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A Day Late And A Dollar Short

A few years ago, I was working on a project that would be a bit like Dwarf Fortress but with an interplanetary exploration theme.  Then whatever strange fugue affects my game development hit me, and it ended up on indefinite haitus.  Fast forward to today, and... RimWorld is happening.
It seems somebody else had the same idea, but better motivation to actually see it done.  They even thought of the virtual game master mechanic.  Granted, I suppose the Left4Dead director popularized that idea somewhat, anyway.

Well, good.  I wanted to play it eventually, I'm glad somebody is getting around to it.  The implementation looks rather nice, too.  Who knows?  Probably better than I would have pulled off in the magical fantasy land where I was capable of being anything but an utter failure.

Moving on to the "dollar short aspect" of this blog entry, I blew half of my biggest paycheck I will get all year in the past couple days.  $100 went to medical bills.  I've paid Kaiser Permanente $150 now for a dental coverage that was never used, but it should happen this month, finally.  The remaining $400 went to computer hardware.

I'm now expecting a lovely passive 3D monitor.  The Asus VG23AH might not be perfect: I hear the 3D mode has some cross-talk and you can see scanline interfacing.  Also, I understand monitors that have IPS technology can have a bit of bleeding, but maybe I'll get lucky.  Yet, every review I've read on it reports vibrant colors, and honestly I'm sort of disappointed with the colors on the monitors I've owned in the past.

So why did I feel the need to buy this monitor?  Due to a bit of hardware issues I'm facing in the here and now:
  • My current main computer monitor, a Viewsonic VX2268wm, looks good enough in day-to-day use, but I find that 3D Vision 2 is too dark without Lightboost technology (which the monitor lacks), and its maximum resolution is 1680x1050... I really didn't know that being 1080p compatible was a thing when I bought this monitor, and I was a few pixels short.
  • My right-side monitor is a hand-me-down Proview AY765C that actually appears to be mildly busted.  I think it's not getting enough power to the panel, because the screen wavers fuzzily (some times more than others) and even the highest brightness setting is dull enough to require a software gamma boost.  As I said, it's a hand-me-down, and I picked it up when a better LG monitor I used for a side monitor had a capacitor blow.  Anywho, it's a standard definition 1280x1024 monitor, and somehow that's just not enough resolution to get anything done on the side anymore.
So the new setup will be that the Viewsonic VX2268wm gets demoted to being my side monitor and the Proview AY765C will probably be recycled as the broken hardware it is.  My new Asus VG23AH will be the main monitor, and I will mostly benefit from its 1920 x 1080 resolution.  I believe that the extra desktop space will particularly be useful when working in Game Maker, an application in which I frequently encounter text crowding on the right side that has me wishing for that extra 240 pixels.  This is to say nothing for having an extra 400x26 resolution on my right monitor.

If I spent $400 on that monitor, you'd be right to lambaste me.  Actually, the monitor is rather cheap: at just under $200, it performs nearly as well and has the feature set of monitors ten times its cost.  So even if the 3D is poor, who cares?  It's only about a $50 difference between this monitor and an entry-level 1080p monitor, and when you factor in the additional features this monitor has, the passive 3D feature is practically free.  The other $200 went to upgrading my video card (and shipping for both the card and the monitor).  This was mostly necessary because the monitor requires HDMI 1.4 or better, which my current video card does not have, and the performance boost will be a nice bonus I'd otherwise have lived without.

My current video card is a hand-me-down GeForce GTS 450, which does a surprisingly good job running modern games considering it's about three years old.  It seems to be clocked at the standard rate, it boasts 192 CUDA cores, and according to passmark it's the 92nd fastest kind of video card on the market right now. 

The new card will be a GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, released just 6 months ago.  A word of warning: there's world of difference between the GTX 650 Ti and the GTX 650 Ti Boost: the former is a budget card to the point where even some 400-series cards out-perform it, but the latter actually has some decent muscle to go with that budget price.  The Boost packs a respectable 768 CUDA cores, and passmark ranks it at the 26th fastest kind of video card on the market.  I also made sure to get a 2GB ram model (which explains why the price ended up being $175), which is good because that much video ram seems to be the recommendation of many hardware gurus right now.

The SLI option was the magic bullet that made this happen: I really doubt I'll need that much performance, considering the kinds of games I play aren't all that performance intensive (and it's actually hard to find many PC titles that are), but should I be proven wrong in this regard, the clear upgrade path is there.  To make a worthwhile purchase out of that, I would need a card that actually performs better when paired than a single card that costs twice as much.  As it turns out, the 650 Ti Boost would appear to be such a card.  Consider also that the 600 series is new enough that it won't likely be obsolete any time soon, and I'm sold!

Overall, I still consider myself "a dollar short" - or, more accurately, $400 poorer than I aught to be - because of what I'm ultimately getting out of this.  I didn't need additional performance, all the applications I use run just fine as it is.  But, if I have to upgrade my video card anyway (for that HDMI compatibility) then I might as well have a bit of fun.  So I'll have a little more desktop space to play with, my right screen won't shimmer anymore, and the games I could already run just fine will run over twice as fast... $400 is a steep price to pay, all things considered.


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