Looking for information and recommenation

I am in need of a new video card on rather slim budget - under 150, preferably.

I have an aging P4 Northwood that I believe was near top-of-the-line about 6 years ago. I have a Ati Radeon 9800. Unfortunately, I have paid attention to graphics card technology in a long time, so I am very, very out of date.

My graphics card slot is an AGP version 3.0, with a transfer rate of 8x, wide side band enabled. I plan to upgrade my computer, or at least keep this one around, for a long time to come. I understand that the AGP standard is dying in favor of PCI-e.

I read that the Radeon HD 3850 512MB is a good buy for this category, but I can't tell if I need a 16x AGP slot to take advantage of it or not. Does anyone know if I do? Or is 8x good enough?

In any case, I am looking for a card that will be useful on other systems as well, as I plan on upgrading sometime in the future. If AGP is no longer supported (will it be? or are mobos no longer supporting the slot?) then perhaps a PCI card would be better. But are all cards PCI-E now? It seems the this article (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card,2064.html - Best Video Cards Nov '08) lists only PCI E cards. I doubt I have one of these PCI-E slots since my PC is 6 years old, and I am not sure how to find out either. I will be keeping this mobo for the foreseeable future, so if PCI-E is only available on newer motherboards and all gfx cards are PCI-E now, then I should just stick with AGP I suppose, since if I buy a new mobo, it will have PCI-E on it, I take it.

So all in all, I am looking for some basic information - please confirm/disconfirm any of the statements I made above, along with any information you would like to add. Everything is appreciated. I was on top of these things 6 years ago, but really never saw the need to upgrade (more of an RTS gamer). Still wouldn't be upgrading if my card wasn't dying, leaving artifacts everywhere....
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  1. AGP is a dying interface, it was replaced by the PCIex16 1.1 which is now being replaced by the PCIex16 2.0. 2.0 graphic cards are backwards compatible with 1.1 sockets. Much the same as AGP4x going to AGP8x. As far as i know there are no motherboards still being manufactured with the AGP socket. You will not be able to move any AGP card you buy to replace your old one into a new build. Right now the AGP HD3850 is the highest end graphic card you can buy for AGP. In the article you quoted there's a graphic card hierarchy chart which will give you relative power of cards, these apply to AGP as well as PCIe cards. It pretty much depends on how much money you want to spend, also be aware you might have to upgrade your power supply if you go with a HD3850.
    List of power usage for different cards
    hierarchy chart
  2. someone correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe there ever was 16x AGP, the 16x is a PCI-E thing. the 3850 might be overkill for your processor as well, I would probably get a lesser card for that system, there is no way that this card will transfer to a new system, so I wouldn't spend too much on it. Not sure if you would have checked this yet or not but before you buy a new card make sure your old one is clean and that the fan is spinning, if there is a lot of dirt buildup on the graphics card or the fan isn't spinning that would cause overheating which would cause artifacts. if the fan isn't spinning then take the card out and the fan out, peel the sticker of the fan back and there should be a bearing under there, put a small drop of motor oil or some other kind of oil on it then spin the fan by hand until it frees up. put the sticker back and reassemble, that should fix that problem if it was the cause. Otherwise, I would just consider building a new system now if you can afford it, that system is getting pretty dated to be putting more money into it.
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