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PC Games and Gaming: The Software and the Hardware - Page 1


This section of this website consisting of two long pages provides information on the desktop and laptop PC as a gaming platform - the hardware and the software - plus incidental information on the major gaming consoles. Gaming desktop and laptop PCs used to be more expensive than general-purpose machines, but with inexpensive A-Series Fusion APU desktop and laptop processors made by AMD now having powerful onboard graphics chips capable of playing the latest games comfortably on their own - and at much faster frame rates when working in tandem with a low-end AMD graphics card in CrossFire mode - inexpensive desktop and laptop PCs running these processors are now capable of playing the latest games very comfortably indeed. The AMD A-series A8-3870K quad-core processor has a built-in AMD Radeon 6550D graphics chip that plays the demanding Dirt 3 3D game at a very decent 35.5fps on its own (with no graphics card) using high-quality settings, which can be greatly improved by adding an inexpensive AMD 6-series graphics card to the system. Therefore, an A-series-based system can produce very impressive gaming frame rates at the lowest cost to date.

The following excellent article on overclocking an AMD A-Series A8-3870K (first-generation Llano) APU, which can play the latest games without help from an additional graphics card, covers the overclocked components - the processor, memory and the additional Radeon HD 6670 graphics card. The beginning is a very informative interview with overclocking expert, Sami Mäkinen. The processor is tested on five platforms running the latest games.

Professional Help: Getting The Best Overclock From AMD's A8-3870K -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/a8-3870k-apu-overclocking-guide,review-32499.html

LATEST USEFUL PC GAME REVIEW

League Of Legends Performance, Benchmarked -

Quote from the article: "Following up our Dota 2 performance analysis, we benchmark the most-played PC game in the world, League Of Legends, and find out just how much graphics and CPU performance it requires for high-resolution, high-detail play, even across three screens."

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/league-of-legends-performance-benchmark,review-32692.htm

Gaming performance using Windows 8 compared to using Windows 7

On 26 October, 2012, Windows 8 was launched worldwide. It is available in three versions - Windows 8 for the home user (the Home Premium designation used by Windows Vista and Windows 7 has been dropped), Windows 8 Pro for the enthusiast and small business and Windows 8 Enterprise for big business. There is no Utlimate version. Benchmark testing of demanding games has shown that there is very little or no difference in performance when playing them in Windows 7 or Windows 8. Here is the proof:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/windows-8-gaming-performance,review-32553.html

Both versions of Windows 8 do not provide the Windows Media Center that can be used to access TV broadcasts using a TV tuner card or via the web and play music and videos. Not many people use it, but Windows 8 users who want it have to purchase it separately, currently for a stiff $99.99/£65.00 in the form of the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which converts Windows 8 into Windows 8 Pro plus the Windows Media Center. The Media Center is included in the Pro Pack.

Windows 8 Pro users have to pay $9.99 for the Media Center, which was free up to 31 January 2013.

The download requires the Upgrade Assistant to be run first, which produces a report of what won't run that is currently running on the PC you used to obtain the download, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, which has been replaced in Win8 by Windows Defender, so before you upgrade, it is advisable to uninstall Security Essentials. Note that Windows defender cannot place an icon in the Notification Area; it works unseen in the background, but it can be opened in the Control Panel and then be pinned to the taskbar on the Desktop screen for easy access. To open the Control Panel, place the mouse pointer in the top or bottom right-hand corner to bring up the Charms bar, open Search and enter the name in its box. A link to the Control Panel appears on the left-hand side of the window.

My wife's favorite Windows 7 games are no longer available in Windows 8. Can I get them back?

Problem

I upgraded our home laptop to Windows 8 Pro, taking advantage of the L24.99 upgrade-version offer for it that ended at the end of January 2013. My wife went looking for her favorite games immediately and exploded when she couldn't find them. I read on the web that the Windows.old folder that is saved from Windows 7 can be used to get them back. Can you tell me how to go about doing that please, because I couldn't find that information on the web? I don't want to have to reinstall Win7 because it is easy to use whe you've become used to the changes, I like Internet Explorer 10 and Win8 appears solid and works much faster than Win7 on the same computer. If I could get the Win7 games back we would both be more than happy with it. To read the answer, visit this page on this website:

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/Fix-Windows-8-Win8-Problems.htm#games

An introduction to PC gaming plus information on the latest gaming consoles

Computer games can be played from the gaming consoles that support them or from a suitably-equipped desktop or laptop PC. The versions that can be played on a gaming console cannot be played on a PC and vice versa.

It is also possible now to play some good games that have been ported to Flash, such as Quake, in a Flash Player via a web browser. Here are some top Flash games, including Quake:

Top Flash games (no registration or download required) -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/general/1297096/top-flash-games-no-registration-or-download-required

Before you buy a PC game, unless you know for sure that you have a PC that is powerful enough to play the latest games, you must check the minimum system specifications required to play it. If that information is not provided by the download site or on its package in a store, most games have a page on their developer's website or on third-party websites that provides that information, other information and updates, etc. It is a deeply disappointing experience to buy a game that your system can't play. For example, the Dirt 3 game is made by Codemasters and it has an official game page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dirt3game.

A powerful PC versus the current gaming consoles is no contest. None of the current games consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, GameCube) can come anywhere near to matching the gaming performance of a PC built as a gaming machine. Moreover, the new generation of games consoles (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 3 Slim, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS (latest generation of which is called Nintendo 3DS) are unlikely ever to have the processing power to become the best PC gaming machines.

In January 2012, Dell launched its Alienware X51 ultra-compact desktop gaming PC in the US (the UK release was imminent), which is powerful console-sized mini-PC that attempts to bridge the performance and size gaps between the gaming console and the PC. Prices in the US start at $699 (around £456) - quite a bit more expensive than most gaming consoles. Read The Alienware X51 Brings the Gaming Experience to New Frontiers for more information and the machine's specifications in detail. Information in the Comments say that the drive interface is SATA 2 not SATA 3.

A growing number of games are being developed to play natively on the Apple Mac platform, but most games are designed for Windows and relatively few games developers design games for both the Mac and Windows platforms.

If you don't have a computer with a high-end graphics card and therefore can't play the latest games, you can use an online cloud gaming service such as OnLive. The latest games can now be played on any type of computer, including tablets, smartphone or a TV using the service's Apple iOS and Android platforms. The graphics-intensive scenes are rendered on remote servers and the video is streamed to the user's machine. After you have created a free account, you can preview games and then buy or rent them. Of course, a broadband connection is required.

Note that AMD has now produced a range of processors for the desktop and laptop PC called A-Series Fusion APU, which uses a new desktop-PC socket called Socket FM1, worth considering as a viable alternative to buying a gaming PC with a second-generation Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 (Sandy Bridge) or third-generation Core i5 or i7 (Ivy Bridge) processor.

The new AMD Series-A Fusion APU quad-core processors, code-named Lynx for the desktop-PC models and Sabine for the laptop-PC versions, provide an onboard graphics chip that can work in tandem with an AMD Radeon graphics card in CrossFireX mode, further increasing 3D graphics performance, which is already about 60% higher that Intel's Core processors. The APU processors support the latest DirectX 11, while Intel's Core processors with onboard graphics only support DirectX 10. Unlike Intel's Core processors with onboard graphics, the graphics of which are not able to play PC games, all of the Fusion processors can play the latest games - with enhanced performance when working in tandem with a low-end AMD Radeon graphics card in CrossFireX mode.

The models for the desktop PC are: A6-3600, A6-3650, A6-3800 and A6-3850, all of which have an AMD HD 6550D graphics chip. The top of the range model - the A6-3850 - currently priced (August 2011) at only £100, plays Dirt 3 smoothly at 35fps on a monitor with a 1280x720 screen resolution using High detail settings and 4x anti-aliasing, which proves that it can play the latest games on its own. When a low-end AMD Radeon 6450 graphics card, currently costing around only £35, is added to the system so that it works in CrossFire mode with the graphics chip in the processor, the fps increases to 52. This processor, or APU as AMD calls it, is not as fast as Intel's Sandy Bridge second-generation Core processors when running 2D applications, but it is much faster when playing games, especially when running with a cheap low-end AMD graphics card, and is much cheaper.

Intel's Core processors with onboard graphics can't be used in tandem with a graphics card in either CrossFire or NVIDIA's SLI mode. That means that the processor's graphics chip has to be disabled because it cannot be connected to a separate monitor, as is the case when a graphics card provides several output ports, each of which can be connected to a monitor.

Moreover, in tests the mobile (laptop) Fusion APU processors have been shown to provide much longer battery life than Intel's Core processors with onboard graphics.

Laptops and desktop PCs with the new AMD A-Series processors are now available. The first-generation chips, code-named Llano, were first made available in 2011. The second-generation chips, code-named Trinity, were made available in May 2012.

It is now possible to buy an inexpensive laptop PC that is capable of playing the latest PC games at high detail settings. For example, the HP Pavilion DV6 laptop (current in June 2012) has an AMD A6-3430MX processor that has an onboard graphics chip (all of the AMD A-Series processors for the desktop and laptop PC have onboard AMD Radeon graphics chips). It also has a dedicated AMD Radeon 7470M graphics card that runs in tandem with the processor's graphics chip in CrossFire mode. In tests it has managed an impressive 43fps (frames-per-second) when playing the demanding Dirt 3 game. This laptop also provides 7 hours of battery life when performing undemanding tasks such as office work, accessing the web, etc. Note that although Intel's latest third-generation Core (Ivy Bridge) processors also have an onboard graphics chip, they are unable to play the latest games on their own at any more than console-level graphics and cannot be used in conjunction with a dedicated graphics card.

Note well that the new AMD and Intel processors that have integrated graphics chips use the system's RAM memory, reducing the amount available to the system, so, if performance is an issue, such as when playing the latest games, the performance of the system memory has to be taken into consideration. This means having enough memory in the first place and using the fastest memory you can afford.

Motherboard and memory manufacturers say that 8GB of memory is ideal to run AMD's APUs. A 64-bit operating system is required to use more than 3.5GB of memory, which for most users means having a laptop or desktop PC running the 64-bit versions of Windows 7 - the Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate versions. The following article reviews seven 8GB memory kits:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/llano-apu-memory-performance,review-32268.html

An up-to-date gaming PC running a high-end graphics card, such as the the AMD Radeon AMD Radeon HD 7870 (the best value graphics card in March 2012 reviewed here - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/...) connected to a surround-sound sound system plays the latest PC games with almost overwhelming graphical detail and surround sound. The more so if more than one monitor is used. AMD's Eyefinity technology allows a game to be spread across up to six monitors. Here is what a game looks like spread across three screens:

A PC game spread across three monitor screens

The following article shows what a game looks like spread across six screens.

AMD Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition: One Card, Six [LCD] Screens -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/radeon-5870-eyefinity6,review-31850.html

Have a look at the following website to see how far using multiple monitors can be taken:

http://9xmedia.com/new/products/xtops.php

If you prefer using a gaming console to a computer or want to use both, Microsoft's Xbox is still the best choice for serious gaming.

The latest Xbox One has just been launched. Why it's called Xbox One when the version it is replacing is called Xbox 360 is anyone's guess. It was initially called the Xbox 720. Anyhow, the new Xbox is really now a high-spec PC, not a mere gaming console, as is PlayStation 4 (PS4), which has similar specifications. It supports hand-gesture commands, apparently without a noticeable lag, has a webcam, an 8-core AMD Jaguar processor (as does the PS4), 500GB hard drive, 8GB or RAM and a powerful AMD Radeon graphics chip that can be run in tandem with the built-in graphics chip in the processor (CrossFire mode). That is a high-spec media-centre PC, described by Microsoft as the "ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system", not the gaming consoles that Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are.

Xbox One console launched - Microsoft highlights traditional TV content -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/games/1299847/...

The Xbox One Review: Unifying Your Living Room Experience -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/microsoft-xbox-one-console-review,review-32831.html

Xbox One vs. PS4 vs. PC: How the hardware specs compare -

http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/156273-xbox-720-vs-ps4-vs-pc-how-the-hardware-specs-compare

PS4 release date, news and features -

http://www.techradar.com/news/gaming/consoles/ps4-rumours-what-you-need-to-know-937822

Read the following article to find out how Xbox One has been improved compared to its forerunner, Xbox 360.

Xbox One launch: as it happened [May 24, 2013] -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/technology-events/10071308/...

In January 2012, Xbox 360 came in several versions from a 4GB console costing £ 130 to a 250GB console with a Kinect Sensor (that can track and interpret motion and provides voice recognition) for £280. Visit it's US website http://www.xbox.com/. You can purchase it from the Microsoft Store for as little as $99 for the 4GB model increasing to $99 for the 250Gb model without Kinect and $149 for the 250GB model with Kinect (look under Choose your Xbox 360). If you have a friend in the US, perhaps you could get him to buy one for you and forward it.

The UK site is http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/. Microsoft Store is not available from it, buy you are provided with UK suppliers. As usual, the prices are much higher than they are in the US.

It has the largest selection of games and exclusive titles (games that are only made for it) than Sony's PlayStation 3 console. Moreover, Xbox 360 has the best online community of gamers called Xbox Live. However, unless you only want to use the fairly limited free membership, you have to pay an annual subscrription to join it. There is an individual (£40 in Jan. 2012) and a family membership for up to four members (£70 in Jan. 2012). The xbox.com site provides all of the information you need on Xbox, including Xbox Live.

Introducing Kinect for Xbox 360 - http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/KINECT

Here is the review of the latest version [August 2010 - current in Dec. 2012]:

Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB review -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/1279153/microsoft-xbox-360-s-250gb

It is now possible to control the Xbox 360 by voice commands using its voice-recognition software. The following article provides information on the new controller called Xbox Kinect, which can also be controlled by the movements of the player's body. Infrared sensors monitor the player's body. A player than has to learn how to use his or her body to control a Kinect game. There is a latency - a delay between the movement the player makes and when the outcome appears on the screen. Kinect is said to have plenty of potential, such as being integrated into a TV, which can then be controlled by motion and voice recognition. Indeed, it is January 2012 and Microsoft is said by reputable insiders to be moving into HD TVs and planning to have the sets controlled by a Kinect Sensor. The person-recognition ability of Kinect can be used to recognise the user and switch to his/her customised settings or even resume a programme.

Close-up camera key to Kinect for Windows [Nov. 23, 2011] -

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/371365/close-up-camera-key-to-kinect-for-windows

Kinect controller coming to Windows PCs - "Microsoft's Kinect interface is officially coming to the PC, with the release of a developers' kit later this spring [2011]." -

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/365428/kinect-controller-coming-to-windows-pcs

Look, no hands! Microsoft unveils revolutionary voice and movement-activated Xbox Kinect -

"Microsoft has unveiled its new Xbox 360 motion controller – a completely hands-free games console with voice commands called Kinect." -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1286433/...

Sony's PlayStation 3 has been redesigned, looks better and is a little less noisy than the Xbox 360. It has a built-in Blu-ray optical drive for playing HD movies, a large 250GB hard disk drive and comes with a top-rated game, so it's still good value at L270. It's well-designed and attractive menu system, BBC iPlayer support and excellent DVD upscaling make it a better all-round entertainment machine than the Xbox 360.

The handheld console market encompasses consoles (Sony NGP, Nintendo 3DS) and smartphones (Apple iPhone and iPad).

January 31, 2011. - PSP2: Sony NGP hands-on and portable market analysis - "With Sony's unveiling of the new NGP (Next Generation Portable) console, the battle for dominance in the handheld market is about to heat up." -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8286475/

Sony's latest handheld console is called Playstation Vita. Read about it here [article date 10/6/11]: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/1285252/...

The Nintendo Wii console uses older, non-HD graphics technology than the other two major gaming consoles, comes with a top-rated game and costs £180, so it is not a bargain. However, it provides more interactive titles (games that you involve your body in), such as Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit, and more child-friendly games, such as Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart.

The next generation Wii U console has been launched in the US. Read about it here [article date 8/6/11]: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/home-entertainment/1285204/...

On Nov. 30, 2012, it was made available in the UK. Here is an article about the launch:

Wii are back: Hundreds queue for Nintendo's first new home console in six years as it takes on the tablets -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2240899/...

Nintendo Wii U review -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/1296658/nintendo-wii-u

A handheld game console from Nintendo is available. It is the next generation 3D version of the Nintendo DS gaming console called the Nintendo 3DS.The good and the bad news:

In December 2011, Nintendo released a firmware upgrade that adds improvement to its eShop service and adds video recording to the console, which could always take photos, but now users can shoot video footage. Nintendo now ties games to the user instead of to a console, so users can now transfer games between consoles. An update can be installed from the user's settings page if an update notification was not received. Rolled out in the US first, the Nintendo Zone icon allows the console to connect via Wi-Fi hotspots that are compatible with Nintendo's SpotPass service. The Nintendo Zone service is to be made available in other countries.

Nintendo 3DS review [March 2, 2011] - "The Nintendo 3DS is definitely a try-before-you-buy console, but you wouldn't bet against it capturing the hearts and minds of gamers, writes Tom Hoggins." - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/...

Nintendo gamers left feeling ill after playing new 3DS console furious that shops are refusing full refunds [5 April 2011] -

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1373578/...

In addition to PC gaming, many consoles have online playing. For example, Xbox 360 competitions for cash exist online.

3D games and the requirements and hardware for playing 3D games

The Best 3D Monitor for Gaming -

http://www.monitor3d.net/3d-monitor-information/the-best-3d-monitor-for-gaming

LG W2363D 3D gaming monitor -

The LG W2363D is a 23-inch, full-HD monitor With a 120Hz refresh rate to minimise flicker when used with shutter glasses and a 70,000:1 contrast ratio. The specifications are impressive and LG has included a specific mode for gaming, which the company claims optimises the set-up process.

http://www.lg.com/uk/it-products/monitors/LG-3d-lcd-monitor-W2363D.jsp

A new generation of TVs use high frame rates to create a 3D (three-dimensional) effect. These TVs are currently unaffordable by most people. Viewing the effect requires the wearing of expensive active shutter glasses that block each frame in time with the frames on the screen.

However, NVIDIA has a standard called 3D Vision that has been available for some time. It uses shuttered glasses that alternate frames between the viewer's eyes. The glasses are heavy and need to be recharged after about 40 hours of viewing. A much cheaper alternative to buying a new 3D-capable TV. To use this system, you need a desktop or laptop PC that has a graphics card that is fast enough to provide the required frame rate and a 120Hz-capable LCD monitor.

The following webpage provides information on the games that can be played using 3D Vision.

3D Vision - http://www.nvidia.com/object/3d-vision-main.html

Sony, Philips and Panasonic are developing polarised screen technology.

Best 3D Glasses – Passive Polarized vs Active Shutter 3D technology -

http://www.best-3dtvs.com/guides/3d-glasses-active-vs-passive/

Nvidia 3D Vision Surround: Is This The Future Of Gaming? -

"A little more than a year ago, we saw a renewed interest in stereoscopic gaming with Nvidia's 3D Vision technology. Today, the company is following up with 3D gaming across three displays. But has the 3D ecosystem improved since our last look at the tech?" -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

To get the best out of games, a gaming PC needs to have more than a powerful video/graphics card. The monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse are the external components that have to be carefully chosen. The internal components that require careful choosing are the video/graphics card, the processor, the power supply unit, and the RAM memory, which is 2GB to 4GB in most current gaming PCs that run Windows Vista Premium or Ultimate. Note well that up to 4GB of RAM memory a 64-bit version of Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 requires twice as much memory as a standard 32-bit version. If you want to use more than 4GB of RAM memory, you must have a 64-bit, not an 32-bit, operating system, which is usually a version of Windows.

To find out which bit version of Windows you have, in Windows XP go Start => Control Panel and look for System and look on the General tab of the System Properties window. In Windows Vista choose the Classic View in the Control Panel. In Windows 7, just enter the word system in the Start => Search programs and files box to be provided with a clickable link to the System Properties window.

Note that the bit information might not appear on systems that have been customised by their manufacturer. If you need to find out that information, enter a search term such as: how to find out if windows [xp, vista, windows 7] is 32-bit or 64-bit in a search engine.

That said, to derive the most enjoyment from most games, you'll also need to use a good games controller.

Arcade and action games games can be controlled by using just a keyboard and mouse, but the experience is enhanced by using a joypad. Likewise, flight simulators are much more enjoyable when used with a joystick, and driving games are more thrilling when played with a steering wheel and pedals.

However, some PC games are designed to be played using a keyboard and mouse. In that case, using a gaming mouse allows the player to aim more accurately and therefore to build up better scores.

BEST GAMES AND BEST GAMING HARDWARE

Medal Of Honor Warfighter Performance, Benchmarked [2 Nov. 2012] -

This game tested on 12 graphics cards.

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/medal-of-honor-warfighter-performance-benchmark,review-32557.html

Games reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/games

List of games with DirectX 11 support -

"This is a list of released and unreleased games that support DirectX 11 for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Information regarding developer, publisher, date of release, and genre is provided where available. Note: The DirectX 11 runtime has been released with Windows 7 but as of March 2010, not many games support it." -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_DirectX_11_support

Video Games - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/

Best gaming laptops -

http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/laptops/best-gaming-laptops-50000232/

Sound card - Visit the Sound section of this website for information on sound cards, speakers and headphones.

A PC gamer should definitely use a sound card instead of a sound chip integrated on a PC's motherboard in order to experience the surround-sound effects that many sound cards and headphones with built-in USB audio devices provide. Note that several recent games have reacted badly to the drivers for built-in audio chips from driver-developers such as Realtek. The affected games, such as Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum, tend to have been ported from a gaming console or are cross-platform games.

In November 2010, the Asus Xonar DG was a good-value card, but Asus provides several more expensive models.

Asus Xonar DG review -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/1280461/asus-xonar-dg

External USB sound cards that are designed mainly for use with laptop PCs, but which can also be used with a desktop PC, are available. Here is a review of a self-contained model made by Creative that designed with PC-gamers in mind that has its own processor so that it doesn't need to use the desktop or laptop PC's processor at all:

Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D review [Oct. 23, 2011 - £90] -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/1287817/creative-sound-blaster-recon3d

If you enter the search query sound cards in a web search engine, you will be able to find many others - both the sellers and reviews.

Best Graphics Cards For The Money: OCTOBER 2014 -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

"You don't have to spend a fortune on a high-end gaming graphics card that requires that the PC has a powerful power supply. - "Power usage is extremely low for the performance offered, and no auxiliary power connector is needed. And yet, the Radeon HD 5570 manages playable frame rates in every one of our game tests at 1680x1050 (and sometimes 1920x1200)." - Tom's Hardware.

Roundup: Four Radeon HD 6850 1 GB [Graphics] Cards Compared [December 2010] - "Improvements to performance, acoustics, and bundles can add big value once a reference graphics card is modified by third-party vendors. We compare four modified Radeon HD 6850 1 GB boards to find out which company's additions best suit your gaming needs." - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Comparison of Laptop PC Graphic Cards -

"In the following we will briefly list all graphics cards which are available for notebooks at the market today. The GPUs are sorted by performance and classified in different classes. To get a better overview on current laptop graphic cards, older cards can be greyed out." -

http://www.notebookcheck.net/Comparison-of-Graphic-Cards.130.0.html

Any graphics card that you want to buy or that is part of a desktop or laptop PC will have reviews online. Here is a good review article of an affordable and capable PCI Express graphics card:

AMD Radeon HD 6790 Review: More Mid-Range Might [April 2011] -

"Hot on the heels of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 550 Ti introduction, AMD releases a card with the same £115 MSRP and vastly superior performance. But can it also stand up to the GeForce GTX 460 768 MB? We put the new card to the test!" -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Note that the video/graphics card manufacturer, ATI, which was purchased by AMD, is now called AMD.

Graphics-card coolers. - It is possible to buy graphics-card coolers for high-end graphics cards that can be used instead of the cooler that came with a graphics card. For instance, if you want to overclock a partricular high-end card's GPU (graphics processing unit) and require a more powerful cooler.

Three Aftermarket Graphics Coolers On GeForce GTX 480 -

"Today we're testing three of the largest graphics card coolers available: Arctic Cooling's Accelero XTREME Plus, DeepCool's V6000, and Zalman's VF3000F. Can these products bring performance to the table commensurate with their large triple-slot size?" -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-cpu-review-overclock,review-32901.html

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: OCTOBER 2014 -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-cpu-review-overclock,review-32901.html

Gamers: Do You Need More Than An Athlon II X3? -

"AMD's Athlon II X3 440 is such a capable little chip, and and it costs so little. Is there any real point in spending more money on your gaming machine's CPU? We explore this question with a head-to-head challenge against Intel's venerable Core i7-920." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Does [Processor] Cache Size Really Boost Performance? -

"While cache size only had a limited impact on the synthetic benchmarks such as PCMark05, the performance difference in most real-life benchmarks was significant. This was surprising at first, because experience tells us that performance differences can typically be found in most synthetic benchmarks, while little of it is eventually reflected in real-life benchmarks." -

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cache-size-matter,1709.html

Roundup: 12 Gaming Power Supplies [PSUs] Compared [December 2010] -

"Gamers demand a lot from their computers, starting with the PSU. Therefore, almost every PSU manufacturer sells products optimized for gaming PCs. We introduce ripple and noise testing in this roundup to further improve our power supply evaluations." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-psu-efficiency,review-32088.html

Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

On The Bench: Corsair's HS1 USB Gaming Headset -

"You probably know Corsair best for its memory products, power supplies, and SSDs. But now the company is jumping into the crowded headset market with an unassuming entry that's both affordable and capable of offering great sound quality." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/corsair-hs1-headset,review-31998.html

DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router - With the constantly-increasing popularity of online gaming (and the advent of a new form of online gaming in which the game is played by powerful servers and the results sent to the gaming PCs), network routers designed with gaming in mind have now been made available.

"It's not everyday you come across a device designed solely with the gamer in mind. The D-Link Xtreme N Gaming Router (DGL-4500) is one of those few devices built especially for gamers. Experience the power of our Xtreme N Duo wireless technology for data transfer rates of up to 300Mbps and Gigabit LAN and WAN Ports to get your game on faster than ever before. We've also added an updated version of our award-winning GameFuel technology to get your game going smoother. To top it off, we've thrown in a high-performance CPU and a Network Activity Display to give you a serious gaming router." - http://www.dlink.com/us/en/home-solutions/connect/routers/...

Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money? -

"Will the right gaming peripherals make you a better gamer? There are a number of high-end mouse, keyboard, and headset vendors out there who'd like you to think that the right $100 add-on will make all of the difference. We put those claims to the test." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-peripheral-mouse-keyboard,review-31738.html

Why Buy a Gaming Keyboard? -

"When it comes to video game input devices, the keyboard is probably the furthest from ideal. Let's face it, keyboards were not designed to serve as game peripherals. However, PC gamers have bent their gaming habits to fit the restrictions of the standard keyboard for so many years that most prefer keyboard controls to a gamepad." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/why-buy-a-gaming-keyboard,review-29601.html

Part 1: Four Gaming Enclosures Under $50 -

"Sometimes, overclocking is the key to getting budget hardware humming along at enthusiast-class performance levels. But getting there requires extra cooling. Today we're examining the performance of four low-cost gaming enclosures under $50 bucks." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Latest Case reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/cases

PC gaming mice, joypads, joysticks, and steering wheels as reviewed and rated by Computer Shopper magazine

Click the make/model link to visit the manufacturers' website for their latest offerings.

Best Buy gaming mice

Razer Abyssus - Four stars - Budget Buy award - Expert Reviews review - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/mice/1281373/razer-abyssus

SteelSeries Xai Laser Mouse - Five stars - Best Buy award - Expert Reviews review - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/mice/1281394/steelseries-xai-laser-mouse

Best Buy joypad

Many PC games are best played with a joypad, which most recent action and sports games support. However, older games and online Flash games often don't work with a joypad. Moreover, getting a joypad to work with mouse-controlled games, such as first-person shooter games can be problematic.

Xpadder from http://www.xpadder.com/ is a free utility that allows mouse and keyboard controls be be emulated by a joypad. It can also be used with any controller that Windows recognises, including steering wheels and joysticks.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controlle - Five stars - Best Buy award - PC and Xbox 360 joypad - Requires the Xbox Wireless Gaming Receiver in order to be used with Windows. Thereafter it requires no additional software or setup - USB.

Best Buy joystick

Saitek Aviator - Five stars - Best Buy award - USB - 12 buttons - two throttle controls.

Best Buy steering wheel

Thrustmaster RGT Force Feedback Pro - Five stars - Best Buy - Three pedals, two gears, nine buttons, four paddles, force feedback, wired USB connection.

USB stick sound cards

If you don't have a high-end sound card installed in your desktop or laptop PC, you can add a sophisticated sound capability by using a USB stick sound card from around only £17. Here are a few examples:

Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! [£40] -

"Ultra-realistic gaming audio with headphone surround. Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! brings incredible gaming audio to any computer, anywhere! Designed just like a USB stick it plugs into a PC to bring you incredible X-Fi headphone surround and maximum realism, thanks to its EAX Advanced HD support. Its 1GB memory stores the installation software and lets you save your game settings and levels. Ideal for LAN parties, it supports hundreds of titles under Windows XP and Vista - and even fits on your key ring for maximum portability! The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! is the fast and easy upgrade to Xtreme Fidelity." - http://uk.store.creative.com/sound-blaster.aspx

Terratec Aureon Dual USB Sound Card for PC and Notebook [£17] -

Read the purchaser reviews.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terratec-Aureon-Dual-USB-Notebook/dp/B000WL23KC

Sound Blaster How-to Guide

The Sound Blaster How-to Guide provides comprehensive information on getting the best from a Sound Blaster device. It is broken down into a Gaming Mode, an Entertainment Mode and an Audio Creation Mode. -

Microsoft's Xbox 360 is available. PlayStation 3 (PS3) is available in the USA and Europe. In Europe, PS3 was made available on March 23, 2007, when the original release date was in the spring of 2006. The latest version, PlayStation 3 Slim, is a cheaper, slimmer version of its PlayStation 3 games console. It went on sale in the UK on September 1, 2009.

PlayStation 3 to support 3D Blu-ray -

"The technical details are fairly dull, but one piece of interesting news is that the PlayStation 3 has been confirmed to support playback of upcoming 3D Blu-ray releases." -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/home-cinema/274816/...

Sony reveals the PS3 Slim -

"Sony has unveiled a slimmer version of its PlayStation 3 games console as it seeks to compete with Microsoft and Nintendo." -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/6049750/

Do It Yourself: More Storage For Your PlayStation 3 -

"The latest PlayStation 3 Slim offers up to 250 GB of storage on its built-in hard drive. But enthusiasts are better off paying Sony less for a cheaper model and upgrading immediately to a larger hard drive. We show you how in four simple steps." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/playstation-3-hard-drive-upgrade,review-31913.html

PlayStation 3 Europe - http://eu.playstation.com/ps3/

PlayStation 3 USA - http://us.playstation.com/ps3/?ref=http%253a//www.sony.com/index.php

Sony offers emulation reassurance -

"Sony has provided a list of all PlayStation 2 games that will work on its PlayStation 3 console in Europe." - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6471649.stm

Factfile: The PlayStation 3 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6132212.stm

Visit http://www.whatconsole.co.uk/ for information on all of the available consoles.

The latest games are easily the most demanding software that is likely to be run on a home computer. Therefore, to experience the full graphical special effects of computer games, you should be wary of computer specifications that boast of an extra-fast processor and video/graphics card, but which skimp on the amount of RAM, or the quality of the motherboard, the monitor, the hard disk drive, the keyboard, and the mouse.

A gaming PC's video/graphics card is its most important component. (Some systems use dual SLI (nVidia) or CrossFire (ATI/AMD) cards.) As the graphics card ages, it struggles to play the latest PC games at their highest screen resolution and graphics-detail settings.

The processor in a desktop or laptop PC is the next most important component in a gaming machine.

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: OCTOBER 2014 -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-cpu-review-overclock,review-32901.html

Unless it had enough RAM to be able to run wholly from it (about 4GB, which is 2028MB running a 32-bit not a 64-bit version of Windows Vista or Windows 7, a gaming computer with a fast processor and a good gaming video/graphics card that had a slow hard disk drive, working at say only 5200RPM, would be a bit of a joke.

That said, the graphics card is the most important component involved in displaying the visual special effects of computer games.

Midrange video cards can all play the latest games, but you won't experience the same level of graphical detail as you would with a state-of-the-art card, such as those that are built around ATI's Radeon and nVidia's GeForce high-end graphics chips.

For example, with a Radeon 9600 video card displaying on a standard 17" LCD monitor, with an aspect ratio of 4:3, set to its native resolution of 1280x1024, you would have to turn down the game-detail settings (such as the colour depth from 32-bit to 16-bit colour), or switch off the card's post processing image enhancement capability. But none of those restrictions would apply if the graphics/video card used a Radeon 9800 XT chip.

The more cutting-edge technology a video/graphics card is, the more post processing it supports, and therefore the better and faster it renders a game. However, the better a video card is at rendering graphics and the more inbuilt RAM it has, the more expensive it is.

Post-processing graphics technology includes full-screen anti-aliasing, which smoothes all of the jagged lines at the edge of visual objects. Anisotropic filtering is graphics technology that increases the quality and sharpness of the textures involved in creating a game's scenery.

If your PC's video/graphics supports post-processing features to find the settings for them in Windows XP and Windows Vista, right-click on an empty area of the Windows Desktop, click Properties in the menu that comes up, click the Settings tab of Display Properties, then click the Advanced button => Direct3D tab.

Alternatively, in Windows XP open Display in the Control Panel. In Windows Vista, Display Settings is in the Control Panel under Hardware and Sound.

In Windows 7, just enter the word display in the Start => Search programs and files box to be presented with a clickable link.

Note that when you click the Advanced button of Display Properties, the PC's graphics driver can have its own tab that provides the 3D settings.

The frame rate at which a particular PC game can be played at is important, because, if the game is being played on a relatively slow computer, the frame rate determines if the game can be played or not.

Frame rate - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_rate

The link provided below is a good one to visit to find out what kind of gaming rigs other people are using.

PC Games: Updates, patches, upgrades and tweaking

The manufacturers of computer games often provide updates, patches, and upgrades for their games, which are made available as downloads from their websites, or from sites such as the following one that provides them.

Games: updates, patches and upgrades -

http://www.softwarepatch.com/games/index.html

The Software Patch site also provides updates for Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7, device drivers, such as graphics-card drivers, and updates to application software. If a Windows security update from Microsoft Update fails to install, which happens all too often, you can locate it on the site and install it manually.

Gaming Guides -

"Game tweaking is not just about squeezing every bit of performance possible, but also getting everything running harmonically in your system, troubleshooting & fixing bugs, and obviously getting the best visual quality at the lowest cost of performance." -

http://www.techspot.com/guides-gaming.shtml

The confusing myriad of cables that computers use

The myriad of cables that are in use are often very confusing to the home computer user. The following link provides a slide show of the cables and information on what each cable is used for that should dispell most of the confusion.

A World of Cables, Unknotted [Slideshow of all the cables used with a computer] -

"You can spend weeks researching which TV or Blu-ray player to buy, and then you would still have to deal with the conundrum of the cables. Other format wars get resolved fairly quickly and definitively (Blu-ray over HD-DVD, VHS over Beta), but cable formats last, it would seem, forever." -

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/04/16/technology/personaltech/...

Short stroking hard-drive technology improves performance but at the cost of losing 90% of the disk space

Short Stroking: How It Works -

"Short stroking aims to minimize performance-eating head repositioning delays by reducing the number of tracks used per hard drive. In a simple example, a terabyte hard drive (1,000 GB) may be based on three platters with 333 GB storage capacity each. If we were to use only 10% of the storage medium, starting with the outer sectors of the drive (which provide the best performance), the hard drive would have to deal with significantly fewer head movements. The result of short stroking is always significantly reduced capacity. In this example, the terabyte drive would be limited to 33 GB per platter and hence only offer a total capacity of 100 GB. But the result should be noticeably shorter access times and much improved I/O performance, as the drive can operate with a minimum amount of physical activity." -

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/short-stroking-hdd,2157-2.html

The Windows Game Advisor

One of the major problems associated with PC gaming is determining whether or not a system's hardware, such as its processor, memory, and graphics card are capable of playing a state-of-the-art PC game. The Windows Game Advisor, provided from Microsoft's site, allows PC gamers to find out how their systems stand with regard to particular games up with the click of a mouse button.

Microsoft's Xbox website

The Xbox website for all the information that Microsoft provides about Xbox and its games. - http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/PC/Games

Windows 7 and Windows Vista - DirectX 10 and DirectX 11

Note that Microsoft no longer has a page on its website devoted to DirectX that provides information and version downloads. DirectX is automatically updated if it can be updated along with security updates and hotfixes.

October 22, 2009 was when the versions of Windows 7, the latest versions of Windows for the home user, became available.

Visit the Windows 7 section of this site for information on using, installing and recovering the latest versions of Windows.

Windows 7 supports DirectX 11, which means that it can be used with the latest graphics cards that support DirectX 11. DirectX 11 launched with Windows 7, but a version of DirectX 11 is now available for Windows Vista. Windows XP only supports third-party versions of DirectX 10 (not the official Microsoft version), it does not support DirectX 11.

Visit this Q&A - Should I buy a DirectX 10 or a DirectX 11 video/graphics card?

Visit the Using Windows Vista page on this site for information and links to articles on Windows Vista.

PC gaming with Vista's DirectX 10 graphics support is spectacular. DirectX 10 requires three elements to function at its full potential, an operating system, a single graphics card (or dual-card system), and games that all support DirectX 10.

New Gaming Computer - Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows XP Pro? -

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/236709-44-gaming-computer-vista-ultmiate

Note that you can now also obtain DirectX 10 for Windows XP, which wasn't the case until recently. DirectX 10 could only be used with Windows Vista, but third-party developers have made it available for Windows XP. Download pages can be found by using a search query such as windows xp directx 10 in a search engine. Here is a download page I found using it:

Download DirectX 10 for Windows XP from Alky Project -

http://www.technospot.net/blogs/...

Is Vista Good for Gaming? - Three reasons Windows Vista is terrible for gaming ... and six reasons why it's great -

"In some ways, debating whether or not Windows Vista is good for gaming is a moot point. A futile argument. Water under the bridge. That's because, like it or not, Microsoft Corp.'s shiny new operating system is here to stay. By the end of 2007, a whole new generation of games for Windows Vista will be here as well. At that point, if you're a Windows gamer, you'll have no choice but to upgrade to Vista -- unless you're ready to throw in the towel on PC gaming and buy an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii instead..." -

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9014463/...

PC GAMING NEWS

Just the major gaming news is provided here. The following webpage provides the latest gaming news.

"Expert Reviews" - Game news - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/games/news

Dell attempts to eclipse the gaming consoles with a powerful ultra-compact desktop gaming PC

February 11, 2012. - Dell has a subsidiary company that makes gaming PCs - Alienware - which has launched an ultra-compact gaming PC in the US called the Alienware X51. The UK release is imminent. Housed in a small black horizontal case and weighing only 5.5kg (12lbs), the machine can run any of Intel's second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Core i3, i5 and i7 processors from a Mini-ITX form-factor motherboard. Combined with its Nvidia GeForce GTX 545 or GTX 555 graphics chip and 1Gb of dedicated graphics memory, the X51 provides impressive gaming performance. Prices in the US start at $699 (around £456). Read The Alienware X51 Brings the Gaming Experience to New Frontiers for more information and the machine's specifications in detail.

Intel has released its second-generation Core i3, i5, and i7 Sandy Bridge processors

January 5, 2011. - Intel has officially released its second-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors, code-named Sandy Bridge. Intel is initially launching 20 processors, 6 Series chipsets and Centrino Wi-Fi and WiMax wireless adapters. The processors are quad-core (each processor houses four processor cores) and all of them have a graphics processor integrated on the same die (built with a 32-nanometer manufacturing process), making it unnecessary to have a separate graphics card. Intel intends to release dual-core models in February. Of course, dedicated PC gamers and professional video editors will still have to use one or more dedicated high-end graphics cards, which means that they will have to disable the integrated graphics chips.

The new Core processors provide a number of video-related technologies, such as Intel Insider, Quick Sync Video, and a new version of Wireless Display. The new processors are reported to be hugely improved compared to the first-generation Core i3, i5, and i7 models, by architectural changes and a new processor socket - Socket LGA1155 - and chipsets - P67 and H67 - to support them, which means having to buy a new motherboard for the processors if you are upgrading from the previous models. You will be able to reuse your DDR3 RAM memory. There are now three different processor sockets for the Core i7 processors: LGA1366, LGA1156 and the new LGA1155.

Intel Core i7-2600K review -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/processors/1281844/intel-core-i7-2600k

Intel's Second-Gen Core CPUs: The Sandy Bridge Review - "Although the processing cores in Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture are decidedly similar to Nehalem, the integration of on-die graphics and a ring bus improves performance for mainstream users. Intel's Quick Sync is this design's secret weapon, though." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Efficiency Comparison: Sandy Bridge Vs. Intel And AMD CPUs - "The second-generation Core processors arrived with a bang, but what sort of progress can you expect in the performance per watt department? We compare Core i5/i7-2x00 to AMD's Phenom with four and six cores, as well as previous-gen parts from Intel." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/sandy-bridge-efficienct-32-nm,review-32091.html

ASRock P67 Transformer: P67 Gets LGA 1156 Compatibility - "Upgrading to Intel's P67 [motherboard chipset for second-generation Core i3, i5, i7 processors] will certainly require a new motherboard, but the fact that you won't need a new CPU appears to be Intel's dirty-little-secret. ASRock found the secret and exploited it, bringing next-generation performance to today's processors." - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

Sony announces PlayStation 3 Slim

August 19, 2009. - Sony has fired the next salvo in its continuing console war with Microsoft and Nintendo. It's just announced the new PlayStation Slim, a smaller version of its current PlayStation 3 console (PS3). -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/games/266905/sony-announces-playstation-3-slim

Gaming PC specifications and benchmark tests

If you want to perform benchmark test to find out how suitable your PC is for playing the latest games, try running a free benchmark testing program such as these:

3DMark06 Basic Edition Build 1.0.2 -

3dMark06 is the latest in the 3D benchmarking series. The program is one of the most prefered methods of testing hardware and software performance for all PC configurations. User reviews - 4.5 stars out of 5. A more advanced paid-for version that costs $20 is also available. - http://download.cnet.com/3DMark06-Basic-Edition/3000-2121_4-10492453.html

Fresh Diagnose -

"Fresh Diagnose is a utility designed to analyze and benchmark your computer system. It can analyze and benchmark many kinds of hardware, such as CPU performance, hard disk performance, video system information, mainboard / motherboard information, and much more..." - http://www.freshdevices.com/freshdiag.html

With an LCD monitor with a pixel repsonse time of 8ms or under set at its native screen resolution of 1280x1024, a high level of detail enabled, and an anti-aliasing setting of 4x, a gaming PC should be easily capable of a benchmark speed of over 50fps (frames pers second) when playing a graphics-intensive game such as Doom 3. However, a game such as Call of Duty 2, is even more graphics-intensive, so that it requires an additional level of anisotropic filtering enabled. Only the best gaming PCs can produce a playable frame rate of 25fps, or above, at those tough settings.

If you have an elderly PC, the following tip on this site is worth reading:

A fix for choppy video and audio and skipped frames when playing DVD movies, etc.

An example of a gaming PC with a quad-core processor and dual graphics cards

The review that starts on the following page deals with a Gateway FX530XT computer, designed for PC gaming, that has a Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad-core processor, the four cores of which run at 2.66GHz. The other specifications are a RAM memory FSB that has an effective speed of 1066MHz FSB, and a 2x4MB cache. The graphics cards are two ATI Radeon X1950 cards set up to use ATI's CrossFire technology. Each card has 512MB GDDR4 of memory and supports DVI HDCP, VGA (via adapter) and TV-Out connections.

Gateway Goes Gaming: FX530XT Review -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gateway-goes-gaming-uk,review-2077.html

The following page of the review shows the analog D-Sub VGA and the digital DVI connection ports on the 24" LCD widescreen monitor:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gateway-goes-gaming-uk,review-2077-5.html

More reviews of graphics cards are provided further down this page.


Gaming desktop and laptop PCs rated and reviewed by Expert Reviews

You can read the available reviews for desktop and laptop PCs that can go back twelve months here:

Desktop computers reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/pcs

Laptop/notebook computers reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops

Here is a review of an interesting laptop with both a graphics chip integrated on the motherboard and a dedicated graphics card. It can use the less power-hungry integrated graphics chip when running on battery power, making it possible to play most of the latest games for the PC. Given a five-star Best Buy rating.

Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G review - "The 8943G has everything: great performance in both Windows and games, a Full HD display and Blu-ray drive. Even battery life is good... You can switch between the Core i5 450Ms built-in graphics chip and the dedicated ATI HD 5650 chip depending on whether you need the 3D power or you want to conserve power, which is an odd choice for a gigantic 18.3in laptop that weighs 4.6kg. Incredibly, its battery will last for up to five and a half hours if you do want to be disconnected from the mains." -

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1280497/acer-aspire-ethos-8943g

Price when reviewed: L1000.00 - Review Date: 25 November 2010

The reviews should give you a good idea if a desktop or laptop computer is suitable for use as a gaming machine or actually tell you if it is. The more performance a computer delivers the better it will be as a gaming machine, because PC games are some of the most demanding software that a computer can run. High-performance laptops are fully capable of playing the latest games.

Take it for granted that every PC comes with an optical DVD writer that supports all of the popular CD and DVD formats, including double-capacity Dual Layer (DL) discs (CD-R,CD-RW,DVD-R,DVD-RW,DVD+R, DVD+RW,DVD+R DL, etc.) If you use DVD-RAM discs check if the drive supports it, because not all drives do. Not many PCs come with a Blu-ray writer yet, so, if you want one, check if a particular PC has one.

Will North American (US) games work in the UK (Europe) on a PC and all of the main game consoles?

Problem

My work takes my to the USA several times a year. The pound/dollar exchange rate is currently very favourable. We in the UK get around 1.90 US dollars per pound [$1.77 on 7 August 2005]. I would like to buy some PC games in the US, but doing a web search didn't turn up any information with regard to whether or not you can play them in the UK. I don't see why they can't be played on a PC in the UK unless they can have a look at the version of Windows being used and then refuse to play unless it is a US version. So, can you enlighten me in this regard? And what is the state of play with the other gaming platforms, because I want to buy my kids and their cousins some PS2 and GameCube games.

Answer

US PC games can be played on computers in the UK and Europe without any problems, but it is very unusual to be able to play PlayStation, GameCube, and Xbox games outside of the area in which they were purchased, which could be North America, Europe, and Japan.

For example, American PlayStation2 games don't work on a European PS2 console because the American games don't use the PAL standard that European games use.

However, you can use special software called Action Replay to make foreign GameCube games play in the UK.

Action Replay GameCube:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006FRDA/026-4797321-4809229S

Otherwise, if you want to play US games using any of the consoles, you should buy a US console along with the games.

Remember that the voltages are different - 240V in the UK and 110/120V in the US, so you'll need a step-down transformer. Plus you'll need a multi-region TV to handle the American NTSC signal.

Personally, I would stick to buying locally-sourced console games.


What to do if you experience graphical glitches while playing graphically demanding games

If you experience glitches during gameplay, if it isn't doing so already, the graphics card (or cards) should be using its latest device drivers, which can usually be downloaded from the card-manufacturer's site, or from the ATI/AMD or nVidia websites, depending on which of those manufacturers made the particular card's processing chip. The drivers for laptop graphics chips should be obtained from the manufacturer's site, because they are usually customised for each laptop.

The game developer's website will provide any software patches that should be installed to remove bugs that have been discovered.

Overheating of the graphics card(s) or the processor can be the cause of such glitches, so check to make sure that their fan units are working and that nothing inside the case is preventing the flow of air around the case. You can add one or more additional case fans, but you must make sure that if there is more than one case fan that they don't oppose each other. They must optimise the flow of air in the case, not impede it.


Should I upgrade my desktop PC or build a new one?

Question

December 2007 - My current desktop PC has a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 2GB of RAM memory, an Asus PV4800D motherboard, an nVidia GeForce 7800 GT graphics card, and Windows Vista Business Edition. I can still do everything I use a PC with it, including playing PC games, but it is ageing, so should I upgrade it or build a new PC based on an Intel Core 2 Duo processor?

Answer

Your current system is all right for playing DirectX 9 PC games, but it will struggle with the next generation of DirectX 10 games.

Note that you can now also obtain DirectX 10 for Windows XP, which wasn't the case until recently; DirectX 10 could only be used with Windows Vista. Download pages can be found by using a search query such as windows xp directx 10 in a search engine. Here is a download page I found using it:

Download DirectX 10 for Windows XP from Alky Project -

http://www.technospot.net/blogs/...

Your current motherboard has a PCI Express graphics card slot, it only runs at x4 speed, not the x16 speed required by the latest PCI Express graphics cards, which means that you'll have to upgrade if you want to play DirectX 10 games.

You can buy a motherboard that runs an Intel or AMD dual-core processor. Have a look at the Asus, Abit, MSI, Gigabyte, and ECS sites for a suitable motherboard for the processor you choose. You can make use of a search engine to locate vendors and reviews for a particular motherboard.

[Note that since this Q&A was written quad-core processors from both Intel and AMD and the motherboards that run them have become available. If you want to find information on which is best, dual core or quad core, enter the search term dual core vs quad core for gaming in a s earch engine.

You will notice the difference in gameplay as more games begin to support both cores of the dual-core processor.

You will have to buy new memory for the new motherboard. You can make use of the Crucial UK and USA Memory Advisors a little further down this page. All you have to do is use the drop-down menu find the manufacturer of the motherboard. Crucial guarantees the compatibility of memory that is sells for a particular make/model of motherboard. Shipping is free.

The Video & Graphics section of this website provides the information you need in order to be able to choose a suitable graphics card for your system.

Games consoles

The most popular games consoles have not changed for several years. Nintendo's GameCube and Game Boy Advance, Sony's PlayStation 2 (PS2), and Microsoft's Xbox and Xbox 360 still dominate the market. Relatively speaking, even though they are much more powerful than any of the consoles, personal computers as a gaming platform still account for only a niche audience. Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) is being released slowly in the US from November 2006 and is expected to be launched in Europe in March 2007. Nintendo's GameCube is the cheapest console to buy and supply with games.

The latest game console is the Wii, made by Nintendo. The new games console became available on Friday December 8, 2006, in the UK. It allows the player to engage physically and interactively with games such as ten-pin bowling, golf, and boxing.

Click here! to go to the links on this page to the Game Reviews, Guides & Resources on Yahoo! for all of the gaming platforms named above. Use your browser's Back button to return to this point on the page.

If you want a computer that can play the latest games, it must have a PCI Express or AGP graphics video accelerator card that is capable of running the latest DirectX and OpenGL software device drivers.

You really should have a computer capable of running an 8x AGP or a PCI Express video card, because a PCI card is old technology that runs at a speed of only 33MHz, and is therefore not up to running the latest games. However, the AGP standard is capable of running at the same frequency/speed as the motherboard's front side bus (FSB), which is now 200MHz on most recent computers.

Certain video texturing effects are only possible with an AGP or a PCI Express video card. Visit the Video and Graphics pages on this site for more information on graphics cards.

You should also check the card's website for the latest software drivers for the device, because if you install a new version of DirectX or OpenGL, it might not be compatible with the video accelerator's driver, and as such would probably cause problems.

Indeed, for this reason, it is always a good idea to download the latest versions of all of the drivers for the devices used by your computer - video card - sound card - cable or analogue modem - network card - IDE busmaster drivers for the hard disk drives, AGP driver, USB Controller (the last three are usually available from the brand-name PC manufacturer or the motherboard's websites) - and the updates and patches issued by Microsoft for your operating system.

Remember, always install updates one at a time so that you can determine if one particular update is responsible for any problems.


PC games and DirectX sound support in Windows Vista

Question

I have read that unlike Windows XP, Windows Vista only supports basic sound via DirectX. If that is the case, I play PC games written for Windows XP, so should I avoid upgrading to Vista?

Answer

April 15, 2007. - In Windows Vista, hardware acceleration is no longer available for audio effects in DirectSound3D (DS3D), which is the sound component of DirectX, because Windows Vista has done away with the hardware audio abstraction layer that Windows XP uses. In short, Windows Vista can only provide basic sound for PC games that were written to use DS3D.

Windows Vista uses the new Universal Audio Architecture (UAA), which provides the developers of games greater flexibility and stability than the hardware audio abstraction layer.

If you play games written for Windows XP and you have a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card, you can download a utility for it called ALchemy that converts DS3D instructions to OpenAL, which works in Windows Vista. If you don't have that sound card, it is advisable to stick with Windows XP until this compatibility problem has been resolved. You should check the site of the manufacturer of your PC's sound card for updated device drivers or a workaround.


Video card and video chipset manufacturers

Since 3dfx was taken over by nVidia, there has been only two major manufacturers that produce the graphics chips used on video cards (made by them, or other manufacturers) that are capable of running the latest games properly. They are ATI/AMD and nVidia. (AMD purchased ATI and has dropped the ATI brand name and replaced it with AMD.) Their chipsets will be found on graphics cards manufactured by themselves and other companies such as Asus, MSI, Leadtek, PNY, Gainward, Gigabyte, Crucial, and Sapphire.

Benchmark tests show that it is the card's chipset that counts in performance, not the manufacturer of the video card.

The prices of cards with the same chipset can vary significantly, so it is a wise policy to purchase the cheapest card with a particular chipset.

There is currently very little difference in performance between the chipsets and video cards (on the same level) that are produced by these two companies.

If you are in doubt about the kind of graphics card you should have installed to play particular games, having registered as a user, enquire at the gaming forums at sysopt.com and lockergnome.com, where you are sure to be well advised.

Remember that if you can't buy a particular video card new, you should be able to obtain it via and auction site such as eBay.


Why programs and games designed to run on a Windows 95/98/Me system can often not run well, or not run at all on a Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7 system

Because Windows 95/98/Me and Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 systems have completely different architectures, some programs written for Windows 95/98/Me simply won't run at all or won't well under Windows XP or later versions, no matter what you do to rectify the situation.

However, there is a way of making such programs run properly under Windows XP - run the Program Compatibility Wizard.

I used it when MS Excel 97 and MS Word 97 wouldn't work. After running the wizard, they worked as they had done under Windows 98. I chose Windows 98 as the operating system to emulate.

To run the Program Compatibility Wizard in Windows XP, follow this path:

Start => All Programs => Accessories => Program Compatibility Wizard.

In Windows Vista, open the Program Compatibility Wizard by clicking Start => Control Panel => Programs => Use an older program with this version of Windows.

Make older programs run in this version of Windows [Vista] -

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/...

Compatibility Mode is also available in Windows 7:

How to Run a Program in Compatibility Mode in Windows 7 -

"Compatibility mode allows an older program written for an earlier versions of Windows to possibly run in Windows 7. You can also use Compatibility Mode to always have a program to Run as an administrator." -

http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/316-compatibility-mode.html

Note that the Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions provide a Windows XP Mode that runs a copy of Windows XP within those versions of Windows, allowing you to run Windows XP programs. However, you should be able to use Compatibility Mode in all the versions of Windows 7 to run software designed for use with Windows XP. All software that run on Windows Vista should run on Windows 7 systems.

Windows XP Mode [in Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions] -

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/features/windows-xp-mode.aspx

Is Vista Good for Gaming? - Three reasons Windows Vista is terrible for gaming ... and six reasons why it's great -

"For what it's worth, Donahue also noted that Windows Vista is way ahead of where Windows XP was in the same time frame in terms of graphics performance and backward compatibility. Unfortunately, this is small consolation for gamers who can't get their favourite titles to work properly....

One of the biggest complicating factors in getting legacy XP games to work in Windows Vista is the new operating system's User Account Control functionality. This new security feature forces users to work using restricted "standard" accounts, as opposed to defaulting to all-powerful "admin" accounts. According to Donahue, the resulting new model for installing applications and files in write-protected directories is one of the biggest sources of backward incompatibility. The answer is to specify another directory -- one that a standard user account can write to -- rather than the Program Files folder when installing games..." - http://www.computerworld.com/action/...

For information on using another method, visit this relevant Q&A on this site: How can I get an old program that requires 256 colours (US: colors) to work in Windows XP?

If you require more information on how to make Windows 95/98/Me programs and games run better under Windows XP, visit the following pages on the Microsoft site. The information there also applies to virtually any program that anyone might want to run under Windows XP.

How to use Windows Program Compatibility mode in Windows XP -

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/292533

Read the following Q&A on this website. The information applies to Windows Vista and Windows 7:

How can I get Windows XP programs and applications that won't work in Windows 7 to work?: Windows XP Mode and Compatibility Mode -

http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/Fix-Windows-7-Win7-Problems.htm#xpmode


Gaming laptops/notebooks

To play the latest games with performance coming close to the performance that high-end desktop computers (that are designed for gaming) can deliver requires a laptop computer running a desktop processor and powerful video chip (graphics card with its own RAM memory), because raw processing power is required.

The most powerful power-saving mobile processors that Intel and AMD have created for laptops can be used, but they can't perform as well as the most powerful desktop processors, because they're designed to keep cool and to save battery power.

Therefore, a laptop designed for playing the latest games, such as Crysis, gives off plenty of heat. Consequently, large heatsinks have to be used, and that results in a bulky case.

Battery power won't last very long if a non-power-saving desktop processor is installed in a laptop. Consequently, the user will probably want to carry the mains power adapter around with the laptop. But doing that isn't going to be very comfortable with the bulkiest gaming laptops, because they usually have matching bulky brick-sized mains adapters.

Many PC gamers if they use a gaming laptop prefer using an external monitor instead of the laptop's display. If you want to do that, you need a LCD monitor with the fastest available pixel response time, which is now down to as low as 2ms (2 milliseconds). A monitor with a pixel response time of 25ms or even 16ms is too slow to display high-frame-rate, rapid-motion video undistorted or without ghosting.

Visit http://www.overclockers.co.uk/ and have a look at the comprehensive specifications for the LCD monitors, which includes their pixel response times. For example, the Samsung SM-940BF 19" LCD Monitor has a 2ms response time.

Best gaming laptops -

http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/laptops/best-gaming-laptops-50000232/

Origin PC Eon11-S: Great Gaming Performance From A Tiny Notebook? -

Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M graphics and Intel's Core i7-3720QM quad-core CPU in an 11.6” ultra-mobile laptop.

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/origin-pc-eon11-s-review,review-32562.html

Dell XPS L502X laptop - Review Date - 19 Mar 2011 - Review - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1283692/dell-xps-l502x - Price when reviewed - £929 - Supplier - http://www.dell.co.uk/ - - "Verdict: Fast in games and applications, a good battery life, a fantastic Full HD screen, powerful speakers plus USB3 ports. This is the best laptop you can buy."

It is advisable to search the web for reviews of a laptop before you make a purchase. As an experiment, you can try finding reviews for the Dell machine by entering Dell XPS M1730 in a search engine.

The Laptop PCs section of this site provides useful information on laptop /notebook computers, including gaming laptops.


Widescreen laptop/notebook computers

Laptops/notebooks with LCD/TFT widescreens that have an aspect ratio of 16:9 (width:height) have now replaced screens that have a standard aspect ratio of 4:3.

A widescreen has an aspect ratio (the ratio of its vertical and horizontal aspects) that allows widescreen movies to be displayed as they are on a widescreen TV. Visit the Monitors and Laptops pages on this site for more information on PC monitors and laptop PCs.

All of the games designed for a screen that has a standard aspect ratio seem to be ruined when played on a widescreen. The characters appear short and fat, dials appear elliptical instead of round, and when online quite a few lines of the screen disappear so that scrolling is necessary.

A screen with a standard aspect ratio and a resolution of 1024x768 is the equivalent of a widescreen with a resolution of 1200x768, where 1024 and 1200 represent the width of the screen in pixels respectively.

A widescreen display is just what someone wants in order to display a spreadsheet, because it can display more columns. It is also what is necessary to display widescreen television and DVD movies.

Some newer games support widescreen resolutions, which means that they'll display without any distortions. However, if a widescreen causes distortions, you should look at the options for the display driver in the Device Manager. If there is an option to disable video stretching, it adds black borders to each side of a widescreen that effectively reduces it to a screen with a standard aspect ratio.

Read the Q&A on aspect ratios on the Video and Graphics Problems pages on this site called: Why do some PC games look stretched on my widescreen LCD monitor?


Video/graphics cards suitable for PC gaming

The video card in a gaming PC is the most important component. If you have a suitable gaming video card in your PC, you will also have the kind of motherboard that can run it and such a motherboard will be powered by a suitably fast processor, power supply, and a sufficient amount of RAM.

The monitor is another important component. A 17" CRT or LCD flat-panel monitor is the minimum screen size a gaming PC should have. Most video cards and monitor combinations can play the latest games using a screen resolution of 1024x768, which is the the native screen resolution of a 15" LCD flat panel monitor. Playing PC games at a screen resolution of 1280x1024, which is the native screen resolution of a 17" and a 19" LCD flat-panel monitor, requires a powerful graphics card. In short, the higher the screen resolution the more powerful the video card has to be to render PC games at an acceptable frame rate.

Connecting a gaming PC to a TV set or projector - The Component out port

Note that if you want to connect your gaming PC to a TV set or projector, you must make sure that the video card has an output port that matches the TV set's or projector's input port. Most video cards suitable for gaming have standard analog D-sub VGA, digital DVI, and S-video outputs, but some TV sets and projectors only have what is called a Component input port that requires a Component output port on the video card. Only some AGP video cards have a Component out port, however, most PCI Express cards have one.

The warranty

Most video-card manufacturers provide a one-year or two-year warranty for their products, but it is worth noting that Asus, Leadtek, PNY, Gainward, and MSI provide excellent three-year warranties.

How to avoid getting the wrong graphics card

If you're building your own computer or upgrading the motherboard and video/graphics card of an existing computer, you could easily buy an AGP card when the motherboard you have requires a PCI Express card, or vice versa. The computer's motherboard's manual will tell you all the information you need to know about the adapter card slots on the motherboard. If you don't have one, you should be able to download a copy from the manufacturer's website.

Note that you should always match the video card to the rest of the system. If you have a computer running on 128MB of RAM and a Pentium 3 processor, using it with an nVidia GeForce 6800Ultra (8x, AGP) video card is a waste of money. In a PC game, the video card creates the scene and makes the action take place, but it is the main processor that instructs the video card what to do. The processor can be likened to the conductor and the video card to the orchestra, so if you have a slow conductor the orchestra is going to play the game slow even if it can play it at its full speed.

Click here! to go to information about the new PCI Express standard on this site. Use your browser's Back button to return to this point.


The new PCI Express bus

A new standard of PCI bus called PCI Express (abbreviated to PCIe or PCI-E) has almost replaced the PCI standard and almost completely replaced the AGP graphics standard. Since it can be bridged to the PCI bus, it can be used to run the the same kind of adapter cards that are presently run on the standard PCI bus (PCI Express dial-up modems, sound cards, etc.) - and can also run the fastest PCI Express video cards.

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NVIDIA's SLI and ATI/AMD's CrossFire dual video card technology

Click here! to go directly to more information on the new PCI Express standard on the Video and Graphics section of this site. Use your browser's Back button to return to this point on this page.

Information is provided there on the dual video card technology from the two major graphics chip manufacturers, nVidia and ATI/AMD, in which two high-end video cards are installed in tandem on a PC gaming computer's motherboard. nVidia's dual-card technology is called Scalable Link Interface (SLI), and ATI/AMD's similar but not identical technology is called CrossFire.


Video card drivers

Apart from the drivers for notebook/laptop computers, driver development is now being exclusively exclusively by the manufacturer's of the graphics chips (ATI/AMD, nVidia, etc.), not by the manufacturers of the graphics cards (Gainward, Crucial, etc). Nonetheless, regular visits to a graphics-card manufacturer's site is a good idea, because you could still download updates for utilities and tools, or download a newer version of the BIOS for the card.

The drivers on the CD that comes with a new video card (or new computer) will probably already be out of date by the time you buy it. Therefore it's a good idea to download the latest drivers from the chipset manufacturer's site. Newer games tend to have problems with older drivers. The same is true for Microsoft's DirectX, which you should also keep up to date. Newer games often ship with the runtime installer of the current version of DirectX, which you run while online to install the latest version.

More information on DirectX is provided further down this page.

Here is a list of the most important graphics-card links to device drivers from Windows XP to Windows 7 (including Windows Vista):

ATI/AMD-based graphics cards -

http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx

Intel integrated graphics -

http://downloadcenter.intel.com/default.aspx?iid=HPAGE+header_support_download&

NVIDIA-based graphics cards -

http://www.nvidia.com/Download/index.aspx?lang=en-us

S3-based graphics cards - http://www.s3graphics.com/


LAPTOP VIDEO CARD DRIVERS

The following quotation came from the ATI/AMD website:

"You MUST use the drivers supplied with your laptop or notebook computer, or obtain a driver update from the manufacturer of your laptop or notebook computer."

In other words, because the video chips used in laptop/notebook computers have an architecture that is customised to to a particular laptop/notebook computer manufacturer's monitor requirements, etc., as opposed to the standard architecture of the chips used in PCI and AGP video cards and motherboard video implementations, ATI/AMD does not update the drivers. To do so would be uneconomic for ATI/AMD (and the other video-chip manufacturers that supply the chips for laptops/notebooks), and therefore the computer manufacturer is the only source of updated drivers.

Obviously, if the laptop/notebook manufacturer does not update the drivers, then there is no other source for them. - This is clearly yet another factor to be borne in mind when purchasing a laptop/notebook computer, because updated drivers are often required in order to be able to install updated versions of DirectX and OpenGL that are in turn required in order to run the latest games.

Omega drivers

If you buy a laptop/notebook computer advertised as a gaming machine from a manufacturer that is not a brand-name manufacturer that has the computers made cheaply in the Far East, and, as a consequence, it won't be creating updated drivers for it, you might not be able to play games that require updated drivers.

Many laptop/notebook computers use ATI/AMD video chips. If this is the case and updated drivers are not available from the manufacturer, you should be able to use the Omega drivers that are created by Angel Trinidad in his spare time. The drivers are based on the official ATI drivers, and are modified for gaming performance. Installers are provided that cover all of the ATI video chips, including the Mobility series. The drivers install easily and provide mobile and overclocking options.

They can be obtained from: http://www.omegadrivers.net/.

Read this Q&A on this site for more information on the problem: I can't update the device drivers for my Tiny notebook/laptop computer.


Fixing device-driver problems

Installing the latest drivers for a particular device can sometimes cause problems, or even render the device or the whole system unusable.

If this is the case, in a Windows 9x system, uninstall the device in Safe mode (Safe Mode in Windows XP) by pressing the F8 key at startup to bring up the boot menu, and then choose it from the list. Open the Device Manager and remove the device, then allow Windows to reinstall the drivers, and, if necessary, install an earlier version.

Windows XP has a Roll Back Driver feature in the Device Manager that allows you to roll the system back to the state it was in before you installed a new driver file. You can also use its System Restore feature to roll the whole system back to a former state.

Roll Back Troublesome Device Drivers in Windows Vista [information applies to Windows 7] - http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/...

The Q&A on this site called PC Game crashes with a blue screen and Windows XP produces a Stop 0x0A (DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL) error message covers a problem that is usually caused by faulty device drivers.

How to fix problems with device drivers in Windows XP

How to troubleshoot hardware and software driver problems in Windows XP -

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/setup/support/driver.mspx

Tips for fixing common driver problems [Windows Vista - applies to Windows 7] -

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/...

VIDEO/GRAPHICS CARDS: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

Click here! to visit the page on this site devoted to video/graphics problems and their solutions.

VIDEO/GRAPHICS CARDS: UPGRADE CHECKLIST

Click here! to go to information on this site on what you need to consider when upgrading a PC's video/graphics card.


Case modding

Case modding is term used to describe adding all kinds of fancy add-ons and gizmos to a computer case. You can add fancy coolers, fans, fan controllers, neon lights, etc., and you can buy fancy cases that have exotic features such as see-through areas so that you can see inside the case, etc. The following forums have a case-modding forum.

bit-tech.net Forums - http://forums.bit-tech.net/

UK-specific sites that offer offer case modding equipment are:

http://www.aria.co.uk/

http://www.scan.co.uk/

US-specific sites are: http://www.xoxide.com/ and http://www.newegg.com/

Others can be found by entering a search query such as "case modding" + uk (or + us) or just case modding forums in a web search engine.


Connecting an Xbox to an LCD monitor

In order to connect an Xbox to an LCD monitor you need a VGA converter unit that is compatible with the monitor. For example, if the VGA converter has a maximum vertical refresh output of 50Hz, you won't be able to use it with an Iiyama ProLite 481S LCD monitor, because it only accepts vertical refresh rates of between 56Hz and 80Hz.

Connecting an Xbox 360 to an LCD monitor [Video] -

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xRgL-cE95SI

You should also be able to use an external TV tuner to connect an Xbox to an LCD monitor.

The majority of external TV tuners have an auxiliary video input connection, usually via composite video connection, or via an S-video connection on the more expensive units. You connect the Xbox to one of those inputs and the signal should pass through to the LCD monitor.

Note that the cheaper units might cause a slight delay, which wouldn't spoil the quality of video output, but it might reduce gaming performance. However, AVermedia claims that its AVerTV TV Tuner products are ideal for use with an Xbox.


SCSI hard disk drives

The faster the hard disk drive can access data, the better the gaming performance. SCSI hard drives are still quite a lot faster than both parallel and serial IDE ATA drives. Being used on mission-critical systems, they also come with five-year warranties. However, the fastest and biggest SCSI models have much less disk space and are much more expensive than the fastest and biggest IDE ATA drives.

Click here! to go to information about these drives on this site.


Sound in a gaming PC

Sound is an important factor in gaming.

Internal PCI and PCI Express (using a x1 PCI Express slot on the motherboard) and external USB sound cards are available. You can also purchase a USB stick sound card that plugs into a USB port on a desktop or laptop PC. It requires a set of speakers.

Here are a few examples:

Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! [£40] -

"Ultra-realistic gaming audio with headphone surround. Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! brings incredible gaming audio to any computer, anywhere! Designed just like a USB stick it plugs into a PC to bring you incredible X-Fi headphone surround and maximum realism, thanks to its EAX Advanced HD support. Its 1GB memory stores the installation software and lets you save your game settings and levels. Ideal for LAN parties, it supports hundreds of titles under Windows XP and Vista - and even fits on your key ring for maximum portability! The Sound Blaster X-Fi Go! is the fast and easy upgrade to Xtreme Fidelity." - http://uk.store.creative.com/products/product.aspx?catid=1&pid=17872

Terratec Aureon Dual USB Sound Card for PC and Notebook [£17] -

Read the purchaser reviews.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Terratec-Aureon-Dual-USB-Notebook/dp/B000WL23KC

Sound Blaster How-to Guide

The Sound Blaster How-to Guide provides comprehensive information on getting the best from a Sound Blaster device. It is broken down into a Gaming Mode, an Entertainment Mode and an Audio Creation Mode. -

http://www.creative.com/products/soundblaster/howto/

Visit the Sound page for more information on the subject on this site.


Gaming PC monitors

See the Monitors pages on this site for information on CRT and LCD TFT monitors.

First Look: Zalman 3D Monitors -

"Most PC games are set in three dimensional virtual worlds. Unfortunately these 3D environments must then be reduced to a 2D image for display on a PC monitor. So we were excited to see Zalman's new range of monitors, which are capable of tricking your brain into seeing the 3D information inherent in games..." -

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/shopper/news/141099/first-look-zalman-3d-monitors.html

Hands on with Zalman's 3D gaming screen -

http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/new-product/pc-peripheral/3269815/...


Gaming PC keyboards and mice

The kind of keyboard and mouse used in gaming can make a difference. For instance, the slight response lag with wireless mice can be a problem for gamers. Moreover, the batteries they use need to be well charged for the best performance.

For the dedicated gamer, optical mice are the best choice, because they don't require cleaning. Some gamers prefer the wireless models because they don't like the cable getting in the way of any movement. But the gamers who don't like having a wireless mouse run out of battery power in mid-game prefer a wired optical mouse. However, it's possible to get the best of both situations by using a wireless optical mouse that uses rechargeable batteries that can be charged via a cable (instead of a cradle) while being used.

Keyboards and mice specifically designed for PC gaming are available.

Have a look at http://www.gamingmouse.com/ to see some interesting gaming mice, some of which don't have moving parts and don't require a specific driver.

"A typical conventional gaming mouse has more than 30 moving parts that will wear, break and cause mouse failure.The R2 gaming mouse with Membrane Switch™ technology has ZERO moving parts to wear or break... A conventional gaming mouse requires special disc based drivers go be loaded on the machine for operation. The R2 gaming mouse uses the host machine's embedded HID drivers -- no special drivers to install ever...A typical conventional gaming mouse has more than 30 moving parts that will wear, break and cause mouse failure. The R2 gaming mouse with Membrane Switch™ technology has ZERO moving parts to wear or break."

Other examples of gaming mice and keyboards are made by Saitek.

Mice have a resolution that is measured in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the resolution is, the more sensitive the mouse is and the less it has to be moved in order to cover a given distance on the screen. A mouse with a relatively high resolution (e.g., 1,600dpi) allows quick and accurate responses of the kind that are required in many action and shooter games. If the response is too fast, you can use the Mouse feature in the Control Panel to adjust the settings. It can also be used to increase the response time of a mouse with a relatively low dpi specification.

The Logitech G9 and Microsoft Side Winder Face-Off -

"Here is something we at Tom's Hardware would like to see more often. Two giants, Logitech and Microsoft, are head to head in the very specific area of high performance mice for gamers. We thought we had seen everything in this market where the firms' engineers' imaginations usually run wild. We have to concede, though, that the models we tested have pushed the envelope and have left their predecessors in the dust..." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/Logitech-Microsoft-G9,review-29800.html

Why Buy a Gaming Keyboard? -

"When it comes to video game input devices, the keyboard is probably the furthest from ideal. Let's face it, keyboards were not designed to serve as game peripherals. However, PC gamers have bent their gaming habits to fit the restrictions of the standard keyboard for so many years that most prefer keyboard controls to a gamepad." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/why-buy-a-gaming-keyboard,review-29601.html

See this Build a PC page on this site for information on keyboards and mice.


Special PC cases

Computer cases that have extra vents, internal lights, and stylish dials are popular with gamers. They might look fancy or make a computer sound more like a humming motor vehicle, but the fans, dials, and temperature sensors are also almost always very functional. For instance, a knob or thermostat that controls the speed of a fan is useful since it allows a gamer to reduce the noise by turning them down of off when the computer isn't being used to play games.

Note that most warranty cover won't include any special neon tubes installed in a gaming computer, because they count as light bulbs, which the user has to replace.


Gaming routers

Click here! to go to information on routers on the Networking section of this website.


Overclocking

Overclocking means setting one or more of a computer's components to run faster than the manufacturer's recommended default setting. A practice that should be fully researched before it's indulged in, because applying settings that are too high for a particular device can make the system unstable and prone to errors, or even damage or render it useless.

Because it loses them sales, overclocking is usually greatly disapproved of by RAM, processor, and video-card manufacturers, but, because it gains them sales, most of the major motherboard manufacturers (apart from Intel - the company that manufacturers processors and motherboards) try to make their motherboards as overclockable as possible. For example, many of the motherboard manufacturer's currently provide utilities that allow a user to increase the FSB speed - the key setting involved in overclocking a system - from the comfort of the Windows desktop.

That said, some manufacturers that were firmly set against the practice of overclocking are becoming more friendly towards it by making their products overclockable and even going as far as to provide utilities that perform the overclocking.

However, apart from the processor, which, depending on its make and model, can often be overclocked by as much as 50% or more with the correct cooling employed, and by increasing the FSB and the clock-multiplier settings, you are only likely to see about a 5% increase in performance by overclocking most of the other components, including a graphics card.

To be worthwhile to a user, overclocking the components obviously has to result in a noticeable increase in performance. Research done by Intel suggests that a computer's overall performance has to be increased by at least 10% to be noticeable.

This level of performance increase is unfortunately easier said than done. With heavy-duty cooling measures employed, you may make the processor run 50% faster, but it won't be noticeable because the other components such as the RAM, video card, and hard disk drive cramp its style, so to speak, in such a way that the overall increase in performance is usually much less than the 10% that makes it noticeable.

Personally, I think that the results obtained by overclocking are mostly in the mind, and, since it stresses the components beyond the tolerances they were tested for, I don't ever bother with overclocking. If you want the fastest available system, unfortunately, as usual, you have to be prepared to pay the high prices for all of the fastest components.


DirectX (versions 9, 10, and 11) for Windows XP (9 only) and Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 (versions 10 and 11)

DirectX is a kind of super software device driver. It is Microsoft's graphics software that is used by games developers in the creation of their games. The set of controls that are used to create the 3D effects in most modern games are defined by DirectX. It is the the software that Windows XP/Vista/7/8 uses to ensure compatibility between computer hardware and PC the games that support it.

Note that not all games use DirectX. Some games, such as Doom 3, use OpenGL instead of DirectX.

Windows 7 comes with DirectX 11.0 and Windows 8 comes with DirectX 11.1. Windows 7 can be updated to DirectX 11.1 and the update is done automatically when Windows Update updates Windows.

DirectX 11 -

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows7/products/features/directx-11

Windows Vista comes with DirectX 10, which supports more advanced graphical effects than the previous version, which is DirectX 9.0c. Windows Vista also comes with DirectX 9.0Ex, which is a tweaked version of DirectX 9.0c that makes Windows Vista backward-compatible with older DirectX games. Vista can be updated to DirectX 11.0.

Note that Windows Update automatically updates all of Microsoft's software that the company is providing support for, including DirectX. Microsoft no longer provides a separate site from which it can be updated. Windows Update can be run from the Control Panel in Windows. It is called Automatic Updates in Windows XP. To run Windows Update in Vista and Windows 7, just enter that term in the Start => Search... box to be presented with a link to it. You can also run it from the following Microsoft website: http://www.update.microsoft.com/.

To find out which version of DirectX your computer is using, just type dxdiag in the Start => Search box in Vista and Win7 to be presented with a link that opens the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, which provides the version, diagnostic tests and other information. If you run into trouble with DirectX, third party removal tools are available, such as this one, which supports all of the versions up to version 11.0. Windows will then reinstall it as an update. In Windows XP, enter dxdiag in the Start => Run box.

DirectX Happy Uninstall -

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Secure-cleaning/DirectX-Happy-Uninstall.shtml

Note that you can now also obtain DirectX 10 for Windows XP, which wasn't the case until recently; DirectX 10 could only be used with Windows Vista. Download pages can be found by using a search term such as windows xp directx 10 in a search engine. Here is a download page I found using it:

Download DirectX 10 for Windows XP from Alky Project -

http://www.technospot.net/blogs/...

DirectX 10 is not backward compatible with previous versions, as is the case with the previous versions, which are backward compatible with previous versions. However, DirectX 9 is emulated in DirectX 10, which means that it can run DirectX 9 games.

DirectX - "Shows which versions of Windows support which versions of DirectX. Windows XP only supports up to version DirectX 9.0c. Windows Vista suports DirectX 10 and 11 and the unreleased Windows 7 [released 22/10/09] supports DirectX 11" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DirectX

DirectX 11 is part of Windows 7. It is available Windows Vista users, but not to Windows XP users. There are now many DirectX 11 games.

List of games with DirectX 11 support -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_DirectX_11_support

DiRT 2: DirectX 11 Game Performance Compared And Analyzed -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/dirt-2-performance-benchmark,review-31764.html

DirectX 11: A look at what's coming -

http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2008/09/17/directx-11-a-look-at-what-s-coming/1

Windows 7, DirectX 11! -

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/windows_7_directx_11

OpenGL 3 & DirectX 11: The War Is Over : Introduction -

"We were expecting a lot from OpenGL 3, and as you can tell by reading this article, we're disappointed — both in the API itself (with the disappearance of promised features) and in the way it's been handled (a year-long delay and a lack of clear communication on the part of the Khronos group). With this version, OpenGL barely keeps up with Direct3D 10, and at a time when Microsoft has chosen to publicize the first details of version 11 of its own API." -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/opengl-directx,review-31330.html

Visit this site - http://www.mvps.org/directx/ - for technical information and ideas about DirectX.

A standard software device driver usually just makes it possible for the programs or applications that use a hardware device, such as a video or sound card, to be able to do so. DirectX does that, but if the hardware is found to be lacking it can also emulate the missing hardware capabilities in its software. This feature is known as the program's Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL).

The current version of DirectX has five main components: DirectX Graphics, its main component, DirectX Audio, DirectPlay, DirectInput, and DirectShow.

DirectX Graphics is the most important component, and is itself made up of components such as Direct3D, a sophisticated graphics rendering engine, Direct3D Acceleration, DirectDraw Acceleration, and Texture Acceleration.

DirectInput provides the software for joysticks and gamepads used in gaming. It allowed software developers to move beyond the original PC COM game port and use more precise joysticks and other custom input gaming devices. Before DirectInput became available, game players had to choose between using imprecise game-port joysticks that work with every game, or custom input devices that only work with the games that support them. DirectInput allows joysticks to connect via USB ports, and adds new features such as force-feedback that enhance game playing.

DirectPlay is a recent addition to DirectX and provides capabilities for online gaming. DirectPlay is built into the Xbox in order to make multiplayer games possible.

To make 3D video acceleration possible, developers of 3D software need a standard language in which the 3D output is programmed. Such a standard, or API (Advanced Programming Interface) determines which operations a graphics chip must support.

Currently, the dominant 3D standards are OpenGL and Microsoft's Direct3D, which is a component of DirectX. Most PC games are designed to use Direct3D, so when Microsoft releases a new version of DirectX, most of the new functions are soon incorporated into OpenGL.

If the video/graphics card supports it, Windows 95/98/Me/XP/Vista installs the version of DirectX that is on its CD.

As reported earlier on this page, you have to use a third-party website to obtain DirectX 10 for Windows XP, because Microsoft only developed it for Windows Vista.

DirectX cannot be installed if your video card does not support it, because the installation process interrogates the video card to find out if its chipset supports it.

You do not need DirectX to use office applications, or access the Internet for non-gaming purposes. Indeed, if you do not play games, and you have a spare PCI video card that you could use for fault diagnosis, but which does not support DirectX, you should remove DirectX, because a video card that does not support it will probably not function if it's installed. There is no way within Windows to remove DirectX, because it doesn't appear in Add/Remove Programs, or in Start => Programs, but there are third-part utilities that can remove it. Use a web search query such as remove directx to find a removal tool. Here is one that I found in November 2012 that can be used on all versions of DirectX up to version 11.

DirectX Happy Uninstall -

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Security/Secure-cleaning/DirectX-Happy-Uninstall.shtml

Note that in Windows Vista and Windows 7, there is no option in the Control Panel called Add or Remove Programs that appears in all of the previous versions of Windows since Windows 95. That feature is now found under the Programs & Features category.

Of the latest games, Forsaken and Incoming use DirectX (now at version 11.0) and Quake I, II, and III use OpenGL.

Note that not all video cards support both DirectX and OpenGL, so if you want the greatest gaming flexibility, make sure that the card that you are purchasing, as an upgrade or in a new PC, supports both programming interfaces.


PowerStrip - Shareware - $29.95

"PowerStrip provides advanced, multi-monitor, programmable hardware support to a wide range of graphics cards - from the venerable Matrox Millennium I to the recent ATI R7xx series [ATI is now called AMD.] It is the only program of its type to support multiple graphics cards from multiple chipset vendors, simultaneously, under every Windows operating system from Windows 95 to the x64-bit edition of Vista. A simple menu that pops up from the system tray provides access to some 500 controls over your display hardware, including sophisticated color correction tools, period level adjustments over screen geometry, and driver independent clock controls. A powerful application profiler can detect when programs are launched and respond by activating specific display settings, gamma adjustments, performance switches and even clock speeds - returning everything to normal when the program closes. In-game gamma hotkeys let you light up the darkest hallways during game play, and hardware control over refresh rates - with floating point precision - ensure you're never stuck at just 60Hz no matter what OS you're using. A quick setup wizard gets you up and running with minimal fuss, extensive context-sensitive help is available for all controls, and live updates are supported to ensure you're always running the latest release. Finally, an assortment of system and productivity tools - among them, extensive diagnostics, PCIe and AGP device configuration, EDID decoding, desktop icon management, a system idle thread, Windows resource monitoring, an anti-burn-in orbiting option, physical memory optimization, an on-screen display, and the most advanced monitor support in the industry - round out the compact 1MB package." -

http://www.entechtaiwan.com/util/ps.shtm


Optimizing the services run by Windows from XP to Windows 8

Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 run many services by default that can be disabled. These services are loaded at system startup. Other services, not run by default, can be enabled. It is possible to run an optimal services' setup for the dedicated gaming machine, etc. If you want to optimise (US: optimize) the services in Windows, you can find sites that provide the information by entering a suitable search query in a search engine. A example of a suitable search query for Windows 7 is: optimize windows 7 services.

Windows 7 Services Optimization Guide -

http://www.thewindowsclub.com/windows-7-services-optimization-guide

At the time of updating this information (Nov. 2012), Windows 8 had just been released, and already similar information has been made available for it. Here is the information provided by blackviper.com of the services that Windows 8 runs:

http://www.blackviper.com/service-configurations/black-vipers-windows-8-service-configurations/

One of the main reasons for Vista's slowness is that, like Windows XP, it runs many programs called services in the background. These services load when Vista starts up and then run in the background, even when the user is not using the computer. Running them consumes a significant part of the computer's memory and processing power. A user has to know which services are safe to disable, otherwise problems can arise. You can educate yourself about which services are safe to disable in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 & 8 by reading information on the web on websites such as BlackViper, or you can use a good free utility that does the work for you, such as the freeware utility, Vista Services Optimizer (VSO).

VSO allows computer users without the required knowledge to disable unnecessary Vista services and provides information on the services that are safe to disable. Most people should use VSO's Automatic TuneUp option that asks questions about your computer. The program, which also works with Windows 7, then reboots your computer and disables any services that it determines, based on your answers, are not required.

The program is available from http://www.snapfiles.com/get/vsoptimizer.html.

Windows 7 runs much faster than Windows Vista, but it also runs many services that you might not need.

Vista Services Optimizer Updates to Support Windows 7 Tweaking -

http://lifehacker.com/5372002/...


VIDEO CARD & GAMES REVIEWS

Video-card and games reviews from Computer Shopper

Video/Graphics card reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/graphics-cards

Yahoo! - PC GAMES: Game Reviews, Guides & Resources -

http://uk.games.yahoo.com/

Nintendo GameCube -

http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/nintendogamecube/index.jsp


A good example of how difficult some games-related problems can be to diagnose

Problem

A friend asked me to format and reinstall Windows 98 on his Packard-Bell, Pentium III, 500MHz, 192MB RAM computer. His main problem was that games that once ran on the machine (and were presently running on his laptop using Windows XP), weren't running any longer even after uninstalling and reinstalling them. I discovered that his video card was no good, but even after changing it to a GeForce 4X 64MB, and doing the format and reinstall, we still have the same problem. I reinstalled DirectX 9.0 in Safe mode, uninstalled DirectX 9.0 and reinstalled 8.1, reinstalled the new video card and drivers, reinstalled Windows on top of Windows, and last but not least, I upgraded the system to Windows XP. All with no improvement. The games will install, but when it comes time to play, they won't run. The screen goes black (in the case of Windows 98, the screen actually turned off and necessitated a reboot), and then nothing happens. The games all ran at one time on the computer. These are also NOT the latest heavy duty graphics games. When entering dxdiag in the Start => Run box, the DirectDraw test jams on full screen mode, and the Direct3D renderings don't work at all. That's why there was the mucking about with DirectX at the beginning. I am at my wits' end. Does this sound at all familiar to anybody? Is it possible that a bad sound card would cause the games to hang?

Replies

1) My GeForce 2 MX used to do that - at first I thought it was just my crappy old monitor, but changing the Detonator drivers to a different version sorted it out. Guru3D has loads, I recommend the 30.82s, or failing that just try them all until one works.

2) I had a motherboard blow the north bridge chip (that takes care of AGP, the memory controller, etc.). Anyhow it would work fine until I tried anything 3D at all. Which means all games. They wouldn't run at all - the same black screen crash. Happened after a not so nice "pop" sound when gaming. All the capacitors were OK and no visible damage other than under the north bridge chip. It looked like it had once gotten hot. I used the same parts - just replaced the motherboard, and everything was dandy again. I'm saying that it could be the motherboard.

3) My initial thought would be an inadequate or faulty power supply, and/or an overheating problem due to inadequate cooling inside the case. [Always check that the heatsink and fan unit is working properly when software that used to work fails to work.] Given the computer's specs, I suspect it may be a few years old. Perhaps it would be a good time to open the case, clear out any dust bunnies with a can of compressed air, and replace any dust-jammed fans.

4) I would try playing those games on another computer with that particular video card installed to make sure that it isn't the video card. Just because two video cards were used doesn't mean that both of them weren't faulty.

In this particular case, replacing the motherboard solved the problem, but any of the above suggestions could solve a problem of this kind.


sodaplay

The site greets the visitor with, "welcome to sodaplay the home of creative play". There is the sodaconstructor, where you do the construction, and there is the sodarace, which is described as, "human v machine create and compete in the league". -

http://sodaplay.com/

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