Video Performance

Video subsystem performance plays a large role in overall system performance. Obviously, anyone who takes the performance of their machine seriously is also going to devote some attention to their video card. One important thing to note is that your PC’s video performance is heavily tied in with the other hardware in your system. For example, if you bought yourself a high-end video card and installed it on a Pentium-II-350, it might not do you very much good. The reason is that games are other graphics-intensive applications are highly CPU intensive. They depend on the CPU to perform fast FPU calcaulations and deliver that data to the video card for rendering. The problem is that your CPU is also busy performing other duties for other software running in the background, which includes the operating system itself. Upgrading your system’s main CPU may, very often, prove to be a better use of your dollars to increase performance of your video system, not to mention your whole system. And when you consider that today’s high-end video cards can cost in the $300-$400 range, while you can buy a high-speed AMD processor for half that, you can see that a processor upgrade is often the best move you can make.

That said, there are some things that can be done on your system to increase the speed of your video system. Let’s look at a few:

Adjust your Video Settings

Your video settings can influence the performance of the entire machine. But also there are factors of video performance and video quality. Often, you must sacrifice one for the other, but it is possible to find the correct balance for you and the demands you place on your system. Adjusting your video settings can help increase performance. For example, high resolutions have the ability to show more screen area, thus having more windows open and seeing more stuff in general. But, a larger resolution, on slower systems, can be a drag on overall performance, plus it reduces the number of colors your video card can display. The number of colors, similarly, can be a drawback. More colors increase image quality, but can be a performance lag. It also decreases available resolutions.

On my personal machine, I value resolution over color depth. But, I’ve seen many people operate their video cards at full 32-bit color modes. This might make you feel good, but it is useless in the real world unless you are really doing some fine-tuned graphics work. Your video system takes more resources to generate all those extra colors, and your eye can’t even tell the difference. Taking your system down to 256 colors will speed it up, but you will be able to see a visible difference in color quality that you probably won’t like. So, I take my system down to 16-bit color. It allows a little more resources for the system and the eye cannot tell the difference visually between 16-bit and 32-bit color.

Changing your video settings is pretty easy. Many name-brand video cards come with their own program to adjust the settings. You can use this. Or, go to Control Panel, click on Display, Settings tab, then you can adjust them there. You can also right-click on your Desktop for a direct link to your Display settings.

Upgrade Your Drivers

Upgrading your video drivers is another simple way to make sure you are getting the most out of your video card. In most cases, the manufacturer will release new drivers for a particular card in order take advantage of certain features or to work with specific programs or operating systems. When downloading your drivers, get the latest that are programmed for your particular video card. This ensures you get the most out of your card’s capabilities. The best way to get drivers is to go to the web site of the manufacturer, download them, and follow the instructions to set them up. Many systems, though, have a no-brand card, one that is not a name-brand. In these cases, look at the maker of the video chipset, often Trident, S3, or Cirrus.

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