The last time we wrote up an AGP analysis in early 2007, the most demanding game title available was Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Game developers had not yet really taken advantage of multiple-core CPUs, and the single-core Athlon 64 was quite capable of delivering excellent gaming performance when paired with a fast enough graphics card; the CPU was rarely the bottleneck. Our testing showed that even the 8x AGP bus didn’t slow gaming down one iota compared to PCI Express. While the older Athlon XP 2500+ slowed things down a bit, everything was still quite playable as long as your video card was fast enough.
How quickly times have changed — we’re now well into 2008, and we have new demanding game titles like Crysis and Supreme Commander. What we also have from our friends at ATI is a relatively new card for the aging AGP bus: the Radeon 3850 AGP. Powercolor and Sapphire are the only companies to offer the 3850 on the AGP bus, and today we will be checking out Powercolor’s offering.
While the old Athlon XP won’t cut it anymore, we’ll be testing the AGP 3850 with one of the faster single core CPUs available: the Athlon 64 3400+. This model should be quite representative of what a lot of older systems are sporting at the moment, and will even deliver similar performance to newer single-core Sempron and Celeron CPUs.
In Part 2 of this series we will be upping the ante with a dual-core CPU representative of many older Socket 939 systems: the Athlon X2 3800+. After this series is completed, we should have a very good idea what kind of performance an AGP 3850 will provide in a variety of AGP systems, both single and dual core.