Graphics Enhancers

Here's how to make the most of your graphics card, monitor and PC setup.

Wind up your graphics clock

Hard-core gamers and PC power users squeeze every drop of performance out of their systems by pushing their CPU's clock frequency beyond the factory settings. You can do the same to your graphics card.

The two leading graphics card vendors, ATI and nVidia, both offer utilities for speeding up their cards' graphics processing unit (GPU). ATI's Overdrive and nVidia's Coolbits programs are included with the graphics drivers that install along with the cards. (You might need to unlock the Coolbits utility to make it visible in nVidia's Forceware configuration program.)

Note that overheating can destroy your graphics card's delicate circuitry. The Overdrive app monitors your ATI board's temperature to prevent overheating, and using it doesn't invalidate your warranty. But overclocking an nVidia board via Coolbits--or with a third-party utility like the free RivaTuner 2--does invalidate your warranty.

Teach your monitor who's BIOS

If your pc uses AGP graphics--which it probably does unless you recently purchased a midrange or high-end system--then its BIOS settings offer several low-level tweaks that can improve graphics performance.

Open your PC Setup program by pressing the key you're instructed to use prior to Windows' loading ( is most common). Look for these settings:

AGP Mode: Adjust this item to the maximum value your card supports--2X, 4X, or 8X (check the card's documentation or the vendor's Web site to identify its maximum AGP speed). This tweak can improve your system's graphics performance.

AGP Fast Write: Enabling this option often speeds up graphics cards that are not overclocked.

AGP Aperture Size: This setting governs the flow of graphics data in and out of system RAM whenever the memory on your graphics board runs low. For graphics cards with 32MB or less of memory, increasing the aperture to 128MB or higher can enhance the performance of texture-laden games.

Fine-tune your display

The fastest and simplest way to get the most out of your CRT or LCD monitor is by adjusting its brightness, contrast, and other controls; a few simple fixes can make a big difference in your on-screen view.

Stop unwanted glare--and glances

Got glare? improve your view--and reduce eyestrain--by purchasing an antiglare screen that fits over your display. 3M and Fellowes make filters that cost from US$25 to US$60 online, depending on the type and size of your display.

Of course, there are probably times when you would like to make your screen more difficult to read. A screen-privacy filter will not only reduce glare but also will limit your display's viewing angle so that nosy neighbors and passers-by can't see what you're working on. Privacy filters from 3M are priced between US$40 and US$100 online.

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Kirk Steers

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