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Conclusion

Radeon 3850 AGP Plus Single-Core CPU
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Radeon 3850 AGP

We can draw a number of conclusions based on the benchmark results we’ve seen from our experimentation with the Radeon 3850 AGP. The main point that comes to mind, though, is that in contrast to only a year ago, the newest wave of game titles are most definitely very CPU dependent. An older single core CPU paired with the latest and most powerful video card will not allow the user to play the newest titles, as the CPU will slow the system down too much.

The bright spot is for people who would like to use their old AGP rig as a home theatre system; the 3850 AGP makes HD-DVD and Blu-ray viewing possible, if not perfect. We’re not sure if the cheaper 2600 XT would do the same job in this regard, however.

As far as pure gaming is concerned, while folks who have an older single core system with an AGP slot and a Geforce 6600 GT class card will see a big return from investing only in a powerful video card like the AGP Radeon 3850, they’d see a similar return with the much cheaper AGP 2600 XT. For these folks, the AGP Radeon 2600 XT will likely be the most cost effective stopgap measure, as the gains from an X1950 PRO or AGP 3850 will certainly be minimized with a single core CPU. It’s pretty clear that the writing is already on the wall: older single core CPUs are not going to cut it for very long, and in fact, the once-mighty single core Athlon 64 is already bumping up against obsolescence.

The story is probably very different for people who have an upgrade path to dual core CPUs, however. Those with single core CPUs on a Socket 939, Socket AM2, or Socket 775 motherboard will likely find a colossal performance increase when they invest in a dual core CPU and more powerful graphics card. This is precisely what we will be exploring in Part 2 of our AGP analysis involving the AGP Radeon 3850, when we will upgrade our single core Socket 939 Athlon 64 3400+ to a dual core Athlon X2 3800+. While this is far from the fastest CPU available, it’s typical of a lot of the older dual core AGP platforms out there, and will give us a good idea of what kind of benefits will result from a CPU upgrade paired with an AGP Radeon 3850. Will it make Crysis playable with higher physics detail settings? Will all of the games show a boost in playability? Or will the slow 2.0 GHz clock speed of the X2 3800+ bottleneck the games even more than the 2.2 GHz Athlon 3400+ did? Stay tuned to Tom’s Hardware to find out!

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  • 4 Hide
    nofxman , May 28, 2008 1:49 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    slapdashzero , May 28, 2008 1:52 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    xx12amanxx , May 28, 2008 2:05 PM
    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!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 28, 2008 2:05 PM
    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..
  • 2 Hide
    Preytor , May 28, 2008 2:17 PM
    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".
  • 0 Hide
    Jakt , May 28, 2008 2:20 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , May 28, 2008 2:36 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , May 28, 2008 2:39 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 28, 2008 2:44 PM
    Great article

    shame that you ran the memory in single channel mode though.

  • 1 Hide
    Mach5Motorsport , May 28, 2008 3:44 PM
    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 Hide
    geotech , May 28, 2008 3:49 PM
    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
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , May 28, 2008 3:53 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    wild9 , May 28, 2008 4:05 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Kohlhagen , May 28, 2008 4:06 PM
    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..
  • 1 Hide
    Barzenak , May 28, 2008 4:59 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    bobafett4ever , May 28, 2008 5:01 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , May 28, 2008 5:02 PM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 28, 2008 5:08 PM
    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
  • 0 Hide
    hackerspunk , May 28, 2008 5:16 PM
    i still don't know how much power that atom need
  • 0 Hide
    velocityg4 , May 28, 2008 5:58 PM
    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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