Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Optimizing Our AGP Platform: ASRock Dual939-SATA2

Gaming With AGP Graphics: Overclock That CPU!
By

For our tests, we used an ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 motherboard that supports AMD’s Socket 939 natively and Socket AM2 through a CPU upgrade daughterboard. This is a unique feature that a handful of ASRock boards offer, but the basic procedure for minimizing the CPU bottleneck in any old AGP system is the same: buy a faster CPU or overclock what you have.

We looked around locally and found a used AM2-based Athlon 64 X2 4200+ for $45. For sure, we could have worked with our existing Athlon X2 3800+, but we wanted something with a higher clock multiplier so that we wouldn’t have to push it as hard to reach our goals. Besides, the price was right and this CPU could serve our overclocking purposes nicely.

Plan on spending $100 for an AGP graphics card upgrade to kick some life into your old system, and another $50 for an overclockable CPU if your processor is an aging single-core model or an overclocking dud.

With a 2.2 GHz stock clock speed, the Athlon X2 4200+ isn't the fastest AM2 CPU our motherboard can handle, but it should overclock to 2.6 GHz or slightly beyond with a stock cooler, which roughly matches Athlon X2 5000+ specifications. We could have spent a lot more on a faster processor, like an Athlon 64 FX-62 at 2.8 GHz. But it's not really worthwhile, since we don't want to invest too much in the old system. Remember, we're overclocking to get the most out of our old hardware. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend enough cash to build a new one.

In our particular case, since we couldn’t find a Socket 939 candidate fast enough for our needs, we settled on an AM2-based model. Because of this, we also had to shift from DDR to DDR2 memory, since the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 requires DDR2 on its AM2 daughterboard. This isn't typical of what most people will have to deal with, but the performance should demonstrate a best-case scenario compared to our last article. Remember, in part one, we employed a hodgepodge of memory DDR memory modules in order to hit 2GB, resulting in a lower clock. We accepted this scenario because it accurately represented the mixing and matching one might experience with an older system. After our new benchmarks are run, we'll have the opportunity to compare results. These two extremes should give us a good indication of the range of performance one can expect between a system with slower RAM versus a faster system with memory running in dual-channel mode.

Installing a CPU on a daughterboard isn't something we do every day, but the procedure was simple and it worked well enough. Kudos to ASRock for manufacturing a motherboard with literally years of longevity.

With everything running smoothly, it came time to overclock the beast. We're not looking for a extreme tweak here, but we want to achieve a nice boost that will provide meaningful benefits in our gaming tests. Additionally, our build is only valid if it won't cause overheating with the CPU running 24/7. We targeted an overclock of 2.6 GHz, which is a 400 MHz increase from the stock Athlon X2 4200+. Since the Athlon X2 5000+ runs at 2.6 GHz and has the same architecture and cache configuration as the Athlon X2 4200+, the resulting performance should closely demonstrate what an Athlon X2 5000+ would enable.

To get this speed, all we had to do was alter a few settings in the BIOS. We increased the reference clock to 237 MHz, up from the stock 200 MHz. With the Athlon X2 4200+’s multiplier of 11x, this gave us a CPU clock speed of 2,607 MHz. For stability's sake, we didn't need to add any CPU voltage, but we lowered our HyperTransport multiplier to 3x from the stock 4x, giving us a HyperTransport speed of 948 MHz after the overclock (very close to the stock 1,000 MHz). We also played with the memory speed and set it to 333 MHz in the BIOS. Since this sets the memory speed to 333 MHz at the stock FSB speed of 200 MHz, our actual memory frequency ended up as 372 MHz (744 MHz DDR). All of these settings are quite conservative, as we want to demonstrate something that an average user can achieve without difficulty.

There is one more clock speed we could tweak: frequencies on the new AGP Radeon HD 4650. Unfortunately, there’s not much to report here. The beta drivers included with the card didn't support ATI’s Overdrive feature. With the nice non-reference cooler Gigabyte included, it's a shame we weren't able to unleash the card's overclocking potential. Perhaps in the future, the AGP Radeon HD 4650 will be supported by AMD's Catalyst drivers and Overdrive.

Display all 117 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    manjyomethunder , August 25, 2009 7:43 AM
    jamesedgeuk2000"Still, an overall upgrade would still be way better than buying one of these old timers and try to suspend the inescapable destruction."Yes because buying a new motherboard AND cpu AND memory AND gfx card is cheaper than buying a gfx card and overclocking your cpu isnt it?


    In the long run yes, seeing as the AGP Radeon 4650 is twice the price of the PCI-Express version anyway, so there's some money saved right there anyway. In the case that you have one of these ridiculous Socket 939 ASRock boards with the AM2 daughterboard...I mean really? You'd rather buy an overpriced GPU, new RAM and an outdated CPU so that you don't have to buy an ENTIRELY new motherboard? It's not even worth it.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    megamanx00 , August 25, 2009 6:42 AM
    Yeah, playing Crysis on low aint too fun :D . Still a 3850 with a 2.6GHz X2 is enough for mostly medium details at like 1024x768 or 1280x1024. Anyway yeah getting anything more than a 2600XT for an old AGP system requires an overclocked dual core. Would have been nice to see some numbers from an overclocked dual core P4, since there are a few of those on AGP out there, but I'm sure the results would have been pretty pretty sad ^_^.
  • -5 Hide
    masterjaw , August 25, 2009 7:06 AM
    This is a memorabilia on how AGP-based systems struggle to perform well with recent games. Still, an overall upgrade would still be way better than buying one of these old timers and try to suspend the inescapable destruction.
  • 4 Hide
    jamesedgeuk2000 , August 25, 2009 7:26 AM
    "Still, an overall upgrade would still be way better than buying one of these old timers and try to suspend the inescapable destruction."

    Yes because buying a new motherboard AND cpu AND memory AND gfx card is cheaper than buying a gfx card and overclocking your cpu isnt it?
  • 12 Hide
    manjyomethunder , August 25, 2009 7:43 AM
    jamesedgeuk2000"Still, an overall upgrade would still be way better than buying one of these old timers and try to suspend the inescapable destruction."Yes because buying a new motherboard AND cpu AND memory AND gfx card is cheaper than buying a gfx card and overclocking your cpu isnt it?


    In the long run yes, seeing as the AGP Radeon 4650 is twice the price of the PCI-Express version anyway, so there's some money saved right there anyway. In the case that you have one of these ridiculous Socket 939 ASRock boards with the AM2 daughterboard...I mean really? You'd rather buy an overpriced GPU, new RAM and an outdated CPU so that you don't have to buy an ENTIRELY new motherboard? It's not even worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    amdfangirl , August 25, 2009 8:40 AM
    Interesting daughter board... sure it might not bottleneck tho?
  • -1 Hide
    masterjaw , August 25, 2009 8:57 AM
    jamesedgeuk2000Yes because buying a new motherboard AND cpu AND memory AND gfx card is cheaper than buying a gfx card and overclocking your cpu isnt it?


    IIRC, I said better not cheaper. Sure thing, you could save some money by buying AGP chips for your aging components. Spending $100 for an AGP card that is way below the performance of the equally-priced 4850. Is it worth it? No. For the mean time, you could survive playing at low settings but how long will your system hold on? By the time your system quits, you might be even thinking if you should've saved that $100 and just upgraded the whole system for the long run. This AGP cards recently released are just a remedy, not a solution. Still a full upgrade is an imminent path that those with old systems must take.
  • -1 Hide
    marcos669 , August 25, 2009 8:58 AM
    Well, this is better tomshardware, but isn´t still enough, put the AGP cards in an Asrock AliveDual-esata2 or the AM2NF3-VSTA,with athlon 5xxx or 7xxx and DDR2-800 memory, and you will see 3850 AGP can be much more competitive and Crysis can be Played in High settings.

    I think i would be a good idea, but the web y your, of course, but it will be fine for this people that say the 3850 AGP is not fine, the would see they are completly wrong.
  • 5 Hide
    rickzor , August 25, 2009 10:24 AM
    Aww this is my motherboard! Although i dont use the daughterboard but instead a use the pci-e on the motherboard (yes it comes with both, pci-e and agp) with a gf9600gt, and a powerful athlon 64 3500+ overclocked to 2.5ghz.
    It's my main computer.
  • -7 Hide
    rickzor , August 25, 2009 10:24 AM
    Aww this is my motherboard! Although i dont use the daughterboard but instead a use the pci-e on the motherboard (yes it comes with both, pci-e and agp) with a gf9600gt, and a powerful athlon 64 3500+ overclocked to 2.5ghz.
    It's my main computer.
  • -7 Hide
    rickzor , August 25, 2009 10:26 AM
    doublepost.
  • -4 Hide
    dingumf , August 25, 2009 10:58 AM
    Use your $100 for something else like a nice dinner.

    Don't even bother upgrading because its still crap.

    Either buy a new machine or don't even bother.
  • 0 Hide
    amnotanoobie , August 25, 2009 11:06 AM
    I think this could have been more interesting if HD movie playback was included. Some of these AGP systems might have really old cards, GF4 MX440, GF5 5600, ATi 9800, ATi X1600, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    techpops , August 25, 2009 11:53 AM
    megamanx00Yeah, playing Crysis on low aint too fun . Still a 3850 with a 2.6GHz X2 is enough for mostly medium details at like 1024x768 or 1280x1024. Anyway yeah getting anything more than a 2600XT for an old AGP system requires an overclocked dual core. Would have been nice to see some numbers from an overclocked dual core P4, since there are a few of those on AGP out there, but I'm sure the results would have been pretty pretty sad ^_^.


    Did you actually look at the benchmarks? I'm running a PC about the same speed as the one being tested here and play most games at 1680x1050 with most details up fairly high or at max. I can't use heavy anti-aliasing but at 1680x I don't really need that too badly.

    And my CPU isn't overclocked so that isn't necessary at all. The old dual core cpu's from AMD are dirt cheap, at any speed so there really isn't a need to buy a middle of the road one

    So where did this 1024x crap come from? There isn't a single game out that I could only run at 1024x. The lowest res I'll select is a widescreen 1280x which can look just fine considering how old this PC is.

    This is aimed at the article. I have the 3850 and have no problems using the overclocking built into the driver. Not sure why that wasn't an option for you guys.
  • 1 Hide
    amorrd , August 25, 2009 12:02 PM

    thanks... enjoyed that article.

    Wasn't expecting to see such a different between the O/C and the non O/C setup.

  • 0 Hide
    techpops , August 25, 2009 12:02 PM
    masterjawIIRC, I said better not cheaper. Sure thing, you could save some money by buying AGP chips for your aging components. Spending $100 for an AGP card that is way below the performance of the equally-priced 4850. Is it worth it? No. For the mean time, you could survive playing at low settings but how long will your system hold on? By the time your system quits, you might be even thinking if you should've saved that $100 and just upgraded the whole system for the long run. This AGP cards recently released are just a remedy, not a solution. Still a full upgrade is an imminent path that those with old systems must take.


    What about the people who have been using this same system for years and are still finding it holds up for most games? I'd be one of these.

    As for upgrading an AGP card now. Well that would depend entirely on funds. From a performance perspective of course it would ideal to buy a whole new set of components but if money is tight, a top of the line AGP card does hold its own today and its today you'll be using it. Without the money to upgrade to more modern hardware you can't really blame a lack of future proofing as that's just not an option for those people on a budget in this situation.

  • 0 Hide
    mitch074 , August 25, 2009 12:13 PM
    That all means that I will have to...

    Overclock my X2 3800+. Damn. It's only 4 years old.
  • 7 Hide
    KyleSTL , August 25, 2009 12:25 PM
    Thanks for performing AGP's last rites, cleeve.
  • 0 Hide
    marcos669 , August 25, 2009 12:37 PM
    mitch074That all means that I will have to...Overclock my X2 3800+. Damn. It's only 4 years old.


    Well, upgrading an Agp system diserves only in you already have a 3850 AGP, or if you already have a 939 o AM2 motherboard with a dual-core proccesor and if the motherboard only aceppts AGP cards.

    For example upgrading a PC with a pentium 4 and a 1600 pro AGP card would be stupid, but upgrading a pentium 4 that already has a 3850 AGP oe 4670 AGP, will be fine for most os games.

    There is one point of atention about the processor, if your processor is an dual-core 939 you must overclock it, by the other hand, if your processor is an AM2, like Athlon 5xxx o 7xxx you don´t need to overclock it, because ther is no bottleneck, or no so much between the am2 processor an the 3850/4670 AGP card.
  • -4 Hide
    apache_lives , August 25, 2009 12:38 PM
    Let me get this right, so you buy a half assed video card for some ancient machine and because, then you need a PSU so you buy one, then you need more ram, then your crappy motherboard dies so you end up with a pile of parts you spent dead money - waste of time.

    Heres a better idea - forget "future proof" and forget "upgrading an old machine" (within reason) - my pc's usually survive 1 overhaul and 1 upgrade package then there scrapped etc - MUCH better lifespan

    example: my rig started as a E6600 @ 3.2 + 2gb + 7900GT, and in one big batch i jumped to a Q6600, 8gb and 8800GT - final upgrade for it before i get a new rig.

    And as for AGP vs PCIE - if i remember correctly, atleast with the Nvidia 6600GT the AGP variants were actually quicker then the PCIE variants and had to be underclocked to line up performance - AGP (8x) being "slow" compared to PCIE (1.0) is a myth.
Display more comments