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.