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Hardware requirement in SL

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I'm going to make a few generalizations in this post so bear with me.

Since the introduction of mesh, SL's hardware requirement went even higher than before, but not really surprising since SL has always been a game with terrible graphics and ridiculously high hardware requirement. My laptop is able to play games like Oblivion at med-high settings with no lag, yet it's not uncommon to get like 1-2 fps in SL in slightly laggy regions and not over 10 fps in other regions, despite setting SL to med-low graphics (everything minimum except object rendering and local lights). I know my laptop's not the greatest (Sony VAIO, i5 intel HD), yes I know it has that stupidly crappy intel HD chip, but with an i5 isn't it better than the "everyday" laptop that most people use? I mean I see most people still use the intel pentium nowadays, desktop or laptop. Another generalization is that isn't SL more aimed towards the non-gamer audience? ie Not the hardcore gamers with super great gaming computers (I'm pretty sure they'd be playing actual computer games)? Most of my friends in SL are the 20s, 30s, 40s, 9-5 working class, in other words adults who have no idea about gaming. With mesh, everyone needs to enable basic shaders, which is extremely taxing on the system and pretty much guaranteed to reduce fps for everyone, even though pretty much every other computer game had it for the last 6 years or so and is nowhere near as taxing on the system, no idea wtf is SL doing. So now SL has turned into a "hardcore" video game with extremely high hardware requirements? A 30-year old stay-at-home mom (just using this as example, please don't be offended if you are one) who usually uses an intel pentium that is perfectly fine for everyday work, will suddenly need to go to newegg and research  about gaming computers, and possibly spend $2000 buying a gaming computer just to hang out in SL?? I don't think I'm exaggerating here, because my Sony VAIO i5, which is a pretty new model, certainly cannot handle mesh-SL at all, hell it can hardly handle non-mesh-SL above 10fps. I know people who has desktops that costs over $2000 with the latest graphics card who drop to 5fps in slightly laggy sims.

So what're your thoughts on this? If mesh gets even more popular which I definitely see happening, then I guess everyone needs to buy a gaming computer, or quit SL?

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Quit SL, perhaps explore a different grid like IMVU. It has double the logins and is less complex. It runs on average computers.

And there are many more alternative 3d worlds, it doesn't have to be SL perse since my Inv. are mostly my own creations i can start over on any other grid. Or just start all over again since IMVU isn't compatible.

I give it another 6 months... If LL doesn't come up with a usuable viewer for the average user i have no reason to stay. A thing i just won't do is buy another computer again specially for SL. There's more in life than SL.

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I think you are right that it takes really good hardware to have the best SL experience.  I base this statement purely on my own recent experience.

Santa brought me a new computer with a second generation Core i7 CPU, X79 motherboard, 32 GB RAM, GTX 580 graphics card with 3072 MB of DDR5, and an SSD for all programs.  The only thing that could be better, but only slightly, is it could have the extreme edition CPU and use SSDs for all storage.  SL works dramatically better on it than it did on my old computer.  

My old computer was pretty good.  It had a 3.2 GHz Core 2 Quad, 8 GB RAM, and a GTX 470 graphics card, much more power than needed for almost all everyday computer tasks.

I am pretty sure my new computer is overkill, but I have no idea by how much, and I have no idea which parts (except the amount of RAM) are better than they need to be.  All I can say is that my old one is not good enough to even approach letting me have as good a SL experience as I do with the new one.

And, yes, the reason I wanted the new one was to improve my SL experience.

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It all depends on whether you have any idea how to look after and tune your computer.  My 5 year-old £700 computer with a not-great nVidia 8300 can handle SL well at high graphics and very smoothly (c20 - 30fps, which is all the brain needs) with a few options knocked-down.  EG; I usually have draw-distance set as 96m and no water reflections.

Graphics cards that can handle the settings are hardly ever lagged by busier regions; they're already doing all the necessary work anyway.  What IS stressed and causes lag is the quality of your broadband connection.  Games usually only have to exchange messages like <position><facing><pose> whereas SL has to download EVERYTHING because it's all custom.  Games have all the graphics, sounds, etc. pre-installed on the computer, know what to cache or pre-load when according to the script they're following and, most importantly, everything has been designed and tested to make sure it's as smooth as possible.

Which is why you can't compare SL to a game, especially one like Oblivion that isn't even online.  (Much as I love Oblivion I've also noticed just how many bad textures and physics glitches there are in it since learning about them in SL too!)  SL, as experienced in-world, has been cobbled-together by us, the residents, mostly without any great degree of skill, grand design plan, testing or optimisation.  Of course, there are some people who have ensured their parcels/sims/objects are as efficient as packaged software, but that is not generally the case.

--> In other words SL is tough on your machine by the very nature of how it works.  That isn't going to change.

But you also mention 'laggy regions' - if there is a processing bottleneck on the server end then, yes, that's something LL should be addressing and the infrastructure for SL has to handle.  I don't often see much time dilation these days though; is that really what you're talking about?

[PS: Jennifer - what have you done with your 'old' 470?]

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Thank you, PeterCanessa, for that really great explanation of how SL really works - and why we should not compare it to computer games. It irritates me to hear people speak about SL as a "game," anyway - for to me, it is so much more than that. Of course, everyone is welcome to view it in whatever way they please - and SL is fun! *smiles*

I do appreciate your posting and will share the information with others. Thank you!


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That has also been my experience in SL.  I've never had a gamer's rig (or anything close, really).  I do, however, have a computer that is a little above "average" (whatever that means).  My hardware is always, at least, mid-range in performance and the best quality I can afford...........I don't do off the shelf, pre-packaged machines anymore for that very reason.  You get what the computer manufacturer decides is "good enough" and the manufacturers depend on the fact that most people don't what's really "good enough".  Obtaining and installing your operating system, setting it up to your needs, and leaving out the unnecessary little bells and whistles (what I call "pretties") makes for a much quicker system without even starting to tweak default settings.  On my i5 2.8 gig quad core CPU, 8 gigs DDR3 system RAM, GTS 250 1 gig DDR5 VRAM card on a Windows 7 x64 machine I get 25 to 35 FPS is almost all areas (extremely heavily populated and texture rich areas those FPS will drop to maybe 15 to 20..........but I almost never get that low even on those sims).  There's not special about my connection either............a 30 mbps cable connnection (which tests consistantly at 27 mbps download), connected via an Ethernet cable to a router with two smart phone wireless connections, one iPad WiFi wireless connection, and one Ethernet connection from my DVD player for Netflix video streaming to my television.  Normal connections going on at once is two........this computer and one smartphone.  My viewer preferences are at High without shadows and my draw distance is 256 meters.  All on the new Viewer 3 (that lag monster for others).


I just have mid level hardware on a mid level computer using a mid level cable connection.  Why do I get good performance and others don't?  I don't know but I can guess.  People tend to have too much crap going on with their computers and too lazy (or too arrogant) to turn them off.  People are too quick to point the finger at someone else for their problems (LL, it has to be LL because it ain't my computer).  I can say from experience here in the forums alone that, at least, 75% of the problems people report about SL are problems generated at their end (or sometimes the ISP's end)...........and their refusal to accept it may be at their end makes a solution impossible.  They are destined to be unhappy with SL because it's easier to point a finger than to fix their problem.

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You can see what performance others are getting here: How Fast is Your Viewer? - Second Life

You can read about viewer comparisons here:  #SL Viewer Performance

The i5 HD is optimized for video not games. It is a good CPU. But you need a graphics card to go with the CPU.

Laptops often have to be told that SL is a graphics game. If there is a graphics processor other than the CPU HD, it may not be kicking in. nVidia has a control panel where you can set specific games and settings for those games. You can use the defaults and globals settings. Just make sure SL is in the list of games and if not add it. Graphics Tweaking for Second Life

You can get a program called GPU-Z and another called CPU-Z, both are free. Use them to see how your system is performing. They will tell you if the CPU is the bottleneck or the graphics processing.

You can also use the Reliability and Performance Monitor to see what is holding things back. High Hard Fault rates in Memory indicate you have run out of RAM. On machines without a graphics card the system can use ram in its place. With other tasks running, Windows runs a load of them, you can eat up 4gb of ram pretty quick.

Also there is a 27% performance improvement between SL Viewer 3.2.2 and 3.2.5. The lab is upgrading the viewer to be more compatible with newer OpenGL versions. 

You may also want to consider one of the 64-bit viewers.

Also there are viewers like Cool VL that use the older user interface and run much faster. Dolphin Viewer 3 has just updated to 3.2.6 code and runs pretty fast.

In general a quad core of some type and good but low end video card will run SL with decent performance. Look through the How Fast thread to get a sense of the performance others are getting.

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My own experience suggests that my particular bottleneck is not the graphics card,

Evidence? Open the Stats windows (Ctrl-Shift-1) and look at the Advanced | Render section. The triangle is the basic unit of graphics, and the ktris drawn per second gives yoiu an indication of what the graphics card is doing.

What I have found is that increasing the Graphics quality in Preferences has a small effect on frame rate, and greatly increases the ktris drawn. This seems to be independent of the Viewer used, though specific numbers do differ.

I've read that Henri Beaumont has done some significant code optimisations to his Cool VL Viewer, and it does seem to perform well, but that is a mix of v1 and v2+ code, to get Mesh into a v1-style Viewer. |I may have to upgrade to Windows 7, so as to get the best out of multi-core processors, but i am not sure if the Viewer can take advantage of it. Speculating wildly, I suspect a part of my problem is how the network interface works. Is the code in the Viewer which handles incoming network data competing with the code preparing graphics data for the graphics card? What I see is consistent with that.

It doesn't help that a lot of ISPs have over-sold capacity. When they set up their businesses, people didn't use always-on connections to stream media. At peak times, your share of their network capacity can be much less than the advertised figure. Which is one reason why the Viewer's bandwidth setting might be usefully reduced. It's a tricky figure to interpret, but the Stats Window tells you the instantaneous packet loss, and if packet loss coincides with bursts of high bandwidth usage, it's likely worth reducing the bandwidth setting.

OK, nothing here about what's good hardware, but some clues about finding what can be done, I hope. I wonder if out-sourcing Viewer 2 lost the Linden expertise to deal with such things? 



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Peggy Paperdoll wrote:

That has also been my experience in SL...

That's probably why I find myself agreeing with everything you write so often, as I do again now :-)

Of course, the OP's point can be read as "SL isn't suitable for low-end or badly set-up computers", which I'd also agree with.  My point is that, unfortunately, there really isn't much that can be done about that as an open, user-created, environment has fundamental differences from games.  The appeal of games is that you play the (pre-installed) game provided.  Wow, for example, is a fundamentally different type of application.


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  • 1 year later...


I understand what you're saying about the users or isp being responisble for many of the issues they have in SL. I am neither lazy nor arrogant but, I can certainly tell you that I just don't know which processes that are running in the background are safe to turn off.  Sure, Pandora, YMsgr, Firefox and one or two others are obvious to me and, I do turn them off. 

I'm on the hunt for a new AMD Radeon HD card because my current one (Radeon HD 5450) is no longer on the list of 'recomendations'.  I want to make a decent jump in quality of card just to keep at least 1 step ahead of LL.

I would like to know if you can tell me some of the not so obvious processes that run that are safe for me to turn off and perhaps, which direction to go in the AMD Radeon HD family. I'm looking at the 6000 series but I don't understand the specifics of  6850 and 6870 being recommended. Do you know why the entire series is not recommended?  Just wondering.

Sorry, I've been all over new egg, toms hardware and other sites seeking info to buy the most effective card. I'm simply stuck.


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