Microsoft has just released DirectX 8.0, and everybody
wants to know how much it will speed up Direct 3-D games. Well we decided
to do a few quick tests just to see if there was any improvement in
performance at all.
For an overview of the new features in
version 8 go here.
Most of the new features in DirectX 8 are improvements to the applications
programming interface or API. That helps programmers add special effects
to the games they are writing. Other architectural changes include the
integration of DirectDraw and Direct 3-D. But to the end-user this will be
invisible. Microsoft indicates that DirectX 8 has support for the T-buffer
cinematic effects available on Voodoo 5 cards, but currently no games have
these capabilities built-in.
For the first round of testing I decided to use a Voodoo
5 5500 card running on a Pentium III at 633 MHz. Performance-wise this is
a midrange system, so the results should pertain to a large number of
gamer's systems. The system has an Abit BF6 motherboard with 256 MB of
SDRAM, and the AGP aperture was set to 64 MB. The Voodoo 5 card was
overclocked from 166MHz to 180MHz. For testing Direct 3-D
performance I used 3-D Mark 2000 version 1.1.
I started out with the last version of the official
Voodoo 5 drivers, version 1.03.00 running under DirectX 7.0a. Then I
switched to DirectX 8.0 using the same drivers. Finally, I upgraded to the
just released DirectX 8-compatible Voodoo 5 drivers, version 1.04.00. The
graph below shows the performance of the Voodoo 5 card under those three
As you can see, the numbers are so close that it
is almost not worth showing them. The variation was well within the
statistical margin of error for each run. So there you have it. With a
Voodoo 5 card you can expect to see absolutely no change in performance.
But remember, Microsoft was not trying to tweak DirectX, they were trying
to add new capabilities and improve the programming interface.
I'll give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here. The list of
improvements and changes is impressive, but the changes will only become
noticeable to gamers when new games come out with support for the new
features. If you have a Voodoo 5 card, DX 8 gives you support for
the T-buffer. So when new games come out soon that can use the T-buffer,
you will be ready to go.
- New programming features will make
upcoming games look and run better
- T-buffer support
- support for larger 3-D environments
- Doesn't boost performance in existing
4.3 out of 5 smiley faces
:) :) :) :)+
Copyright November 13th, 2000