Nintendo 3DS Review: Big N Misses The Mark

Mar 01 2011 Published by under Products, Reviews

The Nintendo 3DS was just released in Japan, and after a bit of searching, I managed to find an unpopulated kiosk to thoroughly test the device.

Simply put, the 3D parallax screen works well. Using the 3D adjustment slider, the image pops from 2D to 3D in a single step. Then, as you push the slider ever higher, the depth of the picture seemingly deepens.

The depth effect is very similar to what you see when watching 3D content on TV, but of course without having to wear annoying glasses. On the downside, the viewing range to maintain this illusion is extremely narrow — you probably couldn’t use the 3D mode while traveling in a car or balancing the device in your hands for long periods of time. On the plus side, the 3D effect doesn’t appear to degrade image quality or cause any screen flickering. Screen brightness also remains decent.
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Left 4 Dead – MacBook Pro 9600M GT Performance

Jan 31 2009 Published by under Tech

full-left4dead

I’ve been playing Valve’s brilliant co-op based shooter, Left 4 Dead, since its launch back in November. Although its visuals aren’t quite as stunning, as say, Call of Duty 5 or Far Cry 2, the game features great style, atmosphere and game play that has made it a must-have game for PC gamers (or Mac gamers that use Bootcamp, like me).

Letting the game choose its graphic settings is not a terrible idea, but you will notice some choppiness when the action ramps up – which is often in this game! Thus, I would recommend turning off FSAA and lowing the resolution from the default 1440 x 900 to 1280 x 768. Furthermore, I would tweak the shader, model, and texture settings to meet your personal needs. As you can see from the video, I’ve found a combination of settings that I like, but if I was playing L4D on expert campaign mode, I’d probably lower the settings further.

Many MacBook Pro owners seem to choose a combination of medium to high settings when playing Left 4 Dead, and many of them choose to keep the native 1440 x 900 resolution. Whatever choices you settle on, just keep in mind that the newer unibody MacBook Pro’s comes with the faster 9600M GT CPU (the old models have the slower 8600M GT), and this should let you play most games at decent frame rates with graphics similar to what you’d find on a Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.

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MacBook Pro 2.53Ghz 9600M GT: COD5 Game Benchmark

Nov 06 2008 Published by under Apple

A game that’s sure to get a lot of play on the PC this holiday season is Call of Duty: World at War (COD5). The multiplayer beta has been available for a few days, and already I’ve logged a good couple of hours in online matches.

COD5 is an excellent test for the late 2008 MacBook Pro’s discreet graphics chip. Overall, I found the nVidia 9600M GT to perform quite well, rendering the game with a high amount of detail at comfortable frame rates.

For the deathmatch purist, having beautiful graphics is a distant second to having silky smooth frame rates. For my tests, I kept this in mind, but I was also thinking about the single player aspect, where graphical detail is important for providing an engrossing experience.

Starting at the highest resolution, a native 1440 x 900, the game felt a bit choppy and textures looked flat and lifeless at their lower settings. Dropping down to 1280 x 720 and having the details maxed out to ‘extra’ produced a gorgeous palette of colors and textures, but the frame rate took a noticeable hit any time the scene had to render a lot of objects. Working down to 1152 x 864, I found this to be the lowest acceptable resolution for the MacBook Pro’s 15.4” screen; any lower and the graphics looked too blocky, muddy and aliased. At this resolution, I chose a combination of medium and extra detail settings. The result produced acceptable frame rates for online play with graphics still pleasing enough to showcase the 9600M GT’s abilities.

Further tweaking and running the final code of the game may produce even better results. I can’t wait for Call of Duty: World at War to be released now that I’ve tried the beta. It might just give COD4 a run for its money!

Slightly higher quality video here.

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MacBook Pro Game Benchmark: Far Cry 2

Nov 05 2008 Published by under Apple

macbook pro game benchmarks

How does a new unibody Macbook Pro compare to an older Santa Rosa Macbook Pro when it comes to gaming? I put these two MBP’s to the test, running the Far Cry 2 benchmark for a head-to-head faceoff. The results were dramatic.

The late 2008 MacBook Pro loads the Far Cry 2 benchmark over 50% faster (37 seconds) than the older MBP model (58 seconds). One could say that the faster 2.53Ghz Penryn CPU trumps the slower 2.2Ghz Merom processor, but this alone can’t account for such a large discrepancy in loading times.

During the startup sequence for most games, vast amounts of data must be decompressed and transferred from the hard drive to the system RAM and video RAM. It appears that the 120GB Fujitsu HDD that comes standard in the older MBP is quite a bit slower than the 320GB HDD found in the latest MBP, although they are both rated at 5400RPM. In addition, the latest unibody notebooks feature a faster (1066mhz) system bus and use RAM operating at this high speed. These improvements combined, allow the newer MBP’s to internally transfer data faster than the older Santa Rosa based notebooks, which can lead to faster game loading.

During the actual game sequence, the late 2008 MacBook Pro produces much smoother frame rates than the older Santa Rosa model (averaging 30 FPS versus 18 FPS, under medium settings at native resolution). Similarly, in synthetic benchmarks, the 9600M GT outperforms the 8600 GT by around 45%.

For most modern games, the bottleneck in performance lies with the GPU. It is a bit surprising then, that the older 8600M GT performs so poorly compared to the 9600M GT, as both GPU’s are similar, and each have 32 shaders. Thus, it would appear that nVidia’s successor to the 8600M GT has 3D performance optimizations beyond its modest boost in core and memory frequency.

To get playable frame rates (29 FPS) on the 8600M GT, the screen resolution needs to be lowered to 960 x 600, but this also made the graphics look blocky and heavily aliased. Perhaps a significant contributor to the performance limitations of this particular GPU is its miniscule 128MB of VRAM. It would be interesting to benchmark a 512MB version of the 8600M GT to remove this variable.

So far, my findings indicate that those interested in gaming should definitely consider upgrading to the new unibody MacBook Pro; the speed benefits are greatly noticeable. In addition, it has been widely speculated that future driver support from nVidia will further enhance the GPU’s used in the Pro and also help to optimize its logicboard chipset. These parts are still very new and there is plenty of room for improvement. Geforce Boost anyone?

Do you own a MacBook Pro, new or old? How do you like it for gaming?

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