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Gaming With AGP Graphics: Overclock That CPU!

Gaming With AGP Graphics: Overclock That CPU!
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You've got an older AGP-equipped system lying around. After checking out our last AGP article, you've accepted that the old girl won't be a valuable addition to LAN parties anymore. But before you go and donate it to your auntie for basic Internet use, hold on a minute. There might be some gaming goodness left in that system.

To recap, in part one of our little AGP Revival, we paired the latest and greatest AGP graphics cards with a fairly typical older platform. This system was equipped with an AGP motherboard, a dual-core Athlon X2 3800+ CPU, and 2GB of DDR memory. While the AGP bus didn't seem to be too much of a limiting factor, the CPU certainly turned out to be quite the bottleneck.

While this isn't a desirable situation to be in for a gamer, due to the limited CPU upgrade options today, it does lend itself to some affordable overclocking. The beauty of a CPU bottleneck (if you want to call it that) is that overclocking so effectively circumvents them. While graphics card overclocks usually produce relatively limited results, overclocking the CPU of a processor-bottlenecked system can show some big gains.

Let's clear something up first, though: this route won't work for everyone with an AGP system. In order for your older, overclocked processor to keep up with a higher-end graphics card, you're going to need an AGP motherboard that can handle a dual-core CPU at the very least, because a majority of new games need a minimum of two cores for good performance. That means your AGP motherboard must support AMD's Socket 939, AM2, or Intel's LGA 775 interface.

With these basic guidelines covered, let's look into the specifics of how we can squeeze the most performance from our old AGP system, while spending the least amount of cash.

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  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , 25 August 2009 16:43
    Umm... correct me if I am wrong but in some benchmarks you are seeing about 100% increase in benchmark scores for a clock speed increase of 30%. Is this not a little bit suspicious...?

    And is not more likely that increasing memory bandwidth by more than 100% (with a similar or smaller latency) had a big part to play?

    Surely it would have been a more thorough test to use the Socket 939 3800+.
  • 1 Hide
    LePhuronn , 25 August 2009 18:32
    Hey if somebody can overclock my socket 478 P4 Prescott then I'm all for it - might even change the 6800 Ultra that's in there too.
  • 1 Hide
    ear8dmg , 26 August 2009 01:26
    I have one of these Asrock boards. Started life with an 939 A64 3000+ single core, 2GB RAM and an AGP 6600GT. Now on an AM2 X2 5000+ Black Edition @ 3GHz, 4GB RAM and a PCI-E HD4850. That's some upgradability.

    Favourite motherboard I've ever owned. Modders are busily trying to squeeze Phenom compatibility in the BIOS but it remains to be seen if they'll ever manage it.

    Still annoyed at NVIDIA for killing off ULI's brilliant chipset R&D team.
  • 1 Hide
    ear8dmg , 26 August 2009 02:05
    vonboschUmm... correct me if I am wrong but in some benchmarks you are seeing about 100% increase in benchmark scores for a clock speed increase of 30%. Is this not a little bit suspicious...?And is not more likely that increasing memory bandwidth by more than 100% (with a similar or smaller latency) had a big part to play?Surely it would have been a more thorough test to use the Socket 939 3800+.


    Good point actually. There are some huge jumps there. Something's gone awry here.
  • 0 Hide
    tpi2007 , 26 August 2009 04:28
    vonboschUmm... correct me if I am wrong but in some benchmarks you are seeing about 100% increase in benchmark scores for a clock speed increase of 30%. Is this not a little bit suspicious...?And is not more likely that increasing memory bandwidth by more than 100% (with a similar or smaller latency) had a big part to play?Surely it would have been a more thorough test to use the Socket 939 3800+.



    Don't forget the Ram is now DDR2, running faster and in dual channel mode. That might have helped.
  • 1 Hide
    qasdfdsaq , 26 August 2009 05:35
    Quote:
    We could have spent a lot more on a faster processor, like an Athlon 64 FX-62 at 2.8 GHz.


    Or you could have spent a little more on a much faster processor, like an Athlon 64 X2 6000+ at 3.1 Ghz for $75.

    Costs an extra hour or two salary, saves you several hours wasting time overclocking and you get to keep your warranty.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 August 2009 09:15
    Should have overclocked the 3800+. It would be a more meaningful article in respect of the previous one. Not to mention the disparity between DDR/DDR2 ram ... tsk tsk THG

    The main thing this article proves is that ASRock made a nicely upgradeable motherboard
  • 1 Hide
    oliverstirling , 26 August 2009 20:14
    I could be wrong here but like the last article dedicated to testing AGP cards World in Conflict was mentioned as one of the benchmark games and yet it's not been included in the article. Were the results so bad it wasn't worth writing up?
  • -1 Hide
    andybird123 , 26 August 2009 20:21
    so the previous article was "can you still game with AGP if you buy the highest spec AGP card still available" and this article was supposed to be "and then what happens if you overclock the processor on your old AGP system" only, to do that and replicate the results of this article you have to replace the processor, memory and motherboard...

    well done for writing quite possibly the single most pointless article I've ever read on this website
  • 2 Hide
    coret , 26 August 2009 22:35
    Quote:
    Or you could have spent a little more on a much faster processor, like an Athlon 64 X2 6000+ at 3.1 Ghz for $75.

    Costs an extra hour or two salary, saves you several hours wasting time overclocking and you get to keep your warranty


    Problem with that is that the 4200+ is practically supported out of the box ... but you'll need to find a custom bios for anything as new as the 3.1GHz 6k+ ... and if memory serves, the board had a few teething problems with the 65nm chips to begin with. Though that may have been remedied by now.

    It is an awesome motherboard though. I managed to overclock a 3700+ (San Siego core) to 2.86GHz stable ... FX57 performance for £150 at the time :D 
  • 1 Hide
    coret , 26 August 2009 22:36
    Actually, I'm tempted to get my 939-Dual Sata2 out of the garage and have a play with a 3800+ now ... hmm ...
  • 2 Hide
    qasdfdsaq , 26 August 2009 23:23
    coretProblem with that is that the 4200+ is practically supported out of the box ... but you'll need to find a custom bios for anything as new as the 3.1GHz 6k+ ...

    Oh? Don't know about that ASRock but my 3 year old motherboard with a 2 year old standard BIOS (09/2007) handles it fine...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 26 August 2009 23:57
    Extremely informative article about CPU-GPU matching!

    Is it possible for you to create some kind of database telling us what clockspeed is required to roughly match specific GPUs? You wouldn't need to cover Netburst/K7, just Stars, Core 2, Nehalem, maybe K8. Now that would be ultimate resource in what card to buy.
  • 1 Hide
    ear8dmg , 27 August 2009 02:24
    The Asrock 939Dual-SATA2 supports up to X2 4800+, FX60 or Opteron 185 on 939 with a standard 1.4 BIOS.

    Using the AM2CPU board, it supports up to an FX62 or X2 5200+ with an official BIOS. Up to X2 6400+ were supported with a beta BIOS.
  • 1 Hide
    andybird123 , 27 August 2009 21:06
    ear8dmgThe Asrock 939Dual-SATA2 supports up to X2 4800+, FX60 or Opteron 185 on 939 with a standard 1.4 BIOS.Using the AM2CPU board, it supports up to an FX62 or X2 5200+ with an official BIOS. Up to X2 6400+ were supported with a beta BIOS.


    Old Tomshardware used to do such useful tables, but doing that kind of thing now would require more than copy and paste journalism which is all we get anymore
  • 1 Hide
    ear8dmg , 27 August 2009 22:18
    To further clarify the last official BIOS supporting up to FX62 or X2 5200 was 2.3. The beta BIOS supporting up to X2 6400+ was 2.31.

    IIRC from forum reading, 5600+, 6000+ and 6400+ would work but weren't detected correctly by 2.3. 2.31 reports them correctly.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 2 September 2009 08:03
    Quote:
    Note that the Athlon X2 3200+ is designated as a CPU at 2.0 GHz, and the overclocked Athlon 64 X2 4200+ as a CPU at 2.6 GHz in the charts in order to save some space.


    3800+ :) 
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 2 September 2009 08:47
    Very interesting read. That Asrock daughterboard is a really neat trick.

    However since most of the other manufacturers don't offer such an upgrade I think the majority of s939 users are going to struggle, and for several reasons:

    . AGP lock, or rather the lack of

    . Expensive dual-core s939 CPU's, e.g. the x2 3800+.

    . 90nm CPU process that whilst relatively cool, requires a decent m/b for overclocking, together with a capable PSU.

    There are overclocking options, but you need to be careful with what you're doing. It largely depends on your board and it's chipset. I still like these older CPU's for overclocking, due to their flexible design: +20% more power despite two cores; tolerance of high bus speeds and flexible memory handling for cheapskates like me, who use mixed unbranded memory. Even on cheap boards it's not uncommon for the x2 3800+ to high 2.4GHz or higher..but of course, that makes them popular and therefore absurdly priced on the auction sites.

    So in the end I'd rather bin the project and go for something more modern. As the article says, you're buying into old technology that is soon to be outdated. I'd rather sell the parts (if you have a 3800+ you'll get a good price for it), and get and AM2+/AM3 board with an AMD Athlon II 240 or higher.