Whether you plump for the 8800 GT or the brand new Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT chip from ATI will really depend on what's most important to you – lowering the price or raising the framerates.

In a straight battle, the GT is the better card. But it does cost an extra £23 or so. And there are undoubtedly advantages to the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT.

The Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT is a very cool card in operation. The 55nm manufacturing process makes the 3870 an incredibly efficient and quiet chip.

Then there's the promise of the extra DirectX 10.1 support – the GT can only support 10.0. It remains to be seen whether this feature of the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT will really make much difference – our assumption is that it won't. But it's another small feather in the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT's cap.

You also get excellent VC-1 and H.264 video decoding courtesy of the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT's UVD (Unified Video Decoder) feature.

The Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT also looks very good in terms of specifications, with core and memory clock speeds that knock the socks off the GeForce 8800 GT. The latter can't get close to the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT on memory bandwidth.

However, this is to no avail if the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT can't beat the GeForce in real-world games. And here it falls just a little bit flat, lagging behind the 8800 GT in most of our tests.

However, there are a couple of definite saving graces for the 3870 XT. The first is that the 8800 GT is rather short on supply at the moment. If you want a card in this price range now, it's quite possible you'll have no choice other than to go for the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT. You can also argue that the performance you lose to the 8800 GT is compensated for by how much money you'll save on price.

Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT: Specs

  • 512MB GDDR4 RAM
  • core clock 775MHz
  • memory clock 1.1GHz
  • 320 stream processors
  • PCI-E
  • Direct X 10.x
  • 512MB GDDR4 RAM
  • core clock 775MHz
  • memory clock 1.1GHz
  • 320 stream processors
  • PCI-E
  • Direct X 10.x

OUR VERDICT

A well-featured graphics card which represents decent value for money, the Sapphire ATI Radeon 3870 XT is not the best performer, but it may be the best you can buy today.

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