The PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro Extreme 512MB stands out as a great value for money graphics card in an over-crowded market.

The graphics cards market continues to be a hotbed of activity. Indeed, with dozens of seemingly similar products vying for the same customers, few areas of the PC world now offer so much choice – and so much potential for utter confusion.

We've already reviewed the ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro of course, and the Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro continues to make a good impression in our sub-£150 chart.

But whereas the Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro came with just 256MB of DDR3 and, therefore, couldn't really compete with the new GeForce 8800 GS cards (notably the Asus GeForce EN8800GS TOP), the 3850 Pro Extreme comes with a plentiful 512MB instead.

In the past, upgrading the memory hasn't always produced a dramatic result in testing, but as today's games (the likes of Crysis and Bioshock) place higher demands on PCs, that extra bit of memory could prove very useful.

And that isn't where the improvements end. Like the 256MB 3850 Pro, the Extreme is based around the 55nm RV670 GPU.

Its clock speeds are higher, and it boasts 720 and 900MHz core and memory speeds as opposed to the Sapphire 3850 Pro's 670 and 830MHz. As with the 256MB version, it also boasts support for DirectX 10.1 – the nVidia cards (even the high-end models) are still stuck on basic 10.0.

And while you can argue that it'll be some time before we see games taking advantage of the extra increment, the 3850 Pro Extreme having 10.1 support is hardly a criticism. And you do also get the excellent video facilities thrown in, given the appearance of UVD (Unified Video Decoder).

NEXT PAGE: test results and our expert verdict > >

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The PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro Extreme 512MB stands out as a great value for money graphics card in an over-crowded market.

In testing (using FEAR, Company of Heroes and Crysis, amongst others) this card was pretty much neck and neck with the 8800 GS. Given the fact that the 3850 Pro Extreme is, if anything, marginally less than the 8800 GS, that's a very decent achievement.

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PowerColor ATI Radeon HD 3850 Pro Extreme 512MB: Specs

  • Radeon HD 3850 Pro
  • 512MB GDDR3
  • 720MHz Core Clock
  • 900MHz Memory Clock
  • 400MHz Ramdac
  • 320 Stream Processors
  • PCI-E Interface
  • TV Out/Video In yes/no
  • DirectX 10.1
  • DVI
  • 3-year warranty
  • Radeon HD 3850 Pro
  • 512MB GDDR3
  • 720MHz Core Clock
  • 900MHz Memory Clock
  • 400MHz Ramdac
  • 320 Stream Processors
  • PCI-E Interface
  • TV Out/Video In yes/no
  • DirectX 10.1
  • DVI
  • 3-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

In a now very overcrowded marketplace, the 3850 Pro Extreme is probably the best bet in the £100-£120 range. We couldn't really split this from the 8800 GS in testing, but the 3850 Pro Extreme is easier to find and also throws in DirectX 10.1 support.

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