28/12/2011

[Misc.] Video Cards - Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread? Or The Wheel?

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I wrote the entry for Sonic Generations, and since then I've also acquired Sonic CD. This has pissed me off as this is, in my opinion, the definitive edition of CD and thus makes it automatically the best 2D Sonic ever in my eyes... which means less time playing SG. Which as I may have mentioned, pisses me off. Both titles are thoroughly enjoyable. I've completed both, and only need one or two more achievements on each to 100% them in the eyes of Microsoft.


And now I'm going to have even less time playing on my beloved 360 because I went and purchased a new video card for my PC, along with a 350W power pack to pump the thing full of millions of electricities. Which means I've had to use my computer for extended periods in order to test the thing out.
Above: sorta looks like my GT 440. Maybe it is, apart from the fact it's really a promo shot.
The item in question is a NVIDIA GeForce GT 440, from the same family as the 8-series 8600GT I replaced. There was nothing majorly wrong with the 8600 but I felt it lacked a little here and there, plus for once I wanted to be a bit of a graphics whore. Regular readers will know that I place gameplay way up there above graphics. Hell, I don't care if a game looks like Minecraft - so long as it plays well and has some nice features then I'm all for it looking like shit. Although to be fair to Minecraft, considering it's a world made up of 1x1 blocks it doesn't look too bad.
Anybody who knows a thing or two about video cards will know that the GT 440 isn't actually that big a step up from the 8600 but it has a small fan attached to it so in the undereducated's eyes this must mean it's a Good Thing and therefore A Million Times Betterer. There are some subtle improvements here and there - everything processes at the same speed as before, but now I'm able to turn the settings on most of my games from medium to high with no issues. Team Fortress 2 is on max'd settings now but considering the graphics on that game were never ever cutting edge to begin with I won't be singing and dancing too much about that.

Above: Portal 2 only ever gets really graphically demanding when you utilise the various goos... and they look gorgeous now.

Looking at my Steam catalogue, there were two games that graphically speaking, could test the new video card out substantially - F1 2010 and Portal 2. Portal 2 auto-detected the new video card and threw itself up to maximum, and it looked quite nice. Just a wee bit nicer, a bit like taking the bra off a woman with a D-cup and discovering the contents haven't been affected by gravity. That kind of nice. Not really bothered if they are, but wow it's a nice lil bonus.

Above: everyone loves Ferrari. Apparently.
F1 2010 has a vast array of graphical detecting and setup options, so first of all I ran it on a benchmark with the previous options I had used - low all. Ran at a peak of 30 FPS with an average of 18 FPS, no noticable stutter or pauses. So then I pushed it up to medium all, FPS came down to 27 but average went up to 22. Encouraged by this, I tried high all. 24 FPS, 21 average. High looked a little choppy in places and not terribly smooth, but still perfectly playable for a racing game.

Outside of Steam, there was only really one contender - Eve Online. So I reactivated an account and went exploring. It doesn't really help that there has been a major graphical overhaul on the game in the last month so an already graphically demanding game was going to be more intense on power requirements, right?
Well it went very well for the one client. Max settings, I've never known Eve to look so pretty. A second account on max settings worked, but client-side lag was horrendous so I switched both back to low, memory-based settings designed for dual-boxing. And that was it. No more lag, seems if I've suffered any in the last it's always been client-side because of graphical demand.

Above: Eve Online, a Cormorant destroyer-class vessel explores uncharted territory. It'll die in about 5 more seconds...

All in all, the NVIDIA GeForce GT 440 was worth all of the £80 I spent on it. I could have gotten it for less but for the price I did pay it's still a good card.
The 8600 found itself a new home, inside my mother's computer. She now sets record high scores on Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook because of it, apparently. I think she cheats, personally.

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