I own a few computers that I use for different purposes. I recently put one of my old computers, an eMachines T5082, back into service. It was one of the less expensive computers I could buy back in 2007. It actually came with a recovery disc – what computer does that nowadays? It has a Pentium 4 631 running at 3GHz, came with 512 MB DDR2 RAM which I upgraded to 2 GB, and a 160 GB hard drive. It has Windows Vista Home Basic (32-bit) installed. I brought it back out to try to play some old games on it but first, I wanted to use it to watch Amazon Instant videos and play DVDs while I worked on my main desktop.
I found that Amazon Instant dropped too many frames to be really enjoyable. I normally play DVDs at a faster than normal speed , say up to 1.5x, sometimes even going to 2x or 3x on really slow scenes. The playback dropped frames at nearly anything above 1x. I tried to search the Web to see if adding a discrete graphics card would help the playback or was I stuck with sub-par frame rates because of the very old processor. My search didn’t turn up anything. I decided to take a gamble and buy it anyway.
The computer has an ATI Radeon Xpress 200 on-board graphics. I previously researched two different discrete graphics cards back when I was thinking of buying a low-power, low-profile card for another computer of mine. The choices were EVGA Geforce GT 610 1048MB GDDR3 or Asus ATI Radeon HD6450 Silence 1 GB DDR3. They both run $40 on Amazon. This eMachines can hold full-size cards but I figure as old as it is, I’d just stick with one of those two. I chose the Geforce GT 610.
In short, yes, the discrete card made a huge difference in VLC video playback frame rates. It’s well worth the money. I tested the performance of the on-board vs. discrete graphics card playing in VLC media player 2.2.1 at 1920×1080. (As a side note, lowering the resolution didn’t make my experience any better with the on-board graphics.) I played Murder, She Wrote Season 4 Disc 3 in the DVD player using the “Play All” selection. I ran it for one minute, paused playback, and looked at the number of frames dropped. When playing faster than 1x, I increased the speed 5 seconds into the video and still ran it for one minute, then looked at the number of frames dropped. I repeated the tests to make sure I got consistent results. The average results follows:
ATI Radeon Xpress 200 on-board graphics:
- 1.00x – 0
- 1.50x – 208
- 2.00x – 443
- 3.00x – 521
Geforce GT 610 discrete graphics:
- 1.00x – 0
- 1.50x – 0
- 2.00x – 0
- 3.00x – 127
As you can see, the on-board graphics dropped frames as low as 1.50x but the discrete card went all the way to 3.00x before dropping anything and even then, it only dropped a bit over half the frames of the on-board graphics running at 1.50x. The card gives the old computer new life for its new purpose.
The Cinebench 11.5 Open GL test wouldn’t run with the on-board graphics but showed 13.33 fps with the Geforce GT 610 card. The CPU score was 0.48. I had to use version 11.5 because it seems to be the last one that supports 32-bit operating systems.
Lastly, the Windows Experience scores for the computer with and without the card were:
- Processor, Memory, Graphics, Gaming graphics, Primary hard disk
- 4.2, 4.8, 2.6, 3.1, 5.7
- 4.2, 4.8, 4.1, 5.2, 5.7
Now back to watching Jessica Fletcher solve the murder mystery.