AGP is dead - or so most hardcore gamers would have you believe. But while hardcore gamers and games developers alike look to utilize the full power of today’s graphic cards, there exist many gamers who still use the AGP interface and perhaps don’t feel the need to have the latest incarnations of graphics cards.
While AGP might no longer possess the brute force to power these cards, there is still no pressing need for AGP users to consign their PCs to the scrapyard - at least for the moment - as there are some AGP cards available which can postpone the need to upgrade. However, those looking for the most powerful option available on AGP will need to look towards chipset vendor, ATI, as main rival Nvidia no longer caters for the technology.
So, if you’re an AGP user, which cards are available for your PC?
The top of the tree is the Radeon 3850, which until recently was nothing more than rumour and speculation. It has, however, arrived and is the most powerful card available for AGP users. The card has full support for Microsoft’s DirectX 10 and Shader Model 4.0, and comes with a full 512MB GDDR3 RAM. However, for users with a single-core CPU, this card might prove a little too powerful to be properly utilized, but for sheer power, this is the pinnacle of AGP gaming.
For those gamers who don’t need the power of the 3850, but would still like to enjoy good frame rates and high levels of detail in their gaming, then the Radeon 1950 Pro graphics card would be a sensible option. Although the 1950 Pro doesn’t have the firepower of the 3850, it is still a very powerful card in its own right and is perhaps the best choice for price v performance. One drawback of the 1950 Pro card is the fact that it does not have support for DirectX 10; however, there are currently very few games titles available which support DirectX 10.
An alternative to ATI’s 1950 Pro graphics card, the Nvidia 7800 and 7900GS series provide similar processing power, although lag slightly behind ATI’s offering. Like the ATI card, neither model supports DirectX 10, which again, given the current lack of games which support it is no major problem currently. However, both models are slowly becoming scarce in the market place with the 7900 version being slightly more powerful than its 7800 counterpart.
For those gamers on a budget, then perhaps the ATI 2600 Pro and XT models might be a better choice. While not as powerful as the Nvidia graphics cards, these cards will provide full DirectX 10 support for users and will play the current crop of games albeit at slightly reduced levels of detail. Of the two ATI cards mentioned, the XT version is the more powerful than the Pro version and would be a preferred choice.
Occupying similar price ranges, the Nvidia 7600GS and GT models, like their big brothers the 7800 and 7900 series are let down only by their lack of DirectX 10 support but perform on a similar level otherwise to the ATI 2600 series with the GT version equating to the XT version of the ATI card.
Further down the scale, there are still more AGP flavours of graphics card - the ATI Radeon 2400 series, Radeon X1650Pro and the Nvidia 7300GT, for example, are also available and while they might still be capable of running today’s games, much of the detail required to get the best out games may need to be turned down severely or even off completely in order to make the game playable and should only be looked upon as short-term measures.