When starting these Linux benchmarks of the Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870 we really didn't know what to expect. On Windows, the Radeon HD 3870 is able to outperform the NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT in a number of benchmarks and both the 3850 and 3870 have received many acclaims from various Windows publications. After looking over these Linux results today, we are impressed by the capabilities of the Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870. Only in the most demanding tests was there a noticeable performance delta between the EAH3850 and EAH3870, but in all of the benchmarks, these two graphics cards were much stronger than the Radeon HD 2600PRO. Furthermore, in all but one case the Radeon HD 3870 was faster than the Radeon HD 2900XT and the Radeon HD 3850 had even outperformed the 2900XT on Linux in some scenarios. However, it is important to note that the EAH3850 TOP and EAH3870 TOP are factory-overclocked.
ATI's Linux drivers aren't yet perfected on their new code-base, but they have been making some great progress in recent months and we suspect that the performance of the HD 3850/3870 will increase slightly over the coming months. While it will be tough for the Radeon HD 3870 to outperform the GeForce 8800GT 512MB on Linux, after the much-improved NVIDIA 169.04 beta driver, the Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870 both have the advantage of having official open-source support (in the near future) through the RadeonHD driver.
We will draw our final conclusions after additional Radeon HD 3800 series Linux testing has commenced, but thus far, we are very pleased with the Radeon HD 3850 and Radeon HD 3870. Under Linux these cards are able to compete with and (to some surprise) outperform the Radeon HD 2900XT and have no problems handling the latest Linux-native title, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars with strenuous settings. Either of these graphics cards should also have no problems running with Unreal Tournament 3, once the Linux client has been released. Of course, both graphics cards can easily handle the latest Compiz Fusion accelerated desktop effects as well.
At under $200 USD for the ASUS EAH3850 and $250 USD for the ASUS EAH3870, both of them offer a great value. If you're just a casual gamer and want to upgrade right now, the Radeon HD 3850 should work out great. If you have a bit more money to spend and will be utilizing a higher resolution display with advanced graphical settings, the Radeon HD 3870 will perform slightly better. On the other hand, if you are after a graphics card to keep for the long haul, you may want to wait a bit and see how ATI and NVIDIA's Linux drivers pan out over the next few driver releases as we continue with our benchmarking. Regarding the ASUS EAH3850 TOP and EAH3870 TOP they are both great packages that will give you maximum performance, though the included game (Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts) will likely go to waste until it works with WINE. Both of these ASUS graphics cards were also very quiet during operation with PowerPlay support.
If you have any additional questions about the Radeon HD 3800 series on Linux, be sure to stop by the Phoronix Forums.