Over the past few years I have never been shy of my preference to playing games on a console in comparison to a PC. Originally my beef about PC gaming was the extensive cost of maintaining equipment. After all, look at both nVidia and ATI forcing gamers to pay upwards of $400 for their top-of-the-line video cards designed mostly for games that won’t be released until two years from now. And that is not to mention the fact that these upgrades result in many gamers thinking that budget cards are total crap.
But still this notion does not compare to the sheer hell I have to go through to get my system up and running. As many of you may recall I suffered a massive power surge last year, and I didn’t know it until early January that my computer ended up as the last casualty. Starting off with the occasional "blue screen of death" (yes, even the supposedly fail safe Windows XP results in the BSOD) and eventually ending with total power failure, my old Athlon 2000 was at death’s door.
Over the last few months I have been using Chief Editor John Breeden’s laptop so I could keep access to the ‘net. Leading up to E3, it was all that I needed. But after seeing some killer titles such as Half Life 2 and DOOM3, I knew it was my time to upgrade.
Going to my usual dealer (Infinity Systems Plus), I ordered my usual barebones kit, consisting of an AMD Athlon XP 2600, 512 MB of PC2700 DDR RAM, a Gigabyte 7AX motherboard, and even a USB case with a blue neon tube. Adding my salvaged components from the past PC like a Geforce4 MX420 card, Sound Blaster Live, a 16X DVD-ROM, and my two hard drives totaling 53 GB, I was ready to get back into the PC gaming market.
At first tests, everything looked good. All of my standard Windows XP applications were running as they should: Internet Explorer, Yahoo Messenger, Outlook, heck even my emulators were all running like they should.
But when I loaded up my 3D titles, that's where the trouble began. Starting off with Battlefield 1942, after running for only five minutes, the dreaded BSOD reared its ugly head. I even tested out simple programs such as 3DMark2001, but the same results have occurred. Upon closer examination of the BSOD, I noticed the source of the trouble was the file name NV4_DISP.DLL. Based on the NV4 part of the file name, it was a hint that the problem was a result of my GeForce4 MX, yet another victim of the power surge.
I decided it was time to get a new video card, so I first purchased a GeForce FX 5200 (one of the so-called "crap" budget cards at $100). After installing it, I noticed that it also used the damn NV4_DISP driver that caused the problems before. Imagine my shock that how, despite running faster (scoring 7700 on 3DMark2001 compared to the 4000+ that the MX420 scored), I was still a victim of the BSOD. I realized if nVidia’s drivers were going to cause me trouble, I’d better defect to ATI.
And that’s what I did. Returning the FX 5200 to Best Buy, I made an exchange for an ATI Radeon 9200 (another budget card at $100) and installed it into my PC. The first indications were just as bad, giving me the BSOD, and forcing me to reformat my hard drive one last time (fearing any remnants of my arch enemy NV4_DISP were still causing problems).
Fortunately for me, that worked out better. Since reformatting my drive with the new Radeon 9200 card, I have had no problems with my 3D titles: no dumps to Windows XP, no lockups, and best of all, no BSOD. The card might have been a little slower than the FX 5200 (the 3DMark2001 scored only a 7400) but I can handle that. I can be living proof to all these technocrats who believe the only good video cards are those that cost a lot of money (such as the Radeon 9800 and the FX 5900), and though I will eventually upgrade to these higher level cards when DOOM3 comes out, I am currently happy with my Radeon 9200 and it looks like ATI has converted me in the end.