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What determines text quality?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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March 28, 2007 11:56:00 PM

I'm new to the home-built world -- one barebones and one from motherboard so far, both via Newegg -- and would be grateful for advice on an add-on video card for the mobo system.

My question -- what determines text quality?

I have a 20" Dell LCD display (http://tinyurl.com/kkvwf) that I use at 1600 x 1200 to maximize screen real estate. I use the D-Sub interface because it's on a 4-way KVM switch. One system with this display, a 3-year old Dell with GeForce FX 5200 w 128MB, gives pretty decent text. The recent homebuilt with on-board GeForce 6100 is fuzzy enough to annoy me, almost as bad my Dell 15" Inspiron with "ultrasharp WSXGA" screen and Intel 900.

If I want to add a video card, what do I look for to guarantee good, sharp text? Any advice would be gratefully received, including specific boards. I'm more developer than gamer, so don't need super-high-performance. I would like to keep the cost down, though not necessarily rock bottom.

Thanks. --David.
March 29, 2007 12:46:51 AM

This might sound pretty stupid, but did you disable Clear Type font in the appearance options?
March 29, 2007 1:28:20 AM

The only stupid question is one you don't ask! :lol: 

I just double-checked, and all 3 windoze systems I mentioned have checked -- "Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts -- ClearType".

Thanks --David.
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March 29, 2007 1:36:47 AM

perhaps the native res is 1650 or 1680 x ?

and going through a KVM may also cut quality at such a high res
March 29, 2007 2:25:54 AM

text quality is usually determined by resolution and the quality of your monitor


to get the best quality you need to run at the native resolution of the monitor


sometimes crappy drivers and or graphics cards will give a shitty overall picture that affects text quality, but thats rare considering most people use AMD/ATI and Nvidia cards which are all very good quality(except for the geforce fx line)

it also doesnt hurt to use DVI as that cleans up images although the difference vs VGA isnt easily noticeable
March 29, 2007 4:28:35 AM

These three systems all go to the same physical display (a Dell 2001FP, 1600 x 1200 native resolution) and through the same KVM switch. All three video adapters have a 1600x1200 resolution mode. So it's not the display or the KVM.

Yet only one, the GeForce FX 5200 card, has decent text. The other two, both on-board video chips (GeForce 6100 and Mobile Intel GM915) have inferior text appearance.

The GeForce 6100 unit, part of my new homebuilt, does not appear to have the specific driver for this display, but is using a generic one. I'll fix that tomorrow and see if it helps. The Inspiron does have the correct display driver, so that does not explain its problem.

Does the amount and structure of video memory have anything to do with it? Does that affect font rendering quality? The 5200 card has its own memory (128MB), but the mobo chipsets steal system memory, correct? Is that the difference?

--David.
March 29, 2007 4:53:49 AM

Have you checked the refresh rate on all systems to ensure they are identical?
March 29, 2007 8:51:09 AM

The text Quality also depends on the RamDac ON YOUR gpu . It is a chip that

gives the quality of the Text and general picture , your Gpu would output.

Can someone back me up on this one :?

Or say otherwise
March 29, 2007 11:16:15 AM

Have you tried connecting one of the "fuzzies" to the same port on the KVM, and using the same VGA cable, as the system that gives you clear text? It could be a problem with one or more of the KVM ports and/or your VGA cables.

Low-quality VGA cables (unshielded, crappy connectors, etc) can significantly degrade the display, especially at higher resolutions. Very long VGA cables can also cause issues, especially if they run past a lot of other wires/electric devices.
March 29, 2007 1:42:42 PM

Text quality is determined by:

Monitor
Video card's RAMDAC
Cabling (not quite as crucial as the first two)

Setting a decent refresh rate is also a help.
March 29, 2007 10:23:41 PM

Well back to the whole Clear Type thing. I would actually suggest that you disable it and set the method of text smoothing to "standard". By smoothing out the edges Clear Type actually makes the text kind of "fuzzy". This might be less noticeable on the Dell monitor due to its higher resolution.
March 29, 2007 10:56:16 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions! I appreciate the troubleshooting help -- rather solve it than have to add a card, if that's possible.

I tried toggling clear type / standard, and clear type is the winner. The characters appear much darker and filled in better -- overall noticeably more readable.

I haven't tried swapping cables, but am skeptical, since these are four identical cables that came with the (IOGear) KVM. If you really think this might be it, I'll dive into the cable pile behind the desk and do it.

The last thing to try is putting in the real driver for the display -- stay tuned while I track it down.

Meanwhile, here's a clue. In the typography of <i>this forum</i>, with the light gray background, I can see a white shadow almost half a character to the right of every character. I'm not sure that would totally explain the quality problems, but it would sure help to get rid of it.

Re RAMDACs -- what exactly about the RAMDAC makes better resolution, text or otherwise? Is it speed?

Thanks. --David.
March 29, 2007 11:33:15 PM

I installed the specific display driver for the Dell 2001FP, and that does not help. There is still a white shadow about half a character to the right of every character.

Interestingly, I also looked closely at the Inspiron wide-screen notebook and there is a very similar white shadow. I think there's a chance that clearing that up will bring the text into line with the good system, which does not have the shadows.

The two systems with the shadows are different video adapters, NVidia 6100 on the new Gigabyte motherboard, Intel 9xx on the Inspiron. Everything else -- KVM cables, display, settings -- is the same for all there.

So, just for kicks, I'm gonna try a direct connection, without the KVM. Back soon.

Thanks. --David.
March 30, 2007 10:03:43 AM

Bypassing the KVM still leaves the white shadows. There <i>may</i> be a slight improvement in sharpness, but it's hard to tell -- not much in any case.

Using my (definitely non-professional) digital camera, which does have a good macro mode, I made the following (rather unscientific) shots that shows pretty clearly what is happening. The first two are sharp and show the pixels. I did some lighting correction -- a bit inconsistent -- to make the pixels stand out better.

http://triadic.com/LCD/IMGP3007-good.jpg
http://triadic.com/LCD/IMGP3010-bad.jpg

Here's a fuzzy shot of the not-so-good video card in action, which shows the white shadow more clearly. This is probably closer to what the eye actually perceives.

http://triadic.com/LCD/IMGP3000-bad-fuzzy.jpg

So, seems to me that there are at least two separate issues here...
* the white shadows -- this is just bad bad bad, but shows up with two different adapters with different GPUs.
* text resolution in general -- probably related to the algorithms used for d/a in the RAMDAC. Perhaps there are specific issues with character generation.
Bottom line -- I'd still love to know how to actually pick a video card within a given price range. What do I look for to guarantee good text? How is text quality related to graphics quality in general? Are there some quantitative specs one can look for, or does it come down to actually looking at screens or depending on GPU reviews by actual users? Is it just the GPU, or does other circuitry matter?

Thanks. --David.
March 30, 2007 10:35:28 AM

Could it be that the display itself is causing this?
March 30, 2007 11:25:04 AM

Would have hoped that the display quality would be pretty good for all nowadays; used to be the case that there was a bit of a pecking order i.e. Matrox-Ati-Nvidia.

Would assume that there would be minor differences in the outputs (fangled clock pitch/phase stuff) from each on the analogue but hitting the auto calibrate button on the monitor when switching should sort that.

Karl
March 30, 2007 11:28:57 AM

if you need a card that gives you the best text display, you could go for a matrox card, but beware, they suck at 3D
!