Monday, September 20, 2010

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My New Alienware Notebook Rocks My Metaverse (So Far)!

Alienware Running Second Life

So I just got an Alienware M11x notebook after much deliberation, and while Dell took a comically long time to get it to my door, my initial reaction so far is: Awesomesauce indeed. I've been using it for several days, and just as I hoped, it can run both Second Life and Blue Mars at optimal levels -- this on a machine that cost under $1000, after an upgrade to 4 gigs of RAM. Getting used to the notebook's reduced size, which is three-four inches smaller than my last laptop, took some practice. (And some squinting -- I had to increase the font size on Facebook.) For New World Notes readers, however, the verdict on 3D worlds is good: I can run Blue Mars pretty well with all the settings turned up full (but performance is better at the midrange), and still more impressive, run Second Life with dynamic shadows enabled.

Be-fricking-hold:

Imprudence Second Life Dynamic Shadowsw

This is Second Life running in Imprudence, by the way; I'm not sure how shadows perform in SL Viewer 2. And these aren't just dynamic shadows that show up but then slow the world down to a crawl -- my frame rate only dropped a little bit. I'm far from a hardware expert, so do your own additional research, caveat emptor n' stuff, but if you are looking for a new machine that can handle 3D worlds, give this one a look. Also: Black matte finish! Red glowing keyboard! Chassis like a Stealth bomber! These are the things that make my geek propeller spin.

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Paul

Man - right on - just the thing I wanted to see. I have been debating this exact laptop and was hoping for a virtual world perspective on it. Thanks!

Paul

Question - how is the screen glare, and how is the keyboard?

Elwyndas

Damn, I am so jealous!

Hamlet Au

Hey Paul -- the keyboard does take some getting used to, as it's smaller than average. If you use the arrow keys to navigate, you'll be annoyed, because they're these little frickin chicklets. Trackpad is pretty good too (though I prefer mice.) Screen glare is no better or worse than my other laptops. I do wish the screen were a bit brighter, but again, it's about on par with my last high end Dell.

Adeon Writer

Way to go! For the best of shadows though, you need to try Kirsten's Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Global Illumination. GI's gonna kill your fps a bit more, but Kirsten's shadows are in turn less FPS intensive. I'd recommend trying it out in Ash Soyinka and Sarria Yaffle's Blue Galaxy sim.

Altie Benoir

Hey Hamlet, how about the FPS with the shadows enabled?
I'm using Kirstens Viewer in a Core i5 + GT 335M notebook, and getting an average of 12 FPS (16 FPS in empty sims...)

Trying to find a way to improve that count. I'm still not satisfied with the results, cause I've seen on Youtube tests with shadows less choppy in machine with lower specs than mine.

Does someone know a way to improve the FPS, to reach at least 20 FPS?

Paul

Right on - thanks. I am on a 10 inch LG laptop so size won't be an issue... have fun with the new toy.

Nae Mayo

Good graphic card for gaming and good value too. But screen color a bit faded.

Little Lost Linden

Anyone try SL with dynamic shadows on an Intel i7-980x 6 Core processor paired with an ATI HD5870 yet?

Curious of the results.

DMC Jurassic

don't have an i7, just have an AMD Thurban 1090T. do have an ATI 5870 though, all shadows work generally across official the TPVs, except Antialiasing AA has to be disabled. ;) Tested up to 10.8 Catalyst Drivers.

DMC Jurassic

on our Sci Fi region, "Marina Bay Waters(tm)" Resort with shadows you'd probably be sitting at about 20fps.

Little Lost Linden

"except Antialiasing AA has to be disabled."

I've ran into that as well. Wonder if that will get fixed.

Konshu

Now that you can see your avatar properly, please update your clothing to provide for proper fabric shadowing.

Adeon Writer

The old shadow code doesn't play well with AA at all. AA and shadows on 2.0 viewers work fine, except they'll have unavoidable halos occasionally. It's the side effect of the deferred rendering technique, hardware AA can't work without artifacts, since it's applied independently to the shading. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deferred_shading

Little Lost Linden

"It's the side effect of the deferred rendering technique, hardware AA can't work without artifacts, since it's applied independently to the shading."

Is it something that is fixable?

I've also seen that ATI cards don't seem to handle shadows in SL as well as Nvidia. Not sure if that's changed or not. I have an ATI card but have not had good luck with shadows. I may try again with the latest 2.x release.

Adeon Writer

It will need to be fixed before shadows go into full production on an official viewer. My guess is they'll need to add their own software AA if they want AA and Shadows to work together without artifacts. (That will mean a bigger fps using it, too...)

Little Lost Linden

"It will need to be fixed before shadows go into full production on an official viewer. My guess is they'll need to add their own software AA if they want AA and Shadows to work together without artifacts. (That will mean a bigger fps using it, too...)"

Sure wish they would start working on that project. Maybe some day.

Wendy Steeplechase

Hi Hamlet and everyone (/me waves), I too wanted an easily transportable laptop for travel that would adequately run SL and purchased the Alienware M11x after reading your post but I can't get it to run SL well. The old SL viewer 1.23, is a disaster (0.5-2 fps at lowest graphics settings), and viewer 2 is no better. It looks like it doesn't recognize the graphics card at all and is trying to use the Intel CPU for everything. Is there some trick to configuring the laptop and/or SL for proper operation? Any suggestions would be most appreciated, as it is pretty much unusable the way it is right now.
Thanks, Wendy.

Wendy Steeplechase

OK, problem solved, apparently the laptop will run with the NVidia board disabled (to save power I presume), a simple F6 fixed it, why is that the default state I wonder? Anyhoo, sorry to bother everyone.

Hamlet Au

Glad you got it fixed, Wendy! Weird, my Mx11 doesn't do that default thing, though I should probably figure out how so to save on battery.

hynesyte

it's like an eye transplant! my alienware m11x r2 gives me new eyes of the world... moon-glade, shadows, GR8 reflections,...& videos-not fast slide shows,the only drawback is the lighted keyboard gives me insomnia, staying up all night , beta viewer 2.3 works fine... to quote Torly it, 'amplifies awesomeness'!

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