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jahnno

What video card do I need for SL?

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I am new to SL. I am not very familiar with computers but have been told my computer is too slow and too old for SL. I plan to buy a new one. On help island, very helpful people told me that the graphics card is the most important item along with a Core i7 for SL. However, I know nothing about video cards. Someone on help island gave me this chart of video cards to show me their Second Life performance. Which Amd or Nvidia card should I get? Are other brands like Microsoft or Logitech video cards less expensive? 

 

amd nvidia performance chart

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Get the best card you can aford, and make sure the computer also has a decent processor and lots of RAM, and a very fast hardwired network connection.

SL is extremely graphics intensive, and has huge bandwidth requirements. A poor graphics card or a slow network connection can make it like swimming in tar - no fun at all.

Every place you go in Second Life is filled with user-generated content that can change at any time, so virtually nothing will be optimized or locally cached - unlike most 3D games, where the content is produced solely by an in-house team of graphics professionals who optimize everything and can pre-load most of the data to your local hard drive. 

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Higher FPS is better, but you're running into what your eyeballs can tell the difference easily after 25 FPS, and what SL can deliver at 45 FPS.  Go with what you can afford, but anything rated past 45 FPS on that benchmark will be overkill.

I do appreciate the level of detail on the graph, though I'm curious which operating system they did this on, since you'll have lower framerates on platforms with no direct support for OpenGL (Windows) and lower again if you're not using a Windows Classic-based theme on versions that have Aero enabled by default (Vista, 7).

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I recently had a new computer built & here's the video card that went in it:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102987

I'd been told that it should be a Nvidia for SL but my brother insisted that this one was the most powerful for its price & that it should run SL well, as indeed it seems to. I've been getting 35 -42 fps w/ it & lag is all network side due to crappy dsl connection.

Jeanne

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Baloo Uriza wrote:

Higher FPS is better, but you're running into what your eyeballs can tell the difference easily after 25 FPS, and what SL can deliver at 45 FPS.  Go with what you can afford, but anything rated past 45 FPS on that benchmark will be overkill.

I do appreciate the level of detail on the graph, though I'm curious which operating system they did this on, since you'll have lower framerates on platforms with no direct support for OpenGL (Windows) and lower again if you're not using a Windows Classic-based theme on versions that have Aero enabled by default (Vista, 7).

Myth #1: Second Life cannot render more than 45 FPS.

Fact: Sim/physics FPS and client FPS are unrelated. The viewer will interpolate between simulator updates, predicting updates before they happen and rendering intermediate frames to keep things smooth. This is precisely why avatars start walking through walls or beyond simulator boundaries whenever there is sim lag or network congestion. "Overkill" is any framerate above the monitor's refresh rate (e.g. 60 FPS on LCD/TFT screens).

Myth #2: Windows has no direct support for OpenGL.

Fact: Plans to provide OpenGL only as an emulation layer on top of Direct3D 10 were discarded before Windows Vista started shipping.

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Masami Kuramoto wrote:

Myth #1: Second Life cannot render more than 45 FPS.

Fact: Sim/physics FPS and client FPS are unrelated. The viewer will interpolate between simulator updates, predicting updates before they happen and rendering intermediate frames to keep things smooth. This is precisely why avatars start walking through walls or beyond simulator boundaries whenever there is sim lag or network congestion. "Overkill" is any framerate above the monitor's refresh rate (e.g. 60 FPS on LCD/TFT screens).

I'm not saying it can't render more than 45 FPS.  I'm saying it's overkill.  Even if that was a hard limit to SL, it's still at least 10 frames faster than the human eye can even distinguish as individual frames, short of taking a lot of meth.


Masami Kuramoto wrote:

Myth #2: Windows has no direct support for OpenGL.

Fact: Plans to provide OpenGL only as an emulation layer on top of Direct3D 10
before Windows Vista started shipping.

So that's why it's been a part of Windows since DirectX stopped being supported exclusively in hardware (ie, dx3)?

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There are some thigns that make a significant difference in how well SL performs on a given set of hardware.

  • Plenty of fast memory. 4 gb of RAM is decent and more is better
  • CPU multiple cores. The more the better. But, be practical. The render process in the viewer is currently a single thread, meaning it can only use one CPu core. However, the texture decompression process, network processes, and number others are multi-threaded. The result is the world rezes faster with 4 or more cores. i3, i5, and i7 CPU have a highly efficent threading process. So, efficient that each core works as well as 2 of the older Core2's cores did.
  • i3 is more for video but it works well with SL.
  • 64 Bit OS. This makes a significant difference. While there is no 64 bit viewer, AFAIK, there are LAA (Large Address Aware) versions of the viewer that can use the additional memory available in 64 bit systems.
  • NVIDIA video cards - You have a choice between ATI-AMD or NVIDIA. NVIDIA provides way better support for OpenGL and SL is an OpenGL based application.
  • The 200 to 600 series nVidia cards work well with SL. The higher the first digit the newer the card. The higher the next two digits the more horse power the card has. GTX is better than GTS and that is better than GT.
  • Windows provides better OpenGL support than Apple.
  • Fast harddrive with a large buffer helps. The new SSDrives are fast but expensive.

No matter what you do you will not get the type of performance you will get with other 3D video games. Frame rates of 50 to 90 FPS are possible with SL. Most get far less. You can look through an old thread to see what people were getting: How Fast is Your Viewer? - Second Life.

My Core2 Quad w/GTX560 gets 15 to 25 FPS on Vista 32 w/4gb of ram using the 257716 Development Viewer.

It is not uncommon for i3 users with a $200 video card to run on Ultra in the 25 FPS range.

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Nalates Urriah wrote:

  • 64 Bit OS. This makes a significant difference. While there is no 64 bit viewer, AFAIK, there are LAA (Large Address Aware) versions of the viewer that can use the additional memory available in 64 bit systems.

There are 64-bit viewers on Linux.


Nalates Urriah wrote:

  • NVIDIA video cards - You have a choice between ATI-AMD or NVIDIA. NVIDIA provides way better support for OpenGL and SL is an OpenGL based application.

Windows-specific issue.  OpenGL support seems to be fine on ATI on MacOS and Linux.


Nalates Urriah wrote:
  • Windows provides better OpenGL support than Apple.

Other way around, actually.  That said, if you want good SL support on a budget, Debian's the way to go.  It's what the Lindens use in-house.

 

 

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Baloo Uriza wrote:

I'm not saying it can't render more than 45 FPS.  I'm saying it's overkill.  Even if that was a hard limit to SL, it's still at least 10 frames faster than the human eye can even distinguish as individual frames, short of taking a lot of meth.

It's not about distinguishing individual frames but about perception of flicker. There are two types of photoreceptor cells in the human eye, rods and cones, and their flicker fusion threshold is different: 15 Hz for rod cells, and 60 Hz for cone cells. These are average values; some individuals will see flicker up to 75 Hz and higher.

The slow response time of photoreceptor cells is the reason why we see fast moving objects blurred. If a fan rotates faster than the eye's flicker fusion threshold, its blades blur into a transparent disc because the eye can no longer distinguish between the blades and the background; it will see both at the same time.

Motion pictures run at 24 FPS; much slower than the flicker fusion rate. They get away with it because movie cameras expose frames long enough to include a considerable amount of motion blur. The faster an object moves, the softer its edges will be rendered on screen. This reduces the strobe effect and makes the experience bearable.

In Second Life each frame is rendered with zero seconds of motion blur; it looks like it was shot at infinite FPS. That's OK as long as nothing is moving faster than one pixel per frame. Once you have objects moving faster than that, the strobe effect becomes fully visible along their edges. This strobe effect is what triggers epileptic seizures in some individuals. And it is stronger in peripheral vision. If you focus on your avatar while turning it around at 45 FPS, you can easily see it, no meth required.

So there are two ways to eliminate the strobe effect: add motion blur to each frame, or render frames faster than the eye's flicker fusion rate. In the latter case, motion blur will appear naturally.

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With my old computer i got fps ~20 at best, & with the mesh enabled FS fps dropped to ~7. There was a very definite strobe effect but it was the best the machine could do. I used the FS beta viewer to keep my fps higher even tho I couldnt see mesh properly with it. Fps of ~12 was common in dance clubs even w/ the beta viewer. This was with settings in preferences & draw distance set low.

With the new computer I run the newest FS & can see mesh, have settings & draw distance set high & usually get between 35 & 42 fps. It makes a big difference. If this is still below the flicker fusion threshold i cant tell it. Motion looks smooth, textures & fine detail look enhanced & shadows & reflections look much more real. I love it !!

Jeanne

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JeanneAnne wrote:

With my old computer i got fps ~20 at best, & with the mesh enabled FS fps dropped to ~7. There was a very definite strobe effect but it was the best the machine could do. I used the FS beta viewer to keep my fps higher even tho I couldnt see mesh properly with it. Fps of ~12 was common in dance clubs even w/ the beta viewer. This was with settings in preferences & draw distance set low.

Immy has something relevant to say about this.

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With the FS beta viewer i could see mesh .. It just looked like a big weird oval or box. That's why i said "I couldnt see mesh properly with it." 

I could run the mesh enabled FS with my old computer but when i did .. my fps dropped real low. I preferred to not see mesh properly than put up with such a bad strobe effect, so mostly ran the beta viewer. Many times no1 was even wearing mesh items & it didnt matter. Even when someone was wearing mesh i just put up w/ them looking weird.

But now ~w/ Fenrir~ its all good ... :womanhappy:

Jeanne

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There are really only two choices for video cards to run SL well. Nvidia and ATI (AMD). If you are forced to use a laptop you aren't going to get stellar results no matter what graphics solution you end up with. Nvidia and ATI technology can appear under different brand names like EVGA, BFG and PNY, but they have mostly the same hardware under the hood and only vary by small degrees usually.

ATI cards are very capable cards and often are superior to Nvidia in everything else other than SL. ATI cards often don't support all the goodies SL has to offer and can be seen with even lack luster Nvidia cards. Last ATI card I messed with couldn't render water reflections or even water ripples despite being a top of the line card where a cheap Nvidia had no problems at all.

I recommend an Nvidia GTX 560 or better for excellent SL performance plus the ability to play other games reasonably well. My GTX 580 is still stressed at clubs with 30 avatars in it but I still get 20-40 fps on average.

 

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Kathmandu Gilman wrote:

Nvidia and ATI (AMD). If you are forced to use a laptop you aren't going to get stellar results no matter what graphics solution you end up with. 

That's funny.  My Lenovo Thinkpad T400 performs like a champ.

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Baloo Uriza wrote:


JeanneAnne wrote:

With my old computer i got fps ~20 at best, & with the mesh enabled FS fps dropped to ~7. There was a very definite strobe effect but it was the best the machine could do. I used the FS beta viewer to keep my fps higher even tho I couldnt see mesh properly with it. Fps of ~12 was common in dance clubs even w/ the beta viewer. This was with settings in preferences & draw distance set low.

Immy has
.

Then we should take up the mis-use of the term with Linden Lab.  They initiated it to describe a particular way of making objects for Second Life and everyone including you hopefully knows what is being talked about. 

Perhaps you could suggest a better word or terminology to use?

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Perrie Juran wrote:


Baloo Uriza wrote:


JeanneAnne wrote:

With my old computer i got fps ~20 at best, & with the mesh enabled FS fps dropped to ~7. There was a very definite strobe effect but it was the best the machine could do. I used the FS beta viewer to keep my fps higher even tho I couldnt see mesh properly with it. Fps of ~12 was common in dance clubs even w/ the beta viewer. This was with settings in preferences & draw distance set low.

Immy has
.

Then we should take up the mis-use of the term with Linden Lab.  They initiated it to describe a particular way of making objects for Second Life and everyone including you hopefully knows what is being talked about. 

Perhaps you could suggest a better word or terminology to use?

Terms are arbitrary anyway. SL has its own lingo which I ~as a newbie~ thot was weird. WTF is a "prim" ennyway? I thot "rezz" was a ghetto for Native Americans ... etc, etc, etc .. but i got use2 it. I can talk SL almost as good as enny1 nowadays. "Mesh" may be a dumb name but its what ppl are use2 by now .. so why call it something else?

Jeanne

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JeanneAnne wrote:

I thot "rezz" was a ghetto for Native Americans ... 


Depends on the tribe.  Ours got the last laugh.  They gave us northeastern Oklahoma.  Now we control more oil than Saudi Arabia.

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JeanneAnne wrote:


Perrie Juran wrote:


Baloo Uriza wrote:


JeanneAnne wrote:

With my old computer i got fps ~20 at best, & with the mesh enabled FS fps dropped to ~7. There was a very definite strobe effect but it was the best the machine could do. I used the FS beta viewer to keep my fps higher even tho I couldnt see mesh properly with it. Fps of ~12 was common in dance clubs even w/ the beta viewer. This was with settings in preferences & draw distance set low.

Immy has
.

Then we should take up the mis-use of the term with Linden Lab.  They initiated it to describe a particular way of making objects for Second Life and everyone including you hopefully knows what is being talked about. 

Perhaps you could suggest a better word or terminology to use?

Terms are arbitrary anyway. SL has its own lingo which I ~as a newbie~ thot was weird. WTF is a "prim" ennyway? I thot "rezz" was a ghetto for Native Americans ... etc, etc, etc .. but i got use2 it. I can talk SL almost as good as enny1 nowadays. "Mesh" may be a dumb name but its what ppl are use2 by now .. so why call it something else?

Jeanne

Sometimes words have multiple meanings depending on context and sometimes words are assigned new meanings which really would be the case here. 

The same way we sometimes mix up the terms SIM and Region. 

What is it: A sim is a machine that runs simulators, which are the computer processes that runs regions. (Think of a region like a document, the simulator like a word processor, and the sim as the computer itself that runs the program.) Since these are closely coupled concepts, jargon/terminology tends to be somewhat loose, e.g. "simstate" should really be "region state".

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Service_Disruptions

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Sim

 

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Here's Tom's Hardware's May 2012 Article on "Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2012".

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-card-review,3107.html

I'm running the AMD 7950 which was arguably the 2nd best card in world in February 2012 when I bought it.  Since NVidia's next generation is finally shipping, they seem to be a little bit ahead, but I'm not sure you could tell the difference.

With my AMD 7950 I can run around in Ultra Mode 256 meter all the time and not have any issues, except on the most crowded of SIMs.  On crowded SIMs (like 75 Avi.s) I sometimes drop back to High Mode if everyone is dancing, but if there is something I want to see in Ultra, I can run ultra even then. Even then, I think the limitation is the SIM's ability to source data, not the graphic card's ability to process it.  I think this because I can play Skyrim Elder Scrolls (a popular game) in high-rez high-settings all the time.

I think the best place to buy graphics cards is Newegg.com or Amazon.com .  YMMV.

 

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Turn up AA up to 16xQ with Ultra settings and get back to me... I don't think your ATI based video can even render VBO objects. Once you've experienced the full effect of all the available eye candy in 100fps its hard imagine SL any other way.

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Kathmandu Gilman wrote:

Turn up AA up to 16xQ with Ultra settings and get back to me...

I have, and it doesn't really add anything to the experience that you wouldn't otherwise get for the most part.  After a certain point, more is just more, not necessarily better.

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JeanneAnne wrote:

I recently had a new computer built & here's the video card that went in it:

I'd been told that it should be a Nvidia for SL but my brother insisted that this one was the most powerful for its price & that it should run SL well, as indeed it seems to. I've been getting 35 -42 fps w/ it & lag is all network side due to crappy dsl connection.

Jeanne

OK .. iv been banned so iv not been around but i think id better give an update on this gpu:

SAPPHIRE 11188-22-20G Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card (OC Edition)

its a piece of crap !! dont buy it .. in fact dont buy anything from Radeon or ADM or ATI or whatever its called nowadays

this card was defective .. it kept freezing my new computer .. i couldnt run Firestorm & SAM @ the same time w/out freezing .. so downloaded FurMark & ran a stress test on this gpu & it got REALLY hot .. then froze

so contacted ADM & had to wait for them to assign a Return Merchandise # .. they wouldnt refund the money but would replace the defective component .. AFTER i mailed it to them in Cali & IF they determined that something hadnt voided the warrenty ... waited & waited with no computer .. my music stream was down & i couldnt be in SL all this while .. so finally they sent me a new card .. it was worse than the 1st one !! @ least the 1st card would boot the computer .. then get hot & freeze .. the replacement wouldnt even do that !! it was DOA

so i was sickuv being w/out a computer so in disgust just went to Best Buy & bought a Nvidia GeForce card & it works fine .. wish id gone w/ Nvidia from the start ..... so now im telling everyone that ADM will rip you off .. they suck

Jeanne

 

 

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I had a Athlon x2 4200 2.2ghz  and 9800GT  vid card got  40-200 fps on High with AA and AF disabled with 2GB RAM. Using TinyXP so maybe that was part of the performance difference? SL and SL cache installed on RamDisk and OS partitioned on a seperate drive from swap file. It all adds up. Used to rez fast too. Cpu was about 50%.

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