In this first article, we wanted to see if an Athlon XP 2500+ would bottleneck today's newest AGP cards. It would seem that the answer is a resounding "sometimes". Depending on the game, some will bottleneck early, and others will give powerful cards like the X1950 PRO some legroom before limiting the maximum frame rate.
Does this mean that the X1950 PRO is unnecessary or a bad buy? Not really: it's a bit more complicated than that. If you're upgrading your AGP video card for a better Oblivion, Need for Speed Carbon, or Prey experience, it's hard to argue with the numbers. Knowing that your old 2500+ or equivalent system could deliver playable high-detail gaming with the X1950 PRO is a compelling reason to dish out $240 or so for a year or two of gaming. It's also notable that the X1950 PRO really pulled ahead when higher levels of anti-aliasing were used.
Then again, for about $180 - over $50 less than the X1950 PRO - the 7600 GT makes a very compelling argument. It certainly delivers playable performance, at least as fast as the more expensive 7800 GS, and worlds faster than older cards like the 9700 PRO. And with games that are CPU bottlenecked by an older system, it works every bit as fast as the X1950 PRO.
This isn't the end of the story, either. There are much faster AGP platforms out there, and we'll be investigating them in Part 2. Will a more powerful Athlon 64 3400+ still bottleneck these cards, or will the X1950 PRO be able to pull far ahead with that CPU horsepower behind it? We'll also be looking into the performance differences between PCI Express, AGP 8x, and AGP 4x. Stay tuned!
Frankly, I'm still impressed with the old-but-revolutionary Radeon 9700 PRO we used in these tests. Paired up with an Athlon XP 2500+, there wasn't a title the old girl couldn't play at 1024x768. The benchmark scores didn't look very impressive, but the card delivered playable performance, better than a lot of new cards like Radeon X300s or Geforce 6200s. Not bad for a card released 5 years ago.
I have to admit, though, that I do believe that in the next 6 months there will be game titles released that it won't be able to handle at 1024x768. I'm hopelessly sentimental, though, so I'm going to miss that Radeon 9700 PRO.