HIS Radeon HD 3850 IceQ3 TurboX
- Quick performance compared to other 3850-based cards, quiet cooler, HDCP-ready, excellent DirectX 9 performance
- Slow when running DirectX 10-based games
Overclocked GPU and memory components aren't enough to supply fast frame rates for DirectX 10-based games, but if you want a modern card for your DirectX 9-based games, and also a card that's HDCP-ready, then this HIS model is as good as any.
Price$ 329.00 (AUD)
Modesty; this HIS graphics card has none at all. It boasts of higher-than-normal clock speeds and ships with a larger-than-normal cooling device in order to outdo the competing cards in its class. For the most part, it succeeds.
It's based on the ATI Radeon HD 3850 graphics processing unit (GPU), which supports DirectX 10.1 (this will be available in Windows Vista Service Pack 1) and has 512MB of GDDR3 RAM. It's not a high-end card, but it does have a clock speed of 720MHz and a memory speed of 1820MHz, which are higher than the standard speeds for these components and which almost step into the realm of Radeon HD 3870 speeds.
However, the HIS didn't impress greatly in the overall scheme of things. It was fast when compared against other 3850-based cards we've seen, but it won't play many of today's DirectX 10-based titles smoothly, even at the native 1280x1024 resolution of 17in and 19in monitors, so if you own a bigger monitor, you'll be better off with a high-end card.
Indeed, in the DirectX 10-based games Crysis and Call of Juarez, at a resolution of 1280x1024 and with DirectX 10 features enabled, the HIS averaged 16fps and 26fps respectively, which aren't ideal for smooth gameplay. At the native 1920x1200 resolution of our 24in Samsung SyncMaster 245B monitor, Crysis averaged 13fps.
DirectX 9-based games fared much better at higher resolutions. Half-Life 2 averaged 153fps with its detail settings maximised at a resolution of 1920x1200, while FEAR averaged 57fps at the maximum supported resolution of 1600x1200. Both results are exceptional. Even in 3DMark06, the HIS managed to crack the 10,000 point barrier, scoring a massive 10,442, which is only about 300 marks off what a Radeon HD 3870-based card achieves.
We were able to improve on the 3DMark06 score measurably by overclocking the card's GPU to 750MHz and its memory to 1910MHz. It was reliable at this speed over multiple benchmarking sessions and reached 10,848, which is a superb result. But the extra speed won't translate to much better frame rates in games; in Crysis, at a resolution of 1280x1024, the extra speed only boosted its result by one frame per second to 17fps.
The card is cooled by a large fan and heat sink assembly, which is a quiet operator. You'll barely hear it, even when it's crunching data. It will take up an extra slot in your case, due to its thickness, while the space taken up is put to good use as an exhaust; the fan pushes air through the fins of the heat sink and out through the rear of the case.
For movie watching, the card ships with a DVI-HDMI adapter, which is HDCP-ready, so you can watch protected high-definition movies without any limitations. You also get a component video output facility.
Your decision to buy this card will depend on your gaming needs, as well as your budget. If you want a card on which to play your current DirextX 9-based games at high resolutions and with maximum image details enabled, this HIS will do a commendable job. If you want a new card on which to play DirectX 10-based games, you'll have to sacrifice image quality and resolution size, but unless you can save up an extra $170 and go for an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS-based model such as the Inno3D GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB (I-8800GTS-H5GTCDS), it's a sacrifice you'll have to make.
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