nVidia Guide - IntroductionIntroductionEver since the legendary TNT range was released back in late 1998, NVIDIA has pretty much conquered the gaming market with its graphics chips. Now that the latest GeForce 4 series is out, performance has hit a new level yet again. Even so, we always want to get the absolute best performance out of our graphics cards. If fact, the "performance" of the video card can be broken up into two areas, speed/frame rate and image quality. Some of us crave the highest Quake 3 frame rates, whilst others like the eye candy at maximum. Either way, there are many tweaks that we can use to maximise the gaming experience. In part, some of the tweaks outlined here can apply to non-NVIDIA users too. Before starting, it is always good to run some benchmarks to allow us to quantify any gains made later on, in this case we will use Madonion's 3DMark2001 SE.
nVidia Guide - The BIOSTweaking Part 1 - The BIOSMaking sure that your card runs as fast as possible starts in the BIOS. There are several relevant settings here that can influence the performance of your video card. Not enabling some options will mean some software tweaks will have no effect!AGP Mode - Determines the AGP frequency, as a multiplier of 66MHz. 1X is the slowest, 4X is the fastest. Some motherboards will have an "auto" setting, which determines the proper rate from the card in the AGP slot. Others might have an "AGP 4X Mode" enabled/disabled type setting, enabled will set 4X, disabled will set 2X. Older Intel BX and VIA Apollo motherboards will not have the 4X option as the chipsets do not support it. If the setting is there, set it to the highest setting available, which for most people is 4X.AGP Fast writes - Determines whether the video card memory will be allowed to be written to directly, instead of going through the system memory. This setting should decrease the time it takes to transfer data to the video card for processing, as it bypasses the memory controller. Enabling it will increase performance, but quite possibly at the expense of system stability. Some motherboards will not have this option, but generally those with overclocking features have it present.AGP Sideband Addressing - Allows the AGP card to use system memory for texture storage, a feature made famous by Intel's i740/i810. Not really relevant with today's 64Mb and 128Mb cards, due to the additional latencies generated by using the system memory instead of graphics card memory. Often this setting is not available on newer motherboards; if it is there I would suggest disabling it.AGP Aperture - Should always be equal to or higher than the amount of memory on your video card. A general rule should be to set it at double the graphics card memory.
nVidia Guide - DriversTweaking Part 2 - DriversFor this test we are using the current reference drivers from NVIDIA - version 28.32. Recent reference driver versions have slowly cut down on the number of visible options available, particularly under the Direct3D and OpenGL tabs. Windows XP users should definitely be updating their drivers as the version 12.41 drivers included with the OS don't help performance, and won't run OpenGL apps like Quake3.Direct3D - There isn't really much to tweak here, except for the "Mipmap Detail Level", which controls the level of detail for Mipmapping. Mipmapping is used when shrinking textures to fit smaller objects as they get further away, to reduce distortion. There are 5 settings from Best Performance to Best Image Quality, the higher the quality, the lower the performance. There is also a "PCI Texture Memory Size", which on recent driver releases is set to 63Mb. There is usually no need to change this as it has no effect if you are using an AGP video card. If you do have a PCI GeForce (I know there are some of you out there), increasing this value might give a slight performance boost.
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