We're bringing our old ASRock Dual939-SATA2 out of retirement for these tests. This motherboard is ideal for AGP comparisons because it sports both a full-speed PCIe x16 slot as well as a full-speed AGP 8x slot. This will allow us to compare the AGP Radeon HD 4650 against its PCIe counterpart to see if the aging bus is causing any performance loss.
In addition to the PCIe Radeon HD 4650, we'll test the long-standing AGP flagship, ATI's Radeon HD 3850. Also, for those of you thinking about upgrading an older card, we're throwing in a Radeon X700 Pro for reference. The Radeon X700 Pro's performance is roughly comparable to that of the Radeon 9800 Pro, Radeon X1300 Pro, and GeForce 6600 GT, so users of all these cards will have a good idea what they have to gain with an upgrade.
Our CPU of choice this time around will be AMD's Athlon 64 X2 3800+, one of the first dual-core CPUs available. We already know that most modern games benefit from at least a dual-core CPU, so we thought the Athlon 64 X2 3800+ would be a good baseline.
We were also planning to test an Athlon X2 5600+ in order to gauge which games were CPU- and GPU-limited. Unfortunately, our Athlon 64 X2 5600+ CPU didn't agree with the ASRock Dual939-SATA2 CPU expansion card, so we'll have to explore what a faster processor can do in the aforementioned follow-up.
As for the operating system, we've chosen good-old Windows XP 32-bit, which we think will be the typical operating system for an older box sporting AGP connectivity. In Part 2, we may explore what Vista can do. Let us know your thoughts on which you'd prefer to see tested in the comments section.
Note the Frankenstien-esque collection of RAM -- we considered cleaning this up, but it's probably a good representation of a lot of older rigs that have been upgraded over time. While the system sports a full 2 gigabytes of the stuff, it all has to run at the speed of the lowest common denominator, and that's DDR 333. Even so, this isn't likely to cause a large performance hit compared to running 400 MHz memory.
The only setup issue of note was the driver situation. The most recent Catalyst drivers don't seem to work with the new Gigabyte GV-R465D2-1GI AGP, so we used the ones that came bundled with the card. They worked fine with no issues, but buyers should know it might be a while (if at all) before the official Catalyst package supports this new graphics card. Other than that, we should mention that the antiquated Radeon X700 card isn't supported anymore, so we had to use older Catalyst 9.3 drivers.
|Test System Configuration|
Athlon 64 X2 3800+
Patriot EP PC3500 (CL2.0-3-2-5) (1 x 1 GB)
Kingston KVR PC3500 (CL3.0-3-3-8) (2 x 512 MB)
Samsung PC2700 (CL2.5-3-3-7) (1 x 512 MB)
Radeon HD 4650 AGP - 600 MHz GPU, 400 MHz Memory, 1 GB DDR2
Western Digital WD1200JB
Integrated 100 Mb Networking
Microsoft Windows XP Professional 32-bit SP2
Radeon HD 4850 PCIe, Radeon HD 3850 AGP: Catalyst 9.6
|Left 4 Dead|
Version 1014, Custom THG Benchmark
Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 9, 32-bit executable, benchmark tool
|Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.|
|World in Conflict|
Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Custom THG Benchmark
|Far Cry 2|
DirectX 9, 32-bit executable, benchmark tool