Half Life 2 GPU Roundup Part 2 - Mainstream DX8/DX9 Battleby Anand Lal Shimpi on November 19, 2004 6:35 PM EST
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DirectX 9 Performance Impact
Now that you've seen what improvements Half Life 2's DX9 path can give you, let's take a look at the price to pay for some of those impressive visual effects. In order to measure the impact of the DX9 path we did the following: ran benchmarks using both the DX8 and DX9 paths, then took the percentage decrease in performance seen by going to DX9. We then averaged the percentage decrease across all five of our custom Half Life 2 benchmarks, per card, per resolution. We will look at actual performance numbers shortly, but this is just to give you an idea of what's to come:
At 800 x 600 the game is mostly CPU bound on cards like the Radeon 9600XT, thus the performance drom from DX8 to DX9 is quite small. Even on cards like the X300 and the Radeon 9550 the performance hit isn't too bad at less than 20%. But here's the kicker, the GeForce 5900XT sees almost a 60% drop in performance by going to DX9 mode. This type of a performance drop should be relatively consistent across the entire NV3x line (e.g. FX 5900 Ultra, FX 5600, etc...).
At 1024 x 768 now all of the GPUs are in double digit performance losses, but even the GeForce 6200 with its 25% performance hit is nothing compared to the 5900XT which incurrs a 65% performance hit when going to DX9.
At 1280 x 1024 things get just a little worse, but you should get the picture by now - the GeForce FX line does not perform well as a DX9 part under Half Life 2.
You will undoubtedly see these statistics reflected in the actual performance of the 5900XT in the coming pages, but basically if you are a NV3x GPU owner you will want to run Half Life 2 in DX8 mode and not DX9 mode.
Now let's take a look at how the rest of the GPUs perform in both DX8 and DX9 modes. For these tests we used the exact same drivers and platforms as our first article, just with different video cards so the numbers are comparable.