Gaming Benchmarks - Direct3D

There are an incredible number of tests we wanted to run in order to explore all the different aspects of gaming on Vista versus gaming on XP both in 32- and 64-bit modes. For this first look, however, we will be sticking with single card setups on Vista x86, Vista x64, and Windows XP x86. In the future, we plan on looking at multi-GPU performance as well as the performance of games on Windows XP x64. With Vista, Microsoft has improved the gaming on 64-bit landscape significantly, and we would like to see just how far we have come.

For now, we will be looking at a selection of cards from AMD and NVIDIA: five cards from the Radeon X1K series and five cards from the GeForce 7 series, as well as both current 8800 parts. These tests will look at GPU and CPU limited situations, and we will be comparing Vista x86 with Windows XP as well as Vista x64 to see where there are any differences. We will also look at resolution scaling on each of our three test operating systems, but only with two cards representing AMD and NVIDIA: the X1950 XTX and 8800 GTX.

In terms of APIs, one DirectX and one OpenGL game will be tested. Oblivion will represent the MS API, while Quake 4 will be showing off OpenGL performance on Vista. We have also taken a look at a native 64-bit game. Valve's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast will be run on all three operating systems in native mode. We would like to have compared HL2:LC running in WoW at 32-bit under x64, but we have not been able to figure out how to test it without running in 64-bit mode yet.

First up is Oblivion performance. DirectX performance should be as close as possible to Windows XP performance as this is Microsoft's baby. First, let's take a look at Vista x86 numbers divided by Windows XP scores for CPU limited and GPU limited cases. This will give us the speed up (numbers above one) or slow down (numbers less than one) as compared to Windows XP. Just remember that there is some normal fluctuation in performance on both sides, so we could see a wider margin of error here than in our standard comparisons.

Vista Gaming Performance Normalized to XP

Vista Gaming Performance Normalized to XP

For CPU bound tests, almost every card performs better under Windows Vista than under Windows XP; the lone exception is the X1900 XT 256MB. This indicates that Vista is better able to provide system resources to DirectX games, which is actually quite surprising considering the overhead that Vista adds to the system.

When we take a look at the GPU bound case, we see almost the opposite with only the 8800 GTS performing better than it does on Windows XP. This does line up with what we would expect. There is more involvement from the OS in the rendering pipeline and less direct access to the hardware by games. Vista is now able to manage graphics memory and graphics drivers must support sharing of hardware resources between multiple programs. Luckily, the differences aren't that huge. While the hardcore gamers won't be happy with any performance loss, Microsoft is betting that in the long term the advantages will outweigh the loss in framerate.

Now let's take a look at how Vista stacks up against XP in an x86 vs. x64 comparison

Vista x64 Gaming Performance Normalized to XP

Vista x64 Gaming Performance Normalized to XP

On the CPU limited results, most of the cards again run faster on Vista x64. This is frankly amazing, as even Microsoft expects performance to be slightly slower on Vista. In the GPU limited results, we see basically a random scattering of cards that are slightly slower or faster under Vista x64. Given that Oblivion is a 32-bit application running in WoW, we would be pretty happy with only small performance losses, and any performance improvements are unexpected but welcome. All in all, x64 performance looks good, and we haven't seen the types of compatibility and stability issues between the two that we did with XP x64.

Last up for Oblivion is resolution scaling.



Both the 8800 GTX and X1950 XTX scale very similarly across platforms. There does seem to be more difference in CPU limited settings, while performance seems to converge as resolution increases.

Graphical Gotchas Gaming Benchmarks - OpenGL and x64
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  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, February 3, 2007 - link

    That's up to Vista, it benchmarks a flash drive to make sure it's fast enough to be effectively used as a ReadyBoost cache. If ReadyBoost won't engage, then your drive isn't passing one(or more) of their tests. Reply
  • mlambert890 - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    How is the PC hemmhoraging marketshare to the Mac? You've got to be kidding. Their marketshare in 06 rose from a pathetic 4.4 to a somewhat less pathetic 4.8. Thats with ALL of their ridiculous hype, ALL of the asskissing from the press (including you guys now I guess?) and ALL of the armies of lunatic "Mac priests" that pollute every forum.

    Its hillarious that you would position this tiny growth in a share that declined steadily for 22 years until it hit rock bottom at like 3% in 2003 as a "hemmhorage". I have to wonder why you would characterize it that way. To be honest, it reeks of bias.
    Reply
  • quanta - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    Think about it, ReadyBoost is treated by Vista as random access memory, to store temoprary contents than can change very often. Considering typical USB flash drive only has 100k write cycle, you will need to replace it very soon. Worse yet, when the flash drive is gone, so will your critical data at the worst possible time. With the hardware requirement of Vista, no amount of wear levelling is going to help. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    No, this is wrong.

    ReadyBoost is a write-through data cache handled by the SuperFetch system; when enabled SuperFetch uses it as another cache location optimized for small files. Based on the information we've seen, it's used primarily to store DLLs and other static and semi-static data that is needed an intermediate amount of time(not important enough to spend valuable RAM, important enough to cache), with highly dynamic data sent to SuperFetch or the hard disk to avoid unnecessary wear out. It will most certainly put wear on flash memory, but it seems unlikely that it will put 51TB of write-wear(the amount of data that needs to be written on a 512MB flash card to write over all bits 100k times) before several years out.

    Of course, this is as according to Microsoft. We don't really know what exactly is being stored on a ReadyBoost drive at any given moment, however we have no reason to believe that Microsoft isn't really taking efforts to minimize writes. We'll find out if/when flash memory starts wearing out.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    We'll see. Please remember that the 100k write cycle is an average, that the flash is used as a small cache only, and that write leveling of COURSE will help before making assumptions.

    Ive been beating up flash for YEARS thats still going. There are moves to literally put OS's on flash based hard drives. Hybrid drives already use the same concept as ReadyBoost (and are also supported on Vista).

    Using flash as a cache for magnetic media is not some untested concept that is going to lead to global data destruction.

    MS must have really destroyed their mindshare that so many armchair scientists are just fully willing to believe that theyve figured out ALL the stuff that the "idiots" in Redmond dont realize. Give a little credit to the armies of PhDs that work on at least the basic concept for this crap. Maybe implementation gets flawed by the realities of release cycles and budgets, but BASIC CONCEPT is typically sound.
    Reply
  • dugbug - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    UAC is like a firewall -- chatty at first (during installs and configurations), but once you have set up your system you will hardly ever hear from it. This should be obvious to the authors.

    And for that matter, the 6-operation file delete they discuss in the beginning was for deleting a file on a shared desktop (meaning a delete was for all users). This is commonplace for enterprise and workplace users, it should be no surprise that a file used by others would require permissions to delete. Though Im glad the number of operations was greatly reduced.

    As to the comments about vista being sluggish? Perhaps it is RAM? I have 2Gb and vista runs without any slowdown at all. Once you use it for a while you won't go back to XP.

    -d
    Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    Untrue. Enthusiasts use lots of things like the Control Panel, MMC console, etc. and these all require UAC every time. Currently, I also have startup programs on my beta-test box that UAC blocks. This would be fine, if UAC had a feature saying "Yes, I know what this program is, let it run every time all the time" and be done. But, UAC doesn't have this option, so a user has to allow the program to run every single freaking time they boot their machine.

    I've tried changing the program properties so that it runs as Administrator; that hasn't solved the problem. I turned off UAC, which gives me a lovely annoying red-X shield in the system tray that every so often decides to warn me with a popup balloon that UAC is turned off and I could be in danger, so it's annoying even when turned off, and there's no easy way around it. Enthusiasts do a lot with their computers, and what they do is likely to increase their number of UAC prompts. Bottom line: Unlike OS X's methods, Vista's UAC happens far more often, and is far more annoying. And because it doesn't require a password (like OS X) and is just a click-through, I'll put money down that within a year, it will be worthless, as the average user will learn to click through it without reading a single bit of info.
    Reply
  • funk3y - Sunday, February 4, 2007 - link

    The red cross can also be disabled for sure; on my computer, which is a member of a domain I recieve no error message at all, even if UAC & co are disabled. Reply
  • haplo602 - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    Realy. What's the hype all about ?

    SuperFetch - trivial change to caching mechanisms. Anybody that would require it would have already implemented it in *NIX systems. This is a purely desktop user feature to hid some processing overhead. There's nothing new about this that would prevent implementation in w2k already except MS incompetence ...

    ReadyBoost - So the new standard is to have a permanently attached USB stick to have some performance ?

    Compund TCP, Receive window auto tuning - I laughed like mad. So they finaly made a proper implementation of something network related? End even then Vista is SLOWER. I'd suggest take a stand-alone NIC that Vista nad XP have drivers for themselves and test it. Should rule out driver bugs.

    I/O improvements - so I make an app that makes a high priority high capacity I/O operation (say 1GB) and you can go for lunch till the system is anyway usable. Seriously. I/O in small chunks makes perfect sense in multitasking environments since you have more entry point and can adjust the stream on OS level and tune performance. That XP or Vista are stupid enough to do this is their fault. I guess MS will hype this as the next best thing in a future OS ?

    All in All every feature hyped in the article does not deserve a Marketing Name(tm) because it is a normal concept. So we have a shiny new bigger and slower OS that is hiding this behind hyped features. F.E. memory compression could very much improve system performance without relying on external devices (ReadyBoost).
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    Just admit your bias man. There is NOTHING MS could do that would cause you to give them kudos. I spend my days arguing with guys like you for a living (unfortunately) and its just exhausting.

    I could point you to REAMS of documentation of all the crap that has been rewritten and overhauled in Vista, but whats the point? You want to hate it so hate it.

    Its sad that technology debates are STILL religion for so many after all this time :(
    Reply

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