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#115485 - 09/09/2002 06:00 PC gaming, how can I make it better?
fusto
addict

Registered: 27/12/2001
Posts: 504
Loc: Lummi Island, WA
So, now that Loren the candyman has got me hooked on this battlefield 1942 game, Im wondering what I can do to improve my gaming experience.
This is my first foray into PC gaming, so I'm sure my PC is not optimized for it, and I'm wondering what I could do to improve my current system.
Its a Dell Optiplex GX110
Pentium 3 866Mhz
256 MB ram
ATI radeon 7000 32MB video card.
AT&T Cable Broadband

What I'd most like to improve is the frame rate that I get from playing multiplayer.
Should I upgrade the CPU (this MB can go up to 1Ghz), more memory (I could go to 512 pretty easily) or would a better video card be the ticket (a 64MB card maybe?)

I'm running the game 800X600 16bit, to see if that would help, but I really cant tell the difference between that and the 32bit setting. I tried a couple of other things but I'm pretty much shooting in the dark here.

I know "all of the above" is probably the best option, but I cant do that right now.
I dont want to dump tons of money into this PC just for this one game, but I could do a bit of tweaking. Just need to know what direction to tweak in.

Anybody out there got any advice or pointers?

Thanks,
Zachary
_________________________
...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

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#115486 - 09/09/2002 08:43 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
mafisto
journeyman

Registered: 22/07/1999
Posts: 60
Loc: St. Paul, MN, USA
I'm a semi-avid gamer, and I find that I update my I/O equipment the most frequently. This includes the video card, monitor, mouse, keyboard, soundcard, speakers and any other device you might prefer (like a joystick). Your processor will hold up for some time, but memory is still really cheap so that's not a bad upgrade. If money is an issue, you can't beat memory for a dirt cheap upgrade. If money isn't so much an issue, figure out what brings you the most joy (stunning 3D sound, 1024x768 32-bit 30 fps video, whatever) and buy the gear that matches.

As for what you upgrade with, go to the experts. Try anandtech.com or tomshardware.com and do your research. I've never been turned in the wrong direction by either site, and a minimum of research means the difference between hardware you'll replace in a year vs. two or three years.
_________________________
your fiend, mafisto

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#115487 - 09/09/2002 09:09 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
You've chosen to "benchmark" your first PC gaming experience against a piece of software that has exceptionally steep system requirements.

For starters, I believe that the video card you just spec'd doesn't comply with that game's minimum system requirements. I seem to recall BF1942's readme states that it requires a card with 64mb of video memory and onboard T&L-- meaning only the most recent cutting edge cards will match that requirement.

Your system should be fine to play most other games. Give Quake 3 a go and see what kinds of frame rates you get.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#115488 - 09/09/2002 09:38 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
ricin
veteran

Registered: 19/06/2000
Posts: 1495
Loc: US: CA
If you wanted to get a good idea of how your machine performs compared to others, you might want to get GLExcess (OpenGL) , and 3dMark 2001 (DirectX). Plus, it's eye-candy; very nice to look at.

Speaking of things that are nice to look at, I just ordered some of these [video review by 3dGameMan]. I've had a chance to play with these at a couple computer shows, and they are great. One thing though, the review is of the wireless version, which, if you don't plan on using them much, are great. However, I plan to use them quite a lot (as most, even casual, gamers would), so I opted for the wired version (which are also cheaper ). Either way, they are going to make BF1942 kick even more ass.
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Donato
MkII/080000565
MkIIa/010101253
ricin.us

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#115489 - 09/09/2002 11:19 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
Happy Birthday Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Speakers

I'm a proud owner of the original 4.1 set. I've had them since spring of 2000, and they're still going strong. I simply blast away my friends with them.

Now you can buy a refurbished 4.1 set from them for $150. That's damn good. I bought mine when they were still sold only on their website, and I was on a waiting list for 4 months. Sorry, but the MarkII waiting list had nothing on this one, because they made the sets much more slowly, so fewer people got them. it was agony.

So in conclusion: BUY THEM.

But I'm sure that other people here will suggest other systems. I obviously biased towards these babies, so maybe I'm not the best to ask. But I will say that you can buy a digital decoder for the 5.1 set.

I'd also have to say that buying a good set of speakers is a wise purchase. Like I said, I've had these speakers for two and a half years, and if they don't blow out, I'll have them for another 2.5. Speakers will tend to be among your longest-lasting pieces of computer equipment.
_________________________
Matt

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#115490 - 09/09/2002 11:57 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: ricin]
loren
carpal tunnel

Registered: 23/08/2000
Posts: 3826
Loc: SLC, UT, USA
That system should do you pretty well. One thing that i've found helps was something that someone here at work sent out...

Try setting Sound Detail to Low and enabling sound Hardware Acceleration.

I have a feeling that this will help many people. For me it had a more noticeable impact on performance than changing any of the graphics options did. Before doing this, my framerate would have large and sudden dropoffs when I got into the middle of intense action. They'd be so bad that the game would get choppy. I run a 1.4 ghz Athlon with 512 mb ram, GeForce 4 Ti4200, and Soundblaster Audigy soundcard on Windows XP, all latest official drivers.

This also worked even more noticeably on my friend's system, which is slower and has a less powerfull soundcard (Soundblaster Live).

I suspect that either there's some kind of bug or the sounds don't offload onto soundcard hardware very well, especially under higher detail sound settings, thus shooting cpu usage way up at times.

Audigy's normally have around 3 or 4 % cpu usage I think, but on this game you can definitely see a difference in framerate when you have high detail sounds on, get into a large battle, and choose the Disable All Sounds option to compare the difference.
_________________________
|| loren ||

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#115491 - 09/09/2002 12:31 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Dignan]
matthew_k
pooh-bah

Registered: 12/02/2002
Posts: 2298
Loc: Berkeley, California
Yeah, I'd agree on the speakers, yet I've had negative experiences with the 5.1 system. It took them two months to replace a subwoofer that failed, and from the looks of their web board, A LOT of them have been failing. If you're gaming, the 4.1 system should do you fine, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper and more reliable. If you are gonna lay out the money for a 5.1 system, buy a cheap home theater speaker system with 5.1 analog inputs and a dolby decoder.

Matthew


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#115492 - 09/09/2002 15:30 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: loren]
tracerbullet
addict

Registered: 08/01/2002
Posts: 419
Loc: Minnesota
Good point! There's a few other things that can be disabled in most games with little effect on anything other than increased framerates. Aside from the sound, also look for fancy shadowing, etc. There should be a whole list of options in the video settings of the game, as well as the sound settings. Also try www.battlefield1942.com to see if there's a section in there that might tell you anything.

If you did upgrade, I'd target the video card first. Seems to always be the biggest bang for the buck. So much runs off of just that, that I think if you kept that card and went to the 1 Gig CPU I dobt you'd notice a single bit of improvement. But go to a Geforce 4 card for example, and it'll be night vs. day on speed.

I'm not up on the ATI cards, I had one ages ago and hated the lack of support for it. They are a lot better now, and one of those would work as well. As was mentioned, check Tom's hardware site and see how they compare performance vs. price. While you're there, notice how changing CPU's with the same video card does almost nothing for frame rates...

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#115493 - 09/09/2002 20:18 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tracerbullet]
Happy Birthday Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
I agree with you on that one. I think he might see SOME improvement, but not much.

To you an idea, I just upgraded my entire system. I went from:
550MHz Intel -> Athlon 2100+
256MB RAM -> 512
and I slapped in a Western Digital 80GB Special Edition drive**.
My performance on GTA3 is still pretty sub-par. I can't run higher than 800x600 with acceptable framerates, so I mainly run the game in 640x480, which isn't all that pretty.

My problem? I have an ATI AIW Radeon (the first one). It's a 32MB card, and the biggest bottleneck in my system.

So yes, upgrade the card first.

And yes, I would also recommend the 4.1 ProMedia's. They are excellent speakers.

**I was so pissed that I didn't know about CompUSA's recent deal. They had 120GB Western Digital SE drives (w/ 8MB buffer) for $50! I would have set up my RAID with a couple of those. damn.
_________________________
Matt

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#115494 - 09/09/2002 20:50 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Dignan]
Tim
veteran

Registered: 25/04/2000
Posts: 1488
Loc: Arizona
Erm. If I knew about CompUSA selling those drives for $50, I would've jumped all over them too. Instead, I spent $90 on a WD non-special edition 60gig a couple weeks ago.

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#115495 - 09/09/2002 21:04 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tracerbullet]
Waterman981
old hand

Registered: 14/02/2002
Posts: 804
Loc: Salt Lake City, UT
I would agree on the Video card. I had to upgrade mine just to play the game. I went from an older ATI Rage Fury Pro to a GeForce 4 440MX, w/64.... I got the card for under $100. I would also recommend RAM. My buddy has 256 DDR on his system with a Athlon XP1700, while I have 768 SDRAM with a Athlon 1.3GHz. The game takes well over twice as long to load on his computer than mine. We think it is the RAM. So since it is cheap I would look into getting the RAM as well.
_________________________
-Michael

#040103696 in a 1999 Audi A6
Mk2a - 90 GB - Red - Illuminated buttons

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#115496 - 09/09/2002 21:35 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Dignan]
johnmcd3
enthusiast

Registered: 19/04/2001
Posts: 369
Loc: Seattle, WA (formerly Houston,...
**I was so pissed that I didn't know about CompUSA's recent deal. They had 120GB Western Digital SE drives (w/ 8MB buffer) for $50! I would have set up my RAID with a couple of those. damn.

WHAT? I would have easily bought 4.
_________________________
1998 BMW ///M3 30 GB Mk2a, Tuner, and 10 GB backup

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#115497 - 09/09/2002 22:12 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: johnmcd3]
Happy Birthday Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Yeah, I was told that the sale ended on Saturday. Someone told me On Sunday. What made it worse?? I was in CompUSA returning my dad's firewire card on Saturday! ARGH! I really need to check these things out more often...
_________________________
Matt

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#115498 - 09/09/2002 23:40 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Dignan]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Yeah, come on folks. What good is checking this BBS daily if people don't post about these CompUSA sales when they hear about them?
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#115499 - 10/09/2002 07:30 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Waterman981]
fusto
addict

Registered: 27/12/2001
Posts: 504
Loc: Lummi Island, WA
Thanks guys.

I ordered a geforce4 420MX 64MB card and 512MB ram today from Buy.com.
When they get here Ill pop them in and report back.

One last question though.
What the hell is an AGP slot?
All I know about them is that I dont have one.
Had a pretty tricky time trying to find a high end video card in PCI flavor.
Are they faster? More robust? Shinier?

And here I thought I knew all about PC's being a computer professional.
Boy, take a couple of months off and you get totally out of the loop.
Oh well...

Z~
_________________________
...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

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#115500 - 10/09/2002 07:46 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
Happy Birthday Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Oh boy. Then you'll have to upgrade the mobo. I'm suprised you have an 850MHz processor on a mobo wiith no AGP slot. Are you sure? look at the mobo and at the PCI slots. if you see four or fiv of them, then above them there's another similar slot but shaped different, you have one.
_________________________
Matt

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#115501 - 10/09/2002 07:47 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
What the hell is an AGP slot? All I know about them is that I dont have one.

Ah, well, then that would explain why the game runs so slow on your system.

AGP is a special card slot just for high-end video cards. All the new video cards use them. In fact, I would suspect that the new GeForce4 you just bought is also an AGP card and if you don't have an AGP slot on your computer, then you can't use it.

I find it surprising that your system doesn't have an AGP slot, though. Are you sure?
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#115502 - 10/09/2002 07:56 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tfabris]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
The Optiplex GX110 was designed to be a workstation. To save space and money they used a motherboard with a built in Intel AGP video chipset.

I've got a couple motherboards without any AGP slots here as well. They're all mini-ITX boards though.

- Trevor

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#115503 - 10/09/2002 08:06 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tman]
fusto
addict

Registered: 27/12/2001
Posts: 504
Loc: Lummi Island, WA
What he said.

Also, I was able to find the Geforce4 card in PCI so all is well.

Z~
_________________________
...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

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#115504 - 10/09/2002 08:11 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
GeForce4 or GeForce4MX?

I've got a GeForce4MX card to put into my Shuttle which only has a single PCI slot. The GeForce4MX is apparently a combination of a GeForce2MX and the memory controller from a GeForce4. Bit of a cheek advertising it as a GeForce4 really

- Trevor

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#115505 - 10/09/2002 08:17 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tman]
fusto
addict

Registered: 27/12/2001
Posts: 504
Loc: Lummi Island, WA
Dis is what I got.
VERTO GEFORCE4 MX420 64MB SDRAM PCI GRAPHICS CARD
I know its not the super-duper top of the line, but Its better than what I have, and it was in the sub-$100 range.

Did I err?

Z~
_________________________
...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

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#115506 - 10/09/2002 08:44 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: fusto]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
Nah. It should be fine. The GeForce4 MX was the best performing card for the price that was also PCI when I looked.

- Trevor

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#115507 - 10/09/2002 09:50 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tfabris]
Happy Birthday Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Yeah, come on folks. What good is checking this BBS daily if people don't post about these CompUSA sales when they hear about them?

Well, for future reference, here's what the guy posted on my board yet I didn't see it in time:

In reply to:

Every now and again, CompUSA does a little deal with Western Digital, where they give you a coupoun for a 100 dollar mail-in rebate when you buy their most expensive drive, the 120 gig 7200 RPM. They also match prices, so when their normal price for the drive is 270 bucks, you can easily find places online that will sell the drive for 150 bucks; just print an ad from that site out, take it in, and they'll match the price. That's a good deal in and of itself, but with the 100 dollar MIR, you end up paying 50 bucks...for a 270 dollar drive. I pulled this off last year in December, and more recently, yesterday. So, now I have 2 120 gig hard drives in my computer.


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Matt

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#115508 - 10/09/2002 10:00 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tman]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
The Optiplex GX110 was designed to be a workstation. To save space and money they used a motherboard with a built in Intel AGP video chipset.

DUH, of course, silly me. We're mostly a Dell house here where I work and I should have known that. We've got 110s here and I should have realized what he was talking about.

And regarding the PCI GeForce4: I had no idea they still made PCI cards, that's interesting. I dunno about how well it's going to perform, but hey, give it a shot.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#115509 - 10/09/2002 14:35 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tfabris]
mafisto
journeyman

Registered: 22/07/1999
Posts: 60
Loc: St. Paul, MN, USA
I have a couple of PCI geForce2 cards (for second monitors) and they seem to work just fine. I used one as my primary card for three days when my AGP card freaked, and while it didn't blow me away, the performance was acceptable. I would imagine the gf4 to be a similar story.

I'm just amazed someone's turning an Optiplex (we call them Craptiplex's here at a mostly-Dell-shop) into a gaming machine. Bravo!
_________________________
your fiend, mafisto

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#115510 - 10/09/2002 16:10 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: mafisto]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 31307
Loc: Seattle, WA
Doesn't make sense to me that they would design the Optiplex's so that they don't have AGP slots. Seems to me that they could offer an optional "sideways outrigger" card (whatever you call that riser card the Optiplex's have) that had 2 PCI's and an AGP instead of 3 PCI's as it is now.
_________________________
Tony Fabris

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#115511 - 10/09/2002 17:16 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: mafisto]
fusto
addict

Registered: 27/12/2001
Posts: 504
Loc: Lummi Island, WA
I'm just amazed someone's turning an Optiplex (we call them Craptiplex's here at a mostly-Dell-shop) into a gaming machine. Bravo!

Well to put it in perspective, it was.. well kinda... free.
Sort of.
Beggars cant be choosers.

I also had no intention to ever get into PC gaming.
Oh well, so much for that.

Z~
_________________________
...all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

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#115512 - 10/09/2002 17:59 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: tfabris]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
Does seem a little limiting but I guess they're doing a cost reduction exercise on the whole Optiplex line. Since most of the time a workstation in an office will just run Word and Excel, a fast graphics card isn't essential.

I'm not too keen on their new Dimension line of PCs. It's very plasticky feeling for some reason. I like the fact you can open it up and add/remove most of the components without a screwdriver tho...

- Trevor

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#115513 - 10/09/2002 18:03 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: ricin]
Rezolution
enthusiast

Registered: 24/01/2002
Posts: 260
I was running 3DMark2001 and my Vodoo 3 2000 card was beating out my Radeon 8500 128MB DDR on benchmark scores. Turns out I had to update the "VIA" drivers on my systems ABIT Motherboard. I never would have guessed...

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#115514 - 10/09/2002 18:24 Re: PC gaming, how can I make it better? [Re: Rezolution]
ricin
veteran

Registered: 19/06/2000
Posts: 1495
Loc: US: CA
Yeah, benchmarking programs are great for knowing what to do to get the most out of your machine. Programs like Sandra are even better for more precise tweaking. It's always a good thing to know how your machine performs, and how it should perform. You just never know what trivial thing could increase performance, or stability.
_________________________
Donato
MkII/080000565
MkIIa/010101253
ricin.us

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