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Does a video card improve MAME performance?


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#1 Jess Ragan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 1:40 AM

So here's the deal. I just got a new computer, running at 3.0GHz. It's the fastest machine I've ever had, but there's a catch... it has integrated video, while my previous computer had a 256MB AGP card. I can't just drop that card into my new machine, because it has a PCI Express slot.

I've noticed that my new machine runs MAME beautifully in most cases. However, polygonal games like STUN Runner and Fighting Layer (a close cousin of Street Fighter EX) have received only a moderate speed improvement. My question is this... will a better video card run these games at full speed, or is the emulation itself to blame for the lackluster performance?

#2 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 1:47 AM

For 2D stuff, there's generally little difference between integrated video and high-end 3D cards. That accounts for the vast majority of games under MAME.
Generally such screens are generated in the computer's RAM anyway, then blitted to the graphics card where it might do stuff like resizing and/or filtering.

For 3D stuff, there will be a difference. But the CPU of your machine will in most cases have more bearing on how well a game is emulated than the graphics card.

Later versions of MAME have Direct3D options like RGB triad texturing effects, so if you have those enabled your graphics card becomes a heavier influence in the equation.

#3 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 1:52 AM

Just tried Fighting Layer on my machine.

In turbo (F10) it only increases to about 105-120% on my Core2Duo E6420 with GeForce 9800GT card.

So, you say you have a 3.0 GHz CPU - would that be a Pentium 4, or something newer like a Core2 or Phenom?

#4 Jess Ragan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 6:43 AM

Nah, just a Pentium 4. Still better than what I had, though!

Do dual CPUs greatly improve computer performance? My understanding is that there aren't a lot of applications that make good use of dual CPUs, or 64-bit processors.

#5 Raz1r OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 11:06 AM

Dual-CPUs? That's more for Server-grade/Enterprise applications. I don't think you'll want to be dropping $2000 for a Skulltrail rig just for MAME.

I think you mean Dual-Core CPUs. Yes, Dual-Core processors run much faster than Single-Core. A 3ghz P4 should do MAME just fine. Your best bet is to get a cheap video card like an 8500GT or one of the new 9400GT cards. If you have a display that uses DVI the image quality will be much better than VGA. If not, check how much RAM you have and max the channels out, 2GB runs well, 4GB runs amazingly.

The good thing about a Graphics card is that it offloads a lot of work from the CPU and you avoid the whole "shared RAM" thing that onboard video uses.

#6 Ze_ro OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 10:28 PM

MAME emulates all the graphics hardware in the arcade machines, and doesn't use any 3D acceleration from your video card, since they can't guarantee that the results would be accurate to the original arcade machine. Of course, the first response to that would be "But I don't care if it's perfectly accurate!", but that argument has been going on for a long time, so no need to relive it.

MAME can however, use stuff like OpenGL or DirectX to accelerate some of the 2D transforms that it does (graphical filters, artwork compositing, rescaling, etc). I don't think any of this is particularly intensive on modern video cards, so I wouldn't recommend dropping too much on a card if MAME is your only reason for it.

For what it's worth, I believe MAME actually does make good use of multi-core machines. My understanding is that they've implemented a whole "work queue" into there (primarily used for 3D stuff) that will actively assign tasks to different processors. This would let it do things like having having one processor do all the even scanlines while the other does all the odd scanlines.... so if you're buying a machine specifically for MAME, it might be worth considering something with multiple cores.

--Zero

#7 nonner242 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 10:53 PM

MAME emulates all the graphics hardware in the arcade machines, and doesn't use any 3D acceleration from your video card, since they can't guarantee that the results would be accurate to the original arcade machine. Of course, the first response to that would be "But I don't care if it's perfectly accurate!", but that argument has been going on for a long time, so no need to relive it.

MAME can however, use stuff like OpenGL or DirectX to accelerate some of the 2D transforms that it does (graphical filters, artwork compositing, rescaling, etc). I don't think any of this is particularly intensive on modern video cards, so I wouldn't recommend dropping too much on a card if MAME is your only reason for it.

For what it's worth, I believe MAME actually does make good use of multi-core machines. My understanding is that they've implemented a whole "work queue" into there (primarily used for 3D stuff) that will actively assign tasks to different processors. This would let it do things like having having one processor do all the even scanlines while the other does all the odd scanlines.... so if you're buying a machine specifically for MAME, it might be worth considering something with multiple cores.

--Zero


I agree! The Video card will not make the games run better..well a slight improvement on resolution and maybe cuz you pc let off some mem that used to goto the onboard video gfx. More memory sped MAME on my laptop up ALOT.
I have a quad core 2 with 4 gig of mem and MAME flies on it.

#8 Jess Ragan ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Sep 7, 2008 11:59 PM

Dang, MAME can use four gigs of memory? The program was always a resource hog, but that's just ridiculous.

#9 Rybags ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2008 12:29 AM

A 3 GHz P4 isn't exactly quick in terms of what's available now. It's barely quicker than an Athlon XP running at 2 GHz.

I don't know what multi-threaded optimisations the later versions of MAME have, but I would tend to agree that they should benefit so far as graphics can be rendered quicker while CPU emulation takes place simultaneously.
Also, many (even older) machines used multiple CPUs, although some were just for doing sound or minor subsidiary work.

I'm using a somewhat older version of MAME (0.100), and it doesn't seem to use any multi-threading, as it never goes over 50% utilisation on my CPU.

I doubt MAME would benefit from large amounts of RAM except for the latest and most demanding games. A 2 gig system would probably see no performance drop over a 4 gig system, assuming you're not also running lots of other apps in the background.

Edited by Rybags, Mon Sep 8, 2008 12:31 AM.


#10 Jess Ragan ONLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2008 2:53 AM

A 3 GHz P4 isn't exactly quick in terms of what's available now. It's barely quicker than an Athlon XP running at 2 GHz.


Sure is quicker than what I had before! My laptop is a Sempron clocked at around 2.0GHz. My last desktop was an AMD 1700 clocked at 1.47GHz. So yeah, there's a definite speed improvement, even with the integrated video.

#11 Robbbert OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Sep 8, 2008 3:23 AM

It's only in the last year that MAME has had multi-threading. Even then it's fairly crude, basically the video goes to one CPU, and the remainder to the other CPU. Your version 0.100 is far too early for that.

#12 VideoFever1982 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:51 PM

Wouldn't a 10,000 or 15,000 rpm SATA hard drive improve acceleration for some of the games like San Francisco rush or Killer Instinct 2 since data transfer rate would be faster?

#13 roland p ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:16 AM

Only this would improve things:
http://www.ultimarc.com/avgainf.html

But not speed-wise. You can connect original arcade monitors to it which is very cool.

#14 awace OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:38 AM

Here is what i think YOU should have multiple versions of MAME if you want to play w better speeds.
if youre playing and older game then use the older version of mame like asteroids runs great and sounds REAL on mame 32.v034!!! but golden t4 plays better on version 103 or 120 i like those versions but m32 v067 is the one i like I also had one version boot to freedos and a compact flash to ide converter directly into mspacman w out moving parts It takes a while to boot but i did it w out moving parts NOW IF I COULD just get sandisk to make a rca lyra 32M compact flash w 24Mhz crystal into a 16G stick for $5 then i would beable to have windows xp boot into a flash drive! the current compact flash drives are slower and only have 16Mhz crystals .. anyway try newer versions of mame32 try killarea or other versions of mame32 made for youre video card and try to download open gl drivers or download DIRECTX SDK from
msdn downloads ! directx can fix most GORF errors I used to have that game crash a lot untill i redownloaded directx so if youre mother board has DRIVERS then download them THIS IS WHY ITS BETTER TO make a computer from scratch instead of one w a image w out motherboard directx drivers . if you have a built in nvidia then download the new drivers these always work better than ones that windows have they have more gl drivers and directx witch makes mame run better also uncheck keep aspect ratio and pick 16:99 then you can pick d3d and you should see an improvment.
also use seal directx for sound its better!

Edited by awace, Fri Sep 12, 2008 2:39 AM.


#15 Ze_ro OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:54 PM

For what it's worth, I've been having some computer problems lately that prevent me from doing 3D hardware acceleration. Until I get this fixed, MAME is almost unusably slow! I thought about this for a while, then realized that MAME is upscaling the video output to 1680x1050 and filtering it... doing this in software is quite slow, but very swift using OpenGL (in fact, since the video card isn't doing much else, this is essentially a "free" operation)!

So, if you're using a high-resolution display, a decent 3D card does provide something.

--Zero

#16 maiki OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 2, 2008 9:05 PM

You can connect original arcade monitors to it which is very cool.

Definitely. In my opinion, the only good use of M.A.M.E. is to connect the computer to true 15 kHz CRT monitor. That is why I have got a brand new WG D9500 that will do the job. So sorry that Advance M.A.M.E. is currently inactive since it is much much better than any Windows based solution. As said, you do not have to care about the performance of the VGA card, the older the better. The best being probably Nvidia TNT2 and older for SVGALIB in Linux (there are PCI versions available).

Remember that all these games were built to run on 15 kHz CRT including all Atari consoles and other classics. No place for crappy LCD, plasma, hi res CRT here!!!!!

15 kHz purists unite!




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