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Frames Rates and their Impact on Different Game Genres

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In the following guide, I will talk about Frames per second so before starting, some notes should be stated:

· I will refer to Frames per Second as F/S just to differ it from the FPS (First Person Shooters)

· This guide will have some information about certain monitor's refresh rate measured in hertz, please take note that refresh rate in old CRT monitors differs from refresh rate in LCD and LED monitors.

Owning a PC for games is different to having a Console, being a PC gamer means you have to upgrade PC components every few years to play the latest demanding games.

We can identify three groups of gamers:

1- Gamers who don't care about graphics, they will play a game on lowest settings as long as the game runs smoothly. These gamers often have a budget PC with a low end video card and CPU.

2- Gamers that like the balance between performance and graphics, they will play a game on medium settings with a high resolution with good frame rates. These gamers often have a mid range Video Card and CPU.

3- Gamers that like play game at the highest settings and resolution, sometimes with more than one monitor. These gamers have the latest Video Cards and CPUs with high amount of RAM.

Regardless of the set up you have and to which group you belong, we all want our games to be playable and lag free; I can assure you, playing a game with even a minimum amount of lag can lead to disastrous consequences.

Let's start with the term "Frames per Second" (aka FPS, but in this guide F/S), also called "Frame Rate". This is the rate at which an imaging device produces unique consecutive images called frames; the term applies to anything that produces motion images, including movies and games. However, there is a big difference between a movie frame rate and a game frame rate.

When watching a movie, the frame rates do not change so they are stable; let's say at 24 F/S. In Video Games, the frame rates are dynamic and constantly changing. As there are lots of game genres out there, we cannot say for sure what the playable frame rate is for all these games. This can drastically differ from game to games as it depends on the game's motion.

Generally speaking, video games should be playable from 30 to 60 F/S, but with some monitors that come with 120 HZ refresh rate, frames could reach 120 per second. Be advised that there is a significant difference between 30 and 60 F/S on a 60 HZ monitor. On a 120 HZ monitor 120 F/S differs significantly from 60 F/S.

Vertical synchronization (Vsync) can be used to prevent screen tearing by limiting the frame rate to be the same as the monitor's refresh rate. This phenomenon happens when the frame rate exceeds the monitor's refresh rate.

· First Person Shooters are not like Real Time strategy games, racing games or other genres like adventure or action.

Let's start with the first person shooters; here we have the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Crysis. These games consist of fast paced action happening on the screen, like fast shooting, running, looking around with the first person view perspective. This genre needs a minimum frame rate of 40 for a decent experience, but some of these games can be played with 30 F/S.

· Strategy games are thing altogether; if you have ever played a strategy game, such as the Command & Conquer series, Starcraft series, Total War series, etc… you will notice that the camera motion is not the main focus as it is in first person shooters or racing games.

The player usually controls the game with a mouse and/or keyboard, with the camera's angle being isometric so the whole game environments can be viewed. This type of games can be easily played with 30 F/S and even less (20 to 25 F/S should be fine for many of these games as well). You will also find that lots of strategy games are locked at 30 F/S like Red Alert 3.

· Racing games consist on fast, constant motion on the screen.

While 60 F/S is preferable in these games, it is not mandatory. Some racing games are locked at 30 F/S, sometimes to the annoyance of PC players, but many racing games can be played at 30 F/S. As always, higher frame rates provide a better experience.

· Adventure and action games can generally reach frame rates above 30, but some games like L.A. Noire are locked at 30 F/S as well, and you will notice the frame rate can go as low as 25 F/S whilst still being playable. This is due to the game's engine, and the motion capture technology used by the developers for facial movement.

Several tools can be used to measure the frame rate of any given game, but the most common tool used is "Fraps". This will measure the frame rate, take a screenshot, and capture in-game videos (30 to 60 seconds in free version). The free version can be downloaded from:

Finally, to be able to play a game at a good frame rate, remember to check that your PC meets, and preferably exceeds, the minimum requirements of any game.

There are a number of ways to improve the frame rates you get in game:

1- Get a better Video Card. This is the most important part in a Gamer's PC, without a good video card even the fastest CPU won't help.

2- If you're video card exceeds the minimum requirements, consider upgrading to a better CPU. A Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz and above is recommended for any gamer.

3- If your games are stuttering from time to time (little pauses), consider adding another GB, or more of RAM. This is one of the cheapest upgrades you can make to your PC to improve performance.

4- Always clean your PC regularly (at least every month); dust will create problems including heating issues which will mean bad performance in game. You may also consider adding fans to your PC Tower.

5- Finally the most important, and ignored, part of your PC, the Power Supply Unit, or PSU. Having a good quality PSU will ensure a better life span of your PC parts. A 500 W PSU, with at least 32 Amps under the +12 V Rail is recommended for a low-mid range Video Card. A 600 to 1000+ W PSU with at least 40 Amps is recommended for all high end Video Cards.

How to choose the right video card for games

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In the following guide, I will explain what the numbers mean in a Video Card and how to choose a balanced Card. there are two video card chipset makers out there: Nvidia and ATI (ATI is now AMD).The Nvidia Geforce series began with series 1 till the GT 500s.

The Ati Radeon starts with R7000 till the HD7000

DX9 cards: Nvidia Geforce 5 -> Geforce 7, ATI Radeon 9500 -> Radeon X1900

DX10 Cards: Nvidia Geforce 8 -> Geforce 300, ATI Radeon HD 2000 -> HD 4000

DX11 Cards: Nvidia Geforce 400 -> 500, ATI (AMD) Radeon 5000 -> 7000

At this guide we will look at the Nvidia cards, please note that the same concept applies to the ATI (AMD) cards

let's take the Geforce 9 series and the Geforce 8 series (same concept but applies for older cards)
The Geforce 9 series begins with the Geforce 9100 and ends with the Geforce 9800.
The Geforce 9100 till the Geforce 9300 are only built in the motherboard (could find some exceptions)
and the Geforce 9400 till the 9800 series come as PCi express cards (some exceptions apply).
The Geforce 8 series starts with the Geforce 8400 and ends with the Geforce 8800 series.
But what do these numbers really mean?
In Video Cards, always look at the second number, then look at the first number

please not that you cannot ignore the first number, but it's just that you have to follow that hierarchy.

eg: in Geforce 9 600 and Geforce 9 800
800 is bigger than 600
9 = 9

so 9800 is faster than 9600

Now let's take another example with two cards from different series:

Geforce 8 600 and Geforce 9 600
600 = 600
9 > 8
so that means Geforce 9600 is better than Geforce 8600.
Now what about a Geforce 8800 GT and Geforce 9600 GT?
As I said above, please look at the second number (in this case 800 and 600 respectively)
800 > 600
but: 8 < 9
does that makes the 9600 better than the 8800?
No! It's a bit close to it but not faster; the 8800 is still better.

After the launch of the 3 numbers Nvidia Cards, people are more confused; are they better than the 8 and 9 series?

Nvidia is just continuing the series naming so after the 9 series, there is 100 series
, 200, 300, 400, 500.

Let's start with:
Geforce 100 series. This starts with the Geforce 100 and ends with the Geforce 150. Note that these cards only come with pre-built PCs and can't be bought as a retail.

Geforce 200 series: 205 -> 295 (all cards before Geforce 220 come integrated in the Nvidia motherboard)
So as with the old Geforce naming, the same concept applies here:
Low End Cards: 205 -> GT 240
Mid Range Cards: GTS 240 -> GTS 250
High end cards: GTX 260 -> GTX 295
Note that:
- GTS 250 = Geforce 9800 GTX+ but with a better technology, but are called Mid Ranged cards because the 200 series are more powerful now
- GTS 240 (and not GT 240) = (and slightly better) than Geforce 9600 GT
- everything above GTS 250 is better than the 9 and 8 series.

DX11 Cards:
Geforce 400 Series: GT 420 -> GTX 480
Low End: GT 420 -> GT 440
Mid Range: GTS 450
High end: GTX 460 -> GTX 480

Geforce 500 Series: GT 520 -> GTX 590
Low End: GT 520 -> GT545
Mid Range: GTX 550 Ti
High End: GTX 560 -> GTX 590

Let's continue the comparison in the new Nvidia series:

Geforce GTS 250 and Geforce GTS 450

50 = 50
4 >2
Please note here that the GTS 250 is DX10 (DDR3) but the GTS 450 is DX11 (DDR5)
GTS 250 has 256 bit DDR3
GTS 450 has 128 bit DDR5
The GTS 450 is still better because it has the DDR5 DRam Type, so it has much more memory interface, but because of its 128 bit interface it's not much of a performer in Directx 11 games, but when it comes to DX10 and DX9 the GTS 450 is better than the GTS 250

Geforce GTX 260 and Geforce GTX 550 Ti

60 > 50
5 > 2
The GTX 260 is a DX10 card and is a high end card in the GT 200 series.
It has DDR3 Dram Type, and an amazing 448 Bit bus width.
The GTX 550 Ti is a DX11 card and it is a mid Range card in the GT 500 series. It has DDR5 Dram Type, and 192 Bit bus width.
Now we saw that the 60 in GTX 260 is bigger than 50 in GTX 550 Ti
But still the DDR5 in GTX 550 Ti plays an amazing role in performance especially in DX9 and DX10 games, and it can perform better than the GTX 260. When it comes to DX11, it can play the latest DX11 games on Mid high settings depending on the resolution.

Please note that :

- Video Memory is not everything in a Video Card, it's the last thing you should look at
- The Graphics Memory technology DDR (Double Data Rate) is very important to identify the Video Card performance and can vary from DDR1 (slowest) to DDR5 (Fastest)
- the DDR can define the memory interface of the Video Card, (32 bit up to 512 bit)
DDR: 32 to 64,
DDR2: 64 to 128,
DDR3 to DDR5: 128 to 512 bit (some cards will have a 2x bit, eg: (2×384)
- Core Clock and memory Clock is important as well
- a High end card from the 9 series like the 9800 GT won't stay high end
forever you know.
- The new Nvidia and ATI(AMD) Cards will needs two slots, but that does not mean that it needs two PCIex slots, but it will take the physical place of two cards (Refer to the GTX 550 Ti Picture), so you have to have two empty slots to be able to install the card in your motherboard.
- a PCIex 2.0 card (Geforce 9 series and above) does not necessarily need a motherboard with a PCIex 2.0 slot, a PCIex 1.0 slot is compatible with it.
- a High End video card (any series that has a high 2nd number >= 6, (eg: 9800 GT, GTX 260, GTX 560, GTX 460, GTX 580, etc… are power hungry cards, meaning it needs a good quality Power Supply Unit (PSU) withat least650 W and 32 Amps under the +12V rail. To find out if a PSU is a good quality, it must have the "80 Plus Certified" logo.
- The symbols that come after the card (GT, GS, GTS, GX, GTX, etc..) also defines the card's performance (for more information please go here:Nvidia GeForce,ATI Radeon