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Radeon 3850 AGP Plus Single-Core CPU

AGP Analysis 2008, Part 1: Single Core CPU

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.

  • nofxman
    This is the best article I have read lately, I installed AOC on an old desktop with a 2.8 P4 and vanilla 6600 and it ran like crap. I was debating purchasing a 3850 from Newegg until I saw how much the cpu holds it back so I just saved $80 buying a 2600pro instead.
    Reply
  • slapdashzero
    Excellent article. I love these "real world application" reads. I've got a garage full of older single core machines, and now I know that there are still useable things to be done with them.
    Reply
  • xx12amanxx
    Man i remember when my old 3000+ was considered fast..lol. But we already knew an older single core 64 would be a bottleneck.The real question is if a newer dual core will suffice? The computer i built for my mom has the older 3800+ dual in it and i paired it with a 7600gt. It played all games at that time great! She actually still uses it!
    Reply
  • You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people..
    Reply
  • Preytor
    Nice to see such a great article done on AGP.
    AGP isn't dead yet. I still use a 7600GS 512MB on P4 @ 3.6Ghz, it's just fine for most games, and will play anything with the "right settings".
    Reply
  • Jakt
    Last week, I installed an AGP 2600xt in my Athlon 3000+ htpc, to replace an ATI 9600 AIW card that died. There was a very noticeable improvement in the picture quality on my television (Thanks, Avivo!), but there wasn't a large enough improvement in decoding HD to make it playable. I am still playing with the drivers to see if there is anything I can do to improve it, as theoretically it should be doable. The big problem that I have run into is that ATI has dumped support for this card on the AGP platform. I had specifically chosen ATI because it has superior support for dual monitors on an HTPC setup, but the lack of support is very discouraging.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    anonymous.You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people.
    What part of the story are we not telling?
    Look at the system specs, we had to use 3 types of old DDR RAM to get to 2GB, some of it was very cheap - not even 400 MHz stuff. It doesn't matter how much of a pro I am, you can't squeeze more performance out by raising the CPU clock and lowering the memory clock into the basement to get it to work.

    I managed to scrounge up some better stuff for part 2, and it looks like we'll be using XP instead of Vista which will open up some videocard overclocking options. So hold on there sport, overclocking is on the way.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    anonymous.You could overclock the 3850 card by using the bios and over clocking a cpu should of been no problem for you "old pros" I think you are not telling the whole story. AGP is alive and well and is good for most people.
    What part of the story are we not telling?
    Look at the system specs, we had to use 3 types of old DDR RAM to get to 2GB, some of it was very cheap - not even 400 MHz stuff. It doesn't matter how much of a pro I am, you can't squeeze more performance out by raising the CPU clock and lowering the memory clock into the basement to get it to work.

    I managed to scrounge up some better stuff for part 2, and it looks like we'll be using XP instead of Vista which will open up some videocard overclocking options. So hold on there sport, overclocking is on the way.
    Reply
  • Great article

    shame that you ran the memory in single channel mode though.

    Reply
  • Mach5Motorsport
    Congrats to Tom's Hardware for again demonstrating that AGP is still a decent interface. I'm sure all the collective PCIe ubergeeks will be again shouting how AGP is dead..... ;) much to their dismay. AGP has now outlived PCIe standard 1.0!
    Reply