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MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC Radeon HD 3870 X2 Videocard Review

MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC Radeon HD 3870 X2 Videocard Review  - PCSTATS
Abstract: As its name suggests, MSI's R3870X2-T2D1G-OC videocard is the combination of two ATI HD 3870 GPUs on a single PCB to provide gamers with a ready-made crossfire gaming solution.
 80% Rating:   
Filed under: Video Cards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: MSI Sep 30 2008   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Video Cards > MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC

Overclocking the Twin Radeon 4870 GPUs

Overclocking Results:
Stock Overclocked
GPU (Core) Speed: 825 MHz 878 MHz
Memory Speed: (900) 1800 MHz (955) 1910 MHz DDR
If you're new to Overclocking and not sure what to do, check out these two excellent Guides for some pointers:
Overclocking the CPU and Memory
Overclocking the Videocard
The MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC videocard ships with pre-overclocked GPUs running at 860MHz. That's an increase from the ATI default clock speed of 825MHz GPU. The 1GB of GDDR3 memory runs at 900Mhz (1800Mhz DDR), which is the default speed. Overclocking dual GPU videocards is always a tricky endeavor, but that doesn't mean PCSTATS won't be looking for some really good overclocking results with the MSI Computer videocard. Let's begin!!

As usual, overclocking was done through the ATI Catalyst Control Center and ATI Overdrive which unlocks GPU and memory clock speed. PCSTATS started with the GPU first, pausing to test the results with a quick 3D benchmark before continuing. We take note of any stability problems or the appearance of artifacts, and then list the maximum stable and artifact-free overclocked speed the video card can attain.

The MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC's twin HD 3870 GPUs successfully achieved 875Mhz without any sign of artifacts or instability, but we were not able to push much further, as distinct stability problems manifested. A speed of 878MHz proved to be the maximum stable and repeatable overclock for this MSI videocard. As in the case of other dual-GPU videocards, we are assuming that the stability of the link between the GPUs themselves is part of the limiting factor in these tests.

Overclocking the MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC's 1GB of DDR3 memory proved fairly unexciting too, as PCSTATS was only able to raise it to a maximum of 955MHz (1910MHz DDR), a 55Mhz overclock over stock speed.

Clearly additional tweaking headroom is not one of the features of MSI's pre-overclocked gaming videocard, but then it's supposed to demolish games out of the box, not out of the lab. Let's look at some benchmarks and see how it acquits itself.

Tweaking Fan Speed for Lower Temperatures

After a few rounds of benchmarking with the MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC, temperatures were stratosphereically hot. Curiously, in spite of the burn-your-fingers-heatsink-temperature, the videocard's fan remained relatively slow and quiet throughout testing. It's a safe bet the videocard's twin GPUs were generating heat like fiery furnace, and sure enough GPU temperatures were hovering around the 80-90C mark.... far from ideal conditions regardless of how quiet the videocard was operating.

Why the heatsink's fan wasn't kicking up the RPM to deal with the heat is a question only AMD can address, drivers always seems to its weakest point. Luckily, there is a quick software hack you can do to dramatically lower GPU and memory temperatures. Credit is due to Guru3d for coming up with this one, and you'll find that it applies to just about any ATI Radeon videocard on the market now. In fact, this is the same technique PCSTATS used with the Radeon HD 4870 X2 series.

First ensure that Catalyst 8.8 drivers are installed (or newer), then open up Catalyst Control Center and go to > ATI Overdrive > and enable overdrive by clicking on the little padlock icon. Next, click on Profiles > Profile Manager and create a new profile called "Lower Fan Tweak". Check "all catalyst control center settings" and click Save. Next, within Windows Vista go to:

C:\Users\*your ID*\Appdata\Local\ATI\ACE\Profiles\Lower Fan Tweak.xml

Right click on the file and select "edit", we need to edit some parameters in the XML.

Find "FanSpeedAlgorithm" and change value="Automatic" to value="Manual". The term "manual" is case sensitive, so spell it Manual.
Next, find "FanSpeedPercentTarget_1" and change <property name="want" value="23"> to your desired fan speed percentage, value="100" for full fan speed, value="50" for half, you get the idea. The number may be 23, or some other integer.

Note that if you change the values for FanSpeedPercentTarget_0, this won't work on the dual GPU HD 3870 X2 videocard - that parameter (the "_0" parameter) is for the single GPU Radeon HD 3870 videocards. I made this mistake the first time and it took me a couple minutes to figure out why the fan speed didn't change at all.

Save the XML file you've just edited. Back in the Catalyst Control Center load up the "Lower Fan Tweak" profile. You should immediately notice the fan on the MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC speed up to 100% duty.

For our testing PCSTATS simply set the value to 100, which results in a pretty vigorous whooshing noise. Within a few minutes the GPU temperature fell to a resonable 40-50C range with fan speed at 100% duty. If you play around with the values you'll find a happy medium to achieve low temps and moderate noise levels. Next up are some pretty impressive benchmarks!

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Contents of Article: MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC
 Pg 1.  MSI R3870X2-T2D1G-OC Radeon HD 3870 X2 Videocard Review
 Pg 2.  AMD Radeon HD 3870 X2 Technology
 Pg 3.  Videocard Power Consumption Measurements
 Pg 4.  — Overclocking the Twin Radeon 4870 GPUs
 Pg 5.  Videocard Benchmarks: System Specs, 3DMark Vantage
 Pg 6.  Videocard Benchmarks: 3DMark 3DMark06
 Pg 7.  DX10 Videocard Benchmarks: Crysis
 Pg 8.  DX10 Videocard Benchmarks: Call of Juarez
 Pg 9.  DX10 Video card Benchmarks: Lost Planet
 Pg 10.  Video card Benchmarks: FEAR
 Pg 11.  Advanced Video card Benchmarks: Crysis, Quake 4
 Pg 12.  Advanced Videocard Benchmarks: FEAR
 Pg 13.  Conclusions: HD 3870 X2 Still Competitive?

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