The ATI Radeon graphics card is the best performing in the sub $200 category. It can support about four cards in the same computer. The graphics adapter comes as a plug-in card with a PCI Express 2.0×16 interface and a video memory of 256 MB. The video output resolution is 2560×1600 and the supported formats are MPEG 1, MPEG 2 MPEG 4, and H.264.
You can play games at decent resolutions and detail though the Cross Fire performance varies with the game played. The Radeon 3850 supports Direct X10.1 hardware enabling you to play games based on Microsoft’s Direct X programming in the future. The support for PCI Express 2 implies greater bandwidth for graphics. The card is compatible with the latest GPU technology, Crossfire X that further enhances its processing power, enabling use of more graphical data.
The Radeon 3850 uses ATI’s core technology and is adept at functioning as a complete home theater card. The television interface is HDTV out and the card supports HDCP. This implies it can show both protected HD DVD and Blu Ray content on the computer, provided the optical drive can play these formats. It also features an inbuilt audio chip that transmits both audio and video content over the HDMI cable to an HDTV. This is a blessing in disguise for avid home theater users.
With regards to performance, the Radeon 3850 delivers a resolution of 1280×1024 for the game 3D Mark06 that score over the Nvidia 8800 card by quite a distance. You get a high quality resolution of 2048 x 1536 for Bioshock and ultra quality 1920 x 1440 performance for Company of Heroes. It delivers an average performance for World of Conflict and really staggers behind its competitors for the game Crysis.
All games were tested on Windows XP with Direct X9 at high resolution and detail. Keeping this performance in mind, it is advisable to stick to Direct X9 rather than Direct X10 that the Radeon 3850 claims to support. However, the Radeon gives excellent resolution on LCD and even bigger 30-inch screens. Unfortunately, the Radeon 3850 under performs on Cross Fire frame rates when compared to its competitors and is very slow. Probably this will improve with better software upgrades
You need a free six-pin line to connect the Radeon to the computer’s power supply. The card is superior in many ways and utilizes a single processing pipeline. This implies that shaders, calculations, and geometry follow a similar path that adjusts depending on the work required for each process. The 3850 has 660 million transistors, and 320 steam processors that make it a bit slower than the Radeon 2900 series.
Overall, the ATI Radeon is worthwhile purchase for those pursuing gaming on their computers.