Radeon 3850 AGP Plus Single-Core CPU

Overclocking Attempts

We did try to overclock our Radeon 3850 AGP to see if we could squeeze any extra performance out of it. We were quite keen to demonstrate if the AGP 3850 could keep up with its 3870 cousin at identical clock speeds, to further examine if the AGP bus was causing any slowdowns (even though most of our benchmarks show that this is not the case).

Unfortunately, ATI’s Overdrive utility was completely uncooperative in this respect. Even though it was happy to change the clock speeds of the PCI Express version of the Radeon 3870, the drivers would not work on the AGP version of the card.

With no other working overclocking tools — we mentioned earlier in the review that we couldn’t get ATItool or ATI tray tools to work — we were unable to test this aspect of the card’s performance. Indeed, it looks as though this functionality isn’t supported in Vista at this time.

We also wanted to overclock the Athlon 3400+ CPU to see if we could up the ante and remove some of the CPU bottleneck, but we were once again foiled. To get the system running with 2 GB of memory, we had to use a Frankenstein mishmash of old DDR RAM that wasn’t particularly happy to accommodate any overclocking efforts. And to get any speed out of the CPU we had to slow down the RAM, which doesn’t tell us much, so we’ll have to wait until Part 2 of this review to see if a CPU change will significantly move the bottleneck. We should be able to secure some faster and more cooperative DDR memory by then as well, and we’ll be able to compare single and dual core CPU overclocking.

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  • nofxman
    This is the best article I have read lately, I installed AOC on an old desktop with a 2.8 P4 and vanilla 6600 and it ran like crap. I was debating purchasing a 3850 from Newegg until I saw how much the cpu holds it back so I just saved $80 buying a 2600pro instead.
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  • slapdashzero
    Excellent article. I love these "real world application" reads. I've got a garage full of older single core machines, and now I know that there are still useable things to be done with them.
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  • xx12amanxx
    Man i remember when my old 3000+ was considered fast..lol. But we already knew an older single core 64 would be a bottleneck.The real question is if a newer dual core will suffice? The computer i built for my mom has the older 3800+ dual in it and i paired it with a 7600gt. It played all games at that time great! She actually still uses it!
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  • Anonymous
    You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people..
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  • Preytor
    Nice to see such a great article done on AGP.
    AGP isn't dead yet. I still use a 7600GS 512MB on P4 @ 3.6Ghz, it's just fine for most games, and will play anything with the "right settings".
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  • Jakt
    Last week, I installed an AGP 2600xt in my Athlon 3000+ htpc, to replace an ATI 9600 AIW card that died. There was a very noticeable improvement in the picture quality on my television (Thanks, Avivo!), but there wasn't a large enough improvement in decoding HD to make it playable. I am still playing with the drivers to see if there is anything I can do to improve it, as theoretically it should be doable. The big problem that I have run into is that ATI has dumped support for this card on the AGP platform. I had specifically chosen ATI because it has superior support for dual monitors on an HTPC setup, but the lack of support is very discouraging.
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  • cleeve
    anonymous.You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people.


    What part of the story are we not telling?
    Look at the system specs, we had to use 3 types of old DDR RAM to get to 2GB, some of it was very cheap - not even 400 MHz stuff. It doesn't matter how much of a pro I am, you can't squeeze more performance out by raising the CPU clock and lowering the memory clock into the basement to get it to work.

    I managed to scrounge up some better stuff for part 2, and it looks like we'll be using XP instead of Vista which will open up some videocard overclocking options. So hold on there sport, overclocking is on the way.
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  • cleeve
    anonymous.You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people.


    What part of the story are we not telling?
    Look at the system specs, we had to use 3 types of old DDR RAM to get to 2GB, some of it was very cheap - not even 400 MHz stuff. It doesn't matter how much of a pro I am, you can't squeeze more performance out by raising the CPU clock and lowering the memory clock into the basement to get it to work.

    I managed to scrounge up some better stuff for part 2, and it looks like we'll be using XP instead of Vista which will open up some videocard overclocking options. So hold on there sport, overclocking is on the way.
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  • Anonymous
    Great article

    shame that you ran the memory in single channel mode though.
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  • Mach5Motorsport
    Congrats to Tom's Hardware for again demonstrating that AGP is still a decent interface. I'm sure all the collective PCIe ubergeeks will be again shouting how AGP is dead..... ;) much to their dismay. AGP has now outlived PCIe standard 1.0!
    1
  • geotech
    My main rig is a X23800 @3.5GHz and a 3850. Its runs flawlessly, all sorce games maxed, cod4, and crysis at medium 40fps. I'm dualing 2 19" @ 1440x900
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  • wild9
    xX12amanXxMan i remember when my old 3000+ was considered fast..lol. But we already knew an older single core 64 would be a bottleneck.The real question is if a newer dual core will suffice? The computer i built for my mom has the older 3800+ dual in it and i paired it with a 7600gt. It played all games at that time great! She actually still uses it!


    The 3800+ x2 S939 is also a good overclocker. Even if the board doesn't offer OC features in the bios, you can compromise by using some Windows-based tools.
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  • wild9
    Even with poor memory, that CPU should be able to produce a nice overclock. Maybe under-clock the RAM in the BIOS and over-clock the FSB in Windows.

    To really ramp the memory speed you could always run the system in single-channel mode, using that Patriot stick offering CL 2.0; that looks like a very nice bit of memory.

    For the record, I run a S939 retail Venice 3200+ (2.0GHz), at 2.5 on stock and can hit 2.7 with a bit more Vcore. I use Clockgen and CrystalCPUID to get many options not available in the BIOS (Abit NF-95). Works like a charm. With good cooling you can really ramp the Venice core right up.
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  • Kohlhagen
    I would like to see Crossfire on the old 939 system..

    using dual 3870, a 2.8ghz dual core, and 2GB 2-2-3-5 1T ram.

    I would send you my rig if you needed any of the above..
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  • Barzenak
    I have a x1950 500 meg card on my old p4 3.2 ee processor so I think there is not enough boost for the buck in agp. I will wait to replace my system and run what I can with what I have. So far I can compete ok as long as I stay clear of Crysis etc. I have enough other games to beat anyhow so no major loss with that tech demo basically.
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  • bobafett4ever
    Great review. It's nice to see you aren't overlooking a lot of us who have AGP and still want to make the most of it.
    I, for one, so not feel the need to go drop $1000+ on a new rig, although I do want good performance from what I have - which is an Atholon 64 4200+ on my socket 939 mobo (MSI Neo2) with a 3850AGP and 2 gig of PC3200 on XP Pro. People always say it's so old and outdated, but I feel it does the job well and am always looking for ideas to get every ounce out of it possible. I mostly play LotRO and swith
    Thanks for the great article and I look forward to part II with the dual cores.
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  • Reynod
    Jeez Don ... do you reviewers just trawl through our forum threads and pickup on our ideas or what ??

    heh heh.

    We have been tossing around advice to this end in a few threads lately.

    Good to see your on the ball !!

    Well done.
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  • Anonymous
    My Computer 3400+ 64 2 gigs ddr and lol 8800gts 512 stock motherboard new power supply can only over clock my prosser to 2.445 clockgen- only

    22" acer screen 1680x1050 run all games fine crysis demo 27fps avg whith high but sound on low object on med. when i found clock gen and over clocked it the cpu by %10 it gave me 7 more fps on avg, and all other newer games over 50 fps and much higher
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  • hackerspunk
    i still don't know how much power that atom need
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  • velocityg4
    This is quite interesting. I was considering upgrading my Athlon 64 3000+ SSE2 from the current X800XT to a 2600XT or 3850 for HDCP and DX10 but I guess the CPU is too much of a bottleneck now. And the SSE2 makes my old gaming rig a poor Hackintosh.

    Guess it's time to save for a Quad Core Intel and an 8800GT OC'ed. For great Windows gaming and OS X as a hackintosh plus HDCP compliance.
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