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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  • LoneWolf15 - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    Firefox runs just fine on Vista. I've been running versions of it (both 1.5x and now 2.x) on Vista since RC1 (I've tested Beta 2, pre-RC1, RC1, and am running RC2 on a spare box).

    While IE is fast at loading pages on Vista, I've never been able to get used to IE7's UI. After trying to keep my beta-testing experience as MS-app-oriented as possible, I couldn't and loaded FF.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    I have to say, LoneWolf, that I agree with you when it comes to IE7 on Windows XP. I installed it and it simply didn't fit at all. Although, for some reason, IE7 doesn't seem weird on Vista at all. It's probably because of how Windows Explorer also looks the same (lack of a menu bar).

    Also to go along with LoneWolf, I have had no issues with Firefox (2.0.0.1) in Vista so far :).
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    I didn't see this covered in my first pass through this article, but I was interested in learning more about the potential impact of MS's new Universal Audio Architecture on gaming performance, which I recently saw covered in a http://www.dailytech.com/Underneath+Microsofts+Uni...">DailyTech news item. Reply
  • quanta - Friday, February 2, 2007 - link

    There is NO performance to speak of, because Vista does not support hardware DirectSound acceleration. Alchemy only works on X-Fi, so anything older is useless. Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    One thing ive really been wondering about is what MCE is like in Vista? The article briefly mentioned TV Tuner support worked fine, but was MCE tried? Was it different? How was its performance under Vista? For me, thats the deciding factor. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    I'll be doing a look at MCE in Vista as soon as we get a system in house with the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner (formerly known as OCUR). I'm hoping that this will happen in the coming weeks.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    Anand, doesn't that digital tuner require some special sort of hardware to run? I believe I remember a thread on the forums (under Video if I remember correctly) that discussed how it won't run on every system regardless of how powerful they are.

    One thing I'm curious of... does Windows Vista's MC application have the same tuner restrictions as MCE's MC application? Because I originally purchased a TV Wonder Pro awhile back for normal use, and now it sits in my MCE machine dormant, because MCE doesn't support it (although open source MC-esque applications do). If it weren't for the nice ATi RF remote, I probably would've sold it already for one that works in MCE :P.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    To be honest, I have never more than glanced at MCE, as I don't have a HTPC to make much use of it. I could tell you a bit about it, but I'm not really qualified to go in-depth about it, so we left it out. Reply
  • Myrandex - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    same here too. I used to run XP64 full time but then switched to MCE for the MCE app. I am really interested in Vista x64 with MCE and I would have loved to see something about it. Reply
  • ATWindsor - Thursday, February 1, 2007 - link

    I really hope there is som driver-issue that explains the poor network-performance in this test, XP is already pretty bad in this regard, one of the big things with Vista is that the network performance should be better.

    And furthermore i have two questions: The search, does it support network-drives? Search Desktop for XP does not...

    Is there software raid-5 support in Vista?

    A few disappointing things with Vista:
    - Still the 255-charachter-limit, that is really annoying.
    - Still an enormously primitive file-copying-application. This is basic important stuff that should be better.

    AtW
    Reply

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