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Dedicated PhysX...

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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 8, 2010 5:37:24 PM

Hi, I've been considering running a dedicated PhysX card. I know it's only a minimal improvement but cool physics in games can be fun, and if it unloads some work off my CPU or GPUs then all the better. I've been doing some research and looks like the cheapest card I can get away with is a $55 GT220. There's a $25 GT210 but it's about 1/3 the performance (16 vs 48 shaders, 512 vs 1gb mem). Then there's a GT240 512mb for $60 or 1gb for $65, or a 9800GT 512mb also for $65. These all are within my price range and seem pretty decent...

Anyway I'm wondering if someone can either answer directly or maybe point me towards some benchmarks to see how it goes (I've seen one with dedicated physx vs cpu physx vs physx on main gpu but it was all nvidia).

I alread know I'd have to download the GenL patch etc. I think I can do it. Some limitations I might have are PSU and PCIe 4x lane. My mobo has 2 PCIe lanes running at 8x/8x for crossfire, then there's a 3rd lane that supports 4x. Would that hinder PhysX? My system specs are:

Antec 900 II case (with an extra fan in the middle bay blowing directly at my GPUs)
ASUS P7P55D Pro mobo (16x, 8x, 4x PCIe)
i5 750 OCed to 3.7ghz on 3/4 core and up to 4.2ghz on 1/2 core with turbo (1.306V Vcore and 1.206V Vtt - ~118W)
Zalman CNPS10X Extreme heat sink
4gb DDR3 Patriot Viper II Sector 5 Ram
Corsair 750TX PSU
Crossfire Sapphire 5850s (reference models) OCed to 960/1210 at 1.15V core (stock is 1.088V)
AuzenTech Bravura 7.1 sound card

The crossfire 5850s recommend 600W PSU, let's say I'm at 650W with the OC, that last 100W available should be enough? This is my main concern, and I'm not willing to upgrade the PSU right now.

As to games, right now I have Metro 2033 and NFS Shift which support PhysX, but obviously there's still plenty of games to be had that will use it. I've played Batman AA on PS3 and liked it a lot so I might consider that, and I have BFBC2 on PS3 as well but hey might be worth trading in and getting the PC version.

More about : dedicated physx

a c 124 U Graphics card
June 8, 2010 7:32:28 PM

I just gave Metro 2033 a go at lunch, I enabled PhysX in the options screen and restarted the game. I honestly didn't notice a difference. Framerates were still nice... I guess there wasn't a lot of physics to compute tho... I think it might have hurt me by only 5-10fps. I'm really not even sure if it worked I'll have to look into it further. I assumed PhysX would load up my CPU instead of GPU since obviously an ATI card can't run it.
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a c 217 U Graphics card
June 8, 2010 7:35:36 PM

Early benchmarks of this game showed ATI cards out performing Nvidia cards with PhysX enabled. It also showed Nvidia cards gaining FPS, when they disabled GPU accelerated PhysX. This particular game seems to be tuned to run PhysX better on the CPU (assuming multiple cores) or a dedicated PhysX card (assumption here).
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a b U Graphics card
June 8, 2010 7:49:17 PM

A 220 would be about the lowest dedicated physX card, the 240 probably 'better'.
Its all in how the game is coded. Metro2033, its impossible to say whats going on, unless two computers with different graphics setups and same settings applied to see what the game puts on the screen graphically.
Tweaktown just put a gtx 465 in a gtx 480 rig as a dedicated physx card, someone has to do these crazy things right ? lol They test only 3 games, one game seems to respond like metro2033, cpu doing the supposed extra 'physX' affected nothing in performance, while the others do.
http://www.tweaktown.com/articles/3332/gigabyte_geforce...



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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 8, 2010 8:30:04 PM

Thanks for the replies. I guess the 240 or maybe 9800GT is the way to go as their all the same price (ish). Any idea if the 512mb will work as well as a 1gb? Seems like it should be fine since it doesn't store texture data...

notty22, good info. I was reading an interview just now and a rep on the Metro team said that you can only run their advanced physX stuff with a proper GPU so I think it probably isn't adding all the detail onto the CPU at all... it's just ignoring it. Possibly that's what's going on with that Darkest of Days.

Anyway, thanks again guys! Before purchasing I'm going to make sure I can return the card if I feel it was worthless, but before that I'll try to get some benchmarks in. Might buy it later this week as I told a friend I'd help him with getting a new GPU and installing it and such... I can just pick up the Nvidia while we're at the store ;) 
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June 9, 2010 1:20:04 AM

I didnt know that you could run nvidia cards alongside ati cards! Will the system stay stable and how do you set that up?
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 9, 2010 4:46:29 AM

mjakachira said:
I didnt know that you could run nvidia cards alongside ati cards! Will the system stay stable and how do you set that up?


Yep you definitely can, however, Nvidia is being dinks and put code in their drivers to make sure it doesn't work without a crack. So, you do it like THIS


I found out I have a week to try the eVGA GT 240 512mb GDDR5 and still get a full refund. I installed it tonight, had to move my sound card up to the PCIe 1x slot between my 5850s and then stick the GT 240 under the bottom 5850. Unfortunately the GT240 is covering almost half the fan area so I'm going to have to see if it's getting too hot, although the bottom GPU was running almost 10C cooler than the top one previously so there's room to spare in that regard. I also have an inside fan blowing right down the backs of both 5850s (heat sink was in the way of a side install :( ). I didn't have the time to install the drivers and everything tho, I just got my sound working again (took some fiddling after changing slots) and then had to leave. So, tomorrow evening (wednesday) I'll be able to try and get it up and running. I'll try doing some FluidMark tests and maybe OC the 240 a bit to see if there's any difference in PhysX processing. But first I'll have to try out Metro 2033 and check what kind of FPS I'm getting. For some reason the rivatuner app that comes with MSI Afterburner isn't showing fps in Metro so I'll maybe look at downloading FRAPS or something. Otherwise I can still use the afterburner graphs but it's nice to have those numbers available instantly you know? Also interested in using eVGA Precision as I hear it's a good OCing app... tho Afterburner is probably just as good.

Anyway, I'll come back here tomorrow with some updates :D 
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 9, 2010 5:16:46 PM

Finally found at least 1 useful benchmark... pretty cool, but looks like the PhysX card is definitely bottlenecking the 5870. Still, anything over 60fps is good enough for me so I guess I'll find out soon whether a GT240 can keep up with crossfire 5850s

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a c 126 U Graphics card
June 9, 2010 5:32:37 PM

keep us up to date man! :) 
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 9, 2010 7:13:27 PM

Well I managed to get it working at lunch today :D 
It wasn't hard, I posted above the instructions. Followed them and voila! Works! Ran FluidMark to check, it was fine bottoming out around 30fps. I tried a little OCing on core/shader on the GT240 through Afterburner, gained maybe 1-2fps but I definitely need to work on that.

Anyway, I was happy it was working so I booted up Metro 2033, enabled Advanced PhysX, restarted, and entered my game. It works great!!!! I still need to run some benchmark type stuff, compare avg framerates with PhysX on and off... but after about 10 mins of having a shootout with some mercs... shot guns, machine guns, grenades... looks awesome. Right away I noticed cobwebs and some smokey effects were added, plus detail with gun smoke and particle effects from damage, smokier explosions. So far so good, and it appeared to be running between 65 and 40fps based on a quick look at the Afterburner graph. Again, I want to get some solid numbers but yeah, it looks like this is pretty legit :D 
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a c 126 U Graphics card
June 9, 2010 7:33:04 PM

wolfram23 said:
Well I managed to get it working at lunch today :D 
It wasn't hard, I posted above the instructions. Followed them and voila! Works! Ran FluidMark to check, it was fine bottoming out around 30fps. I tried a little OCing on core/shader on the GT240 through Afterburner, gained maybe 1-2fps but I definitely need to work on that.

Anyway, I was happy it was working so I booted up Metro 2033, enabled Advanced PhysX, restarted, and entered my game. It works great!!!! I still need to run some benchmark type stuff, compare avg framerates with PhysX on and off... but after about 10 mins of having a shootout with some mercs... shot guns, machine guns, grenades... looks awesome. Right away I noticed cobwebs and some smokey effects were added, plus detail with gun smoke and particle effects from damage, smokier explosions. So far so good, and it appeared to be running between 65 and 40fps based on a quick look at the Afterburner graph. Again, I want to get some solid numbers but yeah, it looks like this is pretty legit :D 


Awesome stuff :D  Definitely run some before and after benchmarks, glad it was easy to set up.
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 10, 2010 1:45:28 AM

Alright, well, I downloaded FRAPS and ran some 3 minute benchmarks playing Metro 2033 with PhysX on and off. There's no difference in FPS, which tells me the game is definitely maxing my 5850s and the GT 240 is just puttsing along nicely. According to Afterburner, the GT 240 was only running around 20-40% usage. I guess this game isn't all that intensive on PhysX, or maybe just what I was doing didn't add much. Anyway, here's my results:

No PhysX
Min: 32
Max: 72
Avg: 50.315

With PhysX
Min: 30
Max: 64
Avg: 50.35

So the averages were nearly identical, but it looks like with PhysX there was a slight decline in min and max. Not too bad.

Just FYI, I did OC the GT 240 first. I ran FluidMark, at stock I was getting about 29fps then with the OC it was doing 33/34 (on the cusp, it kept switching up and down) so pretty decent. Have it running at 665 core, 1620 shader (linked), 1740 memory. Stock was 550, 1340, 1700.

I took a few vids with FRAPS but they're effin huge because I don't have the retail copy so I can only do 50% size. I'm uploading them right now so we'll see when they're done but I'll try to get them up asap.

The GT 240 is very snug up against my bottom 5850. It's actually blocking about 1/3 of the fan, however, I did a FurMark test just to check temps and it's still less than the primary GPU but not by much now it's only like 5C less.
Here's a pic of what it all looks like. Got the GT240 at the bottom, then the 2 red 5850s with my AuzenTech Bravura 7.1 sound card sandwiched between on the PCIe 1x slot.
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a c 124 U Graphics card
June 10, 2010 2:24:18 AM

You can check out the video here. It's pretty short but looks nice :) 

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June 25, 2010 1:57:52 PM

With my GTX 480's in SLI with 3D Vision the game was not playable with every setting on max and advanced physx enabled. It wasn't until I installed a PHYSx card that it became playable with every setting enabled. Some people say a dedicated physx card is a waste, but when you have $1200 in GPU's already what's another $60 to make it the best possible experience.
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a b U Graphics card
June 25, 2010 2:17:52 PM

offtopic:

metro 2033 is the most realistic game i ever played, not because of the gameplay, i mean im claustrophobic and those tunnels did made me feel im being choked.

ontopic:

if you cant see the difference with physX on or off, try throwing an explosive. in the game not at your rig.
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