Let's take a quick look at the bundle of accessories included with the 512MB ASUS EAH3870 TOP before getting on with the review. The image below shows all of the connectors and cables provided, which include: an s-video to component cable, a Crossfire bridge, a DVI to HDMI adapter, a DVI to VGA adapter, an s-video to composite adapter, and a 6-pin power adapter that connects to two 4-pin drive power plugs. Overall, you couldn't ask for much more in terms of cables as you are provided a means of connecting to at least one of every typical display type possible.
The next set of images takes a look at the balance of the accessories. The below left image shows a leather-like wallet for storing optical discs as well as the SpeedSetUP instruction manual. The below right image shows the driver and utility CD, a CD with a user's manual in a variety of languages, and then there is the disc for "Company of Heroes - Opposing Fronts".
With so many graphics cards on the market, the bundle of accessories could wind up being the deciding factor for some people. ASUS puts together a good package by including just about every adapter and connector you could possibly need, as well as providing a game to make sure you at least have something to play as soon as you get your new card installed.
Installation and Operation:
The physical installation of the card is simple enough. You need to have an empty PCI Express x16 slot, and the adjacent slot also has to be empty to make room for the cooler. Once popped into place, connect to a 6-pin power connection on your PSU, or use the included adapter for older units that lack this style plug.
The driver CD will include everything you need to get the card up and running, but hitting ati.amd.com for the latest drivers is highly recommended. The test system to be used for this review features a dual boot of Windows XP Professional and Windows Vista Home Premium, and both already had version 8.3 of the Catalyst Software Suite since the HD3850 "TOP" was making its home there.
The screenshots below show some data on the cards as provided by the Catalyst Control Center's Overdrive tab (below left image) and by TechPowerUp's GPU-Z 0.1.8. These screens confirm some of the key features and specifications, including that the GPU clock is running at 851MHz and that the memory clock is running at 1143MHz.
In normal operation the card was rather quiet, but when the thermally controlled fan ramped up you are made well aware of it. I wouldn't say it is any louder than other cards I have used, but it has a deeper tone and it seems to ramp up more often than I am used to. This generally only occurs during 3D gaming, and in a closed case with the sound turned up to moderate levels it shouldn't be a big problem.
During multimedia use the fan stayed quiet and didn't interrupt the action. I used the card with LCD monitors via DVI and VGA connections, as well as with an LCD TV via an HDMI connection. The image quality was excellent in movies and games, and while it may be more horsepower than you might need in a typical HTPC setup, it has the features to make it an excellent choice.