DirectX 10 vs. DirectX 9

DirectX 10Among PC gamers, there is a pattern of wondering whether you should go to Windows Vista and DirectX 10 (the latest technologies of Microsoft) as your gaming choice or you’d better stay hooked to Windows XP (currently the preferred gaming platform). There are now a few games allowing a fair comparison between both solutions and we see a few comparison popping up on the web. One of the most complete and detailed just came from HotHardware in an article titled “The state of DirectX 10 – Image quality and performance” which uses several of the more visible DirectX-10-compatible games to check how they perform both with DirectX 9 and DirectX 10.

  • Bioshock
  • Call of Juarez
  • Company of Heroes
  • Lost Planet
  • World in conflict

The results are quite interesting, I’d say:

  • Bioshock demonstrates that DirectX 10 is much better at water ripples, smoke (“soft particles”), but the game looks about the same in both environments.
  • Call of Juarez shows a slightly better contrast management and better water effects (rivers), but most of changes seem to be dependent on developer’s choice to implement differently the two versions.
  • Small objects and grass look better in Company of Heroes when DX10 is used. But it seems a very light improvement.
  • Lost Planet for XBox 360 is set in an icy world. Furs are nicer but it is not obvious if the other differences are improvements or… only changes.
  • World in Conflict makes a good use of prominent advantages of DirectX 10 (soft particles, clouds, shadows), and adds a few game features that could probably have been present in DX9 too (like the dual-screen support of mega map).
  • But what is most shocking is to see that performance is nearly always worse in DirectX 10. It goes from near identical speed to a 50% performance hit in a number of configurations (only one game displayed a definite performance improvement while using a DX10 path, Lost Planet, and that was only when the DX10 exclusive graphics options were disabled).

You have to wonder if so subtle effects (they are not noticeable in the heat of the game) are worth the price of new hardware and new software. DirectX 10 is bringing a few nice improvements, but titles that make a real difference are still to come.