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Which AGP card: 3850 or 4000-series?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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August 31, 2009 4:16:39 PM

I read the reviews. And most of the comments. Just want some "A" or "B" opinions on my specific case. It sounds like the 4650 isn't even in the running, but I am not opposed to an alternative like the 4670 if the combination of 1GB memory and DDR3 is going to make it perform better for my specific uses. For that matter, I am open to any alternative if the performance is better and the price is similar. (ex. an Nvidia alternative?)

3850: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ati-agp-3850-agp,19...
4650: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-4650-agp,238...
4670: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

System
AMD Athlon 64-3200+
Gigabyte K8N-Pro
DDR 2 GB PC3200
HDs: Old-school raptors, non-RAID. Soon to be Intel X25-M (if between them and Newegg they can get their act together)

also looking to upgrade a 2nd system: the same but with 1GB of DDR and the 64-3000+ processor.

Games
GTA:SA/MTA-SA
Source: TF2, L4D (and assumably L4D2 when it comes out, if Valve and I agree on what a "fair" price is for owners of the original ;)  )
id Tech 4: ETQW, D3, maybe Wolfenstein depending on what develops with that scene.
WIC
Fallout 3
Bonus: COD4; if I can run Crysis good enough to play MWLL mod, I might get that game.
Plenty of old games too, but nothing that my X850 doesn't already excel at.

Considerations
  • Overall, I value high resolution, high quality models, and good framerates more than texture quality, but I would like to avoid textures less than "medium" when possible. And obviously in shooters I value the FPS that much more. For RTS/RPG it's not a huge deal, and in fact in those games I might be more inclined to go for nicer look and sacrifice frames.
  • Seems like there was some (possibly well-deserved) FUD going around about drivers/support for these back when they first came out, but do you think ATI supports them properly these days?
  • My main question affecting this decision regards the 256-bit memory bandwidth in the 3850. Is this card going to be faster than any 128-bit option no matter what? Is there any reason to consider one of the 1GB DDR3 128-bit cards?

    I would like to see definitive answers, like "Choose X!" with maybe a sentence or two of supporting reasoning. I am basically ready to buy a 3850 today, barring any unexpected vouches for the 4000-series cards. (In the broader scope: I am aware that a PCI-e upgrade might be a better solution, but I am not looking to build a new system right now.)

    Thanks very much in advance for your opinions and advice! :) 
    August 31, 2009 5:21:02 PM

    coozie7 said:
    Get yourself a nice hot mug of cocoa, sit down and have a read here:
    http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/radeon-4650-agp,review-31...
    Yes, that's actually one of the articles I linked to, but from the UK site! ;) 

    I did read it. (And in fact that's what prompted this whole investigation... before that, I was going to contentedly suffer with my existing setup until time comes for a whole new system.)

    Thanks to statements like...
    Quote:
    In fact, the older Radeon HD 3850 is probably faster, since it sports a wide 256-bit memory bus (compared to the 4650’s 128-bit bus) and fast DDR3 memory (compared to the 4650’s DDR2 memory)
    Quote:
    But look at how the older Radeon HD 3850 easily surpasses the other, more modern, contenders. This can only be attributable to the card's memory bandwidth advantage, with fast GDDR3 and a 256-bit memory bus compared to the Radeon HD 4650's 128-bit bus and slower DDR2.
    Quote:
    At this point, it looks like the Radeon HD 3850 will remain the king of AGP...
    and
    Quote:
    ...it's hard to recommend the AGP Radeon HD 4650 until the Radeon HD 3850 is phased out. The Radeon HD 3850 remains the king of AGP game performance, especially for resolutions above 1280x1024.
    and the repeated graphs where it appears to stomp all other contenders, my position was that I should get out about $200, kiss it goodbye, and buy 2 3850's. ;)  But, as I have a hard time parting with my hard-earned funds, I thought I would at least do a bit of background research w/r to the possibility that the 1GB/DDR3 combination -- which is not specifically covered in that article -- might give competitive results (even though it doesn't have the 256-bit memory bandwidth).

    The CPU bottleneck situation is definitely a bummer, but the position I am coming from is that I currently do play all the games I listed (except COD4), on the hardware I listed. So, to me, to pay $100 per system for what sounds like it's going to be an appreciable improvement on the status quo seems like a no-brainer. Again, I mainly wanted opinions on how the 1GB/DDR3-based card might compare. (And maybe some experienced insights on what to expect from id Tech 4 games.)

    For what it's worth, resolution-wise, I would like to hit at least 1280x960, and 1600x1200 would be golden, esp. w/ AA. But, at the same time, for example right now I play L4D at 800x600, just to keep the frames decent, and if it comes down to playing (shooters) at a lower resolution to keep my frames at least at the 40-60 mark, I will.

    Thanks for the input! :) 
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    August 31, 2009 6:00:56 PM

    Imo, you should NOT upgrade. Save up ~$200-300 for a new motherboard + CPU +DDR2/DDR3 + GPU for the Christmas/Thanksgiving season. You should be able to get a good deal on CPU/GPU/RAM/Motherboard during that time. You are essentially throwing money down the drain. AGP is dead.

    Also realize, you are going to bottleneck the SSD with your curent hardware. Save that money and put it towards a new system.

    1. The new ATI 5xxx cards will be out soon.

    2. i5 will be out soon.

    3. Prices for current hardware will go down by Christmas/Thanksgiving.

    Can't you just wait?

    At any rate, if you must go for it, get 3850.
    August 31, 2009 7:55:02 PM

    Shadow703793,

    Thanks for the input. I'm going to make a thread in New Builds forum, and see what possibilities exist from that angle.

    I understand that I could do a new build pretty cheap, but part of the appeal of the graphics card upgrade is the simplicity. Talking new system, all of a sudden the discussion goes from "OK I can throw some basically disposable $$ at my old systems, upgrade a single part, and have enhanced performance that is probably going to keep me impressed for a decent while" (esp. considering how long I've dealt with the crud I presently have...) to "OK I can build a low-budget new rig for $2-300, but what do I really want/need out of a new system??"

    And the answer to that is: I had my sights set on something a notch or 2 above "economy." Quad-core as a minimum, I would think. I do everything on my PC! Games are fun, but when it comes time for a new build, my considerations expand to include all my other uses: audio/video production, various rendering, basic business/productivity multitasking, software development. Of course for the media production applications I want top-speed everything, yet still want to have a halfway reasonable budget! So now $2-300 starts to creep upwards, as does the amount of research I have to do. And the $$ amount is not really a hard cap, of course. It's more like "how much will I allow myself to spend?" Hence the creep! ;)  (I don't follow this stuff at all; I just do a "crash course" when I'm ready to buy/build. I'm an enthusiast, all right, but from the applications standpoint, not from the system builder standpoint!)

    As for "waiting"... well, it's not preferred! ;)  But if there is some groundbreaking price-performance development right around the corner, I would probably convince myself to wait for it.

    Like I said, I'm going to make a thread... but if you have any quick "go-to" suggestions on a current high-value CPU/mobo/GPU combination, I'd like to hear them!

    Thanks again!
    August 31, 2009 8:23:24 PM

    I am going to have to agree with building a complete new system rather than upgrading video cards. In half a year or so it will be wasted cash.

    Not long ago I was in the same exact situation you were, for some reason I just couldn't let go of my 3200+... haha

    I would suggest looking into building a system around an AMD dual core, performance is incredible for the price. I paid roughly 250 dollars for my entire system (re-using old drives and stuff) and I am currently able to run Crysis on all high settings. Glad I moved on.. haha

    !