ASUS Brings X2 to the HD 3850
When AMD introduced the Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB card in January of this year it was an attempt to become competitive once again with NVIDIA's high-end graphics cards like the 8800 GTX and 8800 Ultra. It was moderately successful, but of course the 3870 X2 required the power of two of AMD's 3870 GPUs and 1GB of total frame buffer (512MB to each GPU) to do it. Since then AMD hasn't released any new cards but NVIDIA has been actively getting back any ground they had lost in the various markets with the release of the 9600 GT, 9800 GX2 and the 9800 GTX. AMD's partners on the other hand appear to be TRYING to pick up the slack that AMD left dangling: first from Diamond with the less-than-successful Radeon 3870 1GB and now from ASUS.
ASUS' goals for this card are pretty simple: create an AMD-based graphics card that fits into the gap that exists between the Radeon HD 3870 512MB and the Radeon HD 3870 X2 1GB in terms of both price and performance. Some creative engineering and product positioning aim to do just that.
The ASUS EAH3850X2 1GB Graphics Card
Taking a look at the new ASUS EAH3850 X2 card you could be confused into thinking you were looking at another ASUS product that is nearly identical in appearance; the design is obviously identical though this time ASUS has ironed out the issues we saw before and you can actually buy this product too - what a novel idea!
This dual-GPU design uses a custom PCB and cooler design unique to a pair of ASUS cards that are able to provide an improved cooling effect while maintaining nearly the same noise levels.
On the back of the card you can see the location of the two HD 3850 GPUs and half of the 512MB of memory surrounding each.
The ASUS EAH3850X2 card supports two dual-link DVI outputs with an HDTV output connection between them. The yellow DVI port is the one that also supports the included DVI-to-HDMI adapter. The card is a two slot design, as are all the dual-GPU graphics boards from AMD or NVIDIA, with the top area used for hot air exhaust from case.
The ASUS 3850 X2 card has a single CrossFire connection along the top of it to support adding one or two more graphics cards to your system and enabling CrossFireX. With this technology from AMD you can add in one or two more single GPU HD 3850 or 3870 cards for a total of three or four GPUs OR you can add another dual-GPU HD 3850 X2 card or HD 3870 X2 card for a total of four GPUs as well.
The ASUS 3850 X2 card requires both an 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connector - just like the HD 3870 X2 cards.
The included extras with the ASUS HD 3850 X2 card comprise of a VGA-to-DVI adapter, the yellow DVI-to-HDMI adapter, one Molex power adapter, one component HDTV dongle, a single (but rather short) CrossFire cable as well as the drivers and simple instruction booklet.
Removing the fan and sheath from the card we find there are two separate heatsinks for the two RV670 GPUs that are pretty simple heat pipe designs.
Removing those we find what is basically the same layout for this ASUS HD 3850 X2 card as we have seen in our HD 3870 X2 reviews. Resting between the two GPUs is a PLX PEX 8547 PCI Express switch chip. The PEX 8547 is a 48
lane PCIe 1.0 device for chip to chip communications; we obviously know
that the 3850 X2 (as well as the 3870 X2) card is a PCIe 1.0 card but
in reality that isn't making much of a difference in terms of
real-world GPU performance today.
Finally, here is a close up of the RV670 GPU that powers the new HD 3800-series of AMD graphics boards - a 667 million 55nm chip from TSMC.