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Graphics cards in Windows 8 and DirectX 11.1: more efficient with better performance

Optimised for the mobile era

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Introduction

We've examined various aspects of Windows 8 in the last couple months, addressing misconceptions and popular concerns that often rear their head when Microsoft rolls out the next installment of their operating system. Now we're going to look at hardware performance, and in particular graphics cards. We already established in a previous article that video games perform exactly the same in Windows 8 as they did in Windows 7. In Windows 8, graphics cards take over some of the tasks that previously were reserved for the CPU, and today we will examine what impact that will have on performance and energy consumption.


Windows 8 is a bit of special OS, because it's intended to run everything from monster PCs with lots of GPUs to the most energy-efficient of tablets. Both ends of the spectrum require high performance, but the advent of tablets has made energy-efficiency more important than ever.

 

It's also the first full version of Windows to run on both x86 as ARM processors (Windows mobile has supported ARM processors for a while). This entails that all of the parts within Windows that directly communicate with hardware had to be redesigned from the ground up in order to work with ARM hardware.

This all influences how GPUs operate in the OS. Microsoft had to spend a lot of effort on getting graphics to run smoothly, also on fairly low-end hardware such as that of ARM tablets. AMD, Nvidia and Intel GPUs were already supported, and now with ARM GPU architectures from Qualcomm (Adreno) and Imagination (PowerVR) among others are added to the mix.


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