Update 2012-11-26: See also: http://elfclan.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-computer-for-inworldz
PICKING A COMPUTER AND VIDEO CARD
Originally posted on: 2010-08-12 10:04:27 by Wayfinder Wishbringer
IMPORTANT: Be sure to check the comments for addendums and latest information. I often get asked about ways to speed up VR, especially in areas of graphics.
A good graphics card might be considered the most important aspect of VR performance... more important than your computer itself.
My favorite graphics cards on the market at this time are:
Nvidia GeForce 250 or above (I personally use the 450)
ATI 4650 or above (5650 or above is recommended)
Low end: Intel 3000 or above-- but may have future limitations.
Use a card with at least 1 gig RAM. More RAM will not be of benefit unless you are using multiple programs at the same time; VR is limited as to how much RAM it can access at once.
The best kind of computer is a duo-core (or better) with 2 gigs (or better) of RAM. However, even a single core can perform well if it has a killer graphics card. 3-4 gigs RAM (or more if you have Windows Vista, 7 8 or Linux) is best.
IDEAL SYSTEM (minimum configuration, at this time, considering overall performance and cost):
Duo core PC, 4 gigs RAM, Nvidia 450 1-gig graphics card
The graphics card is just as important as the computer. Don't skimp on graphics. Graphics cards make a major difference on VR worlds. But there's no real need to buy a $500 card. Usually $75 to $150 will do the trick.
1. Duo core as opposed to single-core computer (duo core is of course better, but single core will work okay)
2. At least 2 gigs RAM... 3 or 4 gigs is even better. Windows XP can only use 3 gigs, but 4 gigs often increases overall performance because of dual-banking speed increases.
3. Video card. A standard computer with a killer graphics card is a killer VR system.
By far, the very best and least-expensive way to gain an incredible performance boost is acquiring a better graphics card. There is no one single item on your computer that affects VR speed more than a high-level graphics card. The difference is night and day. Bad graphics card: slow. Good graphics card: fast.
NOTHING STOPS LAG
On Inworldz, lag has been significantly reduced. However just so it's said: nothing is going to stop lag. Eventually, you are going to experience lag somewhere, sometime. No amount of computer is going to change that. But when internet problems and poor region design are not affecting Inworldz at server level, a high-level graphics card can make all the difference in the world. Plus, it's relatively cheap and easy to update a graphics card.
Be aware that higher-level graphics cards often require higher-level power supplies. Usually 500 watts is a minimum. Get a quality power supply; cheap power supplies can harm your computer.
BETTER BUYS THAN EVER BEFORE
The more RAM you have on your graphics card, the more textures and processes it can handle at one time without switching out.
Radeon cards do not seem to operate as smoothly as GeForce cards. But if you can find a good deal on an ATI Radeon line, you can save some $$$. Avoid the 5770; it is known to have glitches.
KNOW YOUR FORMAT
There are currently three primary computer motherboard formats for video cards: 1. PCI express (PCIe or PCIx) 2. PCI 3. AGP
Before purchasing a video card, make sure you know which format your motherboard uses. If you buy the wrong type of card, it won't fit in your computer. As a note, if you have an AGP motherboard, you might do well to upgrade to a new computer altogether. AGP is old and a computer still using that format may not have much lifespan left.
When you install your new card, be sure you first UNINSTALL your old graphics card drivers and software. Then go to the official website for that card and download the latest drivers supporting your specific operating system. There are different drivers for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac and Linux. Be sure you download and install the correct drivers for your OS and your video card. Usually the installation disc in the box will not be up to date. Ignore it, and download the latest releases.
If you don't have much $$, the ATI 4650 or 4670 does a reasonably good job, has low power requirements and is cheap. The Nvidia cards in general perform better, but have higher power requirements (check your computer power supply vs card needs). Currently, the best buy overall is the GeForce 450. If you have a limited budget, the 1 gig RAM on GeForce 250 or ATI 4650 cards might be fairly attractive at $80.
ADOBE ANNOUNCES SPECIAL NVIDIA SUPPORT
In a major nail-in-the-coffin move, Adobe has announced it will be providing special, advanced support for Nvidia cards (GeForce) that it will NOT be providing for ATI cards (Radeon). According to press releases, future releases of Adobe Premier will operate "100 times faster" on an Nvidia card than on an ATI card, increasing rendering speeds unbelievably.
Nvidia and ATI have always been neck-in-neck in the video card race. Adobe's announcement is a major blow to the Radeon platform and may help us to understand why "slower" GeForce cards seem to run so much better on VR.
HOW DO THESE CARDS COMPARE?
Following are several benchmark readings as well as ongoing information, some of which has been consolidated into this blog. Take the time to read through all the comments as well. Look at the charts. Remember that raw speed is not the essential ingredient, but the faster your card, usually the better the performance. Balance your finances with what's out there and remember: a few extra dollars spent now will be soon forgotten-- but the quality of your video card will reward you every single day. Buy the best you can afford and if you have to spend an extra $30 or $40 to get a better card, realize you'll later likely be glad you spent the extra bucks. Can check specs on Nvidia's own website:
Personally, I prefer Nvidia in general, but ATI works well and is cheaper. I'm especially impressed with their 46xx series cards, which have fairly high power and low wattage consumption. If you want real power and cost isn't that much of an issue, the Nvidia 250s and up are great.
Be aware that when you install a higher level graphics card, you are likely to get into power and cooling issues.
1) You will need a power supply sufficient to meeting the needs of the card. Good power supplies are expensive. Don't skimp on power supplies-- or you'll seriously regret it later.
2) Larger power supplies and heavier graphics cards mean the computer will run hotter-- which is not good. Top-vented cases work well (holes in the top with a fan blowing out... hot air rises). Equally beneficial is opening up the side of your computer entirely and blowing a small desk fan right into the side. That airflow trick solves just about all heating problems and is a lot cheaper than other solutions.
It is unfortunate that VR is such a resource hog. When upgrading your graphics, take it for granted you are going to spend about $150 to $250 total on the graphics card and a new power supply. There's no cheap or corner-cutting way around it. Graphics costs. The performance is worth it. : )