Friday, December 29, 2006

Gaming on a budget laptop

A few months ago I purchased an Acer Travelmate 2424 laptop. The basic deal was an Intel Celeron M 1.6 GHz processor, 512MB RAM and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 for about Rs. 32000.

Now laptops like this, and especially those equipped with intel integrated graphics are not great platforms to run all the latest games, and it wouldn't be fair to expect the hardware demanding games of 2006 to be playable on them. But at the same time the capabilities of the intel GMA 900 turned out a little better than I expected and certainly not as bad as people make it out to be.

Old games like Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament, No one lives forever and Max Payne run fine at maximum graphical settings, but this is no surprise. Games based on the quake or unreal engines, like Jedi Academy, Call of Duty, Medal of Honour, XIII, Deus Ex are fine as well, as are nearly all of the pre-2004 games.

Coming to slightly newer games, Max Payne 2, Need for speed underground 2, Age of empires III, Rome: Total War, SWAT 4 are a few which I can testify to be reliable on this system. Halo runs as well, with low-medium detail settings (I had some fun with the halo multiplayer demo).

Far cry was another modern game I tried on the system. As it represented quite a step ahead in graphics quality (and hardware requirements) I did not have much hope for it but it was playable at the lowest detail settings (and didn't look too bad). I will try Half-Life 2 as well to see if it has a more acceptable performance on lower end systems.

There were some games which would not run at all on the laptop because of the lack of hardware transform and lighting capabilities on the intel GMA 900. No one lives forever 2 is an example of this, but it ran quite well with software TnL emulation using a software called 3D Analyze (although the latest version of the software did not work with the game for some reason, and the game would crash if some graphical details were turned on).

So while budget laptops and intel graphics are not enough for people who wish to play very recent games, or use high graphical settings, but they are quite enough for casual gamers like me.

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