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Candi Renfew

Graphic Card advice =) Please tell me is this a good card!

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Hello Candi. I have exactly the same graphics cards on my laptop. I have never had problems to run SL but i avoid to run SL with Ultra graphics, although is possible even in busy regions (5-10 fps). This way i overload very much my laptop. Remember that you need at least 15 fps in order your avatar to move smoothly. You can play smoothly in high graphics. GT 525 and 540 are a bit faster. Nvidia GTX series is the top one but of course with higher cost.

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Nvidia's recent graphics cards use a naming system. In a number like 520, the "5" represents what generation the card is, sort of like the model year of a car. I believe 5 may be the latest; it's pretty recent. The "2", though, represents the level of performance within that generation, with higher numbers representing better performance. 520 would designate a fairly low-performance card. I've got a GT 430 in my computer (i.e. one generation earlier but one level higher in the performance scale) with a quad-core processor and 6 gigabytes of memory. I can run SL in "High" without shadows on in most places with pretty good but not spectacular performance. I can use "Ultra" with shadows if I'm doing something like taking a photo but not for anything wanting a smooth frame rate.

I really doubt that you'd be able to set that computer to "Ultra" and be able to go graphically-intensive places with a frame rate that's not going to look like you're dancing under a strobe light.

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That's not a bad computer for the price.  The graphics card is probably the weakest part about it, but it should still be OK for SL...probably not with Shadows and DOF though.  Your internet connection is also important.  You need a good high speed connection, either DSL or cable or FIOS, and your computer should connect to your modem/router with a cable, not wi-fi.

Ask the store if you can return the computer if it's not suitable for your intended use.  Then take it home and give it a try...but save all the packaging in case it doesn't do the job as well as you would like.

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You're going to have to give up something if you want to stay in that budget range.  Either the ability to run SL with the Ultra settings and shadows or that budget.  A card capable of running SL at Ultra with shadows smoothly will cost pretty close to the $500 USD all by itself.  You can get a computer for around $1000 that is capable of doing what you want but you are not likely to find it "off the shelf".......anywhere.  You're going to need to put the hardware together yourself or have someone else do it for............a custom built computer.

 

A rough estimate of what I think is possible for the major components of a computer capable of your goal:

CPU and motherboard...........................$250

Video card..............................................$450

Power supply..........................................$75

Case.......................................................$50

Memory..................................................$150

Hard drive..............................................$100

Total.......................................................$1075

 

That's sort of a basic box assuming the motherboard has the Ethernet and audio incorporated into the board.  You can shop for a less expensive motherboard/CPU combination but that will most likely limit you in any expansion abilities later.  As you can see, you set a goal quite high for that price range..........but, I'm sure it can be done.  I would recommend finding a geeky friend in real life (or a very trusted computer expert at a reputable computer shop..........not Geek Squad).

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Figuring out what type of performance you are going to get is complicated. SL uses OpenGL and nVidia cards provide good support for OpenGL, at least better than AMD/ATI.

I have a Core2 Quad CPU and nVidia GTX560. With the current viewer I get between 10 and 20 FPS using High setting with Lighting & Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Sun/Moon Shadows turned on. You can see what others are getting in this thread: How Fast is Your Viewer? - Second Life.

There is a significant difference between running HIGH and ULTRA.

The best performing machines seem to run Vista or Win7 64 bit, have a quad core CPU and nVidia x60 and better video card. You'll see some running nVidia 230 and 260 cards do pretty well. The newer computers with the i3, i5, and i7 CPU's seem to provide better performance then the older Core2 Quad Cores.

More memory helps. The 64-bit systems allow 8gb or more of memory. In general the SL Viewer needs between 1 and 2 gb to work well. The 64-bit systems are more stable running SL (have fewer crashes).

The nVidia settings (via your computer's nVidia control panel) you use can effect performance too. Changing them can get one a 30% difference. Graphics Tweaking for Second Life.

For those considering upgrading or spec'ing out a new computer, most of the considerations are covered in a similarly named article: How To get a Faster Second Life.

SLI or dual graphics cards will work with SL and get some performance boost. The common word is SL does not use SLI. I know people that know how to set up SLI so SL will use it. I don't have twin video cards, so I haven't been down that path. The speed boost form duel video cards in SL is a minor improvement from what I hear.

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Just wanted to throw a comment in here about graphics cards that run full tilt in SL.  I have an almost year old machine now, a CyberPower which was way over your budget at the time of purchase most likely not now though. That being said it has a Radeon HD6950 graphics card which a very quick look at Google show is available for under $250 without even shopping around.

So you do NOT need a $500 card to run well with shadows and every other possible thing turned on (I can run DOF but don't like it much). I never turn shadows off and on a good day can get over 100 fps. I have 6 gigs of RAM with 2 additional on the graphics card.

In general if you want to keep your price low, the best bet it to buy a middle of the road computer and upgrade your graphics card and RAM. I have done this a few times. BUT make SURE that the power supply on the computer you buy can run the card that you want to add.

 

 

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