||Windows Vista Aero Glass Performance Hit in Games
January 29, 2007 Efstathios Stathi Papadopoulos
Summary: With its new 3D user interface, we assumed Windows Vista's Aero Glass interface would come with a huge performance hit in games. After all, turning on all the eye candy in previous versions of Windows always came with a hit. So how much does game performance suffer with Aero Glass turned on? You may be surprised by the results!!
| Vista Performance/Gaming Mini Article||Page:: ( 1 / 4 )|
What to expect
In any case, Windows Vista is visually stunning, offering plenty of eye candy, bells and whistles to users of this new operating system. Most of the desktop in Windows Vista utilizes DirectX 9 to render the graphics, while games can either be played with DirectX 9 or the newest addition to the family, DirectX 10.
This mini article will aim at the performance hit associated with eye candy within Vista being turned on (Vista’s Aero Glass desktop) or off and how that will affect gaming performance. Visual effects like sliding and fading menus, transparent windows, and colorful toolbars do take system memory away from the system, lowering the amount of memory available for gaming.
In Windows XP Pro, the performance hit from turning on animated menus and other eye candy effects was around 3-5%. Because of this, we always test with these features turned off to ensure consistency. Considering the 3D nature of Vista’s Aero Glass interface, we were concerned the performance hit could be even greater, and thus we have the basis for our article.
In this article we will test the performance of Half Life 2: Lost Coast and 3DMark 2006 Professional with Vista’s visual effects turned all the way up and down to see what impact Vista’s eye candy has on gaming.
Visual effects can be turned on and off by going into system properties and navigating to the performance tab. From there, you can turn on individual effects on or off, or you can adjust for maximum performance or appearance. See the examples below that show the desktop, and then what it looks like with visual settings turned all the way up and turned off.
|<% print_image("01"); %>||<% print_image("02"); %>|
|<% print_image("03"); %>||<% print_image("04"); %>|
| System specs||Page:: ( 2 / 4 )|
Current System Specs:
Windows Vista Ultimate RTM
AMD Athlon FX 60 (Socket 939)
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (Socket 939)
Asus A8R32 MVP Deluxe Motherboard
1GB x 2 Corsair XMS3502 v1.3
150GB Western Digital Raptor Hard Drive
ATI Radeon X1900XTX 512MB
Catalyst Drivers 8.333
E-Power 650W PSU
Voodoo PC Customized Case Enclosure
Pioneer DVR-111DBK DL DVDRW Drive
Half Life 2: Lost Coast Video Stress Test
3DMark 2006 Professional v1.1.0
| Benchmarks||Page:: ( 3 / 4 )|
3DMark 06 - Direct3D
Lost Coast Video Stress Test - Direct3D
The results for the Athlon 3800+ are clearly capped when running the video stress test in Half Life 2: Lost Coast. In terms of eye candy being turned on and off, even 3DMark fails to show that it is the case.
Even with the faster FX 60, Window’s Vista’s Aero Glass interface plays a small role in the performance when gaming. The results sometimes favor Aero Glass in terms of performance, and often times the difference is 1% or less. In other words, it looks like we’re well within the margin of error for our tests.
| Final thoughts||Page:: ( 4 / 4 )|
Quite frankly, we were shocked by these results.
We decided to ping AMD to get their take on things. We weren’t certain if the performance results we were seeing with Aero Glass were due to changes in the new driver model, or if the GPU we tested was just so powerful that Aero Glass didn’t affect it. Here is the question Brandon asked AMD and this is the response we got back from AMD’s Andrew Dodd:
FiringSquad: We ran some benchmarks with Aero Glass on and off and noted no performance difference when using Catalyst 7.1! Normally under an OS you see a slight 3-5% performance hit when you turn on the eye candy, but that wasn’t there under Aero Glass which was definitely surprising. Do you think the new driver model helps Aero Glass performance or is it something else?
Andrew Dodd: Basically (pretty much because of the new Vista driver model) the Vista OS just suspends Aero in the background, (once you enter 3D exclusive mode it would be a waste of GPU resources to keep running Aero). So that’s why there’s no performance impact
As a result of the changes Microsoft has implemented in Vista, gaming performance no longer suffers when desktop eye candy effects are left on. This is great news for gamers who enjoy the benefits of Aero Glass, but were concerned with its performance impact: there is none. This is unheard of for a Microsoft OS!
We’ve just scratched the surface of our Vista coverage, with more articles on Microsoft’s latest OS on the way, and while there are aspects of Vista we’d like to see improved, it appears so far that performance may not be as great a concern with Vista as initially feared. That’s definitely a good thing in our opinion.