DirectStorage Benchmarks Pit PCIe 3 SSDs Against PCIe 4 And PCIe 5 With Interesting Results

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Microsoft's DirectStorage is based on development done for the "Velocity Architecture" in the Xbox Series family of consoles. The intention is to drastically improve performance under a "sustained random" I/O workload such as that used by a game streaming assets. Forspoken is the first video game to support DirectStorage, and benchmarks of it seem to suggest relatively small difference between PCIe 3 and PCIe 5 NVMe SSDS.

Those benchmarks were done by the Compusemble YouTube channel. Those fellows seem to have quite an interest in DirectStorage, as this is the channel that prepared and tested the pre-built DirectStorage benchmark. Compusemble tested the Forspoken benchmark running from PCIe 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 SSDs using a pre-release Phison E26 reference platform like the one we tested early last month.

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Benchmarks performed by Compusemble on YouTube.

The PCIe 5 SSD does generally come out on top, as you'd expect, but it's not as clear a win as you might think. The PCIe 4.0 SSD beats it at last once, and they're never more than a couple tenths of a second away from each other in load time. However, as the channel notes in the comments (and as we mentioned in our preview), that Phison reference platform is actually using under-spec'd 1600 MT/s flash memory. Retail PCIe 5.0 drives with the full-speed 2400 MT/s flash will likely outperform this drive significantly.

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This brief scene has the biggest difference between the SSDs in the benchmark.

Still, even the PCIe 3.0 SSD is only a couple of seconds apart from the other two drives at worst; the slowest loading time in the whole video is about three seconds. The maximum transfer rate of PCIe 3.0 x4 is a theoretical 4GB/second; there's no reason a PCIe 3.0 SSD couldn't maintain the necessary 2.4 GB/second throughput mandated by DirectStorage.

The likely reason for the fairly-small difference in the drives is because Forspoken rarely gets up to even 3GB/second transfers at the busiest. This could be down to the limits of CPU decompression, as Forspoken doesn't actually make use of the most important feature of DirectStorage, GPU Decompression.

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Of course, all of this is kind of academic in the face of Forspoken being an apparently rather mediocre game. Metacritic reviews for the title have it at just 66% with an incredibly low user score of 1.7, while the usually-more-balanced Steam reviews are only at 58%. Not the best showing for the first DirectStorage game, but we likely won't have long to wait for the next one.