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To download or not to download online casinos?

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With literally hundreds of online casinos to choose from, one of the major factors that bewildered punters often have to consider is whether they go with a downloadable casino, or stick to playing online. As if figuring out which games manufactures you like the best, which types of jackpot you’re after, how many lines you want to play on your slots and thousands of other criteria were not enough, you’re then also faced with a plethora of technical considerations when you make the decision to download or not.

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Some of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself will be fairly obvious, for example you’ll need to know if there’s enough space on your PC for your intended download, and that’s assuming you’ll even be permitted to install the software anyway: You needn’t necessarily if you’ve got the wrong operating system…

In fact, most of the more obvious considerations are well-documented and generally don’t present too much of a problem: Even the largest downloadable casinos only use around 5 Megabytes of your RAM space, which isn’t likely to be a deal breaker for most users, with PCs typically offering at least 2 Gigabytes of RAM – that’s over 2,000 Megabytes – so you could probably download every casino you could find on the web and still be OK, though there wouldn’t be much point: Despite there being hundreds of casinos to choose from, there are only, in fact, half a dozen basic types at the most – and they’re not all downloadable anyway:

Of those that do offer downloads the largest will be a Microgaming casino such as Jackpot City, which will take up just 3.52 Megabytes at present. By the time you’ve added a Playtech installation (Casino Tropez is a good one – it’s Playtech’s flagship casino and get the latest games before everyone else, and takes up just 0.172 Megabytes), then you’re pretty much set with all the downloads you could possibly want. The other major games providers are Net Entertainment, Betsoft and IGT/Wagerworks – and you’ll be hard put to find a download casino offering their games anyway.

You also need to check out security risks: Firstly, which is safer? Playing online or downloading? Anecdotal evidence these days suggests that downloading carries a risk of inviting malware onto your PC, such as viruses, Trojan Horses or spyware – but what’s the likelihood of you really being caught out these days? Bearing in mind that there are only really the 2 aforementioned software houses offering download casinos anyway, it’s not considered much of a risk as these companies know exactly what they’re doing – we certainly haven’t come across any complaints at all.

Whilst we’re on the subject of risk, you’re money’s safer then ever these days, too. Ever since the development of P128 SSL encryption technology, no reputable casino has had an issue, with your bank details and other personal data jumbled up beyond anyone’s recognition and deciphered at the casino’s server, the risk to you is negligible nowadays though it won’t be a deciding factor when choosing to download or not.

Back to your PC itself, though: Sadly there’s no getting round the fact that casinos are still very Windows orientated. There are sites that welcome Mac and Linux players, but we’ve yet to find one that’ll offer a download for those users, so if you’re not using Windows, forget about downloading – the decision’s been made for you. In terms of Windows specifications, anything from Windows 2000 onwards seems to work fine for any decent casino, so don’t panic if you haven’t got Windows 7 (not that many people do…)

The less obvious side to all of this really concerns the games themselves:

Firstly, don’t fall for the hype: Even reputable casinos will encourage you to download. Once you’ve gone through the rigmarole of downloading their software and filling in the forms you’re that much more committed to them and less likely to go off and visit other casino sites. They therefore have a vested interest in telling you that you’ll have a significantly better playing experience on their download. Granted, you’ll get marginally better graphics and sound, but in the last few years the difference has become almost imperceptible. The acid test as far as we’re concerned is the Roulette wheel. Here’s Mansion Casino’s fabulous 3d wheel from their download site:

It’s the best Roulette wheel on the web. Now take a look at the online version:

No real difference, is there? We found the same applied to other measures, i.e., sound and motion. Admittedly the download allows some customisation – background chatter or music options, faster play, that kind of thing, but we found no significant reason to use the download version of this particular, or any other Playtech casino – quite the opposite in fact. Stick to the online versions and you can skip between Playtech sites until you find one that has optimal bonus conditions and customer service: Punter power in its purest form…

So if the games aren’t significantly better via download, you’re probably wondering if it’s ever worth downloading at all. Actually, it sometimes is: Firstly, though, we recommend that you don’t bother unless you want a Microgaming site – which many players will. With Microgaming, you typically get over 400 games on their download, with just 150-odd online. That’s a hell of a lot – in the region of over 4 or 5 times the number offered by other providers – and if you’re a hardcore player you’ll have your favourites and you won’t want any of them to be missing. Playtech sites, on the other hand, tend to offer more or less everything online…

And it’s with hardcore players in mind that we recommend a Microgaming download for another reason: Blackjack and tournament play. You’ll find more varieties of Blackjack at Microgaming casinos than anywhere else, with tourneys often thrown in for good measure – check out casinos like 32 Red or Jackpot city to see the full quota of 42 Blackjack and Blackjack Gold series of games, with extensive tournament play added on top. You simply won’t get this any other way, so the download is a no-brainer.

But for the rest of us, why bother? There’s always a guaranteed way to work out whether something’s worth doing when it comes to web technology, and that’s by looking at the industry leaders: Without a doubt it’s now Net Entertainment and Betsoft who are developing the most immersive, innovative games around, with the best characters, storylines and 3d graphics. And are their games available on download casinos? No they are not. They use sites like Mr Green’s, Guru Play and Casino Luck, all of which play like a dream but are online only. It’s hardly surprising really: with Google having reached the point where they’ve launched the Chromebook, more and more people are using remote servers to hold their files and downloads will mainly become a thing of the past – though not just yet with online casinos. As well as having way more games, Microgaming have more casinos than any other manufacturer. With such a huge catalogue and market penetration, we fully expect that serious Blackjack lovers and slotheads will be downloading their sites for a good few years yet.

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