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Shadows: What Graphics Cards / OS versions / Viewers support this?

Ceera Murakami

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I have yet to see any sort of list that says which combination of graphics card, OS type and Viewers are capable of seeing Shadows.

What do we know works?

What do we know does NOT work?

If someone wanted to upgrade their video card today and be able to see shadows, which ones are certain to work, and on which OS platforms? What viewer do they have to use, and whjat tricks are needed to make it work?

And why is it so difficult to find a source for this information?

All I know so far is than not one of my Macintosh or Windows computers can see Shadows, even though my two best systems (A Mac Pro Tower and a Win XP server-class system) both have quad-core processors, with graphics cards that get 40+ FPS at fully maxxed out graphics settings. Short of buying a brand new computer with the most expensive graphics card possible to cram into it, what else can see shadows in SL?

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The only hard requirement is a video card that supports OpenGL 3.0 (DirectX 10). That would be the Geforce 8 series or Radeon HD 2000 series and up. There are problems with Macs, especially with ATI cards, but that's mostly because Apple hasn't updated their OpenGL library in 5 years (they're still using 2.1). However LL is slowly working on it. ETA: You have to have up to date drivers as well, many of the older cards predate OpenGL 3.0.

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Ceera I think you better have a fairly stout video card if my little test is any indication. My 7 month old Windows 7 system with a 3.4 GHz AMD Phenom II quad core processor, 4 GB OCZ DDR3 memory and Nvidia GTX 460 SE 1 GB vid card got choked down to a pitiful 5 fps with shadows enabled (I tested using the latest Firestorm beta 2.5x). I normally run SL on high (not ultra) settings, 128 m draw distance and typically get 40-60 fps. On medium settings I can get above 80 depending on sim, number of avatars present, etc.

I know the GTX 460 SE is a pretty middle of the road video card, but it's a current generation product and far from being a dog. I guess if you only need to take a few still photos with all the shadows and eye candy on 5 fps is ok, but if you actually want it enabled full time you'll probably have to look at one of the top end gaming vid cards (like the Nvidia 560/580 series) and be prepared to pay big bucks.

(Edited to add that after these results there was no way I was going to try this on my MacBook Pro. The SL Mac viewer gives me enough problems as is without trying any experiments...)

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leliel Mirihi wrote:

I have a 560 Ti and I'm also using linux and shadow work just fine for me.

I too can see the shadows but, the question is, what kind of frame rats are you getting? As I said my GTX 460 can render the scene just fine but, at 5-7 fps, it's hardly what I'd consider playable performance.

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89fps in a low lag sim in Ultra with Shadow enabled (was over 90 fps but opening camera window brought it down a little) - see photo below. 30-50 fps in most other sims at same settings, was 38-42 fps at time of taking the second photo. Anti-aliasing does not work for me with Shadows enabled and some issues with alpha textures. Fairly up to to date driver, Catalyst 11.5, but not the latest, so I may update again to see if it fixes these issues.

Kirstens S21 2.8.0 (8) Jul 10 2011 09:57:56 (Kirstens S21)
Release Notes

CPU: Intel® Core i5 CPU         750  @ 2.67GHz (3910.99 MHz) (overclocked)
Memory: 4087 MB
OS Version: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit  (Build 7600)
Graphics Card Vendor: ATI Technologies Inc.
Graphics Card: ATI Radeon HD 5800 Series (5850)

Windows Graphics Driver Version: 8.17.0010.1077
OpenGL Version: 4.1.10750 Compatibility Profile Context


The Woods.jpg

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  • 2 months later...

That is absolutely incredible performance Deej!!! I have a Nvidia GTX 285 with 1 GB VRAM and if I enable shadows (ultra), I only get about 15 fps. However, I noticed that the original specifications for my video card indicate that it supports OpenGL 2.1. So maybe the primary reason I'm not getting better performance with shadows is because my card is simply outdated at this point. However, my viewer indicates my OpenGL version with my driver is 3.3.0. Not sure exactly how that works. My specs as reported by Viewer 3.03 are below.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 810 Processor (2611.88 MHz)
Memory: 8191 MB
OS Version: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1 (Build 7601)
Graphics Card Vendor: NVIDIA Corporation
Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 285/PCI/SSE2

Windows Graphics Driver Version: 8.17.0012.8026
OpenGL Version: 3.3.0

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Don, although you mention Deej in your post, you replied to my post, so I assume it's for me.  Yes, I'm very happy with the general performance. Basically means I can travel around SL in Ultra with Shadows enabled if I wish.

The GTX 285 supports OpenGL 3.3 so the reported specs look right.



6) What NVIDIA hardware will support OpenGL 3?

The new features in OpenGL 3 require G80, or newer hardware. Thus OpenGL 3.0/3.1/3.2/3.3 is not supported on NV3x, NV4x nor G7x hardware. This means you need one of the following NVIDIA graphics accelerators to use OpenGL 3:


  • Quadro FX 370, 570, 1700, 3700, 4600, 4700x2, 4800, 5600, 5800, Quadro VX200, Quadro CX
  • GeForce 8000 series or higher; Geforce G100, GT120, 130, 220, GTS 150, GTS 250, GT310, 320, 330, 340, GeForce GTX 260 and higher, any ION based products.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Bit late to the discussion but I thought I would impart my findings.

I've had a GTX280 since Dec 08 running on first gen Pentium i7 920 ( 2.67ghz) - which has worked beautifully until shadows came along. Now when i run with shadows the GTX280 and now overclocked ( to 3.6Ghz ) it *does* work ok just about - in uncrowded areas I get 8-12fps, which is just about playable. Of ourse switch shadows off and I get a jump up to the 40-60's in FPS - and the GPU drops from belting out at 99% to around the 50% mark.

To get a better experience with shadows I decided to abandon my faithful old GTX280 and get a new fandangle GTX 560 Ti to give that a road test. Sadly, while it *does* improve frame rate the difference is not massive - in the region of 15-20fps in the same place as before, GPU still maxed at 99%. Switch Ambient occlusion off and I get shadows at a reasonable 25-30fps with the GPU fluctuating between 50-99% - which ain't too shabby - however you really do need AO on to get the most of shadows*. So given that the performance increase with a GTX560ti over a GTX 280 isn't that great I would say it's not worth the upgrade - so I took the GTX 560ti back to the shop and changed it for the GTX 580 instead.

What I'm aiming to achieve is a smooth ride with shadows *and* AO and the GPU not maxed with a reasonable draw distance of say 256m. 

There are other benefits though - the Gainward Phantom GTX 560 ti, ran quiet and cool possibly due to the very nifty cooling system wrapped around the card - I'm yet to test the Phantom 3 but I anticipate the same.

Finally I would add this is all pretty high end gear, I'm very into photography and machinima so it's worth it for me. However if you just want to play with shadows anything from a GTX 2 Series and up should do it ok assuming your CPU us pushing out enough raw data

*AO or Ambient Occlusion appears to remove the jagged edges from the shadows - it's a very noticable difference



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  • 3 months later...

mmm, i noticed that my SL have problems with shadows aswell, maybe someone is able to help me with that problem


I have a ASUS G73JH (Republic for Gamers Notebook) with following specifications:

OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit Version (Build 7601)

CPU: Intel i7 Q720 1.6GHz

Memory: 8 GB RAMM

GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5870 Mobility 1GB

Catalyst: 12.1


I'm able to play SL on fully settings, but as soon as i turn on shadows, then i lag badly and i have no clue how to fix that


with kind regards

Fox Wildung

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