New beginnings in Second Life

I’ve made mention a few times that my PC has not been in the best of health. I’ve had a range of issues with SL and other applications which have been steadily increasing over the last couple of months and which finally pushed me into taking the plunge and getting a new machine after finding a rather spiffy-looking UK on-line supplier.

Even so, I confess I dithered over actually buying a machine – so much so that between first finding the box I wanted and actually placing an order, the price went up (a whole £12.00! Eeep!). Part of the dithering was because I really didn’t want to get a new computer purely for SL (which was having the greatest number of issues with the old machine); part of it was also because if I was going to get one, I wanted to make sure I got the right balance of performance / price / degree of “future-proofing” (if such a thing exists in computing) without spending silly money. This latter point also involved me in going out and doing a fair bit of reading to make sure my choices were reasonably well-informed.

WizardHat Studios (Rati dAlliez, complete with sim surround), captured using my new PC.
WizardHat Studios (Rati dAlliez, complete with sim surround), captured using my new PC.

Given the budget I’d set, and the fact I really don’t play games on the computer (Patterns and backgammon is about as far as it goes for me), I wasn’t looking to go all bleeding-edge ultra-high spec. In the end I opted for a what I think is a really nice set-up – particularly when compared to my old beast (A Q6600 2.4 GHz CPU locked to a 4 GB (max) motherboard with 3GB installed, Windows 7 32-bit, and a 1 GB Ge9800 GT).

Obligatory shot of new PC Glowly fans!
Obligatory shot of new PC. Glowly fans!

The new machine is built around an i5 3570K on an Asus P8Z77-V LX motherboard (which was recommended to me), and with a 2GB GTX660 GPU (the new spec is in the column on the right). I wasn’t actually sure what kind of performance boost this might give to my SL experience, and the pessimist in me kept saying, “not a lot”. If I’m honest, I was half-expecting it to perhaps double frame rates in ALM + shadows on compared to the old machine (so getting into the high 20s / low 30s at ground level).

Was I ever wrong on that.

While my tests have so far been limited to a handful of regions split between mainland and private islands, I’m still bowled over. My average fps with ALM + shadows and 2-3 other avatars in the same region hass been somewhere between 60-70. Disable shadows, but keep ALM on, and fps tends to jump to between 110-120 fps. I’ll be interested to see how it performs at the Simulator User Group meeting…

What’s more I can take snaps at a resolution of 3500 pixels across without issue (and possibly higher – I have yet to check, not that I need to go massively high). Compared with the fact that the old machine had reached a point where it wouldn’t keep ALM on with the snapshot floater open when saving to disk (reducing me to screen caps), I’ve had a fair few jaw-drops in the last few hours!

Resting a while at Calas Galadhon, after almost going snap-happy ...
Resting a while at Calas Galadhon, after almost going snap-happy …

I’m not entirely sure what this means for my in-world times, but just being able to walk around SL and know I once again have all the viewer’s bells and whistles available, and to be able to turn them on and not immediately see textures being discarded due to lack-of-memory, or have ALM getting thumped by the snapshot floater or end up crashing after the 4th or 5th snapshot when I can actually use the floater & have shadows available… Well, it’s a revelation.

Suffice it to say I think my SL hiking boots are going to get a lot more use!