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

Ah, the Accelerated Graphics Port. I remember when AGP first arrived, touted as the PC gamer’s savior.

Prior to 1997, a PC’s graphics card was limited to a measly 133 MB/s of bandwidth. Then came the AGP slot with 266 MB/s, followed by AGP 2x with 533 MB/s, AGP 4x with 1,066 MB/s, and finally AGP 8x with 2,133 MB/s of potential bandwidth. That kind of throughput is respectable, even by today's standards.

Right out of the gate, a first-gen PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot, with its 4,000 MB/s of bandwidth, didn’t show any appreciable gains over AGP 8x because even the fastest graphics cards didn't saturate the AGP bus. Regardless, AGP was inevitably dropped in favor of the more scalable point-to-point PCIe standard. PCIe not only offered increased throughput, but it also brought with it the ability to transfer more power to ever-hungrier graphics cards.

By PC technology standards, all of this is ancient history. So why bring it up? Ask Gigabyte, one of the few manufacturers that sought to grace the aging AGP bus with a modern graphics processor, designed to save nostalgic gamers from buying a new CPU, motherboard, and graphics subsystem in making the jump to PCIe-based platforms. Its technical designation is the Gigabyte GV-R465D2-1GI, but you’ll probably know it better by its street name, ATI's Radeon HD 4650.

The Radeon HD 3850 AGP, 4650 AGP, and 4650 PCIeThe Radeon HD 3850 AGP, 4650 AGP, and 4650 PCIe

This is an interesting move on Gigabyte's part, as the Radeon HD 4650 isn’t really any faster than the previous king-of-AGP, the Radeon HD 3850. In fact, the older Radeon HD 3850 is probably faster, since it sports a wide 256-bit memory bus (compared to the 4650’s 128-bit bus) and fast DDR3 memory (compared to the 4650’s DDR2 memory). Still, the Radeon HD 4650 does have a few things going for it compared to the Radeon HD 3850, such as more conservative power requirements and two times the texture units.

Who Buys This Stuff?

Sounds great, but who's interested in upgrading ancient tech? Well, 57% of the participants in Valve's Steam Hardware Survey game with dual-core CPUs, while 26% use single-core machines. The most common memory capacity is 2 GB, and the majority of users with processors from AMD game on machines that have clock speeds between 2 and 2.29 GHz. Now, we don't have any specific information about the CPU models folks use, but it's a safe bet that there are a lot of people out there running older rigs.

And who wouldn't want to get more longevity out of an old box? Whether it's your primary gaming machine or just an old PC you keep in the basement, it'd sure be nice to play the newest titles on aged equipment. In fact, I can personally vouch that it's useful to have a spare PC around so a visitor can join in a rousing game of Left 4 Dead. So let's find out if this new Gigabyte GV-R465D2-1GI can breathe some life into one of the great gaming CPUs of antiquity, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+.

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  • amdfangirl
    Don't they have an AGP HD 4670?
  • drealar
    *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.
  • zinabas
    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.
  • rambo117
    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
  • rambo117
    yah, this is the one i saw:

    looks pretty nifty. iceq FTW!
  • eddieroolz
    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.
  • one-shot
    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.
  • masterjaw
    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.
  • cinergy
    "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
  • Anonymous
    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.
  • danbfree
    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.
  • JonnyDough
    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.
  • marcos669
    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.
  • youssef 2010
    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
  • Gryphyn
    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.
  • admiral_grinder
    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.
  • abnderby
    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

    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
    AGP HD 2600 512 MB
    RAID 5 6 drive 320GB SATA
    SB Audigy 2 ZS
  • esquire468
    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:,1939.html