There are really only two missing features on the 3850 AGP, compared to its 3850 PCIe brethren. One is, of course, a lack of Crossfire connector; since Crossfire is quite dependent on the PCI Express bus, this isn’t really a surprise. The second missing feature is also related to the lack of PCI Express: the AGP Radeon 3850 card does not support sound transmission through its HDMI adapter, as this feature also requires the PCI Express bus to function.
Other than these, Powercolor’s Radeon 3850 AGP is functionally identical to every other Radeon 3850 out there. It sports 320 universal shader units, 16 ROPs, and a 256-bit memory bus. Powercolor stayed very close to reference clock speeds with the AGP Radeon 3850, which has a core clock speed of 668 MHz and a memory clock speed of 828 MHz. Because of this, we should expect performance parity with the standard Radeon 3850s out there.
In addition, Powercolor opted to include a full 512 MB of memory instead of the 256 MB option, which can only help the card when running games with large texture sets.
Now that we know what’s under the hood, let’s take a closer look at Powercolor’s AGP savior and see if there’s anything that further separates it from the pack.
The first thing that visually distinguishes Powercolor’s AGP Radeon 3850 from PCI Express Radeon 3850s out there is that the card sports a large aftermarket copper Zerotherm cooler. Based on its appearance, this is probably the positively reviewed GX815 model. Considering the poor reputation the previous AGP king — the X1950 PRO — had for overheating, this aftermarket cooler is probably a very good idea.
Because this aftermarket cooler doesn’t cover the memory modules like the reference cooler does, the card has a heat spreader applied, and the memory is cooled as air moves through the fan. We never experienced any problems or crashing at all during testing, so it seemed to work just fine.
Included in the box were a number of accessories, notably a Molex-to-PCIe power cable for the video card. That’s probably a very good idea, since we imagine that a number of older AGP systems will not have a PCIe power connector. Also included was a DVI-to-VGA adapter, a component video output adapter cable, an S-video video adapter cable, quick install sheet, and manual. Curiously, there was no DVI-to-HDMI adapter, so the only HDTV outputs available out of the box are through the DVI or component video adapter. There were also no included game titles.
We half expected to encounter installation shenanigans when installing this AGP card in a Windows Vista machine, but to our surprise everything went incredibly smoothly. We popped the card in, plugged in the power connector, installed the 8.4 Catalyst driver, and we were good to go. No hitches, glitches, or hiccups. Nice!
Emboldened by the lack of problems, we proceeded to benchmark the card…