn't have variable speed functionality, but it also keeps the GPU extremely cool, under 40 degrees C at idle. And while the cooling fan is not totally silent, it's pretty close and hardly noticeable in a system case environment.
There have also been some concerns regarding the ATI PowerPlay feature, which downclocks the graphics core to 300 MHz when at the 2D desktop or in less demanding environments. Early BIOS and driver versions apparently led to some problems, where the 300 MHz speed might lock and adversely affect gaming. PowerPlay downclocks are enabled in the Gigabyte VGA BIOS, dropping voltage and shifting to 300 MHz at the proper states. We ran the diagnostics in RivaTuner, and the Gigabyte card shifted properly in all our tests, and maintained a 780 MHz core during game tests.
Overclocking Results and Performance
The Gigabyte Radeon HD 3870 512MB offers a specialized version of the GDDR3 model, with a custom cooling solution and Ultra Durable 2 components, so we were very interested in how the card would overclock. The default clocks as measured by the ATI Catalyst Information Center and OverDrive tabs were 780 MHz core and 1900 MHz GDDR3 memory.
OverDrive's automatic tuning mechanism resulted in an overclock at 870 MHz core and 2080 MHz memory speeds, which represents an approximate 12% jump to the core speed and almost a 10% increase in the memory clock. We were able to take the card to the limits of OverDrive (880 MHz core/2100 MHz memory), but subsequent testing in RivaTuner showed this to be extremely close to its limit for a 100% stable overclock.
Keep in mind that this overclocking data is based on one card, and as with most things in life, your mileage can definitely vary.
Since the Gigabyte Radeon HD 3870 512MB utilizes GDDR3 memory, its retail price is a bit lower than a comparable GDDR4 model. We found the Gigabyte card for under $170, which places it right at the lower-end of the HD 3870 pricing scale. There are a few GDDR4 models that are priced similarly, but most of the name brand units are around the $180-$185 mark.
Other mainstream cards include the GeForce 8800 GS 384MB ($135), Radeon HD 3850 512MB ($140), GeForce 9600 GT 512MB ($150), GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB ($150), GeForce 8800 GT 512MB ($190), and GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB ($240). The bundled copy of Neverwinter Nights 2 is a nice extra, and all Gigabyte graphic cards carry a 3 year limited warranty (2 years parts & labor, 3rd year parts only).
Gigabyte has been offering their own take on various ATI and NVIDIA cards, by adding custom GPU cooling solutions, adjustable voltages, and Ultra Durable 2 components. The Gigabyte Radeon HD 3870 has its positives and negatives, such as lightweight design, high stability and low GPU temperatures, but without a variable speed fan or heat exhaust. The GV-RX387512H is still not a radical departure, and it runs perfectly with standard Catalyst drivers and fully supports OverDrive and PowerPlay features. Overall, the card offers very competitive performance in its class, and provides mainstream performance users with an economical gaming solution.