Several weeks after Nvidia released a new mid-range video card based on a revised version of a one-year-old chipset, AMD has fired back with a well-timed hard launch of two new parts based on its own chipset refresh.
The ATI Radeon HD 3870 and 3850 video cards are based on a 55 nm production process and the RV670 chipset, a revision of the original R600, which has changed little aside from a memory speed bump.
While the 3870 is outperformed almost across the board by Nvidia's newly released 8800 GT by about 10 to 15 percent, its timing appears fortuitous because the 8800 GT has been either out of stock or priced above MSRP only days after officially launching.
The 3870 MSRP is $230 - and appeared at that price today at several popular retailers - whereas the 8800 GT MSRP is $200 to $250, but has been priced upwards of $280 to $320 when sporadically available.
The 3870's little brother, the 3850, has no real Nvidia equivalent and debuted at $180.
The cards also boast a Direct X 10.1 specification unlike their direct competitors, though most analysts say it is of little immediate consequence, and Microsoft officials have described it as a minor update.
Despite their short term viability, AMD's new lineup may not fare as well after the holiday crunch if and when Nvidia ramps up production and retailers offer MSRP-level prices again.