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ED#69 : ATI Radeon HD 3870/3850 Vs. NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT
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The ATI RV670 Is Here!

With the release of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 reviews yesterday, ATI fans can finally say, "I told you so" to doubters, naysayers and NVIDIA fanboys. But this has less to do with the performance of the new cards and more to do with the fact that ATI managed to get them out before the end of 2007.

Truth be told, hardcore ATI fans are probably disappointed in the performance of the ATI Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 cards. They had hoped the new ATI RV670 VPU would deliver a killing blow to the NVIDIA G92 GPU, and vindicate their faith in ATI. Instead, the RV670 fell short of those expectations.

Even so, the new ATI Radeon HD 3870/3850 graphics cards may end up as a commercial success, and could help turn things around for AMD-ATI. Let's take a look at how that's possible.

 

The Radeon HD 3870

The ATI Radeon HD 3870 is generally about 20-25% slower than the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT. This is hardly something NVIDIA would worry about, that is, until you take into account availability and price. For ease of comparison, here's a table showing the cost of these cards.

Model

Official Price

Street Price

NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT

$199-$249

$250-$300

ATI Radeon HD 3870

$219

Est. ~$219

Difference :
(From GeForce 8800 GT)

-$30 to +$20

+$31 to +$81

As you can see, the ATI Radeon HD 3870 is really priced within the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT's official price range. At that price point, you cannot really justify the purchase of a Radeon HD 3870 when it is 20-25% slower than the GeForce 8800 GT.

The trouble with the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT is that since its launch on October 29, cards have been hard to come by and consequently, its price has inflated by $50. A quick check at Pricegrabber showed a very limited number of e-tailers offering GeForce 8800 GT cards, with prices ranging from $250 to $300. That's 20-25% higher than the official price range.

The inflated street prices make the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT about $31-$81 (14-37%) more expensive than the ATI Radeon HD 3870. This is when the Radeon HD 3870 begins to look a lot more attractive. We have to be honest though and say that this only puts the Radeon HD 3870 on a more equal footing with the GeForce 8800 GT and does not give the Radeon HD 3870 a clear advantage.

The really big problem for NVIDIA right now is availability. They haven't been able to deliver the GeForce 8800 GT in sufficient quantities to even meet initial demands. This may push impatient gamers into buying the cheaper Radeon HD 3870, especially if ATI includes an attractive game bundle like they did with the Radeon HD 2900 XT.

 

The Radeon HD 3850

That the ATI Radeon HD 3850 trashed the hell out of the NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS should come as no surprise. The GeForce 8600 GTS is a woefully under-powered card and that's being polite. Most reviews online though had no choice but to compare the Radeon HD 3850 against the GeForce 8600 GTS since its intended rival, the 256MB version of the GeForce 8800 GT, is still not in the market!

This is a clear sign that graphics card manufacturers have trouble sourcing enough NVIDIA G92 GPUs to keep up with demand for the standard GeForce 8800 GT cards, much less allocate them to the lower-cost (and less profitable) 256MB version of the GeForce 8800 GT. Until they start producing and selling the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB, ATI will have a field day with their Radeon HD 3850 which currently has real competitor to speak of.

NVIDIA is fully aware of this problem. In fact, on the day the Radeon HD 3850 results were released, they sent out a press release stating that their board partners will have the GeForce 8800 GT 256MB out in two weeks. However, that does not mean they will be out in quantities large enough to matter.



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