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Direct X 9 Benchmarks: Microsoft has recently released their latest version of Direct X. We take a look at its performance with a DX8 and DX9 video card.
Date: January 1, 2003
Catagory: Articles
Written By:

is an integral part of our Windows PCs, simply because almost any multimedia related application and hardware needs it. It was introduced as a standard API for developers to code to, and as long as their application is DX compliant, it should run fine on your system. Here is Microsoft's description...

Microsoft DirectX® is an advanced suite of multimedia application programming interfaces (APIs) built into Microsoft Windows® operating systems. DirectX provides a standard development platform for Windows-based PCs by enabling software developers to access specialized hardware features without having to write hardware-specific code. This technology was first introduced in 1995 and is a recognized standard for multimedia application development on the Windows platform.

Direct X 9 is the latest version. Notable changes from DX8 are improvements to DirectPlay, and Version 2 of the Vertex and Pixel shaders. For both the Vertex and Pixel shaders, the instructions have been doubled, allowing for future games to look more realistic than ever. The problem with DX8 Vertex and Shader specifications were that they were more customizable than programmable. In the new DX9 specifications, the Pixel and Vertex Shaders are far more programmable and unified than before, which should make it both easier and faster for programmers to develop.

Given the number of decent DX8 titles, that is, games that actually make use of the fancy Vertex and Pixel shaders (hint: that number is low), the question is, will DX9 make any difference with the titles we have on store shelves now?

Test Bed

Pentium 4 2.4GHz Northwood "B"
Shuttle XPC SS51
512MB PC2700 Crucial Ram
WD 120GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache

Radeon 9700 Pro, Driver
Visiontek XTasy Ti4600, Driver 41.09

Due to time constraints, I have not had the opportunity to duplicate the tests on an AMD setup, but you should expect similar results.

The game benchmarks we'll be using today are Futuremark's 3D Mark 2001SE, and Unreal Tournament 2003.

3D Mark 2001SE

Not much difference between the 2 Direct X versions. 3D Mark is a Direct X 8 benchmark, and benefits very little from Microsoft's upgrade. I suppose if you want to nitpick, there is a larger improvement with the Radeon 9700 Pro, which is a DX9 compliant part, (48 3D Marks), whereas the Ti4600 had less of an improvement (3 3D Marks). Those are the numbers, so draw your own conclusion.

Unreal Tournament 2003 - Antelus Benchmark

There seems to be a much more tangible improvement in UT2k3. The Ti4600 gets a small 4fps boost, while the 9700 Pro gets a much larger 11fps boost. Character animations seemed a bit smoother as well, though that could have just been in my head.

Anyhow, pretty much right after Microsoft released DX9, ATi released their drivers. I am unaware of any nVidia release, so I promptly removed our older ATi drivers, and reinstalled the new ones. Did it help?

3D Mark 2001SE

Well, in 3D Mark, we scored 13276, which is a 35 3D Marks improvement over the Catalyst 2.5 drivers under DX9. Under DX8, we managed a 19 3D Mark improvement. It appears thus far, that the driver upgrade has helped more than the Direct X upgrade for 3D Mark.

Unreal Tournament 2003 - Antelus Benchmark

Unreal Tournament showed less improvement with the newer drivers, managing just a 1fps improvement under both DX8 and DX9.

Final Words

In terms of performance, don't hold your breath with todays games. Other than UT2K3, performance gains are non-existent. I did run the Asbestos and Citadel UT2K3 benchmarks as well, and saw 5-10fps boosts, so there is an improvement there. I do think your hardware and drivers will play a part in the performance improvements though, as a DX9 part will likely see larger benefits. As for some of our older DX games, I have not noticed anything out of the ordinary.

The question is, will DX9 hose my system? Well, considering Microsoft does NOT provide any means to uninstall it (though 3D Center has a ), you'd better make some backups before downloading it. On both our AMD KT333 setup, as well as our P4 SiS setup, I've experienced zero instabilities thus far.

As for ATi's latest Catalyst drivers, we also saw small improvements to the benchmark scores. Whether or not you should try them will depend on your needs. Like any driver, it may screw your system up, but it also can correct problems you may have had in 2D or 3D apps.

Your milage may vary with either DX9 or the Catalyst 3.0s, so good luck.

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