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appleblossomnymph

How to Choose a Laptop for Running SL?

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I'm not looking for specific product recommendations, but ways to compare different laptops and judge the relative ease of running Second Life on them. And yes, it does have to be a laptop!

I'm still in a bit of a muddle about processors - here's what I've gathered so far:

  • An Intel i5 or i7 in the most recent generations (7 or 8) would be best, and the two-letter suffixes are better while the Y and M suffixes are the worst. So, for example, and i5 8500 HQ would be better than an i7 5420 U? (Made up processors but hopefully demos the formula.)
  • When it comes to clock speed (GHz), it would mostly depend on how many cores or threads the demands of Second Life can be split over. (Does anybody know this??) I normally slow my machine down by having a lot of Office-level programs open at once while working, which would make having more cores or threading ability a priority over clock speed. When SL is open, though, those programs aren't, so if the cores/threading factor is relevant to SL then it can use them all and the first prioritization stands (I can get away with a lower baseline clock speed if I still have a bunch of cores/threads). If Second Life needs to single-thread, though, then the opposite priority (high clock speed) would need to be accommodated too...
  • Getting a more recent generation processor would probably also reduce my need for high clock speed, if each clock cycle is more efficient in a newer model.

Is any of that kind of accurate?? I will confess, I'm not much of a technology person, but it's more that I don't bother looking at this stuff often than that I find it intimidating when I do.

As for the graphics card:

  • This will actually make a bigger difference to SL than my processor (although I still want a decent one of those!). However, there's some relation between the generation of the processor and graphics card performance?
  • Having a separate one will make more of a difference than having a flashier integrated one
  • NVIDIA will be better than AMD due to the latter's lack of interest in supporting SL's use of OpenGL. (Is this a blanket 'don't get AMD' or a 'use this as a decider at comparable price' difference though?)

Then comes the RAM: Anything below 8GB will be sacrificing performance. 6GB would be functional? (Although by current machine is 6GB and it has performance issues with SL, not sure what is at the root of them though. Hopefully improving all other specs would minimize the problem caused by a 6GB RAM? Or I can just find 8+GB affordably on my hunt.)

Haven't yet looked at screen resolutions etc. but feel that this is more fundamental stuff to understand first. (No?)

I don't play any computer games, and I would rather understand specifically what makes Second Life tick than just get something with the "gaming laptop" label, so any advice that helps me compare what's out there for myself would be very, very much appreciated!

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Welp, apparently RAM has more to do with my ALL THE PROGRAMS AT ONCE style of working than processing power does, so I suppose for that point I could prioritize RAM, and then sustained clock speed and graphics for SL?

This is what you get for asking Google - all the things you need to know out of order and out of context... and weird gaps in knowledge. Humans really are best!

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Another thought - might different viewers affect what is best in this regard? I generally use Firestorm, but have read very varied accounts about which viewers have a tendency to peg processor cores and which don't. Any advice??

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10 hours ago, appleblossomnymph said:
  • An Intel i5 or i7 in the most recent generations (7 or 8) would be best, and the two-letter suffixes are better while the Y and M suffixes are the worst. So, for example, and i5 8500 HQ would be better than an i7 5420 U? (Made up processors but hopefully demos the formula.)
  • When it comes to clock speed (GHz), it would mostly depend on how many cores or threads the demands of Second Life can be split over. (Does anybody know this??) I normally slow my machine down by having a lot of Office-level programs open at once while working, which would make having more cores or threading ability a priority over clock speed. When SL is open, though, those programs aren't, so if the cores/threading factor is relevant to SL then it can use them all and the first prioritization stands (I can get away with a lower baseline clock speed if I still have a bunch of cores/threads). If Second Life needs to single-thread, though, then the opposite priority (high clock speed) would need to be accommodated too...
  • Getting a more recent generation processor would probably also reduce my need for high clock speed, if each clock cycle is more efficient in a newer model.

1) QM is a high wattage quadcore, you wont find them outside of high end gaming laptops. Y is ultra low voltage, M is standard mobile dual cores and theres nothing wrong with them. Optimally for SL you'd want a quadcore, and there are some lower tier quadcore options out there that are recent, but really any M suffix dual core processor from the last few generations will be fine. Avoid M prefixes, U suffixes and Y prefixes/suffixes. Sadly, outside of "gaming" and workstation laptops, for recent generations youre not going to find much of anything other than U suffixes. The recent mobile generations, intel 7000/8000 are almost all ULV processors. Doesnt mean theyre bad, just that you cant really compare them as close to their desktop counterparts anymore.

2) A large part of SL is very single threaded, and single thread performance is very important. Clock speed isnt the biggest issue as long as youre over 1.8ghz or so, ive run SL on way less without too much of a CPU bottleneck. You can comfortably get away with a modern dual core with decent single thread speed unless you multitask heavily, in which case you want a quadcore, because while SL might not be fully utilizing two cores on its own, its still using two cores, so anything else is going to start straining them further, 4 cores to spread out the load is better. Also a bunch of slow cores != comparative to a few fast cores, theres correlation for sure, but you want overall performance metrics in terms of single and multi threaded scores from various benchmarks over anything. Thats why AMD's FX series processors were so bad for some things and great for others, they were high core count at high speed, but they were very weak cores. An FX 9590 is a 5ghz 8 core processor that got blown out by the i7 4790k, a 4ghz quadcore.

3) Really theres not too much difference between generations of i series mobile processors, honestly you could go back to Ivy Bridge and be fine, as in something like an i5 2580m from 2012 so long as its paired with a decent graphics solution, since the integrated graphics from then werent that great. You want a general midrange option from any generation you pick, dont sacrifice one aspect of a processor for another, thats how intel are getting people to buy 900mhz processors in 2017, because "they work".

10 hours ago, appleblossomnymph said:
  • This will actually make a bigger difference to SL than my processor (although I still want a decent one of those!). However, there's some relation between the generation of the processor and graphics card performance?
  • Having a separate one will make more of a difference than having a flashier integrated one
  • NVIDIA will be better than AMD due to the latter's lack of interest in supporting SL's use of OpenGL. (Is this a blanket 'don't get AMD' or a 'use this as a decider at comparable price' difference though?)

1) Your GPU choice will moreso assist your processor than your processor will assist your GPU. SL is CPU bound, you dont need anything too crazy graphically to just get it running smoothly, it depends on what settings you want to run at. I run low/medium settings in 1080p or medium/high in a windowed ~720p sort of thing, and i use a Quadro FX 4600, a high GPU from 2007. You wont have to worry about bottlenecking or performance across generations when talking about a laptop, since any laptop is going to come with its respective era of graphics. Youre not going to find a first gen i5 with a mobile GTX 1080, in the same sense you wont find an 8th gen i5 with a GT 210m.

2) A dedicated GPU in a laptop will generally outperform any integrated graphics, that does depend on whats in there, but i dont think any laptop with dedicated graphics is going to come with something weaker than the integrated graphics.

3) The whole "AMD < Nvidia" thing is a literal decade+ old misconception. It comes from a time when Nvidia was making mobile gaming hardware, and AMD/ATI was making mobile display adapters, 2003-2008 or so if you had an "ATI laptop" you had a basic laptop that came with a dedicated GPU option that wasnt meant for anything more than regular use, AMD just wasnt doing much of the gaming side of things for mobile devices. Nvidia was the one doing that. AMD uses directX and openGL the same as Nvidia does. In 2017 the AMD/Nvidia thing shouldnt be a concern, look into the general performance you want over anything.

On desktop hardware, an AMD RX 580 and a Nvidia GTX 1060 will perform about the same, in SL or otherwise.

For both graphics card and processors, look into benchmark performance metrics, sites like Passmark or Userbenchmark that have benchmarks for everything, where you can compare processors, GPU's, ram, etc all in a common points based system.

 

11 hours ago, appleblossomnymph said:

Then comes the RAM: Anything below 8GB will be sacrificing performance. 6GB would be functional? (Although by current machine is 6GB and it has performance issues with SL, not sure what is at the root of them though. Hopefully improving all other specs would minimize the problem caused by a 6GB RAM? Or I can just find 8+GB affordably on my hunt.)

It depends on how heavily you multitask and what viewer you use with how much extra stuff you got going on in it. The regular LL viewer takes 1-1.5gb of ram for me, and my multitasking consists of a web browser open for music and facebook, sometimes discord is open. So my total memory usage is around 4gb including the operating system overhead. 8gb is fine for me. Now if you used firestorm with a lot of stuff going on, that viewer can use 6gb on its own, meaning your OS + firestorm + anything else is going to easily max out 8gb of ram. You'd want 12/16gb. The performance of other components will not reduce ram usage, you need a certain amount of ram for the things you do. Pairing a high end processor and high end GPU wont make it so you can run things on a small amount of ram.

Screen resolution is important when it comes to your choice of GPU. Higher resolution = more demanding on your graphics card. You also gotta know how to translate some semi obscure resolutions into 720p/1080p/1440p. Generally resolution is shortnamed for its vertical pixel count, 1080p is 1920 width by 1080 height. 720p is 1280x720, 480p is 600x480, 1440p is 2160x1440, 4k is a weird outlier since its actually 3940x2160. The higher the resolution, the more work your GPU has to do per frame, the more video memory you may need.

Most laptops come in 1366x768 or something like that, thats a bit over 720p. For 720p you dont need much, honestly at that point recent intel integrated graphics would be ok, for 1080p you want a modern midrange GPU like a GTX 1050 or one of the 940MX's that are still being shipped in new laptops for some reason even though the 940mx is old as hell now. An MX150 is essentially a mobile GT 1030 which is fine for light 1080p gaming or decent settings in 720p.

Youre not going to find too many AMD dedicated GPU options outside of workstations and apple hardware right now. They would have their standard radeon names like RX 540 or whatever.

My general suggestion for a modern laptop for SL would be something like this:

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=1TS-001A-005J6
 

Its an i5 7300HQ, 8gb of ram, 2gb GTX 1050, comes with an SSD, 1080p display and all that, its around 800 bucks but for the price its decent. I think its one of the best all-rounders for performance without going into "gaming" machine territory.

 

 

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