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Tech Tips

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    PlanetQuake | Features | Tech Tips | 7-7-99
   

Not For The Graphically Impaired!

Please don’t read this if you are trying to play Quake on an S3 Virge 2meg card, or you are still using the one that came with your Packard Bell. Run, don’t walk to your local computer store and buy a 3D card (soon all games will require one)! We aren’t going to bore you with pixel counts and all kinds of techno-babble about how the card renders it’s performance… we’re going tell you how to tweak your current card with your system for better Quakin'.

Hardware:

We are not going to recommend cards, but if you don’t have a 3D accelerator and are reading this, here are some things to consider:

There are  PCI and AGP cards. AGP cards are able to manage video memory better than PCI, you can usually add more video RAM, and it frees up PCI slots for all those other cards you want to buy. Although they may not be necessarily faster, they are usually better quality because of the memory. You can get more information on AGP and PCI performance at Tom's Hardware.

Using a Voodoo 2 card requires a second card and an available PCI slot.   The Voodoo 2 is a 3D acceleration only card which requires a separate 2D card for non-3D applications (such as Windows and DOS).   The TnT, Voodoo 3, G200, and I740 cards are all 2D and 3D (there are others, but we're just going to cover the most popular). Then there's the 32 bit vs 16 bit color debate.  Although 32 bit rendering is more detailed and colorful, 16 bit runs much faster; it’s all a personal choice. We will not discuss the battle of "should I buy a TnT / TnT 2 or Voodoo 2 / 3?" You've got two options, email Lowtax and have him and Cozmo duke it out in the point/counterpoint, or go look at both cards and make your own choice. However, if you're using a P133 with 32 megs of ram…. good luck! Video accelerator cards are only as good as the power behind them; the more CPU and ram on your system, the better performance. It won’t help to buy a 32 meg card (it wouldn't even run on such a low-end system) - ya gotta have something powering it. That out of the way (in the most basic of terms) let's look at chipset. We are going to talk only about Voodoo 2/3 and TnT / TnT 2 chipsets, as they're the most popular cards at the moment. They are the fastest and best quality of chipset out there for gaming.

The hardware checklist:

First note: COOLING! Make sure you have plenty of fresh air circulating into your computer. Graphics acceleration is a hot business; lots of fans, lots of circulation means less chance of locking up or frying your card (Cozmo has 7 fans in one PC - "You might be a redneck if you have more fans than the average chicken house"). PCI cards claim to be Plug N' Play, but they haven't gotten the nickname "Plug N' Pray" for no reason. There isn’t a whole lot to do in hardware setup... except of course for making sure you have no IRQ conflicts and hoping Windows detects the card (but when has Windows ever let us down?). For AGP cards, follow the setup from your manufacturer for correct BIOS settings. As a rule, the following applies for TnT and Voodoo 3 cards, although the Voodoo 3 does not use "true" AGP.

The first thing you need to do is set your BIOS to check the AGP slot (often the BIOS has a setting for "1st slot xxxx" - the x’s being choices for PCI, AGP or AUTO). Then the following settings should be applied:

Assign IRQ to VGA - AUTO
Video BIOS Shadow - Disabled
VGA Palette snoop - Disabled
PCI Palette snoop - Disabled
Shadowing Address Ranges C8xxxx-CBxxxx
(All hexdecimal values) - Disabled
DO NOT Disable IRQ for VGA! It needs an IRQ!
Video BIOS cacheable (this setting is better performance if enabled)

A few tips when modifying your BIOS settings. 1) Change only one thing at a time. This may appear tedious and time consuming, but if you change four things, reboot, and the PC ends up running like Lowtax in high heels, you won't know which one caused it. 2) Always check and recheck all your settings, save and exit. You may need to use the trial and error system. In other words, if one setting doesn’t work and you have lock-ups, try another. If you are using a regular TnT card and running your cpu at 100 MHhz, do not increase your bus speed on your AGP. It can fry your card. That is what's called "a bad thing".




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