When I graduated college, my graduation present from my father was a new computer. He gave me a pretty sizeable budget so i set out to build something that would last me a very long time. Here I am over four years later with the same PC. For an avid PC gamer, this is an eternity to wait for a hardware refresh. Three upgrades I have made during that time were the CPU, the monitor and, most recently, the video card.
Previously I was running a BFG Nvidia GeForce 6600 GT OC. It served me well through Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and even Portal, albeit with a lot of settings toned down to the minimum to run with playable framerates. Then it was finally time to try out Bioshock. Ouch. With all the settings at their lowest possible values I was getting an unbearable 8 FPS average.
After much whining and pleading I was able to convince my wife that an upgrade to the video card was needed. There was really only one clear winner at the time of my purchase–the Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT OC. I ordered the BFG GeForce 8800 GT OC and waited with eager anticipation for it to arrive. As soon as I got it I plugged it in and fired up Bioshock. Amazingly I was able to bump up all the display settings to their maximum values and still achieve very playable frame rates. It is astonishing what an upgrade to a four year old video card will do for you.
This one setting puts to rest all the angst I had had for years regarding widescreen monitors. What this does (when set to “Use NVIDIA scaling with fixed-aspect ratio”) is scale any fullscreen video application so that it maintains its intended aspect ratio. To put it another way, all the old video games that i play that do not have widescreen video support can now be played at their 4:3 aspect ratio without being stretched across my entire widescreen monitor and will instead be pillar boxed.
If you are an old school gamer that just can’t part ways with your old gigantic CRT monitor you should really revisit the idea of playing new games in all their widescreen goodness while still having the flexibility to play old games at their native resolution. In fact, I think I might just go play some Starcraft in its 640×480 resolution glory right now…