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The Most Pointless Hardware In PC Gaming

What you really don't need

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Catharsis comes in many forms. But there’s none so satisfying as a good old fashioned sweary rant. Hell, I’m not even talking about a pseudo-Charlie-Brooker-but-not-nearly-as-witty polemic. More shouting obscenities into the wind. The time has come for me to unload on my top ten most cursed ruses in PC gaming hardware. In truth, the following is not entirely devoid of practical insight. But you have been warned. It ain’t pretty.

1. LCD monitor response rates
Ya know, the measure of how fast pixels change colour and thus how sharp or how blurry a monitor looks when rendering moving things. Whether it’s grey-to-grey, black-to-white or rise-fall, don’t believe a word of it. That’s because there is no universally adopted metric for LCD panel response, so screen makers can take liberties. Think about it. 1ms response? That’s a thousandth of a second. So why the hell is there any visible blurring? It’s all smoke and mirrors.

2. Dynamic contrast
Contrast ratios are simply a measure of the darkest blacks versus the whitest whites. These days 3,000:1 is genuinely possible with LCD tech, but ‘dynamic’ contrast as another classic monitor kludge. The ruse here involves parsing the image data as it arrives at the screen and dynamically adjusting the backlight to suit. The result? Utter gibberish like a-million-to-one contrast ratios. The subjective experience never comes close to the objectively true but practically pointless specification. There’s no substitute for a quality panel with excellent inherent contrast.

3. Cheap video cards with lots of memory
Perhaps a little less popular these days, thank goodness, but still chicanery of the very highest order. Yes, the latest games do generate huge demands on the memory subsystem. But that’s an academic observation if the GPU is too weedy to process all that data or the memory bus is too slow to move it about in good time. The crowning turd on this particular bullshit pie is often graphics memory that’s clocked slower than the standard card (because it needs to be dirt cheap) and in turn a premium card that’s actually slower.

4. GPU branding
While we’re talking graphics, can AMD and Nvidia please, please stop with the wilfully disingenuous video card branding? Putting a new badge on an old chip is a tawdry move and just leads to consumer confusion. A series of video cards like, say, the GeForce 700 series should all be from the same architectural family. In other words, all Nvidia Maxwell cards should be part of the same number series. Admittedly, it’s a bit more complicated with AMD’s minor revisions to its GCN graphics tech. But AMD could still do better. It used to and so did Nvidia, more’s the pity.

5. New Intel CPU sockets
You know those new Intel CPU sockets that keep appearing on the basis that ‘new’ CPU features require them? Frankly, I can’t keep track – LGA1155, 1156, 1150, as I write these words I can’t quite remember which one is current, imminent or recently toast. But it matters for nought. I’m quite sure Intel could have maintained the same socket. It just helps sells chipsets and motherboards to give it a quick tweak and break backwards compatibility. What a load of poppycock.

6. New versions of Windows
They usually exist primarily for the sake of having something new to sell. It’s classic marketing claptrap. OK, sometimes they’re desperately needed, like Windows 7 versus Vista. But that’s only because Microsoft shamed themselves so thoroughly with Vista in the first place. Windows 8 to Windows 10 isn’t quite as essential, but the latter is mostly about returning to what worked in the first place. Just make your existing operating system work, ferchrissake.

7. Gaming laptops with terrible screens
This is one of my absolute pet hates. Despite having a pretty good idea what I am about to experience, I am constantly staggered by catastrophically awful LCD panels in a lot of gaming laptops. I’m talking antediluvian TN panels with zero contrast and catastrophic viewing angles. Even premium brands costing thousands like Alienware have an awful record in this area. Meanwhile, you can buy a tablet with a nice IPS screen for about 50p. It’s madness. It’s also symptomatic of gaming laptop culture among the manufacturers that’s focussed on perfunctory box ticking rather than actually delivering a great experience.

8. Stupid-fast RAM
In this age of integrated memory controllers and heavily sand-bagged CPUs, memory bandwidth just ain’t a performance issue for CPUs. Well, it might be for the integrated graphics that can now be found on-board most CPUs. But who the hell wants to use that? Fast memory has become little more than willy waving. As for what speeds you actually need, the default frequency for your motherboard and CPU is plenty, its that simple.

9. Bazillion-DPI mice
I’m braced to be called out on this one, but I defy any of you to really tell the difference between one of those crazy-DPI mice and something with more mainstream. 8,000 dots per inch versus 12,000 dots per inch? Come off it. It might technically be a real feature, but we’ve gone past diminishing returns and sailed straight into the the sea of meaningless numbers.

10. Extreme ‘overclocking’ features on motherboards
I’m talking primarily about guff like voltage check points and similar features that seem to exist to help along nonsense like overclocking with liquid nitrogen. About six people in the known universe use these features and for the vast majority of us that makes them absolutely pointless, even if the functionality is real. More to the point, if this kind of tat is included on any motherboard you buy, you’ll end up paying extra for it. Painful.

Needless to say, these are merely my top 10. No doubt many of you have your pet peeves. Unleash ’em below.

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Jeremy Laird

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