The quad-core project - Gaming still better under XP than Vista

The quad-core project - Gaming still better under XP than Vista

Summary: I had thought that if I threw enough hardware at Windows Vista that I would get similar gaming performance to that of Windows XP - I was wrong.

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I had thought that if I threw enough hardware at Windows Vista that I would get similar gaming performance to that of Windows XP - I was wrong.

Windows Vista went RTM back in November of last year and it was released to the public at the end of January and things have improved considerably over the intervening months. More Vista compatible hardware has been released and many companies have been continually releasing updated drivers in an attempt to squeeze as much power from the new OS as possible. However, testing seems to suggest that Vista has a long way to go to before it can match XP.

Over at the PC Doc HQ we've been carrying out some testing on the quad-core systems that we built a little while ago (parts list here). The testing that we carried out was relatively simple but proved (to us at any rate) that XP is still much better when it comes to gaming that Vista.

Here's the testing process we used:

  • Install the OS (whether XP or Vista)
  • Make sure that updated drivers are applied (especially the graphics card driver - we're using ATI's Catalyst 7.9 drivers for both XP and Vista)
  • Apply all OS patches and updates (and on Vista we switched off Windows Gadgets)
  • Turned the Indexing service off
  • Install FRAPS 2.9.1 (which will be used to measure game frame rate)
  • Install The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, including the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isle updates and then applied the latest patches to bring everything up to date
  • Defragged the system
  • Set the scenery detail of the game to ultra high and the screen resolution to 1024 x 768
  • Enlist the help of my kids (who know Oblivion cheats and how to get around the Oblivion world much better than I do!)
  • Play a few sections of the game and see what the performance is like

It's always important to follow, to the letter, the testing procedure that you've laid out at the beginning otherwise you screw up and waste time. This is what we (or, more specifically, I) did. The initial set of tests that we carried out had to be thrown out because we had missed out the step of installing all the patches for Oblivion and this resulted in the game running with different level of scenery detail under XP compared to Vista (which resulted in the game under Vista feeling a lot smoother and better).

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So, with the initial test results binned and checklist in hand, we embarked on a second set of tests, this time making sure that the game is properly patched and up to date.

What surprised us is that the overall performance of Oblivion (which is a very demanding game in terms of the hardware requirements) was very good under both XP and Vista. Game loading times were fast, the game played smoothing, transitioning between scenes was fast and smooth and saving and loading saved games was fast. I'd rate gameplay experience overall as excellent with smooth graphics and little in the way of lagging or delays. Given the free time I could happily pull off a long gaming session on either OS.

However ...

Having been playing Oblivion for a very long time on a variety of systems and we know what parts of the game hammer the system. Specifically (and this will only make sense to you if you've played Oblivion) fighting around an Oblivion gate or running and fighting on complex terrains such as grass can put a strain on the system and decrease frame rate.

When under little load, both OS could easily manage 60 fps, but this frame rate varied depending on where we were in the game and what we were doing. This is both normal and to be expected. What we were looking for was evidence that one OS was better than the other, and we saw this. Under Vista we saw the frame rate drop more dramatically than under XP (the lowest frame rate we got while playing on XP was 34 fps while under Vista it dropped as far down as 25 fps), we also saw the frame rate stay at a lower level for longer. At the time when the frame rate dropped, the game felt a little more choppy under Vista, but the game was still totally playable.

Conclusion: If you're a hardcore gamer and you want the maximum frame rate possible, you need to stick with XP for now, no matter how much hardware you throw at it.

Thoughts?

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Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software

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187 comments
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  • why do you assume?

    Why do you assume that the frame rate drop is a result of Vista not being as good as XP in such matters? It could be the video drivers are not as good and need time to catch up to Vista.
    reverseswing
    • Same thing ...

      It could be Vista, it could be drivers. No way to say. I'll carry out another test in a few months time to see if things improve.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • NVidia

        I'd be interested in seeing what you get out of NVidia on this. I have had much better success with Vista on NVidia controllers. I have been unhappy with ATI.
        brittonv
        • that would be interesting.

          I too would like to see how nvidia handles this test, although I'd wager they'd fair far worse.

          Nvidia has been well off the wagon in regards to vista drivers, they played the "well, we can't code for a beta" well into the release cycle.

          Nvidia and Creative are two companies that fell from many budgets due to there poor vista response.
          rtk
          • Odd...

            [b]Nvidia has been well off the wagon in regards to vista drivers, they played the "well, we can't code for a beta" well into the release cycle.[/b]

            When Beta 2 arrived, Nvidia already had beta drivers available for Vista - with a few fixes and driver updates along the way. In fact, they had video drivers as well as those for the Nforce 4 chipset and the various components.

            Between the two - video and sound - you can do without sound on a modern computer, but you can't do without the video subsystem. Creative could (and did) get away with not cooking up drivers for Vista - but Nvidia couldn't play that game given that video is a system critical feature.
            Wolfie2K3
      • Challenge is abstract

        Yes, Adrian, while we are waiting a 'few months' for card drivers and Vista to finally get into harmony, the world could end in the meantime.

        Let's be objective here: We want the drivers and Vista performing at their maximum efficiency now. Vista was hyped to be the latest and greatest and based on my experience, and the experiences of others, Vista is no where near what it was cracked up to be. I'm presently thinking Windows Me deja vu.
        professordnm
        • common sense says you're wrong.

          Can we just drop this silly "the next ME" canard?

          If you honestly think Vista is the next ME, it's time to go do a little research.
          rtk
          • Only time will tell!

            How do you like the taste of crow? Might ought to sample a little so you won't be so shocked should the time come to consume a big platter of it.
            Ole Man
          • Dude...

            [b]How do you like the taste of crow? Might ought to sample a little so you won't be so shocked should the time come to consume a big platter of it. [/b]

            If you'd manage to pull your head out from whatever dark and dank orifices more often, you would have known the following:

            1.) Windows ME was supposed to be a gap filling release between Win 98 SE and Windows XP which was delayed. Vista isn't an interim release. There's nothing new coming down the road in a year or so.

            2.) Windows ME was the last DOS based release of Windows. Vista is based on the NT kernal.

            3.) When Windows XP was originally released, we saw a lot of the same sort of issues with Vista - driver support lacking, apps broken, etc...

            And yes, whenever a new OS is released, there are bound to be a lot of broken apps. It doesn't matter WHAT the OS is - feces occurs - apps and drivers get broken.

            The bottom line - the situation that spawned Win ME is not the same as the one that gave rise to Vista. Only someone ignorant of the situation would comment otherwise.
            Wolfie2K3
          • I see that you consider yourself to be the final authority

            In all matters.

            Have at it suckah! There's plenty of crow to go around to everybody.
            Ole Man
          • Ole Man's a troll, take him as such

            You know the kind: Bill Gates backs into another car he'll scream "Attempted Murder". Steve Jobs shoots his neighbor and "he was just doing the world a favor by shooting a member of a terrorist sleeper cell".
            John Zern
          • Ole Man's a troll?

            You meant Ole Man's a troll's worst nightmare, didn't you?

            My posts are designed to expose trolls, shills, and monopolistic predators. I try even to not insult their mindless followers. However, many of them insult their own intelligence with their petulant drivel.
            Ole Man
          • yup, ole man's a troll and a shill.

            "My posts are designed to expose trolls, shills, and monopolistic predators. I try even to not insult their mindless followers. However, many of them insult their own intelligence with their petulant drivel."

            Time to go back to planning, your design is deeply flawed.
            rtk
          • yup, ole man's a troll and a shill

            Caught you, didn't I?
            Ole Man
          • and not a very smart trolling shill.

            You're like the fish squirming on the hook, claiming he's caught the fisherman.

            Maybe spend a minute or two out from under the bridge, your grasp of reality is slipping badly.
            rtk
          • Confused ole Shill

            "My posts are designed to expose trolls, shills, and monopolistic predators. I try even to not insult their mindless followers. However, many of them insult their own intelligence with their petulant drivel."

            Yep! There you are, all exposed... Now please cover yourself up and spend more time in front of your Lord Jobs shrine and less in the real world interacting with the normals?

            Definition Shill; Slang used by mindless zombie cult members to criticize people who do not share their assigned views and opinions. When the word "shill" is used, the speaker's eyes roll around loosely in their heads.
            Chippolus
          • the speaker's eyes roll around loosely in their heads.

            Is that why your eyes roll around like Di?
            Ole Man
          • There's crow to eat.

            But you refuse to admit when you're well off base and trolling.

            Glad to see you figured out how not to add
            needless hard
            line returns
            on your posts.
            rtk
          • Would be nice if you could learn a few facts, too

            But keep trying. It's never too late to learn.

            I'm an old man, and I still learn something every day, yet some of you young whipper-snappers think you know so much you don't need to learn anything else.

            The first thing you should learn is that you don't necessarily know more than everybody else. That is if your ego was deflated enough to permit any facts.
            Ole Man
          • Here's the facts.

            I don't know more than everybody, the only thing I'm sure of is that I know more than you.
            rtk