Saturday, July 16, 2011

nVidia vs. ATI Radeon

Written 16 July, 2011

nVidia vs. ATI Radeon

My first video card for Second Life was an nVidia, probably a 5000 series. When it died after about a year (bad fan), I bought a 7000 series. When it died after about a year, I bought a 9000 series. All were installed on my laptop.

I'm not at home right now, so I can't tell you the model number, but it has 1 GB of at least DDR2 RAM.

All three cards have given me about the same performance-- with 120 meter draw distance and other video options cranked up, I get 7-8 frames per second in most situations in Second Life-- and less than five a lot of the time.

I think the reason for the same frame rates across increasingly powerful cards is due to the increasingly complex visual makeup of Second Life. My 5xxx card was adequate for pre-Windlight, pre-sculpted prim Second Life; my 7xxx dealt adequately with Windlight and early Sculpties, and my 7xxx was adequate in today's Second Life, which is heavily populated with sculpted prims.

My first laptop, a cheapie house brand from Fry's worked great for everything but Second Life. I could log in and actually get in world, but everything was gray and stayed gray and although I could chat, I was unable to move.

My new (well, I've had it for nearly two years) Sony VAIO VGN-N2350F laptop has built-in ATI Radeon 4570 graphics with 512 mb of memory. I'm not sure what memory chips it uses, as the specs don't say so. A review I came across says the graphics are not that great for gaming, calling the 4570 a low-to-medium end system.

I will say one thing-- this laptop, with its Intel Core Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and Windows 7 operating system, runs circles around my desktop, with an Intel dual core (not Core Duo) processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 32-bit Windows XP operating system. Standing in the upper gardens on Whimsy, facing the largely empty Whimsy Kaboom, I noted 20-22 fps on the laptop. My VAIO desktop was chuggling along at 5-6 fps. Graphics were wide open on both machines, draw distance was 120 meters, and water reflections were off.

There are four things that might have caused this difference in graphics speed-- the processors, the operating systems, the 32 bit vs. 64 bit thing, and the graphics cards. I don't know which contributed what, but I think a big part of it might be due to the last-- the graphics cards.

I hope to buy a new graphics card for my desktop this fall.I've heard good things about the new nVidia cards, but I'm thinking of going ATI Radeon this time.

I would appreciate comments about which brand offers the best performance for the dollar and specific suggestions for cards of either brand that would give me 20+ fps performance in Second Life with graphic options to the max-- including shadows and water reflections.


Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Recently (OK, a month ago) in Tateru Nino's _Dwell On It_, she wrote about her new computer. She went pretty high-end on the CPU (an Intel i7; I would say AMD is the way to go for price/performance), but went with an nVidia 450 graphics card. Some took issue with it, recommending a 460--and I personally would lean that way, as even when the 460 came out it got very good reviews as being in the sweet spot for price/performance, and some say that the 450 wouldn't give much of a boost over the 250 that I have. Checking newegg shows 450s going for $100 to $150, and 460s (get a 1GB 460; the 768 MB cards are less capable) from $150 to $220.

I would very much like to get a 560 Ti; those run from $220 to $260, and a couple with 2 GB of RAM for $280.

A video uploaded to YouTube in May, Machinima Mondays with KirstenLee Cinquetti, has a bit talking about graphics cards--KirstenLee says that a 460 will do well, and a 560 very well indeed.

I'd best leave the ATI/AMD versus nVidia issue to others; I very much want to support ATI for their far better attitude towards Open Source than nVidia, but so far I've not yet taken the plunge.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Melissa, sounds like a 460 for me this fall! If that runs SL fast enough to please me I might wait a bit before putting together a new desktop. I was thinking i7, four cores, as the processors are within reason.

I like to grab components at Fry's, which is a big box electronics store heavily skewed toward computer components. Imaging a 200' aisle of just cases! They're not everywhere, but I'm lucky enough to have one about 12 miles from my house.

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Sigh... once upon a time there was a CompUSA in Des Moines, but no more. I really wish we had a Fry's nearby.

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Speaking of KirstenLee and graphics cards... check out!__.html

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Ack! It appears my memory of the Machinima Monday video was mistaken; KL doesn't think the 460 is all that great.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

Thanks so much for pointing me to Kristen's list, Melissa. I've printed and bookmarked it!

Anonymous said...

typing as "paula.mellow"

your computer doesn't matter ... the graphics card does and specifically using an nvidia card, (I wish this wasn't true but it is... btw i don't know how kristen reviewed the 6950 vs gtx570, but my testing is such that the 570 is approx 50% faster not equal) i've used two systems for my tests
amd905e(2.5Ghz) 4GB 800ddr2(560ti); and an amd 955be3(3.7GHZ) 4GB 800ddr2(6950)

the 905e/560ti system is 50% faster than the 955be/6950 system even though the cpu is 50% faster (905 vs 955).

the odd thing is the cards on games are ranked correctly (i.e. 6950 is faster than 560ti). but not on Second Life.

I tested the cards frame rate in "tackleberry" (on the roof of my LL home). at ultra settings;

gtx 560ti 1791x1058 detail 256;
no shadows n24,e25,w26,s26
shadows n15,e16,w17,s18

HD6950 1791x1058 detail 256;
no shadows n16,e16,w16,s17
shadows n8.2,e8.5,w8.6,s9.6

speed will be increase 80% detail is set to 120.