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PC gaming performance on Windows 8: A hard-data analysis

Loyd Case | Oct. 5, 2012
In the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8, Microsoft has implemented scads of changes to improve the operating system's performance and responsiveness. To wit: The DirectX programming interface adds more robust 2D functionality, and in Windows 8 it helps render all desktop windows, and even accelerates the new Start screen.

I've run only about a dozen PC games on Windows 8 to date, and these are the only issues I've encountered so far. However, I haven't run some of the older games in my collection. Older games on Windows 8 might be a good topic for the future.

Futuremark Sysinfo: If you try to install any of the Futuremark benchmarks as is, they may not run on Windows 8. The problem lies with a module, Sysinfo, which enumerates the hardware in the system prior to the benchmark run. Downloading and installing the latest version of Sysinfo fixed the issue.

Performance results: Synthetic benchmarks

Let's first compare the results of the Futuremark benchmarks.

PCMark 7 is a general-purpose benchmark, with a minor, DirectX 9-based game component. The general PCMark score that PCMark 7 generated under Windows 8 was about 5 percent faster than the result under Windows 7: 5501 for Windows 8 versus 5248 under Windows 7.

The DirectX 10 3DMark Vantage performance test posted a score of 31,183 on Windows 8, versus 30,874 on Windows 7. Don't be fooled: That's less than a 0.1 percent difference, so it's a statistical dead heat.

3DMark 2011 uses DirectX 11, including hardware tessellation and DirectCompute for computing physics. Running Windows 7, the system posted a 3DMark 2011 performance score of 9299; it hit a score of 9361 on Windows 8. Again, that difference is so minor as to be essentially identical.

Unigine Heaven can really hammer on the GPU's tessellation engine. With the test running at 1920 by 1200 with 4x antialiasing enabled, Windows 8 and Windows 7 each posted a score of 51 frames per second.

Game benchmarks

Ultimately, in the synthetic benchmark suites, we saw a minor improvement in general performance under Windows 8, but the results were pretty much a dead heat on 3D rendering. What about games?

Crysis 2: At first blush, Crysis 2 ran substantially more slowly on Windows 8, operating at 61 frames per second, while hitting frame rates of about 69 fps on Windows 7. The issue turned out to be vsync (vertical synchronization), which synchronizes frames generated in games with the refresh rate of the monitor (60Hz). Turning off vsync in Crysis 2 or even in the Nvidia driver control panel had no effect. Some users have reported that turning vsync on, and then turning it back off, fixes such problems. But our benchmark script can't do that, so for the time being our Crysis 2 test is pointless, since vsync is essentially locked to the monitor refresh rate.

Shogun 2: Total War: Shogun 2 allows you to adjust more GPU knobs and levers than just about any other game on the market. When I cranked up everything to maximum settings, Shogun 2 under Windows 8 generated substantially higher frame rates than it did on Windows 7. In Windows 8, Shogun 2 at 1920 by 1200 with 4x antialiasing enabled hit 56 fps; under Windows 7 it managed only 35 fps. That's a hefty difference. You probably won't see that big a difference in actual gameplay, but it's still worth noting.

 

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