Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tech & U: Powercolor HD3850 256MB

OMG WTF!!! I admit I messed up the Sygate (Skygate) but the Adobe spec is crap.


ATi recently released a new line of graphics cards for this year. The HD 3800 series is an die shrunk and tweak version of the current GPU. With added features like DirectX 10.1, lower power requirements, less heat and PCI-E 2.0 just to name a few it comes as full replacement for the HD 2000 series line.

My friends at Sygate (Penang), generously lent me the Powercolor HD 3850 256MB PCI-E to play with for a few days. So when you open box what do you get for RM610? Well, there is no game but you get a nice host of cable and adapters which you may need to hook up your PC to varies systems. You got S-Video to AV and HDTV cables to for those 'old' gen TVs. Then there are the HDMI and DVI adapters for both old and new LCD TVs and monitors. And finally, you get the power cable and Crossfire Cable.

The card itself is pretty large, this form factor is called a 'full' size card. Which means any expansion card can get up that long in size. It's always a good idea to make sure you have enough room in your casing to install the card and not that it presses against the back of any drives.

The HD 3850 is fairly light for a card that size, that is because the heatsink is rather conservative in size. Yes, it covers the whole length of the card but it is not thick that it takes up two expansion slots. The 'full' cover fan encloses GPU area that makes contact with the copper heatsink. The rest of the heatsink that covers the RAM is bare.

Since, I tested the HD 3850 in December I only used the 7.12 Catalyst Drivers. System I used is an X2 BE-2400 with 2GB of DDR2 800 on an Asus M2A-VM HDMI using a cheap RM50 PSU. I used only three game benchmarks and did not bother with any useless synthetic benchmarks since they don't reflect real world performance. Please note the maximum resolution for my LCD monitor is only 1280x1024.

Call Of Duty 4 is considered one of the best multi-player FPS out there with great graphics and usable physics that most mid to high range PC owners can enjoy. My scores with all Details set to Extra is a minimum of 13 FPS (frames per second), a maximum of 107 FPS and an average of 40 FPS.

Crysis is a fish out of water. Even with a Quad core system and a set of SLI graphic cards no reviewer can get decent any FPS from it when all the details are set to Very High. This makes Crysis just another Doom 3. My score with all Details set to High is a minimum of 6 FPS, a maximum of 44 FPS and an average of 22.393 FPS. During the opening cut scene of the first mission my FPS dropped to 3 FPS. The scores are all taken from the first mission. Expect your results to get worse as the missions start to pack in more effects and 3D objects.

Bioshock I threw in because I wanted to see what the heavily modified UNREAL 2.5 could do with the HD 3850. My score with All Effects On and Details set to High is a minimum of 0 FPS, a maximum of 62 FPS and an average of 56.716 FPS. I know the score is strange but that's what FRAPS gave me. Note that the UNREAL Engine will never allow the FPS go above 60 FPS. This is to preserve game smoothness instead of your monitor dropping FPS (LCDs normally have 60hz which means it can only refresh the screen 60 times a second).

Overall the HD 3850 is a very decent replacement for the last gen cards from ATi. Although, not the butt kicker you would hope but the pricing and performance does put it on par with any nVidia offerings in the same range. And with hardware Direct 10.1 support you're a little future proofed too.

Product: Powercolor HD 3850 256MB GDDR 3
Manufacturer: Powercolor
Price: RM610

Our Verdict: 4
Physical Design: 4
User-friendliness: 5
Performance: 4
Features: 4
Value for money: 4

Graphics Engine: RADEON HD3850
Video Memory: 256MB GDDR3
Engine Clock: 668MHz
Memory Clock: 828MHz x 2
Memory Interface: 256bit
DirectX Support: 10.1
Bus Standard: PCIE 2.0
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