Dual-GPU Comparison – 3850×2 vs 3870×2 vs 9800GX2

HD3870x2 & 9800GX2Going back almost 8 years to a time when I didn’t have such a receded hair line and the only bills I need worry about was the next hardware upgrade to my beige coloured PC, a company that many of us will undoubtedly remember and respect – 3dfx, released one of the first mainstream gamer orientated graphics cards featuring dual GPU’s on a single board. Branded the Voodoo5 5500, this card was to be the last card ever released to public before the company was snapped up by NVidia.
Since then there have been only but a few attempts to bring dual-GPU graphics cards back on to the market. Some have been unofficial AIB partner prototypes such as the X1950Pro Dual from Sapphire, while others official releases from manufacturers such as the 7950GX2 from NVidia. All have had their fair share of problems with either poor driver support, sub-par performance or extremely high price tags.
However, back in January ATI decided to bite the bullet and give dual-GPU’s another bash. The result of course was the HD3870x2 which featured two HD3870 GPU’s and 1GB of RAM all neatly arranged on a single PCB. Early reviews of the cards were positive, with record breaking benchmark results and reasonably solid drivers from the outset. While the card was initially quite expensive (~£300) a select few ATI partners put it upon themselves to construct a slightly lower cost dual-GPU solution with HD3850 chips (essentially down-clocked HD3870’s).
NVidia, not keen on being outdone, decided to fight back in much the same way by taking two of their mid-range 8800GTS graphics cards and fusing them into a single card solution named the 9800GX2. While many people were sceptical of NVidia’s approach (mainly due to the massive failure of the Dual-PCB/GPU 7950GX2 back in 2006), the 9800GX2 did the job nicely and managed to take back the performance crown once more.
While many of the aforementioned cards have already been reviewed on Overclock3D at some time in the not so distant past, both the HD3850x2, HD3870x2 and 9800GX2 are all still top of the charts when it comes to balls out performance. However, with quite substantial gaps in price between each of the cards, today we’re going to be finding out which card offers the best performance per pound for the budget conscious gamer with a need for speed. Let’s take a closer look at the cards…
3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 - Front 3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 Sideways
3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 Back 3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 Side
All three cards are extremely stylish with both the 3850×2 and 3870×2 featuring non-stock coolers designed by ASUS. For the 9800GX2 ASUS has decided to stick with the stock NVIDIA cooling solution as this is both extremely complex and difficult to replace when compared to a standard heatsink/fan combination used on most cards.
3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 Power 3850x2, 3870x2, 9800GX2 Cooling
Thanks to the heavy power consuming dual-GPU nature of the cards, each card requires both a 6-Pin and an 8-Pin PCI-E power connector. This can make finding a suitable PSU for CrossfireX or SLI quite a task, but it is unfortunately a necessary evil.