So What?

Assembling, and tinkering with, a PC is fun in itself, but what do I get out of it? To demonstrate, I have recorded two comparing videos by capturing what I see on the monitor. I hope this works, as it’s hard to predict how you will experience it at your end, that is, with your computer and your Internet connection.

I am using Unigine’s Valley Benchmark software, because it’s beautiful to watch. This program renders an artificial landscape, while flying through it. So while you see a movie, on my computer, it’s not. Here, it’s a three-dimensional world. The landscape, the trees, the clouds, the mountains, the rain, everything, is created based on visual resources, stored on my computer, in real-time as we fly through the valley. All elements of this world are composed of many, many little triangles, filled with “pictures” (so-called textures), that are put together and made visible by an underlying graphical rendering engine, thus creating the three-dimensional landscape with all its details.

I’ll add a third video that makes these triangles (technically: polygons) visible to convey an idea of how that composition and rendering works.

When watching the videos, set their resolution to “1080p”, watching at a low resolution will probably not show the full effects. You might want to watch it fullscreen – if your computer and Internet connection can hold up. Then again, if your monitor is larger than 1080p, the native resolution of the video, it might appear slightly blurry in fullscreen for obvious reasons. If the first video is not butter-smooth, your Internet connection or computer cannot hold up. Watch it directly here on the site. You’ll see the difference to the second anyway, the second video is stuttery because that’s how my notebook rendered the scenes. Squint as necessary.

The first video shows how this looks on my new PC. It uses a Radeon RX 480 graphics card. This is not the most powerful graphics processor as of these days, but sufficient for the 1920 x 1080 pixels HD resolution, happily producing frame rates of 80, 90 or more frames per second (check the top right corner).

Then, the same on my notebook. It uses a GeForce GT 950M graphics processor, which is a pretty dated GPU for notebooks today (it’s of 2013), but it’s what I have available. The frame rates are around 20 frames per second, give or take a few. The fans were howling like a jet engine. I felt sorry for the poor thing, but wanted to give you something to compare against.

I hope the videos succeed to convey that the “gaming PC” actually delivers. As it should, considering its parts and construction. My notebook – its troubles and limits described here – is simply beyond its capabilities for this. Newer notebooks have better graphics processors, such as the just updated MacBook Pro with an AMD Radeon Pro 560 GPU, or the Razer Blade Pro with an NVDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPU (specs as at the time of this writing, they may have changed when you read this in the future, and the vendors keep the same web address anyway).

But considering the thermal limits with their tightly packed cases and small fans, I am not sure how much better the newer system would perform here. High performance still means lots – lots! – of heat. Of course I do hope that there is substantial progress with laptop-cooling since 2013, since sooner or later I will need to replace my current portable.

And, finally, a part of the full fly-through with the triangles visible, to demonstrate how the frames are composed in real-time.

I recorded all three video with OBS Studio, 1920 x 1080 resolution, at 30 frames per second. The second video, ie. the notebook one, is captured at a slightly lower quality, as otherwise the poor computer would have given up the ghost completely. Else the recording settings were the same. I then imported the raw footage into Hitfilm Express for clipping the start and the end segments, and exported the movies at a lower bit rate than captured before uploading to Vimeo (around 12 Mb/s), to ensure that you can watch at full resolution – if your Internet connection provides that speed. But it should, these days, else complain with your provider…