Review: Overclocked, but cooler than reference
We tested a unique card coming from Asus called EAH 3870 X2. Compared to stock HD 3870 X2 card with two DVI outs and a one fan cooler, EAH3870 X2 1GB TOP packs 4 DVI outs and a dual-fan cooler. It’s nice seeing innovations, and Asus, although mostly famous for their motherboards, surprises us every once in a while with a specially designed graphics cards with interesting capabilities.
The first thing you’ll notice on ther Asus EAH3870 X2 card is non-reference cooling. Just like the reference design, the cooler hides the entire card, but although it looks bigger than reference cooling, it’s still a bit lighter. We see that the front of the card houses two fans, so each RV670 core has its own cooling system made up of one fan and a heatsink with a heatpipe.
Cooler fans alter their speed dynamically, and although they’re not too loud, they have shifted gears quite often, and it bothered us on a couple of occasions.
Reference cooling on these cards is built from copper and aluminum, whereas the Asus card has heatpipe technology.
Just above the core, you’ll find a copper plate with a heatpipe cooled with an aluminum heatsink. A heatpipe/heatsink combo is used for each core.
Picture: A part of the reference card’s cooler with no heatpipe
Radeon HD 3870 X2 is a card based on two RV670 cores printed on one board and running in CrossFire mode, made possible by a PCIe-Bridge Chip (“PLX”) that enables internal communication between the cores. You can see this large chip, which needs no cooling, through the heatsink of the first RV670 core.
Two heatpipes start from the copper plate that leans on the core. Heatsink is mounted on the heatpipe and it doesn’t touch the card, which is clearly visible on the following picture.
Reference HD 3870 X2 card runs at 825MHz, with memory speed of 900MHz. For those of us that always crave more, Asus overclocked their card to 851MHz, and that resulted in memory speed of 954MHz. The boost isn’t that significant, and the performance is just slightly better than reference cards, but Asus gives you an option to simultaneously use up to 4 monitors.
Thanks to its two GPUs, HD 3870 X2 offers four DVIs with HDCP outs. Three out of four DVIs are dual-link capable, whereas the fourth (painted yellow) can be used only as a single-link DVI, or as an HDMI out, with a little help from an HDMI adapter. If you’re using a single monitor, we recommend using a DVI out that’s closest to the motherboard, e.g., placed under the yellow DVI. Two DVIs, on the side of the card where the fan is, don’t give video signal during booting.
Due to different cooler design, Asus turned their power connectors upwards, so connecting the power is easier than ever. The card is powered through an 8-pin and a 6-pin power connector, just as we’ve seen on HD 2900 XT cards.
Asus’ EAH3870 X2 card features one CrossFire connector for connecting another HD 3870 X2 card and thus getting a quad-GPU system. This combination is made possible by the CrossFireX drivers, that enable 4 cores simultaneously. This driver also enables mixing different cards, for instance HD 3870 and HD 385.
A large Asus box will not go unnoticed on the shelves, and Company of Heroes – Opposing fronts, a DX10 game that you get as a gift with this card, is quite an inviting detail.