So I have a confession for making. I am not a computer game player. Even after creating the TwitchGuru. com site last year for Tom’s Hardware, hiring a lot of freelancers and assigning plenty of stories about gaming (twitch refers to the way several gamers flick their regulates to blast away opponents or perhaps whatever it is they do), spending more time in front of any screen than I previously do doesn’t get myself too excited.
A combination of the approaching of Windows Vista plus much more interest in Second Life features motivated me to get more intelligent about the gaming world. My very own first step was to try to use a rig that would work well having games. This became Task management and started to suck me in.
For those of you that create your own PCs from scratch, this may not a problem: you buy the elements that you need, and you can get yourself a reasonable machine that has plenty of visuals horsepower. But I may really have the time to start a design project right now.
So I considered I would just upgrading a somewhat recent Dell that I acquired earlier this summer. Off we all go.
This might be old for some of you, yet bear with me. There are about three principal interfaces and a couple of vendor families. First will be the interfaces: ordinary PCI, AGP, and the newer PCI-Express. Each uses three different electrical contacts, and rather than get involved in the particular bus speeds and nourishes, you have to make sure that whatever your current motherboard has will fit the card that you buy.
And so I carefully examine my Dell, which usually has the cover down anyway so this doesn’t have any time at all, and I know that it can’t be easily advanced because, like most lower-end Computing devices, all it has is the standard PCI slots that do the oldest graphic cards instead of very good ones at that. We are going to get back to it in a minute. Let’s talk about the two guideline families of graphics adapters, just one from ATI (now owned or operated by AMD) and one by Nvidia. They are roughly the same, but each family features dozens of different products. And maybe they are not labeled for uncomplicated parsing: for example, ATI functions the “XT” moniker to touch on to higher-end cards, even though Nvidia uses the label to touch on to lower-end cards.
I stumbled upon a great couple of pages that offer you the stats of the ATI family and the stats in the nVidia family.
They are maintained by Gabriel Torres, of Brazil of places. He does a reliable job of showing an individual what is the makeup of each credit card. The things to look for (in lowering order) are the size of the particular memory interface (128-bit as well as, 256-bit), and how many situations per clock tick the processes. Secondary importance is the actual clock speed with the graphics processor – whenever you can push more bits per tick, you are before the game, so to speak.
Okay, choose this information, I first do the path of least resistance – a mass away from my house is a Company Depot, and they have in their wonderful new store a grand full of four graphics cards on sale. Two of them are AGP cards – which have a tendency to fit in my Dell. A couple of them are PCI credit cards, which are so crappy that they aren’t much of an improvement on the integrated graphics that I currently have. I return home and use the internet to Newegg. com, and discover an ATI card which is about $100 that usually offers the most promise. Recall, the old PCI cards normally are not the shiny new versions that ATI and -Nvidia are currently making, so you normally are not going to get a lot of horsepowers here. But at least I’m going to have something that (assuming that we got the right part), gives a bit of a boost to this (now looking a bit aged) Dell.
So now I start off thinking about trying to buy a DESKTOP with a decent graphics credit pre-installed from the major trusted online retailers. And after about an hour of surfing around online, I have come to the conclusion that it can be nearly impossible. Most of the lower-end type PCs come with Intel or low-end integrated video circuitry, which is how I ended up with typically the configuration that I have. Just forget about buying a laptop with quality graphics, unless you want to shell out lots of dough and have to acquire an asbestos shield on your legs if you actually want to use it on your lap.
Dell sells a couple of desktop products, the Dimension E521 along with C521, which can be configured using ATI X1300 Pro business. You will end up paying close to 1000 dollars for these models, by the time a person outfits them with enough MEMORY (I recommend 2 GIGABYTE these days) and a few some other essentials. The X1300 Professional is what I would call the cheapest high-end graphics card you need, meaning that they sell a lot of others that can deliver much more firepower (and also can be more expensive than the base PC too). But that is the total choice you have from Dell with regard to buying something with much better graphics at a reasonable price point. They do sell their XPS line with lots of other higher-end options, including graphics card choices, but those begin at $2, 000 as well as quickly go up from there in order to nearly twice that.
HEWLETT PACKARD and Lenovo only market desktop models with incorporated graphics chips, at least from the models that I examined. Portal had a lot more choices of image cards, but you had to very first de-select the default choice for buying Microsoft Office before you decide to go into configuring the actual PC – that was irritating. And they only sold Personal computers with Intel CPUs, which also is annoying, because many avid gamers prefer AMD processors. I really could get a decent PC for a little bit more than $1300, which has a higher-end Nvidia GeForce 7900GT, or if I wanted to spend more then I could go to the top of the ATI line and pay for some sort of X1900 dual-card solution. Evidently, they get the whole game-playing thing over at Gateway.
Will you be still with me here? How much difficulty does someone have to look for find what they want to buy? U haven’t even gotten to this DirectX horror story sometimes. I’ll save that the other point is the day, because once you make your graphics card, you have to manage the many splendored things that are certainly DirectX, and match the correct version with what your game along with the card requires.
Now, several of you might be saying at this point, Strom, you are being silly, since any serious gamer is not really going with Dell or Portal, but going to either constructed it themselves or purchase the ultra-high-end lines line such as VoodooPC (now owned through HP) or Alienware (now owned by Dell). These types of machines start at about $4000, though. There is a good way to go from the $500-$1000 regular PCs that most people are purchasing from major retailers.
Images are going to be a big deal in the arriving year, as more individuals with Vista-ready machines realize just how unready they will be with their unpleasant integrated graphics cards. It is too bad that the retailers cannot do a good job of placing the products together that will seem sensible for this market. And it is added too bad that there seems to be a hole in the marketplace between the ultra-high-end PC (at $3000 and up) and the Personal computers that most of us will pay for the are about half to a 3rd of that.
David Strom can be a noted speaker, author, podcaster, and consultant who has published two books and a huge number of magazine articles for many IT publications such as Computerworld, eWeek, and Information Week with Network Computing. His blog site can be found and he can be reached at david@strom. com.
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