AGP video cards

So I want to eke out another year or two from my current rig: Athlon 64 3200+, 1Gb DDR (two 512s in dual-channel), 500W power supply, etc. I’m currently running a Radeon 9500 Pro with 128Mb which is certainly no slouch, but is from the pre-Cambrian period or something. I first got this card in 2001 so I could play ATITD, and had no problems running HL2, SWAT 4, UT2K4, etc. But now I’m playing FEAR and I love horror games and damn it, I have to crank it down to 800x600 with most of the good shit on “low” just to get acceptable frame rate.

<shaking fist at the sky> NO MORE!

Upgrading the mobo/CPU/video is not an option because I am poor. Asking for a $200ish video card for Christmas (or saving up) is an option. I give less than a crap about future-proofing, as this is a stop-gap measure. I’ve got plenty of room in the case, no heat problems, and I can tinker. I’m not keen on overclocking either. I have a little brand loyalty to ATI but not enough to make an issue out of it.

So what’s out there for “best bang for the buck” amongst AGP cards?

I’d like to hear thoughts on this as well. I wouldn’t mind picking up a $200ish AGP card to hold me over for a year or so. Although…what’s coming out in the next year on the PC that I’m supposed to be excited about?


I think this came up just a week or two ago… anyway, your best bet is a 6800nu. Newegg has an evga for $170 now… I’d buy quick before they stop making them if I were you. Most 6800nus can be softmodded into 6800gts using rivatuner. Make a great stopgap.

I can’t find “6800 nu”. Do you mean “regular” 6800s? Also, is this the one you were referring to? It’s an eVGA brand AGP 6800. It only has 128Mb on it, but it does have that tasty 256-bit memory interface.

Newegg was running Leadtek 6800GT’s back in August and September for $200. They were listed as OEM but both of the ones I got were full retail. So yeah, 6800 or GT if you can find it.

Yes, nu stands for non-ultra. Just the plain jane 6800.

If you can get a real 6800gt for $200, go for it. The 6800 isn’t guaranteed to softmod, although 90%+ of them do, and the GTs come with 256mb of gddr3 ram instead of 128mb of ddr.

I currently have a couple of AGP 6800GTs for sale. (I’m updating to a PCI-E setup.)

Both have Arctic Cooling nvSilencer coolers. These run cooler than standard coolers, and are MUCH quieter. However, they do cause the card to block the adjacent PCI slot.

One is an OEM model with DVI, VGA, and S-Video. $225.

The other is an XFX model with dual DVIs and S-Video. $250.

(Hope this isn’t straying too far from board rules… I didn’t post a for-sale, just bringing it up since the topic had already started.)

Also in the bang/buck department:

  • The current mid-range darling, Ati Radeon X800 GTO, is in that price range. It’s equal to, if not better than, a plain 6800.
  • Rumour has it, the current PCIE mid-range darling Nvidia 6800 GS, will come to AGP in 2-3 weeks. The 6800GS is basically equivalent to the 6800GT (so another step up from the X800GTO), but cheaper due to smaller chip size ($249 MSRP, compared to the 6800GT’s original $400), meaning that shortly after Christmas (and maybe even earlier) its price should drop to around $200. The PCIE card was found for $209 online on its release date.

If you wanted a card right now, I’d go with either an nVidia 6600GT or plain-vanilla 6800. The latter can usually be soft-modded and overclocked to 6800GT levels, though YMMV obviously. I know some people favor ATI’s cards, but I’ve had enough bad luck with their drivers over the years that I tend to avoid them now; they always seem to have trouble with the games I want to play most. :(

If you can wait, the 6800 GS sounds promising and, as mentioned, will hopefully come in AGP flavors soon. And there are usually price drops after Christmas.

Well GMicek picked up a 6600 OC for me as a Christmas gift. Nice!

Here’s some quick stats I put together as to how much the FEAR flyby was improved (given as min/ave/max FPS, % above 25 FPS):

Old and busted (ATI 9500 Pro, 128Mb):
800x600: 18,40,74 and 97%
1024x768: 12,26,49 and 52%
1280x960: 6,17,30 and 6%

New hotness (NVidia 6600 OC, 256 Mb):
800x600: 27,57,100 and 100%
1024x768: 17,39,68 and 95%
1280x960: 11,26,45 and 54%

Not too damn bad for a $180 card.

If you are picking between Nvidia and ATI, look beyond the hardware specs.

ATI video drivers suck. In addtion to myself, my brother, 2 co-workers, and 3 personal friends have nothing but trouble with ATI card drivers. We have very differant hardware and configurations and all have problems. Getting new drivers is a total crap shoot. Unlike nivida where you just get the latest drivers, with ATI its like, what version do I want?

For example, when I was playing EQ2, I needed drivers 6 versions old otherwise I would get black outs all the time. However, CoH needed the newest drives otherwise missions were dark. WoW’s performance varied widly depending on what version of the video drivers I had.

ATI’s update policy is that if your card is working fine, do not update the drivers. Yea, they must have real confidence in them to say that.

This is funny. My experience is the same as yours only for the opposite. ATI drivers wonderful for 3+ years, while in the 1.5 years I had an NVidia card I kept having problems with it and constantly having to rollback to a specific version to play a game.

No, it’s not. They release monthly driver updates specifically because they want everyone updating to the latest all the time.

As far as driver quality goes: over here at ExtremeTech Loyd and I go through LOTS of configs, doing LOTS of stuff, with both ATI and Nvidia drivers. There’s really no clear winner as far as compatibility and stability goes. Both claim victory, but we have about the same quantitiy and severity of problems with both of them.

Both ATI and Nvidia have gotten a lot better in the last couple years, though.

To me, thier policy seems to cleary be that if you read the driver instructions.

Read the second block of text under the heading instructions. Ill quote it:

Installing a new driver is only recommended if you are having issues with your ATI product.

I dunno how you read that, but I take that to mean “Do not get the latest drivers if your card is currently working fine.”

That’s bullshit, DeepT. Over the summer they were singing from the high hills about how much the latest Catalysts improved performance. 50% performance increase in this game, 25% performance increase in that game, yadda yadda yadda… They updated like three times in the span of a month or so, from 5.6 to 5.7 to 5.8, was it? I’m sure it’s still going on; I just stopped following it because I switched out my Radeon for a 6800GT.

I grabbed the 6600 GT… and running an AMD 2400- Quake 4, Doom 3 and even FEAR run… a bit slowly for sure but they look pretty darn nice.

I am a firm believer in NOT getting top of the line… then again I am not a frames per second whore either-- looks good, runs smoothly, I am happy.

And for what you can get the 6600 for nowdays… pretty good deal. Heck, I think Oblivion will run playable on mine…

he said with his fingers crossed…

fyi, the 5 in 5.6 equates to 2005, the 6 equates to june, 7 july, 8 august. they’ve been using this version numbering scheme since late 2003, so it’s hardly new, and it is a monthly release rather than several releases per month as you indicate.

To take this back to the original topic, does anyone have any suggestions for the best “budget” AGP graphics card? I have a friend who has an older system (athlon 2100) who wants to get a new graphics card. The system only supports AGP, unfortunately. Any suggestions on what he should look for in the $100 - $150?

From my post lost in the haze…

"I grabbed the 6600 GT… and running an AMD 2400- Quake 4, Doom 3 and even FEAR run… a bit slowly for sure but they look pretty darn nice. "

149 plus 5 bucks shipping…

I’ll second the 6600GT. If you’re looking for a stop-gap AGP card that can play modern games, albeit without all the bells and whistles, the 6600GT is your best bet.