SLI Under The Microscope: Vista vs. XP

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Enemy Territory Quake Wars, World In Conflict And Bioshock

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Performance Comparisons with World In Conflict
Killer visuals, heavy-duty physics
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World In Conflict
Real-time strategy game, World In Conflict has to be easily one the most impressive game engines we've seen in the recent onslaught of releases.  Massive Entertainment's proprietary MassTech engine offers some of the most stunning and realistic visuals shown to date in the genre and its engine allows complete destructibility and object permanence relying heavily on CPU-based physics calculations.  As such the game is somewhat CPU bound but it still does put a relatively heavy load on the graphics pipeline.  We tested the game at 1920X1200 resolution with 4X AA enabled.

 

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With World In Conflict, things are decidedly more CPU-bound than any other benchmark we've tested in this article.  In fact, between the 162 and 163 ForceWare driver releases, we see very little performance variance but there is a 15% hit associated with running the game in a Windows Vista installation with SLI.

 

Performance Comparisons with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
The Doom 3 Engine On Steroids

 

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
id recently released demo of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars breathes new life into the aging Doom3 engine with the implementation of a terrain texturing technology John Carmack refers to as MegaTextures.  MegaTextures are basically extremely large terrain textures stored and streamed into the game engine as required.  This circumvents the need to repeat multiple smaller textures and looks absolutely stunning in outdoor environments.  ET: Quake Wars is a the Doom 3 engine on steroids meets Battle Field 2 and then some and it looks great at 1920X1200 with 4X AA, as we tested below.

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A traditional strong-suit for NVIDIA graphics, the Megatexture-enhanced Doom 3 engine in ET: Quake Wars shows a 5% performance gain with NVIDIA's latest driver release in SLI and only about a 10% performance hit in upgrading your OS from Windows XP to Vista.

 

Performance Comparisons with Bioshock
DX10 Gaming Performance

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Bioshock
Bioshock is DX10 infused port of the hit title initially launched on the Xbox 360.  This "genetically enhanced" first person shooter, as 2K Games likes to call it, employs impressive pixel shader techniques for very impressive visuals and exciting game play.  Built on Epics Unreal Engine 3, it does have a few DX10 shader effects at play, targeted at more impressive rendering results.  The game engine itself allows DX10 capable systems to turn on a DX10 shader mode in the game's graphics control panel.  Though the effects are subtle, more realistic shadowing and particle and smoke detail can be seen in certain effects during game-play.  We set our resolution to 1920X1200 again and turned up 4X AA and 16X aniso filtering.

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Our contacts at NVIDIA informed us that they have been hard at work optimizing SLI performance specifically in Bioshock's DX10 mode under Windows Vista.  As such we see a huge performance gain on the order of about 27%, with the latest ForceWare 163.39 driver release.  In fact, the game's DX10 mode in Vista is actually slightly faster than DX9 mode with our GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI.  And though there is about a 20% performance hit versus DX9 under Window XP, our DX10 Vista driven game test is extremely fluid, hitting 80+ FPS at a taxing 1920X1200 resolution with 4X AA.

 

Our quick-take look at NVIDIA SLI performance in Windows Vista and DX10 versus DX9 in some gaming scenarios, paints a pretty detailed picture.  The basic moral of the story at this point is that, as expected, NVIDIA has been able to make significant strides in terms of increasing performance for multi-GPU rendering with Microsoft's new operating system.  Though Bioshock was the most significant example of recent gains and driver optimizations with both Vista and DX10, SLI performance in Vista is now roughly on par with Windows XP performance with like settings, with a 5 - 15% swing in favor of NVIDIA's more mature XP drivers, depending on the game engine involved.  Regardless, gone are the days it seems, of sub-par NVIDIA SLI performance in Windows Vista.  We look forward to bringing you more insight with respect to the state of DX9 and DX10 gaming on both NVIDIA and AMD platforms in the next week, so stay tuned.

 

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Tags:  Vista, sli, XP, OS, MIC, Scope, microscope, Micro

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