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Thread: Computer System and Setup Recommendations? (case 2912)

  1. #1
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    Computer System and Setup Recommendations? (case 2912)

    (Note from Moderator, Oct 25, 2012)

    Be careful to watch the dates for the posts on this thread--they start back from 2006! Much of what is written still applies but not the later posts.




    [edited from support email]

    We are in the process of setting up a new lab and are purchasing a small army of new computers. Presuming we will be running many experiments using both MediaLab and DirectRT, do you have recommendations regarding what we should buy in terms of hardware? Many experiments will involve simple questionnaires but some will involve extensive video and audio.
    Last edited by jarvis; 10-25-2012 at 10:32 AM.

  2. #2
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    DirectRT tends to be the more demanding of the two, so if you can please it then you'll likely be good for MediaLab also. DirectRT and MediaLab both use strictly 2-D graphics so the video card does not have to be the most expensive available. In fact, it's hard to go wrong with pretty much any of the new cards (esp. ATI, Matrox). Way back when, I would recommend 32mb of video memory but now it's pretty hard to get less than that. As with sound cards, just make sure you avoid getting a cheap chip that's built into the motherboard as opposed to it being a tradional "card" that resides in one of your system's slots. PCI or AGP cards are best for video and PCI is best for sound. You'll want to make sure the sound card supports "hardware buffering" if you plan on doing any voice capture/RT work but most of the new SoundBlasters will do this (Audigy, Live!). If you go with Dell and take their upgrades on the video and audio capabilities, you should be fine.

    As for general advice, I always recommend going with a company that excels at hardware reliability and customer support such as Dell or IBM. Dell is probably the best way to go if you're looking at a desktop solution. For laptops, I have always loved IBM's ThinkPads (I developed much of DirectRT on one).

    As far as screens go, LCD screens are great unless you're planning any super fast display times. If so, then CRT is usually the way to go. LCD's are usually limited to a 16.67ms refresh rate which means your stimuli must be displayed in intervals of that. Most people don't care. Others want more control (e.g., 5-12ms refresh rates are possible). For more on this, see http://www.empirisoft.com/Support/showthread.php?t=71

    If you want to send a given configuration my way, I'd be happy to look at it. But be sure to run it by your IT people too--especially if they'll be the ones stuck fixing it if anything goes wrong!

    And since you’re shopping, I ought to throw in a plug here for our millisecond accurate keyboards. They can reduce the error rate on regular keyboard responses by 5-30ms+ and they are beautiful. Well worth the money if you can swing it. We are build super fast plug and play response boxes for RT work. See our hardware page for more detail and let me know if you're interested and I can get you a quote on whatever you like. Both the precision keyboards and response boxes are compatible with ALL software (PC and Mac) since they look to Windows and Macs like traditional keyboards.

    Finally, cnet.com is a good place to start for reviews of current hardware.

    Hope that helps!
    Blair
    Last edited by jarvis24; 06-17-2006 at 01:19 PM.

  3. #3
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    Recently, I've noticed several LCD computer monitors with stated specs that include a "pixel response time" as low as 5 mS. Be sure to note the difference between response time and refresh rate--I'll try to find a good link to the difference and post it here.

    And as discussed in the thread Blair links to above...

    Remember that refresh rate is the inverse of the frequency that images are displayed. For example, if you've set the monitor to 1024 x 768 at 60 Hz, the refresh rate is 1/60 or 16.67 mS. If the monitor supports 75 or 80 Hz, the refresh rate would be 1/75 or 1/80 (13.3 and 12.5 mS respectively).

    So if you only want to present one frame of video to your subjects, the screen time would be 16.67, 13.3 or 12.5 mS.

    -John
    Last edited by JEC; 11-17-2006 at 10:49 AM.

  4. #4
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    What Laptop Specs work well with DirectRT?

    [edited from support email]

    Hello. I am looking for a new laptop computer that I can use to collect data with DirectRT. Can you tell me the minimum specs I need for the computer? How much RAM, chip processing speed, etc?

  5. #5
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    Just about any new laptop will have the ability to run DirectRT without a problem. There are however a few upgrades that can definitely help out the performance of your computer and application.

    When running DirectRT, it is recommended that you have a dedicated graphics card. This should be the most important factor in a laptop that you purchase. Although smaller laptops such as the ASUS Eee net-book PC have the power to run DirectRT, they can occasionally slow down.

    With that in mind, just about any laptop that -isn't- a net-book should blaze through the software. The following specs would be more than enough for DirectRT:
    Display - 800 x 600, 256 colors (Minimum); 1024 x 768 high color, 32-bit (Recommended)
    Memory - 1 GB (Minimum); 2 GB (Recommended) -- Memory is cheap these days, so I recommend getting as much as you can. 32 Bit OS's can't take more than 3 gigs of RAM.
    Processor - 1 GHz Pentium processor or equivalent (Minimum); 2 GHz Pentium processor or equivalent (Recommended) You shouldn't need a multi-core processor. Just make sure you aren't running too many programs at once during testing.
    Graphics Card - 32 MB's (Minimum); 256 MB's (Recommended).
    The above setup will have no problems running even the 2010 release of DirectRT.
    Last edited by Trevor Newell; 03-09-2010 at 12:20 PM.

  6. #6
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    Note also that the Intel Macs seem to do a nice job running both MediaLab and DirectRT now, e.g., if you have BootCamp or Parallels (v5 or later?) installed. See: http://www.empirisoft.com/Support/showthread.php?t=16
    Last edited by jarvis24; 03-16-2010 at 09:01 AM.

  7. #7
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    Shared vs. Dedicated Graphics Card

    I'm in the process of setting up a laboratory and I am trying to decide which type of laptop to purchase. I know that the graphics card is perhaps the most important consideration when selecting computers to run DirectRT (as you've stated above, 128 MB's Minimum; 256 MB's Recommended). Do these recommendations refer to a dedicated or shared/dynamic graphics cards?

    Would a laptop using a shared/dynamic graphics card be capable of running Direct RT?

  8. #8
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    The recommendations refer to dedicated memory; however shared/dynamic memory can tend to work just as well. Dedicated memory will always be faster as the card itself can manage all the memory that is used when running an application like DirectRT. Shared/dynamic memory will be slightly slower and may impact performance.

    Also - I've lowered the minimum specs. down to 32 MB's of memory. 128 MB's would be -far- more than needed (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    To answer your question -
    Yes; a laptop using shared/dynamic memory would be capable of running Direct RT.
    Last edited by Trevor Newell; 03-09-2010 at 12:28 PM.

  9. #9
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    Recommendations for new laptop for just Medialab?

    Hi,

    I noticed the above recommendations were for running DirectRT--what are the minimum recommended specifications if I were to use MediaLab? I need to buy a another laptop for my study and I don't have a lot of money to spend on a laptop, so I want to make sure I have "just" what I need to run MediaLab smoothly.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    The basic requirements are about the same for MediaLab. Almost any machine you can purchase now is going to have sufficient resources to run most MediaLab and DirectRT experiments. With DirectRT, our only strong recommendation is to get a nice dedicated graphics system (with its own dedicated memory) that is not simply a chip on the mother board. Also, when Windows Vista and Windows 7 came around we seemed to get reports of problems with a number of Dell Optiplex systems, and also with some machines using Radeon graphics cards. When people are having display trouble and I ask people about their hardware, in many cases, I hear "Dell Optiplex, Radeon HD graphics card". But then again, Version 2012 seems to be working nicely with even these systems now. We are always working on hardware compatibility--let us know if you run into any issues.

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