As you may already know – Windows 7 ships with DirectX 11 – testing that part of the OS is a little hard right now as not one manufacturer is shipping any DirectX 11 hardware. So this performance guide is based on Windows 7 RTM and an nVidia GTX 295 with the latest 190.38 WHQL Forceware drivers and on an i7 920 overclocked to 3.8ghz. All games were played in 1920x1200 resolution with every title running on its highest settings.
You may have read older previews of Windows 7 talking about the gaming side of things not being up to even the standard of Vista – well that’s why no one should post comments like that until they have the final version because I am pleased to say that Windows 7 runs games very slightly better than Vista does both in frames per second and in some cases – loading times.
I have tried the following titles on both Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RTM and here are my views on each title:
Crysis Warhead: In Windows 7 the game actually manages to pump out 2 fps more than it does over Windows Vista SP2 – this is running the game in DirectX 10 – 64bit mode. While this may not sound much, it is a good sign especially as the nVidia drivers for Windows 7 probably still have even more tweaking to come before the October release of the Operating system. Loading times were also improved by just over 3 seconds compared to Vista.
Age of Conan: This was tested in DirectX 9 mode as DirectX 10 in Age of Conan suffers performance problems across the board and doesn’t even support nVidia SLI properly. In DX 9 on Windows 7 once again we saw a slight frame rate increase compared to vista – this time it was 4 frames a second faster with a more consistent frame rate throughout the game too.
Battlestations: Pacific: This is a DirectX 9 Game for Windows Live! – Performance on this was slightly lower in Windows 7 over vista by little more than 1 frame per second but again loading times were improved on Windows 7 by 4 seconds.
Far Cry 2: Tested in DirectX 10 it registered 3 frames a second more in Windows 7 than Windows Vista and loading was once more improved. There were some crashing issues, but these seem to be down to the game itself as I noticed some in Windows vista as well.
Stalker: Clear Sky: This was tested in DirectX 10 and there was a very small performance hit on Windows 7 – yes so small it hardly registered – 0.3 frames per second When playing the game you don’t notice what so ever and again loading time was improved by a few seconds.
64 Bit Performance and Comments If you have a 64-bit machine there is no reason what so ever why you shouldn’t be running Windows 7 64-bit for gaming. People still for some reason believe that driver performance isn’t up to standard, but that is a thing of the past – heck even Vista 64-bit has very good performance in 64-bit gaming and across the desktop.
The reason that 64-bit is so much better for gaming is that you get full access to all the memory, my test system I’m using 6GB of DDR 3 and it makes a difference not just to the operating system, but also to the gaming benchmarks adding 3 or 4 frames to most 64-bit titles. RAM prices are also low once again so now is the time to go out there and prepare yourself for the release of Windows 7. As I mentioned earlier – in Crysis Warhead the 64-bit edition adds around 4 fps more to the game when you run it in that mode over the 32-bit version. The same goes with Far Cry 2. Games also load quicker in the 64-bit environment and Alt-Tab a lot smoother too.
Desktop Graphics Performance
So far with the latest drivers from nVidia I haven’t had many problems in this final version of Windows 7. Speed has been fine and there have been no graphical glitches showing up in the desktop or in the nVidia control panel. I have noticed some problems in some desktop apps though – mostly in Microsoft’s newly released Expression Studio 3 series. I have been using the non-trial version of Expression Web 3 a lot over the past week and sometimes after minimising the screen then going back to it – all the black background has vanished and everything goes transparent – not the easiest way to work on web sites!
Apart from that though, I haven’t noticed any problems in any of the Windows 7 applications such as Media Center and Media Player in addition to the photo galleries, so all is good in this area.
As has been mentioned in our review earlier – devices are handled and shown off in a new area in Windows 7 – where it tends to display a photo of the device. For testing I have been using the Xbox Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows and my Xbox 360 Wireless Controller. Plugging in the receiver and Windows 7 downloaded the drivers right away, I was able to use the pad without installing the separate software – though I did this later on. It all worked perfectly and showed up in the hardware devices area of Windows 7 – with a photo of the wireless receiver there too!
Windows Experience Index
So the Windows Experience Index now – this had quite a lot of bad press to begin with when it was first released in Windows Vista – well it has been very slightly updated in Windows 7. The scores that you PC can get have now been changed. I believe that the highest rating is now 7.9 although don’t quote me on that. My I7 920 overclocked to 3.8 GHz came out with a rating of 7.6 for the CPU – while the DDR 3 memory got 7.8, the nVidia GTX 295 got 7.8 in both graphics and gaming while my Hard Drive got just 5.9 which is no change from Vista. I’d assume adding a new SSD will improve this score – but I have no problems with my hard drive speed right now.
I would be nice to have a bit more detail about each score but I can’t see that ever happening as Microsoft wanted to be a simple way in which general users can get some idea if their games will work on Windows 7 – though in reality it can be a bit more complicated that just a rating system as drivers etc come into play.
Overall Windows 7 does improve gaming performance slightly compared to that of Windows Vista – it isn’t going to magically start to add 10% more to your frame rate but in some cases you do get 4% improvement. The one thing I can guarantee is that loading times in games will be better but sometimes up to 7 seconds. This is a major increase and is due to the under the hood work from Microsoft. In the future we will cover the increased performance Windows 7 gives SSD hard drive users once the newer models from Intel come out in the coming weeks.