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Home > Computer > Computer Hardware > Other Hardware

How AGP Works
by Jeff Tyson and Robert Valdes

Browse the article How AGP Works

Introduction to How AGP Works - You point, you click; you drag and you drop. Files open and close in separate windows. Movies play, pop-ups pop, and video games fill the screen, immersing you in a world of 3-D graphics. This is the stuff we're used to seeing on our computers. It all started in 1973, when Xerox completed the Alto, the first computer to use a graphical user interface. This innovation forever changed the way the people work with their computers.
file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp.htm (1 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM

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The PCI bus is a path used to deliver information from the graphics card to the central processing unit (CPU). but eventually the PCI bus became a little long in the tooth. The Internet and most software were more and more graphically oriented. AGP enables your computer to have a dedicated way to communicate with the graphics card. every aspect of computing. Previously. Information from the graphics of graphics. card travels through the bus along with any other information that is coming from a device connected to the PCI. or Accelerated Graphics Port.htm (2 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM . Intel introduced AGP as a more efficient way to deliver the streaming video and real-time-rendered 3-D graphics that were information arrives at the CPU. In this article. the standard method of delivery was the Peripheral Component communicate with the graphics Interconnect (PCI) bus. it has to wait in line to get time with the CPU. See more hardware pictures. enhancing both the look and speed of your computer's graphics. When all the In 1996. The hardware to support these graphics is called a graphics card. file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp. you will learn about AGP. which enhances the look bus allows multiple packets of information from different sources to travel down one path simultaneously. The way this card connects to your computer is key in your computer's ability to render graphics. from creating animation to simple tasks such as word processing and e-mail.Howstuffworks "How AGP Works" Today. Photo courtesy PCI slots on a motherboard This system worked well for many years. uses lots of graphics to create a more intuitive work environment for the user. Get Off the PCI Bus The AGP enables your computer to have a dedicated way to becoming more prevalent in all aspects of computing. and the demands of the graphics card needed priority over all other PCI devices. A card.

This takes up the post office's time. In addition. With a clear path to the CPU and system memory..Howstuffworks "How AGP Works" Typical example of an AGP-based graphics card AGP is based on the design of the PCI bus. but unlike a bus. the address card itself takes up room in the envelope. and then send it out. AGP Graphics Rendering AGP is built on the idea of improving the ways that PCI transports data to the CPU. combine the data. q Pipelining . AGP increases the speed at which machines can render graphics while using the system's resources more efficiently to reduce overall drag. and wait..There are no other devices connected to the AGP other than the graphics card. then the width of the image. and wait.htm (3 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM . we'll see how this is done. q Sideband addressing . AGP provides a much faster. reducing the total amount of stuff you can send to your friend. By clearing the traffic jams of data. In the next section. all requests and information sent from one part of your computer to the next must have an address containing "To" and "From... With PCI.. the graphics card can receive a request for all of the information needed to render a particular image and send it out all at once.. the graphics card would receive information on the height of the image and wait. Here's a simplified example of this: With AGP. it provides a dedicated point-to-point connection from the graphics card to the CPU. the graphics card can always operate at the maximum capacity of the connection. This is the equivalent of including an address card inside the envelope when you send a letter to a friend: Now the post office has to open the envelope to see the address in order to know where to send it. more efficient way for your computer to get the information it needs to render complex graphics.Like a letter.This method of data organization allows the graphics card to receive and respond to multiple packets of data in a single request. Here's how: q Dedicated Port ." The problem with PCI is that this "To" and "From" information is sent with the working data all together in one packet. file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp. then the length of the image. With a dedicated path to the CPU. Intel achieved this by addressing all of the areas where PCI transfers were causing data bottlenecks in the system.

2-D image and wraps it around a set of parameters dictated by the graphics card to create the appearance of a 3-D image. First. Think of this as wrapping an invisible box with wrapping paper to show the size of the box. This type of memory is called AGP memory or non-local video memory. it is pulled from memory and sent to the CPU to be processed.Howstuffworks "How AGP Works" With sideband addressing. Once processed. All of this storing and sending between the system and the card is very draining to the overall performance of the computer. texture maps are loaded from the hard drive to system memory. Photo courtesy Intel Corporation With PCI. This puts the address on the outside of the envelope. the AGP issues eight additional lines on the data packet just for addressing. it is sent through the PCI bus to the graphics card. it unclogs system resources that were previously used to open the packet to read the addresses. It also streamlines the process of rendering graphics by using system memory more efficiently. the texture map is loaded from the hard drive to the system memory (RAM) until it has to be used. In addition. Once it is needed. AGP Memory Improvements AGP improves the process of storing texture maps by allowing the operating system to designate RAM for use by the graphics card on the fly. The framebuffer is where the graphics card holds the image in storage once it has been rendered so that it can be refreshed every time it is needed. Any 3-D graphic you see on your computer is built by a texture map. Using the much more abundant and faster RAM used by the operating system to store texture maps reduces the number of file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp. With a PCI-based graphics card. processed by the CPU and then loaded into the framebuffer of the graphics card. Your computer takes a flat. PCI Graphics Rendering: Wasting RAM Speed is not the only area where AGP has bested its predecessor. It is important to understand this because the creation and storage of texture maps is the main thing that drains the memory from both the graphics card and the system overall. Texture maps are like wrapping paper. every texture map has to be stored twice.htm (4 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM . so to speak. freeing up the total bandwidth of the data path used to transfer information back and forth. where it is stored again in the card's framebuffer.

including a nice tutorial. The new address provided by GART makes the CPU think that the texture map is being stored in the card's framebuffer. but when the CPU needs it. the technology and specifications are constantly improving.htm Features tons of design info.0. Like all hardware.com/technology/agp/info. GART may be putting bits and pieces of the map all over the system RAM. In addition. It does this with a little trickery.Howstuffworks "How AGP Works" maps that have to be stored on the graphics card's memory.intel. Photo courtesy Intel Corporation Diagram of the standard architecture of a Pentium III-based system using AGP AGP Graphic Cards AGP and AGP graphics cards are now the standard for processing graphics on computers. GART takes the portion of the system memory that the AGP borrows to store texture maps for the graphics card and re-addresses it. click on the links below. To learn about the current standards for AGP and prices for AGP graphics cards. The other way AGP saves RAM is by only storing texture maps once.htm (5 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM . and technical implementation of AGP 2. specs. the size of the texture map your computer is capable of processing is no longer limited to the amount of RAM on the graphics card. Specifications: q Intel: Accelerated Graphics Port Technical Information http://www. This trickery takes the form of a chipset called the Graphics Address Remapping Table (GART). as far as it's concerned the texture map is right where it should be.0 and 3. file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp.

Lots More Information Related HowStuffWorks Articles q q q q q How 3-D Graphics Work How Graphics Cards Work How PCI Works How RAM Works How Microprocessors Works More Great Links q q q q Sun Microsystems: Frame Buffer FAQ The Quickstart Info Guide to Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) AnandTech: What is the difference between AGP4X and AGP Pro? Tom's Hardware Guide: PCI Express' Future Promise for Graphics .Howstuffworks "How AGP Works" q nVidia: AGP 8X http://www. check out the links on the next page.html Click on Technical Brief: AGP 8X in left-hand column for tons of info and specs on the new AGP version 3.nvidia. LLC |Discovery Channel |TLC |Animal Planet |Discovery Health |Science Channel |Planet Green |Discovery Kids Petfinder |TreeHugger |Military Channel |Investigation Discovery |HD Theater |FitTV |Turbo ATTENTION! We recently updated our privacy policy. 2008.March 10. file:///F|/DOWNLOADS/documents/agp. October 30.com/object/feature_agp8x.htm (6 of 6)19-Mar-09 07:13:36 AM . Inc. click [here]. Questions? See the policy for the contact information. 2004 Home|Adventure|Animals|Auto|Communication|Computer|Electronics|Entertainment|Food|Geography|Health|History|Home & Garden|Money|People|Science Company Info |Advertise With Us |Newsletter |Careers |Privacy |Contact Us |Help |Visitor Agreement |RSS HowStuffWorks |HSW Brazil |HSW China © 1998-2009 HowStuffWorks. Discovery Communications. To see the new policy. The changes are effective as of Thursday.0 and its evolution. Prices: q HowStuffWorks Shopper: Graphics Cards For much more information on AGP and related topics.