Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 45nm processor
Asus P5K Deluxe Wifi P35 motherboard
OCZ PC2-8000 Platinum Edition 4 gig kit
Apevia Warlock 750 watt PSU
Thermaltake Xaser VI full tower
Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit
Of course, installation of a video card is no more than putting the card in the PCI-E slot, connecting the PCI-E power cable, inserting a screw or using the tool-free device and firing it up.
The fan is totally silent; I could not hear it at all. Nothing like my last Apollo card, which sounded like someone was using a vacuum cleaner in my rig.
The latest Catalyst drivers are supposed to be good, and are only 10 days old at the time of this review, so I didn't bother with the ones on the driver disk. There weren't any 64-bit Vista drivers on it anyway.
The HD 3850 is my only hardware item so far that Vista hasn't automatically installed the drivers. It tried but failed. No problem, as I had already downloaded the Catalyst Suite. There were no issues with driver installation.
The ATI Control Center is a very simple utility that accomplishes pretty much anything that you'd need for your GPU. It isn't as detailed as the nVidia Control Panel, which is both a plus and a minus. It is so simple that I won't go into any more detail except for the overclocking utility.
The Control Center works in conjunction with ATI Overdrive, ATI's GPU overclock utility. Overdrive is very simple to use. There are sliders for setting GPU and memory clocks, “gages” that tell GPU temp and load, and Auto-Tune, a utility for automatically setting an optimum overclock.
One thing about Overdrive is that there are maximums for both GPU and memory clock. I don't know what determined the maxes, whether preset by ATI, Apollo, or determined by the drivers, which I doubt. The max for the HD 3850 is 730 mHz, which will disappoint most hardcore overclockers. As I have said here before, I'm not real big on overclocking video cards, so unless the 3850 easily made it to 730mHz, and was still increasing performance, I probably wouldn't go any farther than that. Besides, there's always Rivatuner. I'd say Rivatuner or ATITool, but for some reason, the overclock utility on ATITool doesn't work on the HD 3850. Maybe a Vista thing, maybe a Catalyst thing. Probably due to ATI Overdrive. It's really not important enough for me to investigate, as long as the little fuzzy cube still works, which it does.