I'm curious if any of you have, in any way, optimized your PC for gaming. If so, let me know.

After buying my Alienware PC over a year ago, I was quite confident that it was a beast of a machine. I'm running a 3,7GHz Intel i7-4820, 16 GB RAM, 3TB HDD, and a GTX 690 (a 4GB dual-GPU card). I was able to play Skyrim on "ultra" settings and I never noticed any lag in the game whatsoever. Although, there seemed to be some physics issues, though I suspect that was an issue with the game, not my hardware. However, once I got GTAV for the PC and letting Geforce Experience optimize the game for me, I noticed some lag. I'm not sure if it's because my hardware can't handle some of the settings or if it's because of the game. I still suspect that both may be the case, after all GTAV just came out and although it's been optimized for multiple kinds of hardware, there is likely some bugs that haven't been worked out yet.

Because of this issue, I've done a lot of "research" ("Googling") on how to optimize my PC for the game. Ultimately, I think I found a good solution just by changing some simple settings. I've know for a while now that Geforce Experience can "optimize" games for you based on your hardware. Since I've had this PC, I've let it do that and it seems to often increase settings from their game defaults. I've also learned about settings in the Nvidia Control Panel.

I've been aware of PC and GPU over-clocking, but I haven't actually done that nor do I think I've used any kind of over-clocked hardware. I think it's a bit too risky and seems like a bit of a task with a lot of trial and error. I know there are multiple tools and guides out there to help you do this. So, I wonder if any of you have done any over-clocking? If so, please share your experience.

I'm also aware of different tools that can help you optimize game settings. Nvidia Inspector is one of these tools that I found. It's much like GPU-Z, which helps you monitor your hardware and has game profiles that can be set. Do you have any experience with these or similar tools? Let me know.

Feel free to also share your PC specs, if you wish.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/01/2015 at 03:25am

Be a little skeptical of Geforce Experience. It tells me that I don't meet the minimum requirements for the recent Assassin's Creed games and won't even offer to optimize, but I can nearly max out the settings (not including Unity). In some games it sets it to way lower than I can comfortably run.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 05/01/2015 at 04:04am

I seem to recall you telling me that before, which I forgot until now. My experience with Geforce Experience has been the opposite, at least with this PC, as I said. Luckily, I found out that I can run GTAV with the optimized settings GE set for the game, but turning off High Resolution Shadows seems to have greatly improved the game's performance. On my older PC, I was mostly using an older card, a GTX 8800 I think, and didn't meet the minimum hardware requirements for GE.

One of my friends mentioned how crappy one of the Assassin's Creed games is on the PC. He said it was a bad port. I don't recall which it was, though. I've never played any of those games.

What about overclocking and other utilities? Have you tried any of those?

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/02/2015 at 06:42am

I haven't overclocked since the turn of the century really, but you can get a bit of a boost.

And I'd say that none of the AC ports are great, but they aren't bad either.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/06/2015 at 02:38am

I tend to focus optimization on a game-by-game basis. Most games that I play seem to work well on the system I have. The ones that I have ended up tweaking, so far, have been either older games (Planescape: Torment), or games that were never really optimized by the developer, where the community has taken such matters into their hands (Dark Souls). I'm not one that necessarily frets about getting the state-of-the-art absolute best graphical experience. A respectable resolution and smooth frame rate are usually all I want. As Travis says, I am wary of third-party applications that claim to make gaming experiences better. They seem like more bloat than is necessary. As long as I kill all secondary processes that don't need to be running while I'm playing a game, I usually don't have any issues. Again, I'm not running on a top of the line system, so this is all relative to my experience.

My specs, for posterity:

  • Intel Core i5-2500K processor @ 3.30GHz

  • Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB GDDR5

  • Corsair Vengeance Blu 8GB (2x 4GB) PC3-12800 1600mHz DDR3

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 05/06/2015 at 03:55am

Awesome, scrypt, thanks for the feedback. I pretty much agree with you about gaming quality, even if my PC specs seem to speak differently. It took me a very long time to upgrade to video that wasn't coax or the standard A/V cables (white, yellow, red). I remember when a friend showed me the difference from that and S-video, which was amazing. It also took me a long time to upgrade to HD, which is even better. Yet again, I'm slightly lagging behind as my plasma TV is over 5 years old and I have yet to experience 4k resolution.

Anyway, what I mean is that I agree that I want a smooth gaming experience. I don't have to have top-of-the-line hardware. Although, when I decided it was time to upgrade or get a new PC and after doing some research, I decided to go all out with this Alienware PC. I've had it for over a year now and it hasn't disappointed me until GTAV came out and I tried to run it with the GeForce Experience optimized settings. It was ok for a while, but then it got less smooth, so I had to make a couple software adjustments. Now, it's pretty good.

The thing that kind of sucks about this now is that I'm finding out about newer and better hardware, like the GTX Titan X, and wishing I had it. I probably won't upgrade for a while though. I feel extremely confident about my CPU (an i7). I'm kind of tempted to upgrade my monitor, though. It's a 24-inch kind of standard Dell monitor that I got along with my Alienware PC. It's refresh rate is only 59 or 60hz, but apparently the human eye doesn't really see a difference above that.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 05/06/2015 at 02:03pm

Don't get me wrong, I totally appreciate the high-end gear and the experiences they afford. When I started playing WoW, the only computer I had at the time was an iMac. It was decently powered, but the game wasn't optimized for the system. When I moved to a PC, it was like playing a brand new game. That same PC, however, is not handling Photoshop as well as my iMac was, so I'm torn, and maybe it's because I built my PC and haven't configured it correctly (probably). If I could, I'd probably upgrade my processor to an i7, then think about upgrading the GPU. The conflict I have is that my PS4 is already a more powerful gaming rig than my PC, plus it was a quarter of the cost. For what I invest in new upgrades, I could be on the road to getting a Mac, which is what I'd prefer to work on. I suppose I could just wait until Windows 10 comes out...

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 05/06/2015 at 03:30pm

I had been building my own PCs instead of buying them for the last 15 years. I built a few of them. This Alienware one was the first one I actually bought. The main reason I bought this one was because I REALLY wanted and i7 and a GTX 690 after finding out how awesome those pieces of hardware were. The thing is that they're not cheap. By adding up the cost of the hardware I wanted from NewEgg, I realized I'd save some money by buying this Alienware instead, even though I spent a lot of money on it. I was building AMD CPU based PCs, but from what I read, the i7 seemed like an awesome CPU.

I've been seeing a lot of specs that use or require an i5.

I really don't have any experience with Macs. I know that they are usually pretty good, especially with creating media.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/07/2015 at 03:21am

The thing that shines about Apple products is integration with amazing software, fantastic build quality and value. I'd say whereas they are a bit expensive(though they haven't gotten much more expensive lately) what you get(phone, laptop, mac mini) will last you quite a long time and be very nice to use. The only place they fall down a bit, and it's not as much of a deal anymore if you don't mind missing the latest and greatest is gaming. If a majority of your time is web surfing, photo editing, video editing or music creation, the mac shines. Not to say other OS's can't do this, but the built in Mac tools are far and away superior to any native tools anywhere else(iLife is incredible). I run my Mac laptop a ton and it's great for Hearthstone and mostly all Indie games but if you want a max resolution Bioshock Infinite experience you ain't gonna get at, at least not on my monitor. 👻

Since we are all talking specs, here are mine:

  • Intel I7-2600 @ 3.4GHZ

  • 8 GB DD3

  • GeForce GTX 750

  • 1 TB & 4TB HD

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 05/07/2015 at 03:56am

Yeah, Apple seems to have a reputation for expensive, but quality products. I think I may have had to use a Mac in college, but it wasn't anything major. Otherwise, my experience is from the Apple IIc, seriously old school.

I thought you got an awesome monitor a while ago.

That's cool that you're running an i7, too.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/07/2015 at 04:07am

Generally, if you compare the actual hardware, not just the numbers, MacBooks don't come out much more expensive than other laptops. Sure it may have a 500gb hard drive, but what's the quality of that hard drive? And so on.

And even on my MacBook with a meager Intel HD 5000 (or maybe 4000) I can get decent performance from Bioshock Infinite. It isn't as good as my gaming rig, which is itself not top-of-the-line, but it's good.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/08/2015 at 02:30am

"but what's the quality of that hard drive?" No idea but SSD's are fast and my not SSD drives are pretty slow. I've never really had an issue with hard drive quality but I have multiple backups so it wouldn't matter much anyway.

"And even on my MacBook with a meager Intel HD 5000 (or maybe 4000) I can get decent performance from Bioshock Infinite. It isn't as good as my gaming rig, which is itself not top-of-the-line, but it's good.

Totally. It works fine in a pinch but when I want more FPS and a bit more glitz, my Desktop is way better for that too.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/08/2015 at 03:39pm

Yeah I was just using the hard drive as an example. A lot of the sub-$500 laptops people say are "as good as a MacBook" have identical specs on paper but use cheap parts that aren't as reliable.

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/09/2015 at 04:04am

That seems to be true for sure. We bought a $300 Lenovo laptop and it came with a 720p monitor and meager specs but it's lasted quite a long time. My partner doesn't need much horsepower to run a web browser. My only minor gripe with it is the build quality but at $300 my expectations are a bit lower.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 05/13/2015 at 01:43am

How many displays do you have connected to your gaming computers? What are their specs? Do you have your computers hooked up to a TV?

jdodson   Admin wrote on 05/14/2015 at 01:17am

When I use my Mac laptop I have two displays, the laptop screen and my monitor. My PC is just hooked up to my one monitor.

My display resolution is 2560x1600.

I don't currently have a computer hooked up to the TV, but I had a Mac mini on it for many years. I replaced it with the Nexus Player and I really love that. The Nexus Player handles Chromecast so I can fling whatever is in Chrome to the TV, plus it has apps that can do Netflix and stream media off my NAS. I plan on getting a Steam Machine so I will have a PC under the TV this year sometime.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/14/2015 at 02:59am

I have the same two monitors connected to my Mac and gaming rig. The mac uses the HDMI ports on the monitor, and the PC uses the DVI ports. So I can do dual monitors on one or the other, or have one monitor each, which is my usual setup.

Travis   Admin wrote on 05/14/2015 at 02:59am

Oh and I have a PC connected to the TV but it's kinda not good.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 06/03/2015 at 01:35am

Travis, it seems the entire Assassin's Creed series is on sale on Steam for MidWeek Madness. What do you think about the PC version of the game? How many have you played? Do you recommend it? I haven't played it at all, but I do see some of them for $5 or less, so it wouldn't be too expensive to try now.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/03/2015 at 02:46am

I haven't played Rogue or Unity but I've played all the others, and I love all of them. The plot is continuous, which is somewhat unfortunate, since the first game is the weakest in the series. AC2 is incredible, though, and you can just catch up on the plot with youtube.

But the PC versions are solid. They aren't the best ports but my somewhat meager PC could play AC 3 and 4 just fine.

Azurephile   Super Member   Post Author wrote on 06/03/2015 at 11:33pm

There are so many of them, what do you recommend? Do you recommend getting one of the earlier and cheaper games to try it out or one of the newer ones, perhaps even a bundle?

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/04/2015 at 03:04am

I'd honestly recommend trying 1, and see if you like it. I thoroughly enjoyed it but there are some legitimate complaints that could ruin it for you. If it's cheap (GOG has it for $5 right now) and you don't mind potentially blowing your money, try it. If you hate it, watch a youtube video to catch up on the story and move on to AC2. The Ezio trilogy (AC2, Brotherhood, and Revelations) are incredible. AC3 is a big change, some for better, some for worse, but still good. AC4 may be my favorite, tons of fun, but not where I'd start, as you miss the point of the present-day plot, or what Abstergo even is. From what I gather they're trying to just end that plot altogether though, which I'm not a fan of. I'd like to see more of it.

But yeah, start with 1, and if you dig it, awesome. If not, start with 2. I wouldn't start any later than that.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/04/2015 at 02:12pm

I'd recommend starting at 1, too, because that really sets the pace for the series. Viewing a synopsis on YouTube wouldn't be the same. The play mechanics are certainly inferior to where the games are now, but it's not a horrible experience, and it's such a beautiful game (they're all beautiful). Skipping AC1 would be like skipping Mass Effect 1: it can, at times, be a painful experience, but it's worth toughing it out for the bigger picture.

I've only played up to somewhere in Revelations, so I'm lagging quite a bit in the story. I really wish they would stop releasing a game (multiple games) every year! I feel like I'll never catch up at this point. A year or so ago, I picked up AC3 in a Steam sale, and I'm anxious to get into it, and the rest, but I'm afraid my Wall of Shame is too big.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/04/2015 at 05:44pm

I've just come to accept my wall of shame.

scrypt   Supporter wrote on 06/05/2015 at 05:58pm

That's unacceptable, Travis.

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