The State of DirectX 11 - Image Quality & Performance

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Unigine: Performance & Verdict

Unlike the rest of the games featured in this article, Unigine Heaven isn't actually a game, but a tech demo for the Unigine game engine. As a result, the recommended system requirements should be taken with a grain of salt. Since it's not a full-fledged game and contains no gameplay elements like scripting or AI, Unigine Heaven will have much lower processor and memory requirements than any game built on the Unigine engine, like the upcoming  games Primal Carnage and Syndicates of Arkon. While the processor and memory requirements are low due to the lack of game elements, Unigine Heaven is a heavy-weight graphics benchmark that calls for relatively recent hardware, like the NVIDIA GeForce 7000 series and ATI Radeon HD 2000 series, at a bare minimum.

The Unigine Heaven benchmark is built primarily to showcase the engine's DirectX 11 implementation. As a result there are a considerable number of features that are exclusive to the Dx11 rendering path. The most noticeable feature which is Dx11 exclusive is the extensive use of hardware tessellation. While anti-aliasing is available for all rendering paths, we chose to leave it disabled since the Heaven demo is extremely graphically demanding, on purpose.

Since the entire program is one big tech demo and benchmark, we used the built-in benchmarking feature for all of our performance tests. The benchmark is a fly-through of Unigine Heaven's single level. There is no AI or even characters to be found in Heaven, only landscape and buildings. Since it was designed as a benchmark, it produces consistent results that suited our purposes just fine.

Unigine Heaven is the only game/program featured in this article that also has a OpenGL rendering path. Since it is designed as a tech demo and benchmark, we chose to benchmark all available rendering paths. All results shown below are the average of 3 benchmark runs.

Lastly, it's worth mentioning that we performed our tests using the first version of the Unigine Heaven demo. Since we performed our testing but before this article could be published Unigine released a second version of the Heaven demo which features a whole new section to the demo's single level and a different benchmark fly-through path. Check out Heaven v2.0 for some extra eye candy, but beware that it will produce benchmark results incompatible with the ones presented in this article.

Unigine Heaven v1.0 Performance Comparison
DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 Performance Compared

It's worth noting that as a tech demo, Unigine Heaven makes very few performance concessions and very little is done to ensure image quality scales consistently, compared to a production game. Its primary purpose is to show off what the Unigine game engine is capable of. As a result it has the lowest overall performance out of the games featured in this article.

The largest performance delta is between Dx11 and the rest of the pack. This is largely due to the application of tessellation, which is used extensively by the Heaven demo, as we saw in our image quality comparison. The performance of DirectX 9, 10 and OpenGL were relatively similar by comparison. However the DirectX 9 rendering path performed best overall, followed by DirectX 10 and finally OpenGL. It's worth noting that during our tests, the OpenGL rendering path experienced buggy behavior with frequent artifacting, which may have been fixed in Heaven v2.0.

Unigine Heaven Dx11 Verdict: Since this is merely a tech demo and not a production game, it's hard to make conclusions about its graphical performance. While it's plain to see that Unigine Heaven benefits extensively from Dx11 in terms of image quality and the associated performance drop isn't especially bad, it's impossible to say if we will see similar results in production games built on the Unigine engine. After all, Heaven is Unigine's Dx11 tech demo and is built with the purpose of showing off the engine's Dx11 features. Overall, if you want to check out all of the demo's bells and whistles, you'll definitely want to run it with the Dx11 rendering path.

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