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AGP Interface

The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: October 2006

Best AGP Card For Under $100

Radeon X700

Codename: RV410, .1 micron technology
Eight pipelines
128 bit memory bus
400 MHz core, 300 MHz DDR (600 MHz effective) Memory

The X700 might not have the newest technology, but it probably has the best frame rates of any new sub-$100 AGP card. With a higher clock speed than the 6600, it's a bit faster at most things, but it doesn't really dominate.

Geforce 6600

Codename: NV43, .1 micron technology
eight pipelines
128 bit memory bus
300 MHz core, 275 MHz DDR (550 MHz effective) Memory

The eight-pipeline 6600 architecture has proven itself in the Geforce 6600 GT. Deprived of the Gut's higher memory speeds, this is still probably the most powerful AGP/PCI-e card for under $100 online, and can be over clocked to good effect. Be wary of the 6600LE, which has 200 MHz DDR (400 MHz effective) memory that cripples the card.

Both of these cards are good choices; just don't expect any miracles out of them. Most new games should be playable at 1024x768, although with the tougher titles, you might have to lower some settings.

Best AGP Card For ~$125: 3 Way Tie

Radeon X1600

Codename: R530, 90 nm technology
12 Pixel shaders, five Vertex shaders, four Texture units, four Raster operations processors
128 bit memory bus (256 bit ring bus)
500 MHz core, 400 MHz DDR (800 MHz effective) Memory

The X1600 is an odd duck. It sports 12 advanced pixel shaders but it's crippled with a four-pipeline architecture. It's often referred to as a "12-pipeline" card, but this is not entirely true, as it's 12 pixel processors work in banks of three and output four pixels per clock - the hallmark of a four-pipeline architecture.

Regardless, the result is a card that offers relatively high performance in some games, and relatively low performance in other games. On average, the X1600 PRO performs on par with the 6600 GT, and offers slightly higher technology (adaptive AA) as well as advanced DVD/video playback/encoding features. But if you're interested in this card, do a little benchmark research and make sure it works well on the games you play.

Geforce 6600 GT

Codename: NV43, 10 micron technology
8 pipelines
128 bit memory bus
500 MHz core, 500 MHz DDR (1000 MHz effective) Memory

Although a bit dated, the 6600 GT is still one of the better AGP choices. This solid and consistently performing card has been dutifully holding its own in the AGP segment for well over a year now. It is known to be a good overclocker as well.

Radeon X800 GTO 128 MB

Codename: R420, 13 micron technology
12 Pixel shaders, six Vertex shaders, 12 Texture units, 12 Raster operations processors
256 bit memory bus
400 MHz core, 350 MHz DDR (700 MHz Effective) Memory

The X800GTO will beat the X1600 PRO and 6600 GT more often than not. It's probably the most powerful stock card in the sub-$150 AGP category. Some people will complain about their lack of SM 3.0 capability, but in this category it really doesn't matter that much because none of these cards is really powerful enough to pull off advanced HDR effects with decent frame rates for some titles.

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