The State of DirectX 10 - Image Quality & Performance

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Lost Planet: Performance


Lost Planet offers very little in the way of DirectX 10 image quality enhancements, as we saw on the previous page. Besides the odd fur effect, Lost Planet looks the same in DirectX 9 as it does in DirectX 10. We suspect that this is due to Lost Planet's console heritage. Since the game is a near exact port of the XBOX 360 version, we're not surprised that the PC version didn't receive much in the way of graphical enhancements. This would lead us to assume that performance between DX9 and DX10 in Lost Planet will also be very similar.

Lost Planet has some of the lowest system requirements out of the games we are testing today. Requiring only a P4 class single core processor running at 1.5GHz, 512MB of memory and a DX9c compliant video card with 128MB of onboard video memory. This makes the game very accessible and we'll be keeping an eye on how our midrange cards perform.

Lost Planet System Requirements

For our benchmarks, all graphics settings were turned up to their highest level. Anti-aliasing was turned on and set to 4X while anisotropic filtering was set to 16X. Vertical sync was manually disabled in-game as well as forced off in the graphics driver options.

Lost Planet has a built-in automated benchmark that can be accessed from the first menu layer that the game starts in. The automated benchmark has two parts, both of which take place in the first mission in the game. The first part of the benchmark is a fly-through of the first section of the level, starting at the spawn point and moving through until the cave entrance is reached. Then the benchmark proceeds to the second part of the test. Now the camera is fixed in the middle of the cave and slowly rotates. Once two rotations have been completed, the benchmark starts over. An average frame rate is produced for each section of the benchmark. For our purposes, we have taken the average of the frame rates produced by the two sections of the benchmark to create a single number that we will use to represent each individual benchmark run.

For the sake of accuracy, each benchmark run was attempted five times and the results were averaged.
Benchmark runs that resulted in strange values that did not correlate with the rest of the results were discarded and the benchmark run was attempted a second time.

Lost Planet Performance Comparison
DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 Performance Compared


The results we obtained from our testing gave us a heap of data which we have summarized in the tables above. Despite it's relatively sparse usage of DX10 image quality enhancements, Lost Planet still demonstrates a significant performance drop from DX9 to DX10. The game also wasn't as hardware friendly as the system specifications would suggest. Our two mid-range cards were rather unplayable, even at 1280x1024.

The three higher-end cards all maintained playable frame rates throughout, although the Radeon 2900 XT really suffered in DirectX 10. While both 8800 cards only displayed a relatively small performance drop from DX9 to DX10, the 2900 XT's performance plummeted in DX10. The 2900 XT maintains a playable frame rate at all three resolutions in DX9 but in DX10, it had trouble running the games at a decent frame rate at anything above 1280x1024.

We found that the system requirements are quite optimistic. While several of the games we've tested so far have really punished our mid-range cards, with only minor image quality adjustments we were able to obtain playable frame rates in those games. This wasn't the case with Lost Planet. We were able to play the game with both of the mid-range cards, but only at a significant cost of image quality.

In our search for playable frame rates for the two mid-range cards, we noticed an interesting trend. When using DX10 rendering, but with all of the DX10 exclusive features turned off, the game sometimes  performed better than when it is using DX9 rendering. With all of the DX10 exclusive featured disabled, the game is essentially identical in image quality to DX9. We decided to run a full set of apples-to-apples benchmarks in order to explore this phenomenon.

These three graphs represent the data we collected in our look at apples-to-apples performance in Lost Planet. When no DX10 exclusive features are enabled, Lost Planet exhibits a completely different characteristic than it did when running with all DX10 enhancements turned on. Interestingly, despite having identical image quality with the game in DX9, when the game is running in DX10 with exclusive options disabled, all of our cards performed much better. So much better that all three NVIDIA cards actually ended up performing better in DX10 than DX9 at all three image quality settings. This means that by switching to DX10, NVIDIA owners can get a couple "free" frames per second of extra performance at no cost in image quality.

Unfortunately, this trend was not observed with the ATI cards. While the Radeon 2600 XT was able to perform identically in DX9 and DX10 with these settings at 1920x1200, its performance was so low that it doesn't even matter. However, both ATI cards benefit from the same performance increase as the NVIDIA cards, although it isn't enough to rectify the Radeon 2900 XT's sharp performance drop when in DX10.

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