Poor Spore Performance on Your New Notebook

Spore, the popular “casual” game from EA, has received as much sales and fanfare as it has controversy from its DRM policies.  Spore sold 1M copies and 25M creations were created in its first 2 weeks so no one questions its popularity.  But, does anyone question the quality of the visual experience between different notebook technologies?   They should, as there are big differences that could really impact their enjoyment.  One would expect that today on modern notebooks these differences wouldn’t exist but they definitely do.

Brian Henry, a software engineer in our Performance and Experience Lab, provided me with some data that I thought was interesting.  He showed me a visual comparative analysis of Spore on two HP Pavilion dv5 notebooks, both with integrated graphics.  One system was an AMD-based (“Puma”) and the other an Intel-based (Montevina).  Interestingly, the Intel-based system demonstrated significant difference in Spore quality.

Here are the comparative screen-shots on “high” settings. You don’t need to have 20/20 vision to see there is a huge disparity.

Here is the Intel Centrino 2 (Montevina) system with Core 2 Duo CPU and GMA 4500MHD graphics (1):


Here is the AMD (“Puma”) system with a Turion X2 Ultra CPU and ATI Radeon 3200 graphics (2) :


Compare the water quality, shadows off the creatures, the grassy field dimensionality and the background fog elements (or lack thereof) between the two images.

The lower-grade Intel game graphics performance and visual experience shown here on Spore is very consistent with what AMD, Nvidia and others in the tech press have been confirming for a years. And, just to list a few:

Ironically, this is a phenomenon that has everything to do with the balance of the total platform (CPU-GPU-Chipset) versus the performance of one specific component.  Let me explain in a little more detail.  The Puma platform combined the new code-name “Griffin” CPU with the new integrated AMD M780G chipset that included the integrated ATI Radeon 3200 graphics.  The M780G chipset’s graphics is a 55nm shrink of a full desktop Radeon 2000 Series graphics, which to me explains the awesome performance and quality.  It also provides DX10, native DVI, HDMI and HDCP.  The chipset and CPU and graphics are married together and provide sophisticated power management capabilities with ATI PowerPlay,  AMD Cool ‘n ‘ Quiet Technology, and Display Cache.  In my opinion, the combined performance, quality, display, and power management capabilities are a requirement for a good mobile casual gaming experience.

Net-net, even when it comes to casual games like Spore, The Sims, or even Sim City, buyer beware:  there can be major differences in the experience with these games on a notebook–differences not changed by a cutesy TV jingle.  The industry (of which I am a part) has thus far failed to develop, deliver, and educate end-users on these differences.   To me, playing Spore at high-quality would be the low bar game experience for a notebook you just plowed $699 to $1,599 into.

If you play casual games on notebooks, I recommend looking for notebooks with ATI Radeon TM  branded graphics numbered 3200 and above and with AMD Turion  processors.

If you “beg to differ” or have your own casual game nightmare I would like to hear from you.

1)    AMD notebook specs: HP Pavilion dv5z, BIOS F.05 – 6/18/2008, AMD Turion Ultra ZM-82, DDR2-800 2GB (2 X 1GB) RAM, ATI Radeon HD 3200 Graphics , VBIOS, Seagate ST9100824AS hard drive, high Spore settings.

2)    Intel notebook spec: HP Pavilion dv5z, BIOS F.05 – 6/8/2008, Intel Core 2 Duo CPU P8400, DDR2-800 2GB (2 X 1GB) RAM, Mobile Intel(R) Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD, VBIOS, Seagate- ST9100824AS hard drive, high Spore settings..

Note: No sponsorship with EA is implied in this blog post.

Pat Moorhead is Vice President of Advanced Marketing at AMD.  His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

Related Posts