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Author Topic: New computer - Got it working, but another new question  (Read 9713 times)

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Offline ldog

Re: New computer - new question to the hardware specialists
« Reply #40 on: November 13, 2009, 10:36:06 AM »
Andreas, I think your post served as a good quick guide for people so I thought I would just add a few comments.

Well, I built myself a new computer some weeks ago as well, so here's what I can report so far:

1) I bought an AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE, which is a dual core CPU with 3.1 GHz and free multiplier, so overclocking is very easy. When I ran SC4, it appeared that it only uses one core, although the list of command line parameters mentions a "-CPUCount" command, saying that by default SC4 is using all available CPUs. I assume that even though Windows displays several performance diagrams in the task manager, a multi-core CPU is still treated as one physical CPU, so a quad core won't be faster for SC4 than a dual core, only the clock speed is relevant. Personally, I'm an AMD fan, so I don't know that much about Intel CPUs, but compare the models and see that you find one with a fast clock speed, rather than multiple cores. Newer programs might be able to use multiple cores, but older programs that only run on one core will perform better on a CPU with a higher clock speed.

This was true for the old hyper-threaders but the modern multi-core cpu are actually seperate processors even though they are on the same chip.
The rest of what you said is very true. While my 2.66 quad is great for any modern game that supports multiple processors, SC4 only uses 1 core so a faster single core would perform better.
I've an Intel man myself, AMD I've seen too many thermal failures for my liking, although in their defense it is often the end-users fault. A layer of dust acts like insulation and couple that with the typical poor ventilation spaces people keep their computers in, or the personal space heater under the desk and it is a recipe for disaster. It is important to keep your computer innards clean, and AMD requires a little extra care in that regard but otherwise it is mostly another Coke vs Pepsi debate.

2) I don't know a whole lot about those new graphic card models, and since SC4 even ran fine on my old Matrox P650 card (only in software mode, so I wasn't able to use shadows, but it worked fine otherwise), I decided that an on-board graphics chip should do fine. I bought an ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO, which has an integrated ATI Radeon 4200 HD with 128 MB dedicated graphics memory. Since there were several reports that SC4 doesn't run as well on ATI cards, I was a bit wary, but unfortunately, there was no other proper on-board graphics available for the AMD AM3 socket platform. So I said to myself "what the heck, if everything fails, I can still buy an external graphics card", but to my surprise, SC4 runs pretty decent, and although I didn't have time to play for more than a few hours, I had no crashes whatsoever so far. :)

Once again newer hardware doesn't really help this old game much :(
My 8800 is a couple years old now but I can run any DX10 game full bells and whistles without a stutter.
Old DX9 games, forget it. SC4 still brings my computer to its knees.

3) If you don't have any 64 bit programs, 32 bit should be enough, but of course, you can't use more than the 3.something GB of RAM with a 32 bit system. Since all 64 bit systems have built-in 32 bit support, you can go with 64 bit without any problems. Just check in advance if you have some older hardware (such as a printer or a scanner) that you want to keep, and look if there are 64 bit drivers available. I originally planned to keep my 32 bit WinXP Pro, but unfortunately, I can't get past the installation, the first start always results in a bluescreen right away due to some S-ATA RAID driver incompatibilities. I don't want to lose my RAID, since it has proven very performant when dealing with large files (videos, DatPacked SC4 files :P ), so I decided to use the 64 bit Win7 RC version. SC4 and all other 32 bit programs seem to run fine, except some system utilities and other programs that integrate into the system very deep.

The only argument against 64 bit OS is that most of the drivers were horrible. While driver issues seem to be a problem we've always had and always will, the situation for 64-bit is much better now than it was a few years ago. Application compatibility is as you said pretty much a non-issue.

All in all, I'm very pleased with my decision, and although I had somewhat of a hard time to get used to Win7, the system performs very well. I was even able to unlock a third core, and overclocked the CPU to 3.6 GHz without any problems so far. I assume I could even go a bit higher, but there's really no need for that at the moment. I opted for 4 GB RAM, and for the programs that don't run properly on Win7, I installed Sun VirtualBox, where I run my good old WinXP inside a virtual machine. Since I now have a "free" additional core, and 4 instead of some 3.25 GB RAM that I would have been able to use with WinXP, there's no loss at all if I dedicate those to the WinXP virtual machine. SC4 performs greatly, the medium speed is now as fast as the fast speed setting on my old machine (AMD Athlon 64 3000+), Videos convert with some 80 or 90 frames per second instead of 15 or so, and the whole system runs smoothly.

Seven also has an improved virtual machine (the exact name escapes me at the moment). It doesn't come installed but is a free download. I haven't gotten around to upgrading yet, I have only played with it a bit in a lab at work so I couldn't tell y'all the ins and outs of it, but generally one of the really great things about virtualization is that to the guest system you can present it with a single core but in reality you can allocate as many cycles of all your cores as you want, letting that old single threaded app like SC4 take advantage of your new multicore CPU. I can say this with certainty about VMware. I expect it to be true for the new MS product as well, but I am not 100% sure.

Overclockers. Again let me stress how important keeping your computer clean and well-ventilated, for overclocks this is even moreso critical. The leading cause of hardware failure is excessive heat.

Another heat tip for people building their own or having one custom built. Get a bigger power supply than you need. The higher the capacity the power supply as opposed to the drain on it, the more efficient it is going to work (think power plant in SC4,running at capacity it degrades faster :P ) , in the electronic world efficiency translates to, you guessed it, less heat. Keep it cool!

Oh, other odds and ends from various posts in the thread.
Yeah, ready boost turned out to be a disappointment. For gaming it is actually worse in most cases (reminds me I should pull mine out).
The flash-hdd while looking very promising initially is also proving disappointing...the transfer rates are not very good. Even with USB 3.0 finalized I think this is still a technology that is going to take some time to mature; even though prices are dropping, I would give it a miss for now. You can buy nice big SATA drives cheap, get 2 or 3 and stripe them for added performance.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2009, 10:42:49 AM by ldog »

Offline FrankU

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Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #41 on: December 14, 2009, 09:16:25 AM »
So it's time I tell you all that I got my new computer!

It has a AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE, a RAID-0 set of HD's, 8 GB of RAM! and so forth. And Win 7-64bit of course.
And it works fine.
It is already quite a bit quicker than my former machine.

But now, Andreas, you wrote about unlocking a third and maybe even fourth CPU. Could you tell me where to find info on how to do this?
An a Virtual Machine: how could I make one, and what are the advantages in SC4 gameplay? Do you have a hint?

Offline Jonathan

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Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #42 on: December 14, 2009, 10:01:58 AM »
A virtual machine will not help you play SC4. In windows 7 professional and above you get a free XP Virtual machine. So you can most programs that worked in xp but not windows 7. Just typing XP Mode in the search box in the start menu should take you to where you can download and set it up.


Offline Andreas

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Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #43 on: December 14, 2009, 02:10:21 PM »
But now, Andreas, you wrote about unlocking a third and maybe even fourth CPU. Could you tell me where to find info on how to do this?

It depends on your BIOS, so you should google for your mainboard model, and see if you can find some hints where the options are hidden. Usually, it's combined with the "ACC" settings, in my ASUS BIOS, the option is called "Unleash Mode" or something like that. Be careful with those settings, though, and write down your current BIOS settings. If the computer doesn't boot anymore after unlocking another core, you might have to do a BIOS reset, which puts all values back to default.

Offline ldog

Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #44 on: December 14, 2009, 02:55:48 PM »
The problem with the virtual machine is that it doesn't work with Direct X.
I was under the impression they had found some way around this with the Windows 7 release but apparently this is not the case.

Offline westamastaflash

Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #45 on: December 20, 2009, 10:54:33 AM »
Just adding to this - I did a test loading my plugins to a 3GB RAM disk and I didn't see much speed improvement in loading the models. I might try to load the whole game into the RAM disk, but as I only have 6GB of ram a 4GB ram disk might be pushing it. Maybe if I just put the textures and game itself on the ram disk, while leaving the mega packs on the HDD (after all they only need read for a small amount of content)...

I'll be ordering anohter 2gb\x2 pair of sticks soon so maybe after that.

Anyone want me to run a specific kind of test?

The biggest thing I've found is that the bottleneck is CPU and the model rendering algorithm that they used, since it doesn't seem to use the GPU to render the models. My GTX 275 is no faster than my old 7600GS.

Offline gabrielbyrnei

Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #46 on: January 10, 2010, 09:22:08 PM »
I get terribly slow performance while playing large tile cities with over 1kk population.

This is on an AMD Phenom 9500 2.2ghz, 2 GB ram, ATI 2600XT.

Tested on 3 OS's, openSUSE (linux), Windows 7 and Windows XP.

By terribly slow i mean, more than 1 minute per ingame month using cheetah speed.

Offline Nanami

Re: New computer - Got it working, but another new question
« Reply #47 on: January 13, 2010, 06:42:38 PM »
I don't know what cause my problem. SC4RH and the  Lot Editor open very slow but it's work well after enter the city.
My plugins now 1,5gb.