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Test Settings And Benchmarks

Gigabyte's Radeon HD 4650: Are AGP Graphics Still Good Enough?
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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
CPU

Athlon 64 X2 3800+
Socket 939, 2.0 GHz, 2 x 512 KB Cache

Motherboards

ASRock 9393dual-SATA2
ULI 1695 chipset, BIOS v2.3

RAM

Patriot EP PC3500 (CL2.0-3-2-5)  (1 x 1 GB)
DDR-400 at DDR-333 CAS 2.5-3-3-7

Kingston KVR PC3500 (CL3.0-3-3-8) (2 x 512 MB)
DDR-400 at DDR-333 CAS 2.5-3-3-7

Samsung PC2700 (CL2.5-3-3-7) (1 x 512 MB)
DDR-333 at DDR-333 CAS 2.5-3-3-7

Graphics

Radeon HD 4650 AGP - 600 MHz GPU, 400 MHz Memory, 1 GB DDR2
Radeon HD 4650 PCIe - 600 MHz GPU, 400 MHz Memory, 512 MB DDR2
Radeon HD 3850 AGP - 668 MHz GPU, 829 MHz Memory, 512 MB DDR3
Radeon X700 AGP - 425 MHz GPU, 432 MHz Memory, 256 MB DDR2

Hard Drive

Western Digital WD1200JB
120 GB, 7,200 RPM, 8 MB cache, UltraATA/100

Sound

Integrated Audio

Network

Integrated 100 Mb Networking

Power

Nextherm PSU460
460W, ATX 12V, EPS 12V

Software

OS

Microsoft Windows XP Professional 32-bit SP2

Graphics

Radeon HD 4850 PCIe, Radeon HD 3850 AGP: Catalyst 9.6
Radeon X700: Catalyst 9.3
Radeon HD 4650 AGP: 8.62-090423a080042E
Ati2mtag 6.14.10.6959 / XP

Benchmark Configuration

3D Games

Left 4 Dead

Version 1014, Custom THG Benchmark
Test Set 1: Medium Settings, High paged memory
Test Set 2: Medium Settings, High paged memory, 4x MSAA, 8x AF

Crysis

Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 9, 32-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: Low Quality, Medium Textures, Shadows, Shaders, Water, Sound
Test Set 2: Low Quality, Medium Textures, Shadows, Shaders, Water, Sound, Physics

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

In-game benchmark
Test Set 1: Lowest Settings, DirectX 9
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, DirectX 9

World in Conflict

Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA / 16x AF

Fallout 3

Custom THG Benchmark
Test Set 1: Medium Settings
Test Set 2: High Settings, 4x MSAA, 8x AF

Far Cry 2

DirectX 9, 32-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: Low Quality
Test Set 2: Medium Quality, HDR Enabled

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  • 7 Hide
    amdfangirl , August 20, 2009 6:32 AM
    Don't they have an AGP HD 4670?
  • 8 Hide
    drealar , August 20, 2009 6:51 AM
    *Raise up hand*
    I'm still using an AGP HD 2600XT :D .
    Good to see that Gigabyte and actually Sapphire too coming up with another card for AGP. But frankly, we (most AGP users in my neighborhood ) are keeping our dollars for now since upgrading to a new system is the most likely option in 2010.

    Another thing is, from the benchmarks, it got me worried if I ever upgrade my GPU since most of the result shows CPU bottleneck. If these are the result for a dual core Athlon, then it must be worse for my single core P4 HT :( 

    Oh BTW, are you reading the power consumption correctly?
    "Even the Radeon HD 3850 and its GDDR3 memory peak at a mere 7 W more than the PCIe Radeon HD 4650 under load."
    194 - 178 = 16W. So either the graph is wrong or you mis calculated.
  • 3 Hide
    zinabas , August 20, 2009 7:32 AM
    amdfangirlDon't they have an AGP HD 4670?


    a quick search for "agp 4670" on newegg gave me and (Core clock: 750 mhz, 1gb ddr3)

    I own a pcie version of it and I really think before part 2 of this article goes up you should acquire one.
  • 4 Hide
    rambo117 , August 20, 2009 7:33 AM
    amdfangirlDon't they have an AGP HD 4670?


    yah, i just saw that on the egg today. Must have just come out.
    i liked the article btw. ouch at the performance numbers though xD
  • -1 Hide
    zinabas , August 20, 2009 7:34 AM
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161284
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131161

    links aren't working
  • 0 Hide
    rambo117 , August 20, 2009 7:36 AM
    yah, this is the one i saw: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161284

    looks pretty nifty. iceq FTW!
  • 5 Hide
    eddieroolz , August 20, 2009 7:37 AM
    AGP is like Windows XP, it just never dies :D 

    Anyways, it's interesting to read something about legacy ports for a change. I never even figured out how to work with computer hardware when AGP was around, so I never got to mess around with it.
  • 1 Hide
    one-shot , August 20, 2009 8:13 AM
    Most of these benchmarks seem to show a CPU limitation across the board. I owned that same CPU, but used a PCI-E 7900GS with it at the time. I think if the CPU limitation was eliminated, we would see a better overall comparison. Also, if there is an AGP 4670, it would be beneficial to older machines to see the benefits of that GPU. It might show the two cards being equal due to the CPU limitation we're encountering.
  • 1 Hide
    masterjaw , August 20, 2009 9:05 AM
    I don't think there are lots of people out there who would still hold on to their AGP slots when PCI-e cards are becoming so cheaper and the performance is way better. Even doing a low-end system upgrade would still kick older system's ass all the way to the north pole. But still, another option for those who can't get over the AGPs. They must've been clearing up some old stocks.
  • 5 Hide
    cinergy , August 20, 2009 9:11 AM
    "the Radeon HD 4650 does have a few things going for it compared to the Radeon HD 3850, such as more conservative power requirements, two times the texture units, and DirectX 10.1 compatibility."

    HD3850 has DX10.1
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 20, 2009 9:31 AM
    And I thought my rig was on it's last legs...was very much considering upgrading to another graphics card to replace my x1950pro, but I think I might just bite the bullet and get a whole new rig, considering I'm using a motherboard from 2004. It got me through university and a design degree, so it's all good.
  • 0 Hide
    danbfree , August 20, 2009 10:30 AM
    You just GOTTA get a faster processor... Or at least overclock it to the max! My 3800+ ran at 2.5 GHz vs. 2.0 for a full 25% overclock using bus speed. That alone makes it comparable to a 5200+ is what Everest told my I believe.
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , August 20, 2009 10:36 AM
    masterjawI don't think there are lots of people out there who would still hold on to their AGP slots when PCI-e cards are becoming so cheaper and the performance is way better. Even doing a low-end system upgrade would still kick older system's ass all the way to the north pole. But still, another option for those who can't get over the AGPs. They must've been clearing up some old stocks.


    I agree. They probably had some AGP boards PCB sitting around. I for one would never buy a $100 card to go in a motherboard that could pop a cap at any time. I'd rather go without gaming for a bit and upgrade my system. A new motherboard with PCI-E is $50.
  • -1 Hide
    marcos669 , August 20, 2009 12:28 PM
    This article has no sense, with this processor there is a huge botleneck, and the results are not valid.

    Oterwhise, i have a Sapphire 3850 AGP with an Amd Athlon 64 x2 5200(brisbane) and 2gb ddr2-800 memory, and i can play Crysis on high setting, in fact i can play nearly all games setting to maximum(including AA and AF) at 1280x960.

    There are some benchmarks made by me, the first link is in spanish, and in it i compare my old pentium 4 with the new athlon 5200+ and there is a huge diference with the same 3850 AGP videocard.

    http://foro.noticias3d.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=292090

    http://optimitza.cat/benchmarks/laptops
  • 1 Hide
    youssef 2010 , August 20, 2009 12:34 PM
    I think you should try the HIS radeon 4670 in part 2 of this article to see if it can best the 3850 or not
  • 3 Hide
    Gryphyn , August 20, 2009 12:47 PM
    I don't get why they talk about a huge processor bottleneck, but then say 1) they weren't worried about overclocking, and 2) an overclocked video card might help. Seems backwards to me.

    When I was running my Socket 939 Opteron 170 (Stock 2.0 Ghz), it bottlenecked my 8800 GTS 640 SC terribly. Overclocking it 35% to 2.7 Ghz eliminated that. As far as speeds go, the Opty 170 is similar to the X2 3800 used here.

    I think the writers need to reexamine their conclusion a bit.
  • 0 Hide
    admiral_grinder , August 20, 2009 1:32 PM
    It would be nice to see these new ones in low profile. There is a bunch of old compaq/hp/dell p4 desktops that are hitting the used/referb market that make great HTPC. I have a EVO 50 (p4 2ghz) but it has low profile agp.
  • -1 Hide
    abnderby , August 20, 2009 2:12 PM
    I had a dual xeon AGP up until 1 1/2 years ago with an HD 2600. It ran everything I wanted (not maxed) but I was not hampered by CPU bottleneck. I cannot recall how many times I wrote in for Tom's to use their dual xeon and opteron boards in these articles. They do have them, and many users out there bought them when all of these dual core systems came out because of price.

    Even though I am now on PCI-E it would be nice if the testers would utilize there workstation class systems in their gaming card reviews. They obviously do not know anything about eBay nor all of the dual xeon/opteron systems for sale very cheap.

    Yeah they may not be the fancy abit/gigabyte boards, nor are they dual core etc... But dual processor 8GB DDR/DDR2 gives a lot of bang for the buck.

    Both system below ran vista without a hitch. Only reason I went to the newer board was 64-Bit and 8GB of memory. Now I run 64-Bit Vista soon to be Windows 7 64-Bit. Plenty of horse power to do everything i need to do.

    But as usual Tom's and other sites do not give the effort to bring out the workstations in their comparisons. What a shame, because I have seen both of these boards used by this and other sites for use in HDD controller tests. So it is not like that do not have them.

    Come on Tom's do some real world computers tests.

    Do you need a Senior QA Engineer to help you out??

    If so call at (310) 938-3506 and wrirte at abnderby@yahoo.com

    My current gaming rig (getting ready for HD 4850X2) is as follows:

    Intel SE7525RP2 with 2 3.6 GHz Xeon 800FSB w/2MB L2
    8GB DDR2 ECC
    HD 3870 512MB
    RAID 10 with 6 320GB 7200 RPM SATA drives
    SB XFI
    2 18" Dell flat panels at 1280 x 1024

    Old system
    Intel SE7505VB2 with 2 Xeons 3.2GHz w/1MB L2
    4GB DDR ECC
    AGP HD 2600 512 MB
    RAID 5 6 drive 320GB SATA
    SB Audigy 2 ZS
  • 2 Hide
    esquire468 , August 20, 2009 2:15 PM
    Quote:
    We will answer these questions and more in the second part of this series, so stay tuned.


    Well, I hope there actually is a part two, unlike the prior article on the AGP HD 3850:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ati-agp-3850-agp,1939.html
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