After looking at all of the preceding benchmark results, we definitely get the impression that new PC games rely a lot more on the CPU than older titles did. A few years ago, a cheap CPU with a high-end graphics card was enough to get high frame rates in every game available. To put it in perspective, we never achieved more than an average 40 FPS in any of the games we tested, even at the low 1280x1024 resolution. The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ was definitely holding us back from smooth gameplay, although it did deliver some playability as long as the resolution was low enough.
As far as the new Gigabyte GV-R465D2-1GI goes, it is a fine card that suffers only a slight penalty due to its AGP interface. It consistently achieved two times the frame rates available with the older Radeon X700 card, so it makes for an appealing upgrade choice on an outdated machine. The HDMI output is a nice option for folks who want to turn their hand-me-down PC into a home theater box, and its low power draw and quiet fan are definitely positives.
Unfortunately, with the Radeon HD 3850 still available at a similar price, it's hard to recommend the AGP Radeon HD 4650 until the Radeon HD 3850 is phased out. The Radeon HD 3850 remains the king of AGP game performance, especially for resolutions above 1280x1024.
But since our rig was obviously bottlenecked by the older Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (a fairly typical processor, we think, in a platform armed with AGP graphics), what would happen with a faster CPU? Would that give Gigabyte's Radeon HD 4650 stronger legs on which to stand? In light of the clear CPU bottleneck, we weren't too concerned with overclocking. But with a faster processor helping improve performance, perhaps an overclocked Radeon HD 4650 could serve up more attractive numbers in today's games. We will answer these questions and more in the second part of this series, so stay tuned.