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meade95

Video Card for GRAW?

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I'd disagree with the soundcard advice. Having a seperate soundcard not only sounds better, but it also frees up CPU and memory resources to be used for more important things (like making your game run faster). An audigy 4 might be a bit of overkill though, if your motherboard supports PCI slots aswell as PCI-e, consider an Audigy 2 (it's essentially the exact same card). Go for the OEM version, you should be able to pick it up relatively cheap from ebay or whatever online retailers ship to your area.

I agree with the others about PCI-e though, it'll provide you with an upgrade path for the future if needed.

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I wouldn't worry about getting a sound card either. Go for the good video card.

The days of onboard sound being the resource hog that it used to be in days of old are over. And in alot of cases, such as with the NForce sound, the quality is every bit a match for Sound Blaster.

When you're thinking about performance, think Video Card and RAM. They are the 2 heavy hitters on the team, and will make or break your game. Whether you're using onboard sound or not, won't. It just doesn't use that many resources anymore, especially considering the speed of RAM and processors these days, and even just the sheer amounts of RAM that most of us use.

The sound card will not make or break your game. And in alot of cases, like with nForce sound, you cna get all the features and quality with that , that you get with a Sound Blaster, which alot of people keep having dsriver issues with. For instance, I have nForce 2 sound, that does Dolby 5.1 and Dolby digital, as well as has 6 channels. The sound quality is awesome, and it doesn't chew up resources.

Definitely go for the onboard sound, and put the money you save on not getting the Sound Blaster right away into a better video card. That's where the meat and potatoes is.

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Thank you all. Extremely useful and informative thread this, I really appreciate the effort made to educate people like myself! I was particularly amazed to read the opinions on onboard sound - I really was under the impression that a "proper" soundcard was a must.

Lots of budget juggling ahead for me :) For interests sake, I see prices of $190 for a 6800GS mentioned. I truly envy you guys living in the states! A good friend of mine is a supplier of PC parts, so I'm building my system for "cost". The dealer's cost price for a 6800GS in South Africa works out to be $325 using current exchange rate. Something is really wrong with that pricing structure!!!! Pity the poor ###### trying to afford quality electronics at "store" prices.

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A long, long time ago - April 2003, tomshardware ran a test comparing onboard sound with sound cards. The purpose was to find out how much cpu usage was demanded by the one and the other.

The least cpu demanding was Nvidia's "Soundstorm", an onboard solution.

Unfortunately, Nvidia stopped the marketing of this chip as it was too expensive. At least that was the official explanation. I know Asus boards with nforce2 chipsets have/had the "Soundstorm" onboard sound.

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere, that there are motherboards on the market today that come with a Creative onboard soundchip but I don't have any links right now. Maybe someone else has?

If you're interested to study mentioned test, it's here:

http://kortlink.dk/twitchguru/2ess

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I'm pretty sure I read somewhere, that there are motherboards on the market today that come with a Creative onboard soundchip but I don't have any links right now. Maybe someone else has?

MSI's high-end NForce 4 SLI "Diamond" model has an Audigy SE chip. The board is also a tad over-priced at $215. :wacko:

MSI K8N Diamond Plus

--Logos

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I wouldn't worry about getting a sound card either.  Go for the good video card.

The days of onboard sound being the resource hog that it used to be in days of old are over.  And in alot of cases, such as with the NForce sound, the quality is every bit a match for Sound Blaster.

Mostly true! If you're on a TIGHT budget, onboard sound is a good solution. But if you can spare $70, grab an Audigy 2 and be happy. Onboard sound has improved leaps and bounds but it still incurs a performance hit ... usually in the neighborhood of a consistent 5-10 FPS. Time-based graphs will show noticeable stutters in the midst of play as well.

Something to think about if you're on a budget system and trying to squeeze out every last bit of performance.

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I'm expecting graw to use lots of sound processing, lot's of different sounds from different positions with different enviromental effects applied to each (I think GRIN have hinted as much anyway). While onboard sound may be able to handle this, it's going to really cut into CPU cycles and memory reads/writes. I think it's fair to expect anyone using onboard sound to have a definite drop in FPS unless they're willing to sacrifice sound quality, altough it's impossible to know how much of a drop untill we the game is released.

There's a sample test here showing a 10+% drop in FPS for HL2 using onboard sound vs an audigy 2.

New OEM Audigy 2s seem to be going on ebay for under $40-50. There's a lot of cases where a spending an extra $50 on a video card won't give anywhere near that level of performance boost.

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It depends on the onboard sound type.

Even a sound card uses the CPU. It depends on the mfr. and configuration.

Most decent motherboards these days have really good onboard sound, where it doesn't use any more resources than that high dollar sound card.

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There's a sample test here showing a 10+% drop in FPS for HL2 using onboard sound vs an audigy 2.

Bro, I appreciate the citation of a review, but Gamespot is not an independent review source, nor are they in any way thorough. They don't even tell you what the testbed was. What was the onboard sound? What kind of proc? How much onboard memory? That's an interesting graph, and it makes me want to look into the question a little further, but it won't be at Gamespot.

Frankly, that looked like an Audigy advert.

--Logos

Edited by Logos

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And don't forget that processors today are more powerful while onboard sound after all has also improved.

Not saying that I'm in favour of onboard sound, but it's a good option when you're on a budget, and instead spend the money on a good vid card as mentioned earlier.

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I have a 6800gt and it runs games very well. It cost me £300 last christmans and i expect it to last me another year and a half , running games ok. THe geforse 6 serise contain 6 major types ( i have written a rating next to them and their orgianl price last year) :

6800Ultra VERY HIGHT £400

6800Gt HIGH £300

6600Gt MEDIUM HIGH £175

6600 MEDIUM £125

6200 LOW £75

As yu can see the 6800gt was a high card amd from it release will lasts about 2.5 years for gaming but the 6800 ultra will also last about the same ammount of time even though it costed £100 more.

For gaming i recomend getting altleast a Medium card and in this case the more yu spend the better yur games will run and in the long run if yu want yur games to look good and play well in 2 years times yu will really need a hight end card while a medium will just mean yur games in 2 years will play worse but they still should run as all the cards in a particular sericse are based on the same technology.

At present i recomend atleast a 6800 and anything above that (7800 , 7600). this is because the 6800 is allready 1 year old and this means it is also 1 genration old so will last 1 year less. THe general rule is to buy the lastest generation even if it is only a medium card , becuyase a medium card of the lastest generation will be as powerfull as a high card from the last generation and the new one will problay last even longer as it is based on newer technology ( pixcel shaders for exmaple ) . I hope this helps.

Edited by Top_Cat

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I don´t have a clue what you are saying.

"THe general rule is to buy the lastest generation even if it is only a medium card , becuyase a medium card of the lastest generation will be as powerfull as a high card from the last generation and the new one will problay last even longer as it is based on newer technology ( pixcel shaders for exmaple ) ."

Last, lastest, you got me confused.

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I don´t have a clue what you are saying.

"THe general rule is to buy the lastest generation even if it is only a medium card , becuyase a medium card of the lastest generation will be as powerfull as a high card from the last generation and the new one will problay last even longer as it is based on newer technology ( pixcel shaders for exmaple ) ."

Last, lastest, you got me confused.

A new generation middle of the road card now will be as powerful as the last generation's top of the line model, and will give you about a year's longer service than the top of the line from the previous generation.

So basically, if you are on a budget, it is better to buy a midline current generation card than the high end card from the last generation.

So, for example, with ATI, the high end last generation card was a 9800 XT. Fairly cheap now.

The current middle of the road card would be like an X800 maybe. It would be better to buy this one than the 9800 becuase it will give you longer service.

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The X800 series is the previous generation ... 9700/9800 is actually 2-3 generations back.

Even if/when a dedicated sound card taxes the CPU, it isn't remotely as bad as onboard sound. I still say drop $60 on an Audigy 2 for gaming, especially for a game like GR3 where EAX is put to good use.

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I was just using those as an example. I don't keep up much with video cards until I'm ready to buy one.

My onboard nForce supports EAX, and I haven't noticed any detriment to any of my games, and the sound is great.

But I guess if a couple frames a second will really drag the game down that much for you, then you need to get the extra money to get the card.

But unless you are running 6 channel surround(which nForce supports, BTW), there is really no need.

If you need to break it down by budget, think of it this way in priorities for gaming:

Mobo with good onboard sound doesn't normally cost anymore than a mobo without it.

Video and RAM are much more important to game performance than the sound card, especially with the quality of onboard sound these days. In most cases it's excellent.

So, what I would do right now is get the onboard sound and a good video card and plenty of RAM.

Then save up, and if you feel the need to go spend money on an add-on sound card, get it then.

Edited by Specter

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I've always just bought the best I could afford.

I picked up a 6800 GT for Christmas hoping it would hold me through for GRAW. I'm fairly confident it'll be usable with video options somewhat scaled down.

If I want to boost my resolution, I can live with scaled down video for a couple months until I save enough for a 7800 GTX.

In the end, the whole point of money is to buy things...like a new video card if the old one doesn't work.

:D

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Even if/when a dedicated sound card taxes the CPU, it isn't remotely as bad as onboard sound. 

"...not remotely as bad...." Right, so it's twice or three times as much CPU utilization, or maybe percentages sound better, like 100% - 200% worse, which ultimately amounts to what, about 4% - 6% instead of 2% CPU usage? Which amounts to how many frames per second difference? Not many. Not enough to make it a "must have" at the time the system is built.

This is really pretty simple: when you're building a rig on a budget, you look at the components you MUST have and the components that are the luxuries you WANT to have.

Then, for the components you MUST have, you buy the best you can afford, end of story.

The luxury components, the WANTS, like soundcards, don't buy them up front.

Basically, build your rig, then start saving and buy the luxuries later. That way, your "must haves" are the best they can be, and one day, after you've added on the luxuries, your whole system comes together to be the best it can be.

If you go subpar on "must haves" so you can get the luxuries at the beginning, you're going to be replacing those subpar "must haves" much sooner, essentially spending money on the same part twice.

--Logos

Edited by Logos

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As I said, it isn't the consistent FPS loss that hurts performance / playability. It's the stutters and stops that occur when the CPU is too busy to deal with sound. If you can live with 2-3 second pauses every now and then, go for it. Difference of opinion is all it is.

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As I said, it isn't the consistent FPS loss that hurts performance / playability.  It's the stutters and stops that occur when the CPU is too busy to deal with sound.  If you can live with 2-3 second pauses every now and then, go for it.  Difference of opinion is all it is.

Can't say as I've ever run into that.

Especially 2-3 second pauses. That's awefully long.

You must have had some really off the wall, really crappy onboard sound.

If not that, then you must have had alot more process than just the OS and the game running, to max out a CPU so bad that the sound stuttered like that. Especially that badly. Or very poor drivers.

Because that just isn't the norm, unless you have gone ultra cheap on the mobo, or there is more to it than just onboard sound.

Heck, I have had HP's and such that literally had cheap onboard sound that never acted that bad.

Granted, they sure didn't sound like top of the line, but they have NEVER, ever performed like you describe.

Edited by Specter

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As I said, it isn't the consistent FPS loss that hurts performance / playability.  It's the stutters and stops that occur when the CPU is too busy to deal with sound.  If you can live with 2-3 second pauses every now and then, go for it.  Difference of opinion is all it is.

It's not a difference of opinion, Griz. You're misdiagnosing the problem. The stutters and 2-3 second pauses you're talking about ARE an FPS loss; they're just severe FPS losses. Your videocard doesn't stop rendering, it's just that the video card's rendering is dropping to less than 1 frame per second. For onboard sound to cause that, you would have to be operating at 6-12 fps already, which would be terribly rough in and of itself.

If you're dropping from smooth framerates 40/50/60 or higher to less than 1 frame per second, that's not the demands of onboard sound; it's most likely that the rig lacks enough system memory, so the game has to send requests to the hard disk FAR too frequently, and during particularly complex scenes, the videocard has to "wait" on the hard disk to render frames.

Another possibility when that happens is that some combination of system processor, memory, and videocard is unable to the handle the physics calculations when lots of stuff starts moving on the screen at the same time, but if that were the case, the little bit you would get back from a dedicated soundcard isn't going to make a difference. It would still stutter.

--Logos

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There was nothing to misdiagnose. It was the same system with AC97 and an Audigy 2.

BTW, what makes you think you'd have to be running at 12 FPS to drop down to 1 in extreme conditions? There's always HUGE differences between minimum, average and maximum frame rates.

Anyway, this is pointless. Pretty much all motherboards come with onboard audio now ... try it out and if you think it's an issue, buy an Audigy 2 or something.

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BTW, what makes you think you'd have to be running at 12 FPS to drop down to 1 in extreme conditions?

I do NOT think you'd have to be running at 12FPS to drop to less than one.

I think that's where you'd have to be for ONBOARD SOUND to cause you to drop to less than one.

If you were truly going from smooth frames to suffering pauses of 2-3 seconds and adding an Audigy fixed it, that's not a normal difference of the two in terms of the resources they used, that was either outright faulty hardware that you took out of play, or else bad drivers causing system instabilities and hanging the game.

No properly functioning onboard sound is going to drop a system from 40/50/60 fps to less than 1.

--Logos

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BTW, what makes you think you'd have to be running at 12 FPS to drop down to 1 in extreme conditions?

I do NOT think you'd have to be running at 12FPS to drop to less than one.

I think that's where you'd have to be for ONBOARD SOUND to cause you to drop to less than one.

If you were truly going from smooth frames to suffering pauses of 2-3 seconds and adding an Audigy fixed it, that's not a normal difference of the two in terms of the resources they used, that was either outright faulty hardware that you took out of play, or else bad drivers causing system instabilities and hanging the game.

No properly functioning onboard sound is going to drop a system from 40/50/60 fps to less than 1.

--Logos

:thumbsup: NOT on this planet, anyway.

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It's MSI that brings an SLI board with SB Live something onboard sound.

Tomshardware has a review of the board, important note in the context of this thread:

as well as an audio subsystem meant to blow the competition out of the water.

Here's the rest:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/01/26/msi_k8n_diamond_plus/

Could be nice with an updated benchmark of the test I linkied to earlier, dated April 2003.

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