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 Tutorial: CPUs, Video Cards, RAM and Framerate 


Sergeant Major
Posts: 10935
Joined: 26 Aug 2002

      Posted: 11 Nov 2003 02:16 Profile

Framerate, or Frames Per Second is the most important statistical advantage in first person shooter (FPS) games that is entirely within the control of the gamer. A higher framerate will provide the player with fluid, movie-like game play that improves both reaction time and accuracy in combat against other players.

So often times, players are continuously trying to improve their framerate. There are basically three ways to improve framerate of a game: optimizing your existing computer through your software or OS, overclocking your hardware, or upgrading your hardware entirely.

Optimizing your computer is a simple concept: take your existing raw system performance, and increase usable performance by reducing overhead used by the OS or other software as much as possible. For this, I suggest visiting or any other tweaking website and use their guides on optimizing both the Windows OS and America?s Army (AA) for best gaming performance.

Overclocking your computer is another approach to increasing performance. This method attempts to increase raw system performance (and therefore, also increase usable performance) by running equipment at beyond the manufacturers? designed specifications. Obviously, this is not without risks and is not a suitable solution for everybody.

For most users, however, simply upgrading components in your computer will see the biggest performance boost. Understandably, this costs money and most of us don?t like to spend more money than really necessary to achieve a reasonable performance boost. The two major players in your computer that affect framerate are your video card and CPU (not RAM in most cases - more on this at the bottom of this thread.) For most people, they don't wish to invest the money in both - their budgets limit them to one or the other.

But which should you choose? When you run a program such as AA, the CPU receives instructions from the game on what should be displayed on the screen for the user. The more complicated the frame (i.e - more lines or more detail,) the more the CPU has to work to generate the frame and therefore will reduce the gross number of frames that are sent to the video card. Once the frame is generated by the CPU, it makes no difference how complicated the frame is to the video card. All the video card is assigned to do is take the image and tell the monitor which pixel is which color. Therefore, the video card does not generate frames per say, but is a liaison between the CPU and the monitor. This also means that if the video card displays a frame and does not have waiting instructions to display another one, it will sit idle until the CPU generates the next frame. Video cards can only limit the number of frames that can be displayed, not increase it.

Modern day video cards, however, act much more than just a liaison between the CPU and monitor. The workload assigned to displaying each frame can increase based on these typical user preferences:

  • Display Resolution (more pixels = more work)
  • AntiAliasing
  • Anisotropic Filtering

All these factors can change the actual amount of maximum frames that a video card can generate that is not influenced in any way by CPU performance. This will be important in determining if your CPU or video card is the limitation of your computer.

Okay, so now you?re asking how I can figure out which I should upgrade, CPU or video card? Well, it?s not entirely a perfect science, but it?s easy to determine:
    1. Benchmark your current system?s framerate.
    2. Turn up antialiasing or resolution to increase load on the video card one level at a time.
    3. Benchmark your system?s framerate again.

If your framerate remains mostly unchanged, then your video card is keeping up with the increased workload. That means that your CPU isn?t generating frames fast enough for your video card to stay busy, and your CPU should be upgraded.

If your framerate drops significantly, then your video card can not keep up with the CPU?s requests to display frames and is consequently skipping frames to stay in real-time. If this is the case, your video card needs to be upgraded.

I hope this helps you all in understanding what the relationship between your CPU, video card, and framerate is. If you?re looking to increase framerate and you?re willing to invest money, this should also help you decide on how to invest your money effectively to improve gaming performance.

(Note: if anyone has any comments or corrections, please PM me them.)


Last edited by [-UNITY-]Bane[ECF] on 07 Jun 2004 04:19; edited 3 times in total

Sergeant Major
Posts: 10935
Joined: 26 Aug 2002

      Posted: 26 Feb 2004 17:59 Profile

About the issue of RAM. RAM beginning with version 2.0 has become a very important issue with many people. As mentioned in the article above, it doesn't directly affect framerate. However, your PC uses your system RAM to store graphics textures for access faster than it would your hard drive.

With 2.0 and Special Forces maps, the number of textures that are used are immense, and PCs with a limited amount of system RAM (256MB) are finding out that their PCs are experiencing a stuttering effect (pauses in the game) while playing. The cause of this is your PC needing to access your hard drive to swap out graphics textures with your system RAM. If there are more textures on these SF maps than you have RAM available, your PC is forced to access the slower hard drive, wipe the old textures from system RAM, add the new textures to system RAM, then use those textures in the game. All this takes extra time, and hence results in the stuttering effect that many people are complaining about. This "stuttering" effect is not to be confused with game FPS! With systems using 512MB or more system RAM, this effect is not seen frequently. Note that the need to upload graphics textures to system RAM is the same reason why most players still observe stuttering during the first round or two of playing these SF maps regardless of total system RAM.

From a gameplay standpoint, it's strongly recommended that you run a system with 512MB or more of memory if you frequently play SF maps. The upgrade is relatively cheap (512MB PC-3200 = ~$80) and for players running 256MB of RAM the payoff in playability is immense.


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Sergeant Major
Posts: 10935
Joined: 26 Aug 2002

      Posted: 07 Jun 2004 04:02 Profile

Pentium and Athlon vs. Celeron and Duron

NOTE: For the purposes of this article, I will only compare Pentium and Celeron CPUs, but the same principle will apply when comparing Athlon and Duron CPUs.

The Celeron is essentially a downgraded version of the Pentium processor. It has two features that significantly reduce the performance of the CPU compared to the Pentium: a reduced front side bus, and a reduced on-chip cache memory. Between these limitations, the Celeron is an extremely inefficient processor compared to the Pentium - it simply cannot perform the same amount of work, per clock cycle, when compared side-by-side. It is primarily designed for people who's primary PC use is office applications (MS Office, audio encoding, and compression programs) where raw clock speed is more important than the efficient use of clock speed.

(Note: This is why Athlon CPUs compete well with Pentium 4 CPUs in games despite their slower raw clock speed, and tend to lag behind in office applications.)

For game performance purposes, I generally consider it a fair assumption that Celeron CPUs perform at two-thirds the efficiency of the Pentium 4. In other words, that 2.8GHz overclocked Celeron is approximately equal in capability to an approximately 1.9GHz Pentium 4. Does that make that affordable, overclockable, Celeron-based system worth your time? In my opinion, no! If you're looking for a new PC to purchase, your money would be much better spent if you purchased something with a Pentium 4 processor.


 Tutorial: CPUs, Video Cards, RAM and Framerate 

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