Intel Arc A770, RX 7900 XT And RTX 4080 DirectStorage Battle Ends In A Surprise Victory
DirectStorage is out! No, seriously—DirectStorage 1.1, which can drastically accelerate game asset loading time, is already released and available for developers to use. Unfortunately, there aren't actually any games that take advantage of DirectStorage yet, which is why PCGamesHardware.de had to use a synthetic demo to run its recent tests.
The German site tested DirectStorage across high-end graphics cards from AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel using both PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 4.0 SSDs as well as a drive connected to SATA. The system in question was a Core i9-12900K desktop machine, and they tested it under Windows 11, which Microsoft says is the optimal environment for DirectStorage.
What's actually being tested here is the GPU Decompression feature of DirectStorage. Rather than the multi-stage process of sending data from storage to CPU, decompressing it there, and then sending it on to the GPU, DirectStorage 1.1 supports the ability to send it from storage, to RAM, to GPU all in compressed form before deflating it on the graphics processor itself.
This video also has a pre-built download for the benchmark in the comments.
This saves tremendously on bandwidth across the PCIe bus, and it also drastically reduces CPU usage. You can see the effects of GPU decompression on CPU usage in the video above, which compares CPU and GPU decompression on an SSD as well as on an HDD. As expected, it makes almost no difference on the HDD, but check out the CPU usage difference with the SSD.
The results from the benchmarks are fairly consistent overall: CPU decompression is the slowest, but it barely matters with the SATA drive, where the GeForce and the Radeon aren't any faster. When using NVMe SSDs, however, the CPU deflate rate is capped by the speed at which the CPU can decompress the data, where GPUs see a small but significant uplift when moving from PCIe 3.0 to 4.0.
The clear winner in the benchmarks is the Intel Arc A770 card. It's the only one to actually be a bit faster than the others with the SATA drive, and it's clearly the fastest with both PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 SSDs. Intel says that it has focused its Arc driver developments on the latest and future technologies, and that appears to be borne out by these results.
DirectStorage is likely to become a major component of PC gaming starting this year. As titles begin to become targeted specifically for current-generation game consoles with fast solid-state storage, a PCIe SSD for your game library is likely to become non-negotiable.