Saturday, 17 November 2007 01:56
AGP is dead. Oh really? Is it? Actually you would be
surprised. Almost half of the gaming systems we have come into
Tek Republik for upgrades are AGP.
Gaming systems may be too kind as many of them are old hand me down Dell's that
have a hard time playing Counter Strike 1.6. While this week many
hardware editors were Lake Tahoe at a briefing from AMD looking at the new
Radeons, and many others were at the Nvidia briefing taking in the
8800GT, AMDZone Austin had reality in mind. The reality is that there
is no shortage of gamers still using AGP. They may not be the cutting edge
guys, but not everyone can drop a cool grand on an upgrade every few months.
With that in mind, and our first hand knowledge that so many gamers even in a
gaming active town like Austin are still on AGP we approached Sapphire for a
sample of their new 2600 AGP parts. They sent us a 512MB version of their
Radeon HD 2600 Pro.
In the typical hardware review you will see a card tested on a top end
motherboard with high end components. That is great, but for this review
we are looking at the reality for the vast majority of computer owners. We
are daring to upgrade an old Dell. Yes, Dell, the last company you think
of when you think gaming and rightly so. They are clueless. It is
amazing how clueless they are about gaming. It was like that when all of
us worked there, and it was like that when we deal with them in our gaming
center, and with our TXGF lan parties. They just don't get it. So we
took what most would consider a piece of junk Dell Optiplex GX260, and we make
Stock it included a 2.6GHz original Pentium 4. At stock it had 512MB of
DDR333, but this bad boy had already been upgraded 1GB. It also included
the typical Intel integrated video courtesy of the 845G. Yes, it was state
of the art business desktop genius back when
PCMag reviewed it
in 2002. So will a 5 year old PC game? Is the 250 watt cheapo
power supply going to be able to handle the upgrade? Will the motherboard
even work with a modern DX10 card? Looking at it you would think maybe
not, but maybe, just maybe the gaming gods would shine upon us.
So we unboxed the 2600, and slid it into a computer that was never meant to
game on. We had to use the included power adapter, and just would reach
the power supply cable with just a couple of inches to spare. We hooked up
to a monitor, plugged in the power, and expected the worst. Perhaps fire
from the power supply, or a dreaded BIOS error code beeping. To our
surprise it posted. It posted and it went into Windows! We put on
the Catalyst 7.10 drivers, and held our breath. A reboot later, and we
loaded up Steam. Now for the test. Into Steam we went, and fired up
Counter Strike Source, and we were into the menu. The performance test was
started, and to our surprise it ran. It ran, but would the cheap power
supply, and cheap motherboard, and cheap memory allow it to finish. Would
it be stable. As if that were not amazing enough it completed the run.
Simply amazing. Now Counter Strike Source is certainly a popular game, but
DX10 titles are out, and would those work? We weren't yet ready to try
DX10 action under Vista, so DX9 under Windows XP would have to do. So we
turned to Lost Planet, and Crysis. Yes, if you have a crappy old Dell with
an unused AGP slot beckoning you can play Lost Planet, or the GPU hog of them
all, Crysis. So how was performance? Check the settings for each
game, and the graph below.
Counter Strike Source: 1024X768 models high-textures
high-reflect world-shadows high-shaders high-no AA-trilinear filtering-HDR full
Lost Planet- 1280X720 AA off-HDR medium-Anistropic 4X
Crysis- 1024X768 medium settings, no AA
At 77.01 for Counter Strike Source with fairly aggressive settings the game is
certainly playable. I have seen a lot of kids not playing Source because
their Dell's can't handle it. Well now there is no excuse. The 2600
Pro gets you to frame rates that will be playable. You can now play a semi
modern game instead of one that might be older than you are.
Lost Planet at the Xbox 360 resolution is pretty beefy. Here the
performance in the snow benchmark is not idea, but it is tolerable for single
player action. Lowering the resolution can help make this game playable in
most areas. That is a hell of a lot better than the 845G is going to do
for you. And going to 2GB of memory instead is always an option.
Crysis which our tests show can kill any system if you set it right.
On medium at 1280X1024 on the X2 6400+ with the 2600XT it gets just 28 frames
per second. the old Dell with one less core, and half the memory, manages
to sore 18.5 in the same test at medium settings albeit at only 1024X768.
Still if you told me a piece of crap Dell from 2002 could play Crysis at all I'd
be moderately surprised. For playable rates you really would want more
memory, and perhaps you might have to drop some settings to low, but it is not
at least plausible. The CPU Crysis testing is of course more demanding,
and only one core doesn't help here, but still things were not exactly a slide
So now the owners of crappy old hand me down Dell can rejoice. There is
hope for you. You can go from mine sweeper to Crysis by simply dropping in
a Radeon 2600. Sure you won't have the fastest set up in the world, but
you will not have to be silent any more. You can play World of Warcraft,
Counter Strike, and hey, even Battlefield. You can join the legions of
gamers around you, and it will not have to break the bank. For that be
grateful. At a price of
over $100 it is not even going to hit you in the wallet too much, and for
$50 more dollars you can bump up to the 2600XT.
We hope you have enjoyed our tests with the Sapphire Radeon 2600 Pro AGP
edition, and that you keep this in mind. Not every gamer, or every gamer
that would be can afford to have a sweet gaming rig. Many sadly are stuck
with old Dells. In the spirit of Christmas, and in the best PC gaming
release season in many years, show them the light. Help them upgrade their
old Dell, and have a happy gaming season like the rest of us. Friends
don't let friends game on old Dell's with integrated Intel video. It is
cruel. Give them hope, and something to play on that will not give them
the 3 red lights of death, and make sure they get a 512MB card, not a 256MB one!