I found out some interesting info about clipping nodes and r_speeds.
First, there is something in the HL engine that subdivides planes and creates tension on the the r_speeds. With the Batch Compile, you can control this. The default setting is 240 (or 240 X 240). If you scale a texture on a plain, it stretches the subdivide thusly. However, if you change the number of the subdivide from 240 to a higher number, it will cause errors in the CSG stages of the compiler. If you increase the number and downscale a texture, it WILL NOT compensate the numbers. I tried it with hopes and failed. If you lower the Subdivide, it simply raises r_speeds. Why is this important? Simple, making textures that are 240 X 240 gives you direct control over the polygons. Also, terrain brushes that are 240 X 240 in planar sizes does not create extra planes to add to the r_speeds count. So whether you have a smooth surface or a rough terrain-like surface, if done right, the r_speeds stay exactly the same. As long as you remember that textures adjust and cut into the subdivision of planes.
Clipping nodes. Heard of them? I bet we've all used them. Since we don't know how to hint properly, most of us rely heavily on clipping nodes. Also in the Batch compiler, you can adjust the Maximun Node Size. What this does is creates map sections by default to be loaded and unloaded when seen or unseen. Simply increasing this number doesn't chop up the entire level into bitsy pieces. The default is 1024. You can easily predict how these will break up your map. All you have to do is look at the grid in Hammer. You can even measure out where they will apply. The start of any clipping node starts at the center of the world. (coord. 0, 0, 0.) Clipping nodes are also 3d so you have to consider the Y axis as well. If a section of your map is too large for a single clipping node, it will simply snap to the next node and combine with it. This could leave you with more than what you want, so plot your map's layout carefully and obey the laws of the grid.
So what's better? Good Clipping Nodes? or Hint Brushes? the answer is both. Hint brushes allow you to clip clipping nodes in half in mostly angles. The definition of a hint brush is a angular brush covered with the SKIP texture and only one side is HINT textured. ok... so how exactly do we use this? When you make a hint brush there are a few things to keep in mind.
1: The hint blocks areas if the hint is out of sight completely and the side of the brush that is textured with the hint is facing away from the player and the player cannot see it.
2: The hint will not block an area if the brush can be seen, regardless of the side the player views. If a hint brush cuts into 2 different clipping nodes that are applied, the hint brush will be ignored. This can get ugly.
3: A hint brush does not need to be one piece cutting a corner at 90 degrees. It can be two brushes at much more skewed angles if you want, or even straight edges if they apply. As long as the side of the hint brush with the hint texture is out of sight until seen properly.
4: A hint brush can block another hint brush if the area it applies to is clipped.
That's all i know at the moment.