Summary: With two R680 GPUs, 1GB of 0.8ns memory, four DVI outputs, and dual fans, the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP is one feature-packed graphics card. The card is even OC'ed from the factory for even greater performance. Let's see how it fares against the GeForce 8800 GTX/Ultra, as well as AMD's own Radeon HD 3870 X2 card!
While theyíre still best known for their high-end motherboards, over the years ASUS has produced some pretty outstanding graphics cards. ASUS was the first of the big card manufacturers to play both sides in the graphics world, ending the era of exclusive deals that locked card manufacturers to producing cards solely on GPUs from ATI or NVIDIA. In fact, their 9800 XT/TVD and 9600 XT/TVD were the first Radeon cards to ship with VIVO (video-in/video-out) support. Up to the debut of these cards, VIVO was a feature that was only found in the All-In-Wonder line of graphics cards from ATI. Now VIVO is a feature that can be found across the lineup of Radeon cards.
ASUSí Smart Doctor software also brought features such as dynamic clock speed adjustment depending on workload. For instance, Smart Doctor could automatically overclock the card when a game is loaded, then revert back to stock speeds once you return to the Windows desktop. Smart Doctor also offered dynamic fan speed adjustment, varying RPMs based on workload or temperature. All of these features and more were found in Smart Doctor well ahead of programs like nTune and ATI Overdrive.
Over the years ASUS has produced quite a few high-end graphics cards that were pretty unique. Back during the GeForce 7800 GTX era, their Extreme N7800 GTX TOP set itself apart from other GeForce 7800 GTX cards thanks to its dual-slot cooler from Arctic Cooling. The card also shipped at higher clock speeds than other GeForce 7800 GTX cards. ASUS partnered with Arctic Cooling again to deliver the Extreme X1800XT TOP/2DHT. While the stock X1800 XT developed a reputation for being a loud graphics card, ASUSí Extreme X1800 XT TOP ran cooler and quieter, all while running at speeds that were higher than any other Radeon X1800 XT card.
Now ASUS is back again with another unique Radeon board, this time utilizing the recently released Radeon HD 3870 X2 GPUs. Whereas the stock Radeon HD 3870 X2 board shipped with two DVIs and a single fan, the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP features four DVIs and two cooling fans, and as a TopOverclockingPerformance card, ASUSí latest 3870 X2
offering is overclocked by ASUS for added performance.
Letís take a closer look at what ASUS has done with their EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP card!
Dual fan cooling
Without a doubt, the most notable difference between the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP and AMDís own Radeon HD 3870 X2 board is the ASUS cardís unique cooling solution.
We ran some temp tests between the AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2 and the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP. In our testing, the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP idled at 40 degrees Celsius whereas the AMD 3870 X2 card ran 45 degrees at idle. Under load the ASUS card was three degrees cooler Ė 61 degrees Celsius versus 64 degrees Ė keep in mind this was done with the ASUS card running at its standard TOP speeds, so the AMD board was running slightly slower.
There are a couple of oversights with AMDís cooling solution that we should mention though. For starters, the PLX chip that splits the PCIe lanes between both GPUs (16 per GPU) isnít actively cooled. On the stock AMD cooler, a thermal pad connects the PLX chip to the AMD cooler. Second, the memory modules on the underside of the card arenít cooled either. On the AMD reference design, an aluminum plate is used to cool the modules on the bottom of the card. Letís discuss how this may not be a major issueÖ
Hynix memory modules
One feature ASUS touts on the EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP is its ďspecially sortedĒ 0.8ns GDDR3 memory. When comparing the EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP to the standard Radeon HD 3870 X2 we received from AMD, you can see that ASUS has indeed opted for faster memory modules than AMDís reference design.
Faster core clock speed
Besides running the memory modules at speeds higher than stock, the graphics core is clocked higher from the factory as well. ASUS clocks the GPU at 850MHz, a 25MHz improvement over the stock Radeon HD 3870 X2.
The other easily noticeable feature that separates the EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP from AMDís reference design are the four DVI connectors on the back plate of the graphics card. We tested this feature out and it does indeed work, but there are a couple of caveats that you need to keep in mind.
For starters, DVI #3 or DVI #4 must be connected in order to get a video signal. We recommend you use DVI #4. DVI #4 is located on the bottom right corner of the cardís backplate, resting directly to the right of the yellow DVI connector. When the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP card is housed inside the PCI Express graphics slot, the fourth DVI is the DVI connector located closest to the motherboard. If you hook your monitor up to one of the secondary DVI connections (DVI numbers 1 or 2), you wonít get a video signal when booting up your system. Weíre defining the secondary connectors as the two DVIs located above DVI #4 (and the yellow DVI connector) on the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP.
So why is the other DVI connector yellow? This is where you HDTV owners will use the HDMI adapter included with the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP card to hook up your HDTV if you wish to use HDMI. This connector doesnít support dual-link operation however; itís a single-link DVI output. Those of you with 30Ē flat panels should primarily rely on the fourth DVI connection located closest to the motherboard that we mentioned previously.
One neat trick that AMD has added to CrossFire recently is the ability to run multiple monitors with CrossFire. Previously neither SLI nor CrossFire supported multi-monitor.
With multi-monitor support, you can now run two displays simultaneously on the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP or the AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2. Before, youíd have to disable CrossFire every time you wanted to run two monitors.
CrossFire doesnít natively support four monitors though. So if you plan to hook up four monitors to the ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP, youíll have to disable CrossFire in the Catalyst Control Center control panel. Then, when youíre ready to game, donít forget to re-enable CrossFire. Once CrossFire is turned on, the two monitors connected to your secondary DVIs will automatically be disabled.
One final point about the displays we should mention is that we couldnít run a CRT monitor (connected via DVI adapter) off the secondary DVIs. We had to use the primary pair of DVI outputs in order for the CRT to operate. We also ran into problems mixing the CRT with more than one LCD.
The bottom line is we recommend sticking to DVIs if you plan on using all the displays on the EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP.
ASUS bundles the card with a copy of the DX10 game Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. The follow-up to the hit WW2 RTS game Company of Heroes, Opposing Fronts was released last year to positive reviews and is a $30 value. Also included with the card are two DVI adapters, an HDMI adapter, CrossFire cable, power cable, and component video cable. ASUS also includes a leather CD wallet with the card which you can use to organize your games.
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800
ASUS P5E3 Deluxe (for Radeon cards)
EVGA nForce 680i SLI motherboard (for GeForce cards)
2GB Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4
ASUS EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP
AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB
8.451.2_080123a-058649E-ATI Driver (Catalyst 8.1 derivative)
GeForce 8800 GTX
GeForce 8800 Ultra
300GB Western Digital Caviar SE
Windows Vista 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Company of Heroes 1.71 (running DX9)
Faster memory: ASUS outfits the EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP with 1GB of 0.8ns memory modules from Hynix. The memory modules themselves are rated for speeds as high as 1.2GHz! Meanwhile in comparison, AMDís own Radeon HD 3870 X2 boards ship with 1.0GHz memory.
Availability: Unfortunately ASUSí EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP card hasnít hit retail shelves yet. In fact, we couldnít find it on the ASUS USA website either. Hopefully the card will be released soon, as itís the best 3870 X2 thatís been announced so far.