Review: New kid on the AGP block
AGP cards are slowly but surely going the way of the Dodo, everyone's aware of that, but AGP is still alive and kicking. Powercolor knows this and it believes that it can still squeeze some life and cash out of AGP. It recently launched an HD 3850 AGP card with a Zerotherm cooler, the same one used on its PCIe HD 3850 PCS series cards.
As you probably know by now, the HD3800 series is based on ATI's RV670 55nm core. Thanks to the 55nm process, the GPU doesn't heat up much and Zerotherm's cooler does a great job keeping the temperatures at bay. The card itself is reference clocked, 668MHz for the core and 512MB of GDDR3 clocked at 828MHz (1658MHz effective) on a 256-bit memory bus.
Like all HD3800 series cards, this one also supports DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1 and features ATI's UVD engine for HD video content. As you can see, the differences between the AGP and PCI-Express cards are obvious. The AGP version lacks a Crossfire connector and has a small Rialto bridge chip on the back of the card.
Powercolor opted for Zerotherm's heatpipe cooler which does a good job cooling the card and doesn't produce much noise in the process. The only drawback is that this card takes up two slots, unlike reference HD3850 cards. The cooler would be great for HTPC setups, but this is not what this card is about. It's not a low-end solution for HTPCs, but rather an AGP revival card of sorts, as it packs quite a punch.
The temperature was surprisingly low, which led us to conclude that Zerotherm's cooler is doing one heck of a job cooling this card.
The temperature was measured in an open case environment. The cooler was not noisy, but also not silent. In a closed case environment, noise shouldn't be a problem. We measured 54°C under full load, which is a good result.