Windows 8 brings massive gains in the graphics department

PC gamers are well aware of the DirectX API that has been used for years for accelerating 3D graphics in previous Windows-based operating systems. For Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring that kind of hardware graphics acceleration support for nearly all applications.

In the newest post on the official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft's Rob Copeland talks about how the Windows team wanted to add hardware graphics acceleration support for all of the new Metro style apps, along with supporting a wider variety of graphics hardware in general.

For measuring Metro app graphics performance, Copeland writes that Microsoft measured them in a number of different metrics, including frame rate, memory and CPU utilization, the "glitch count", which measured how many times an app took more than 1/60th of a second to render, and the "Time to first frame" which rates how quickly it takes from when a person taps or clicks on a Metro app to when the first frame of that app appears.

Rendering text is, not surprisingly, of great importance for Microsoft in Windows 8. Copeland states, "We’ve continued to improve text performance in Windows 8 by optimizing our default text rendering in Metro style apps to deliver better performance and efficiency, while maintaining typographic quality and global text support." The chart below gives an idea of how much faster Windows 8 is in rendering text compared to Windows 7.

The post also goes over improvements in Windows 8 in rendering 2D geometry for features like charts, graphs and more in applications. It also renders 2D images such as JPEG and PND files faster; Microsoft created a test app that decoded and rendered 64 images. Copeland states, "Windows 8 takes 40% less time than Windows 7 to render 64 images (4.38 seconds vs. 7.28 seconds)."

Of course, speed isn't everything. Microsoft also wanted a better looking graphical experience when using Windows 8. For Metro apps, Microsoft created a new API set called Direct2D Effects that the company says, " ... enable high-quality, hardware-accelerated effects to be applied to any image" including photos and user interface images.

For 3D graphics found in applications like games, Microsoft is offering Direct3D 11.1, the latest version of its long running API. Copeland states that the new version is also the foundation for 2D graphics support as well as 3D graphics applications. He writes:

The new API makes it much simpler to mix different types of content in a single scene because that single API now manages all of the GPU resources associated with rendering. This also reduces memory usage by eliminating the redundancy involved in creating multiple graphics device-management objects in app code. In addition, Direct3D 11.1 provides a uniform way for apps to access the various capabilities of different graphics hardware. It provides mechanisms for the app to determine what features are available, and then only uses those capabilities. This enables apps to make maximum use of the GPU’s capabilities, whether the GPU was designed for long battery life on a tablet, or high-end gaming on a desktop PC.

Windows 8 will also allow for better energy management while still offering more advanced graphics, especially on laptops and tablets that will have an upper battery limit. Copeland writes:

For Windows 8, we added new mechanisms for apps to specify the amount of precision needed in their graphical calculations. For example, when doing custom blending of multiple images where the image data is 8 bits per component, the blending computations could be done with 10 bits of precision rather than the default of 32 bits. The reduced precision doesn’t impact image quality, but does reduce power consumption.

Source: Windows 8 blog | Image via Microsoft

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"OOh we got rid of Aero, transparency, rounded corners and the start menu, made it look like Windows 3.1, and as a result it can refresh your text screen in 0.0001 seconds rather than 0.0002 seconds. You lucky people, be grateful, the gain was worth the pain!" /s

Linux and OSX cannot even imagine this type of technology into the core of an OS.
Do more, eat less. GPU used the whole time, not only in games, calculating at what it does best and more efficient than CPU AND vice versa.
Other OS'es can only DREAM

Here's a new one Microsoft apologists will use in the near future:

"Windows 8 can run WinRT apps faster than Windows 7 because Windows 8 is superior"

myxomatosis said,
Here's a new one Microsoft apologists will use in the near future:

"Windows 8 can run WinRT apps faster than Windows 7 because Windows 8 is superior"


of course.

myxomatosis said,
Here's a new one Microsoft apologists will use in the near future:

"Windows 8 can run WinRT apps faster than Windows 7 because Windows 8 is superior"


of course.

uhhmm

"....for all of the new Metro style apps"
and then a chart comparing * against Windows 7 ?
yeah uhh wtf ?
show me the "NEW" metro apps on windows 7 they making these benchmark graphs from..

Complete BS period .

If you bothered to read the blog post you'd see that they fully explained the benchmarks and what they were testing in each one.

As you point out, there are no Metro apps on Windows 7, so they benchmarked the underlying graphics APIs, Direct2D and DirectWrite; which are present on both Windows 8 and Windows 7. Metro-style apps are built on top of Direct2D, so they benefit from these improvements, as do any desktop apps that are built on Direct2D and DirectWrite.

But have they done anything to improve the GPU accelerated font rendering? Based on the Release Preview, I'd say no. IE still has that grayish, blurry text rendering compared to Chrome or Firefox. It seems to be a feature because the same happens with GPU accelerated text in other apps too.

Still, kudos for making the thing faster. It's a real shame that MS has great backend engineers but terrible front end developers.

I like the new basic UI, I hated glass and seeing through everything whilst trying to concentrate on the job at hand. Im sure some speed increase is due to the new UI, or decreased requirements of the new UI.

Orange Battery said,
I like the new basic UI, I hated glass and seeing through everything whilst trying to concentrate on the job at hand. Im sure some speed increase is due to the new UI, or decreased requirements of the new UI.

That's bull**** IMO dude. It really doesn't take away the focus on the content at all :-/

Jarrichvdv said,

That's bull**** IMO dude. It really doesn't take away the focus on the content at all :-/

I've made my entire interface out of layers of glass and it works just wonderfully across 3 monitors. There isn't a high end Mac graphics designer or artist who hasn't drooled over my setup when visiting. 8)

Orange Battery said,
I like the new basic UI, I hated glass and seeing through everything whilst trying to concentrate on the job at hand. Im sure some speed increase is due to the new UI, or decreased requirements of the new UI.

move the transparency slider / color intensity..
Was that hard ?

So they've increased performance by removing all kinds of style and effects and replacing it with large areas of single colours and squres instead of circles.
Spin at it's best.

n_K said,
So they've increased performance by removing all kinds of style and effects and replacing it with large areas of single colours and squres instead of circles.
Spin at it's best.

Uh, no. Hardware graphics acceleration.

n_K said,
So they've increased performance by removing all kinds of style and effects and replacing it with large areas of single colours and squres instead of circles.
Spin at it's best.

You either didn't read the article or don't know the first thing about hardware acceleration.

rfirth said,

Uh, no. Hardware graphics acceleration.

Uh, no. Don't overstate. In Windows 7, too, DWM writes directly to video memory (contrary to Vista).
In fact, I'd wager on reduced complexity as well. Removal of transparency and gaussian(?) blur could very well mean huge apparent performance increase.

eddman said,

You either didn't read the article or don't know the first thing about hardware acceleration.

You either don't know that yourself or simply are easily blinded while being spoonfed by badly elaborated definitions of common buzzwords.

Phouchg said,

Uh, no. Don't overstate. In Windows 7, too, DWM writes directly to video memory (contrary to Vista).
In fact, I'd wager on reduced complexity as well. Removal of transparency and gaussian(?) blur could very well mean huge apparent performance increase.

So I take it you yourself didn't read the source article either then, where they explain specific case-by-case areas where they've improved performance - none of their performance metrics are generalised. None of it focus' on overall performance of any program - just how they've improved DirectX's underlying codebase to make things faster for everyone.

n_K said,
So they've increased performance by removing all kinds of style and effects and replacing it with large areas of single colours and squres instead of circles.
Spin at it's best.

The posts talks about rendering API performance- comparing apples to apples in Windows 7 and Windows 8. Either you don't understand the technology, or you just didn't read it at all. Did you even notice the section where it specifically points to rendering images? Sheesh...

Skwerl said,

The posts talks about rendering API performance- comparing apples to apples in Windows 7 and Windows 8. Either you don't understand the technology, or you just didn't read it at all. Did you even notice the section where it specifically points to rendering images? Sheesh...


Let's go and do the resizing event viewer test in windows 7 and windows xp and rejoice when XP resizes fine and 7 lags like hell </s>

n_K said,
Let's go and do the resizing event viewer test in windows 7 and windows xp and rejoice when XP resizes fine and 7 lags like hell </s>

This is about Windows 8, not 7. For 7, you can always use a different viewer if it bothers you that much, or just author the snapin, maximize it, save and never worry about it again.

~Johnny said,

So I take it you yourself didn't read the source article either then, where they explain specific case-by-case areas where they've improved performance - none of their performance metrics are generalised. None of it focus' on overall performance of any program - just how they've improved DirectX's underlying codebase to make things faster for everyone.

Admittedly, no, indeed I didn't at that point. Neither I should have had, otherwise what's the point of Neowin, if I am obliged to recursively second-guess articles.

Now that I have, I feel that important things have been omitted here, leaving only very controversy-prone (and very successful at that, I might add) comparison to Windows 7 sinfully unelaborated.

Regarding improvements - I'm sorry, now I see that and where I was wrong.
Also, seeing that tests were performed with Windows 7 switched to Aero Basic (which is important) - any potential arguments about transparency and blur impact are fully invalidated.

However, I'd like to mention that it's stated by Sinofsky himself hardware acceleration for mainstream graphics has come in full with Windows 7.
That, at least, invalidates the laconic argument "hardware acceleration".
Highly tactless remarks of not knowing how HWA works are ridiculous to begin with.

Max Norris said,

This is about Windows 8, not 7. For 7, you can always use a different viewer if it bothers you that much, or just author the snapin, maximize it, save and never worry about it again.

No my point is it's not hard to beat windows 7, an OS that's 10 years older beats it.
Don't get me wrong, it's great they're improving it and making it more efficient, just I don't believe the improvements they're quoting.

be carefull lol
one person makes one comment and all of sudden the cheerleaders
come out with the chants.. they don't seem to have much to say about windows 8
so we get an avalanche when someone slips ups..
Like sharks that smell blood in the water and they don't get fed much.

Congrats guys you found someone that doesn't understand the relationship
between apps and the os when it comes to gpu accel. Windows 8 FTW !!!!111

Phouchg said,

Uh, no. Don't overstate. In Windows 7, too, DWM writes directly to video memory (contrary to Vista).
In fact, I'd wager on reduced complexity as well. Removal of transparency and gaussian(?) blur could very well mean huge apparent performance increase.

Wow... No... The only performance difference that you would see is in the 'blur/transparency' effect.

The DWM is fully 'on' in Windows 8 and is continues to provide rendering and vector level composing.

In fact on Windows 8, there is even a software fallback for DirectX functionality for the DWM, this is why RDP to a Windows 8 machine from a non-DWM capable system, like a phone does not lose the DWM features.

The DWM in Windows 7 (and Vista) increase 'performance', even though people do not 'get' this to this day. It has backend GPGPU assistance for fonts, image decoding and various vector operations from GDI and fully accelerates .NET/WPF content.

Turning off Aero/DWM in Windows 7 is the dumbest thing a 'performance' user can do, as they will lose more time in 'redraws', let alone font rendering and other things the CPU must take over than they ever would gain from the 'tiny' RAM consumption and the composer.

The fastest way to run Windows 7, is Aero on, and Transparency off on low end systems, and on high end systems where Transparency has less than .05% of a hit to the GPU, it is not going to even drop the most demanding game running in a Window 1 FPS.

Windows 8 has a lot of things in the Video changes that are 'better', but that doesn't mean Windows 7 was technology has been canned, it is just refined. The entire WinRT framework, like Silverlight and like WPF is fully accelerated, and not just in UI rendering, but also additional GPGPU assistance. (Think IE9, and how it uses the GPU for more than just rendering and composing.)

This is a proven technology that comes originally from the XBox 360, was introduced to PC users in Vista, refined in Windows 7 to use less RAM, used on WP7 devices, and refined again in Windows 8.

(Go look up WDM/WDDM technologies going back to the XBox 360 team and how they were developed from the Xeno GPU design with new I/O, DMA, and RAM sharing technologies along with GPU scheduling and virtualization. This is stuff NO OTHER OS can currently do.)

blade1269 said,
Disk transfer speed?

I'd say generally disk transfer speeds are already limited by the hardware you choose to use more so than anything the OS can do about it.

rosszone said,

I'd say generally disk transfer speeds are already limited by the hardware you choose to use more so than anything the OS can do about it.

I remember seeing an article on here a while ago saying that windows 8 will be using a new filesystem format and not NTFS, is that still happening?

ASZ20 said,
I remember seeing an article on here a while ago saying that windows 8 will be using a new filesystem format and not NTFS, is that still happening?
ReFS is not a total replacement for NTFS; among other things it can't be used for a boot partition. ReFS will be included in Windows Server 2012 but not Windows 8.

rosszone said,

I'd say generally disk transfer speeds are already limited by the hardware you choose to use more so than anything the OS can do about it.

Not true... The way an OS handles the FS is very important in today's technology.

Back in the day when I/O was just read stream/write stream it was simplistic and the OS made little impact. However as technology and techniques advanced, the OS has played an increasingly important role.

Look at even Win3.1 that added 32bit caching and paging, this was a significant boost to performance.

The things people forget are concurrent read/write and other ways the data is handled, and features of the FS like copy on write, journaling, etc.

There are also a ton of various tricks along with specific BUS and I/O technology that if the OS drivers don't support are not utilized.

There is also the caching technology at the OS level, its predictive nature, especially in Vista/Win7.

Even in managing specific FS technologies, the OS is essential to ensuring data integrity and the supporting services that deal with failing media and other maintenance.

Take NTFS for example, it is a FS technology that is implemented in structure and drivers and service layers. When used on OS X or Linux compared to when used on Windows, the performance is vastly different.

This is why you see OSS people talk crap about NTFS and suggest Microsoft create a new FS technology, when it is the OS that is the problem, not the set of technologies that make up NTFS that are NOT fully implemented in OSS drivers. In Windows, NTFS is faster, has more features, and is more reliable than ANY other FS technology used in Linux or OS X. It is what ZFS was created to 'catch up' with.

This could become another 30 paragraph post. Instead just go look up FS, Media, IO technologies.

There are a few RAW data I/O statistics that will not change, but in overall usage by a consumer, the OS is a major factor in performance, and NTFS is still the 'leading' technology available anywhere.

PS ReFS is an evolution of NTFS, that keeps a lot of the NTFS model design with more efficient storage mechanisms, etc.

Damn, I thought by header alone that the Metro UI was getting a major facelift after massive complaints about how flat, boring and chaotic things are.

seebaran said,
Damn, I thought by header alone that the Metro UI was getting a major facelift after massive complaints about how flat, boring and chaotic things are.

Ah, if only.

seebaran said,
Damn, I thought by header alone that the Metro UI was getting a major facelift after massive complaints about how flat, boring and chaotic things are.

Flat, boring and... chaotic? One of those words is out of place.

laserfloyd said,

Flat, boring and... chaotic? One of those words is out of place.


No. Chaos is the opposite of order. Flat and boring doesn't imply s/he considers the UI is orderly, just that it's flat. Flat isn't a property of order.

Tekkerson said,

Haters gonna hate.

Because if one doesn't like something he's automatically a "hater" and his opinion is invalid.


Simpleton logic at its best.

rpsgc said,

Because if one doesn't like something he's automatically a "hater" and his opinion is invalid.


Simpleton logic at its best.

Nope, but the need to express it every five seconds to people that just want to read a damn news article, is...

Northgrove said,

No. Chaos is the opposite of order. Flat and boring doesn't imply s/he considers the UI is orderly, just that it's flat. Flat isn't a property of order.

very few posts on neowin go in so much depth as you have .. the metro ui and your comment reminds me of Flantland by Abbott Abbott and a bunch of venn diagrams

Northgrove said,

No. Chaos is the opposite of order. Flat and boring doesn't imply s/he considers the UI is orderly, just that it's flat. Flat isn't a property of order.

boring is not chaotic, and chaos is not boring.....therefore one of those don't belong.