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Best video card for Second Life - OpenGL

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 16, 2008 7:32:22 PM

I'm considering upgrading to a new pc, and need input on the best choice for a graphics card, particularly focusing on Second Life usage, which uses OpenGL.

More about : video card life opengl

December 16, 2008 7:45:53 PM

Price range? Resolution at which you will be gaming?
December 16, 2008 7:54:16 PM

Well as long as I'll be going for a new pc (from an old athlon xp with radeon 9800), I want to be able to max out quality settings and still get strong fps. Resolution probably fairly high. I'm thinking of going with a 3 ghz Wolfdale core duo, a GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3R motherboard (unlikely to ever go SLI or crossfire), with 4 gig ram if that helps.

The main consideration is openGL performance, as opposed to looking at the common benchmarks of other games. I also do some photoshop, but my current setup is sufficient for that so it's not a real issue in the choice
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December 17, 2008 3:02:07 PM

Yes that motherboard has pcie, I'm a bit skeptical of ati drivers for use in second life, seems like people often have problems with them.

At what point in the graphics card food chain does anyone think you would be beyond any additional performance gains and just be going into "overkill" territory?
a c 189 U Graphics card
December 17, 2008 3:44:55 PM


@ kscelt; The Second Life site `Recomended` list peaks at the 8800 series or the Radeon 3850 and a 6600 or Radeon 9500 as minuimum, so it`s not too demanding so, probably, a 9500GT.
December 17, 2008 6:52:25 PM

i have a 9800 gt and still cant run it at ultra high without going under 30fps (around 20 fps).
December 19, 2008 12:15:26 PM

Perhaps a 9800 class gpu no longer is the bottleneck, but game bandwith, memory, or cpu? I read about people getting 1920x1200 at 70fps.
December 27, 2008 2:20:26 PM

Hello, I just finished re-building my system mostly to get better Second Life performance. Off the bat, I would say go with a GeForce 9800 GPU using a high core clock rate. (From what I've seen with SL, CPU speed may be the key and not a super high end video card.) I carefully studied the Tom's Hardware charts for a low cost but good performing SL rig, compared to my old system, (AMD 2500+ cpu, 1.5 gig ram, GeForce 6800 GT OC), I'm seeing a frame per second increase ranging from 50% to 100% depending in the sim and avatars in the sim.

The new system has the following:
Biostar TF8200 A2+ mother board ($89)
AMD Phenom 9500 ($100)
A-Data 4 gig dual channel ram (of course XP Pro only sees 3.2 of it but the price was right $34)
Seagate 500gig hard drive with 32meg cache ($65)
BFG GeForce 9800 GT OC with 512Meg ($100, this one uses a 625MHz core clock. There is a model that has a core clock of 730 but that's only a 16% increase and cost $50 more.) (Note: I had problems with the latest, November release, drivers. video works fine with supplied drivers.)

Second Life is terribly inefficient with how the graphics are generated. Compared to over the shelf games you won't get the smooth video they provide even with the best rig, (except in a quiet sim with no more than a few avatars).

With the graphics preferences max out and full screen 1680x1050 the following is what I've observed.

In a residential sim called Jaguar Valley with myself as the only avatar there the fps ranges from 18-25 depending on which direction I look. In the house I have at 300 meters in the same sim the fps ranges from 35-40. (The old system would get 20 fps at best in my house and that was with mid quality settings.)

For the real test I went to two high populated sims. In a night club with 25 avatars, (some with many attachments resulting in high rendering costs), I was seeing a pretty stable 10fps. It ranged greatly depending on how many avatars were in the field of view. If you zoomed in on just one avatar the fps would jump up close to 20. With the old system under the near same conditions the fps would range from 4 to 9 with mid quality settings.

I took a second look at Tom's Hardware charts to guestimate the increase in frame rate with the top couple cards. I'm guessing that if I had bought one of those cards, like the GeForce 280 or HD 4870, the fps would be 20% faster. Meaning in those clubs where I now get 10 fps under heavy load, it would be 12 fps. So a GeForce 260 class or higher card would not justify the extra cost in my opinion.

I hope this helps and you get this post before you have upgraded your video.

Allen Harrington of SL
December 27, 2008 3:07:18 PM

Excellent information, Allen, thanks much for your help, I've been waiting for the afeter holiday sales so it is indeed in time :) 
December 27, 2008 4:21:31 PM

I'm in SL now. I just overclocked my cpu from 2.2 to 2.5 GHz and saw a noticable increase in fps. In my home it went from near 40 fps to near 50. My advice would be to get a fast cpu. I would suspect any video card in the 100-200 dollar range would be a good choice. It seems the bottle neck for SL is cpu speed.
January 12, 2009 1:49:36 PM

Thanks so much. Just bought a system get better fps and quality. It is better but my fps gets real low 6-9fps if I run Ultra and forget clubs. I will be checking my clock rate and vid card now.

This question and the replies have helped me greatly.

Talon Falconer of SL
June 17, 2009 7:42:11 PM

Thought I should post what I finally wound up doing and the results. I put together a system comprised of:

MB GIGABYTE | GA-MA770T-UD3P AMD770
Bios : FC2
CPU AMD|PH II X3 720 BK AM3 2.8G
CPU COOL SCYTHE|SCMG-2000 (Mugen 2)
MEM 2Gx2|OCZ OCZ3P16004GK
VGA BFG|BFGEGTX260MC896OCDE GTX260
HD 1T|WD 7K 32M SATA2 WD1001FALS
DVD BURN LG|GH22NS30 22X SATA
PSU CORSAIR|CMPSU-550VX 550W
CASE ANTEC|THREE HUNDRED BK

Right now I am running Windows 7, at 3.6 GHz on 3 cores or 3.4 Ghz on 4th core unlocked, CPU voltage at 1.44. Might be able to push this further, but running very stable at that, so probably stay sane on those CPU speeds. (Except with 4th core for some reason get browser crashes, while all other software has run stable) Temps are well in hand at 28-30 C in general use such as browsing, with all cores testing at 100% I have not exceeded 41 C. Memory is currently at 1333 with 6-6-6-24 1T timing, at 1.6 voltage. CPU-NB at 2617 MHz with +.2 bump to CPU-NB VID voltage. I've gone for tighter timings and faster northbridge frequencies rather than higher memory clocks, as that seems to achieve the best performance with AM3 systems.

I think it's a burner of a system for the bucks once tweaked and overclocked. My old PC was getting 6-15 FPS Second Life, at the minimum graphics settings I could configure. I know have my settings on high. I am getting between 40 and 180 FPS, probably around 80 FPS is an average in a typical location. The difference is dramatic in smooth movement, rezzing textures, and most of all the visual look of everything. Some things are amazing different, adding to enjoyment of the environment. The overall system speed is night and day. A big benefit to me is the ease of multi-tasking now, as even opening a browser while in SL was a pain. Now I can do about anything at the same time without ill effects.

I'm not sure what had the greatest effect in increasing performance, I suspect it is the total balance of the system. Total cost was around $730. Though SL as the focus in this build, every other thing I do is great as well. Thanks for all the help guys, it paid off :) 
!