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CMBO/BB/AK on a laptop/notebook


Walker
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I need to get a new machine (PC) and a portable would be very convenient. But before I start looking I need to know: will BO/BB run on all the usual graphics chips used in notebooks/laptops? Is a shared memory solution adequate? In other words, what should I look for in a portable, graphics-wise, and what should I avoid, so I can be sure BO and BB will run on it?

Any good advice will be appreciated smile.gif !

Chris Walker

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To be honest I don't have access to any laptops that are setup to run CM. So what I have to say here is based on other users posting in the forum and not based on personal experience. Also I probably don't have any concrete recommendations, since there may be a lot of other things being factored into your laptop purchase and locking you into one particular graphics chipset may severely limit your options for other features or preferred manufacturers, etc.

A 'shared memory' video solution may work, but its performance will be sub-par for most setups. Most 'shared memory' video chipsets will probably also lack some features seen in CM (fog, transparency, etc.). This isn't necessarily universal, but 'shared memory' video chips tend to have more problems with games than most dedicated memory video systems (they may also have less frequent driver updates).

Laptops with the GeForce-Go series of video chips should work fine in most respects, though the latest drivers will exhibit the same problems their desktop counterparts do. The GeForce Go series should render all graphics features of CM to my knowledge, including fog and transparency effects.

The ATI Mobility series is the most popular graphics chip for laptops right now. Like their desktop counterparts they will lack fog in CM. Most of the Radeon Mobilities should be able to render the other CM graphics with few problems (previous Mobility chips weren't based on the Radeon, but they've been phased out now). However driver problems can crop up and I'm not sure of the current state of Mobility drivers. Problems that you may see reported in the forums concerning the desktop Radeons and the 3.x series of Catalyst drivers will most likely be mirrored with the Mobility line at some point (if not already).

Laptop chipsets can also suffer some additional problems that their desktop cousins won't - power saving issues. Most 'mobile' graphics chips are designed with power saving features and sometimes these can cause strange problems in games. Power saving issues have probably become a bit more less common now, but they do crop up on occasion.

Laptop grahpics chipsets will also perform noticeably less than their desktop cousins. Power issues are one of the primary reasons for this since current desktop chipsets suck down the amps to generate their performance and laptop graphics really can't do that from a fundamental design standpoint. So laptop graphics chipsets will often be clocked with lower frequencies or fewer 'pipes' than the desktop models.

[ October 01, 2003, 06:54 PM: Message edited by: Schrullenhaft ]

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Other thing to watch out for:

Borrowed a work laptop one saturday I was stuck there to support an event "just in case." It was a dell with a 16mb ATI Rage card, which could generally handle CMBB, aside from fog issues. But CMBB ran hideously on it, due to the fact that, with the 14" screen, resolution is essentially locked at 1400x1000 or so, as they are LCD screens and dont adjust like a good CRT monitor does.

WWB

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I have an Alienware Area 51M laptop which I purchased in November of last year. It is a P4 2.8ghz with 512MB Ram and a Radeon 9000M graphics card with 64MB of video ram.

It plays any CMBB and CMAK scenarios I have thrown at it, even some of the latest Rune monstrosities, as well as my XP2500+ desktop does. I would highly recommend the ATI Radeon mobility series video cards.

jw

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I play CM on a Dell Inspiron 8200 1.6Mhz, 256MB RAM, 64MB GeForce card.

I can run CMBB with all graphics options on and full detail on maps up to at least 1.5 x 1.5 km with a good frame rate.

larger than 1.5km x 1.5 km, I sometimes encounter frame rate problems depending on the number of units involved and/or the type of terrain. Large amounts of trees and craters in particular can put a load on the 3D card.

I am presently playing my way through the operation Storfang campaign, which features very detailed 3km x 3km maps, large numbers of units, and very detailed terrain. At this extreme end of battle size, I have to turn trees and doodad coverage down to 'moderate', use low-res mods, and turn off weather effects (like trees blowing in the wind) to get a good frame rate. As noted though, this represents the upper limit of CM battle size, and I could probably get away with a higher level of detail if the operation didn't feature a considerable amount of artillery flying about and creating resource-hogging craters. . .

A couple of notes about playing on a laptop:

1) Screen size and quality makes a big difference. I have a 15" UXGA screen, and gameplay is decent.

2) Forget about playing on the battery. 3D graphics cards are juice hogs.

3) I'd be nervous about using the thinner laptop form factors. As I understand it, these laptops don't disperse heat as well as the larger form factors. My 8200's cooling fans run full steam to keep the guts cool while I'm playing CM.

Obviously, you pay for the portability, but it's been worth if for me to have a laptop to play on as I am frequently on the road. For the money I spent on my 8200, I could have had a really sweet desktop system with a large screen, better card, etc. I don't regret trading some display quality to be able to play CM in my hotel room, though!

Cheers,

YD

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I have a Compaq n1000c through work (1.7g, 40mb HD, 32mb ATI rage mobility card 512 ram winxp).

CMBO runs very smooth, cmbb ruuns pretty good too though larger maps tend to chunk it a little bit. (Have played up tp 3.2kmx2.4km maps). Gotta remember to turn off z-buffer/mask and FSAA.

Los

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This is rapidly becoming an extremely complex decision-making process…

Schrullenhaft, thanks a lot for the in-depth reply. The bottom line seems to be that there is no ‘perfect’ graphics board solution for CM, that the same chip can work fine in one machine and not at all fine in another, and that the GeForce Go chip is the best option provided one can make do with an older driver. Although jwxspoon seems to be extremely happy with his ATI Radeon 9000M, and Los has BB running decently on a 32MB ATI Rage. So the ATI option could be just as good if you can do without fog.

You mentioned the power-saving issue, I hadn’t considered that. I assume you can disable any features of this kind that might be a problem for gaming?

WWB, thanks for the warning iro screen size. I assume a 15” TFT display is the minimum you need, but are there any technical display data that will indicate whether a particular display will cope adequately with resolution adjustments? Seems that Warren doesn’t have any resolution problems, although he doesn’t say how big his TFT screen is.

Greetings once more, YD smile.gif , and thanks for your input. Especially the thicker-is-better tip. I was actually leaning towards the ultrathin eye-pleasing models; now I think I’ll reconsider. Sounds logical that a case with more space inside would deal better with heat, and a less streamlined model might even save me a few francs!

I also didn’t know that laptop graphics chips provide less performance than their desktop ‘equivalents’. This probably isn’t much of an issue with a new laptop running CMBO/BB/AK, but it might be an important consideration over the longer term, i.e. in the context of the all-new CM (CM2??) currently being developed. So here comes the obvious question:

If I spend a lot of money on a really good laptop with the fastest graphics chip on the market NOW, will I be able to play CM2 on it when it’s released in a year or so?

Thanks again, everyone smile.gifsmile.gif .

Chris Walker

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Predicting the future is a bit of a tough call when it comes to computer hardware. Generally speaking if you get the 'high end' of today's laptop video chipsets, then there's a very good possibility that the drivers and hardware should support CMx2 in the future. NVidia and ATI have developed 'unified drivers' that support hardware that is several years old. This allows newer drivers to work with older hardware - so bug fixes (and bugs) will be available to older hardware. How true this is of the laptop drivers varies. I've seen generic betas of GeForce Go drivers (not posted on the NVidia site), but I haven't really seen much for the Mobility line of drivers. So driver updates from laptop manufacturers will be come less frequent as the hardware gets older.

The power-savings features of laptop graphic chipsets are engineered into them. Generally the changes are meant to draw less electrical current than their desktop cousins. Which specific engineering choices are made to do this varies (and that is also why there are several choices of chips offered from each video manufacturer for laptops). Some of the high end laptop graphics chips aren't too far off in performance from their desktop cousins, though they'll never match the fastest desktop hardware. This is actually a fairly recent development as manufacturers realize that a number of laptop users use their machines for gaming (and laptops have a higher profit margin for them too). As pointed out earlier in this thread, you really can't run a 3D app "off the batteries" since it will drain the batteries fairly quickly (probably less than an hour of use on a fresh battery).

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The ATI Radeon Mobilities for the laptop should support 'dust clouds', but no fog (not on the PC under DirectX).

The entire ATI family of video devices doesn't support fog tables or fog-table emulation (which is what the NVidia chips do). ATI could add it to their drivers, but they don't and haven't. Under RAVE on the Mac ATI has written drivers that emulate fog-tables, so it isn't impossible. However I don't think ATI will ever do this for DirectX/OpenGL. They prefer that fog be emulated with 'Vertex Fog', which is much more compatible with their drivers and hardware acceleration.

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