Can I really run it?
December 28, 2011 10:30 AM   Subscribe

So I know about computers and I know about software. I don't know how they go together for games and wondering if there's an easy way to tell if my computer can run certain games.

With the recent steam sale I have been looking at buying some of the games but I am unsure if my computer can run them. I get lost when it comes to the video card and processors and if my video card is better or worse than the ones they have listed. Is there an easy way that I can figure out if my computer can run something? I have heard of Can You RUN It and it says that I can run the games but under video RAM it says I have 3GB RAM which doesn't seem right to me. So lets take Skyrim for example, would my computer be able to run it? If it can, at what settings?

I have an HP Pavilion dv7 with Intel Core i5-460M Dual Core Processor (2.53 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz and 8GB DDR3 System Memory and a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 switchable graphics [HDMI, VGA] card.
posted by lilkeith07 to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
Here's a hierchical organization of video cards. It's rough but close enough.

Here's a video of a guy playing Skyrim on something that fairly closely approximates your computer.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:44 AM on December 28, 2011

With video cards, typically you can just compare the numbers in the name of the card to see which one is bigger, and therefore better, but only within a single line of products. So, to use one particularly confusing example, if you had a Geforce 8600 video card, that would run any game that requires a card as good as or better than a Geforce 8000. But it would not run a game that requires a Geforce 500, because the 500, perversely, is three years more advanced than the 8000.

That's why Wikipedia can be a big help for this kind of thing. If you look up your video card, you'll find a list of every card in that line, ordered from least powerful to most powerful. Here is that list for Radeons. If you need to know where your HD 5450 stands in relation to a required card, just look up the card on that chart and check if it came before or after the 5000 series. For video memory, all you have to know is that that's what the "512 MB" in the card's name means. So you have 512 MB of video RAM.

For processors, the comparison is easier - if the game requires less than a 2.5 GhZ dual-core processor, you're good. If it doesn't say that it needs a dual-core processor, you're super good. Modern processors are sufficiently improved from the days of yore that if the game does not specifically require a dual-core CPU, you don't have to worry about it, no matter what the numbers say. Your Core i5 is so far beyond the single-core Pentium 4 that it can handle with ease something that wouldn't run at all on a P4 of the same nominal speed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:08 AM on December 28, 2011

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