Your CPU is probably causing a lot of the issues you're having with Conan. The recommended CPU is an E6600, which is equiv to an AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+. The disparity between your processor and the recommended one is more than that between your GPU and the recommended one - ~ x800xt and 7900gtx. That said, refer here: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ati-agp-3850-agp,19... .
They use basically the same processor that you have. (theirs is actually slightly faster).
Personally, I'd upgrade the mobo and processor first, and then worry about the graphics card. You're going to pay a big premium for an AGP card - 50-100 dollars.
imo just buy a 775 mobo and an e2160 and overclock the hell out of it. Even at stock, it'll be bounds ahead of your current CPU.
otherwise, check out the article I linked to. The 3850 is the best card, but you probably won't see a huge jump from your card to a it. The CPU is the first thing you need to upgrade.
I assume 100 bucks is about your price range on this upgrade? while these new cards will offer better shader support I don't think they would represent a "substantial" increase in overall performance. I would try age of conan on your current card and see if you can live with medium to low detail settings.
If you do wanna buy a new card you've pretty much picked the best two canadates.
oh, and @ your edit. According to Tom's card hierarchy, which is in all the "best cards of ___" articles, the x800xt is on par with the HD2600xt, so you won't see much of a difference, if at all, in performance.
Somewhere on this site is a great 500 dollar gaming rig setup article. mybe not right away but as you near end game i'd look into that.
BTW how is conan as far as penalties are concerned? do yo lose xp if you die? does your armor degrade? do you drop items or anything like that? I really enjoyed wow cuz it allowed you to play around w/o being penalized. if conan offers a similiar forgiving expierence i'd like to give it a shot.
yeah i saw that article ...pretty cool , i'll probably follow that
and getting a new computer isn't totally out of the question ..just wanted to see if i can make this system perform better before i went all out
no xp lost if you die, armor doesnt have durability, no items drop from you ...only thing really is you leave a tombstone where you died and you spawn at a graveyard ...you get a 30min debuff that lowers ur stats...u lose the debuff if you go back and click on ur tombstone
oh ..and i'm gonna stick it out with this card for a little bit ...age of conan's engine has some problems with ati cards ..and alot of ppl are doing tests and reporting that the game is only using at max like 40-50% of the GPU
..so hopefully this problem is true and is fixed soon and i see a performance increase
..yeah i was looking more for a performance upgrade, not really the visuals
whats a e2160?
i'm slow on the lingo
i'm guessing it's an intel
ps...any recommendations geared towards gaming and performance/budget
It's a budget intel processor. You can get them really cheap - like 80 bucks. You can overclock them to be fast as hell. I read about one guy getting 3.6ghz on 100% stock hsf. but even at the stock speed, it'll be ages ahead of your CPU. You could always spend a little bit more and get an e7xxx or an e4xxx, but that's up to you.
You could look at swapping your old Motherboard out for this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168.... It will use all your old ram and drives etc, you will need a cheap core 2 like the one that was suggested. It gives you a path into PCIE cards but the PCIE slot on it will only run at X4 so you need to consider if that will be a problem to you. It should let you get a cheaper card in PCIE flavour but im not sure if the performance of say a 3850 will be to badly restricted by the X4 slot.
I will look in to it an dget back to you.