Soon after Windows 8.1 launched, we published an in-depth look at how its gaming performance stacked up against Windows 7. Well that was way back at the beginning of 2014, and it's amazing how time flies when you're having fun. Now that Windows 10 has arrived, it's high time that we pit it against Windows 8.1 to see whether Microsoft has found a way to make games run even better than before. We found that Windows 8.1 offered improvements in a handful of games, but Windows 10 may prove to offer an even bigger boost. Of course, the new OS is packing DirectX 12, which will revolutionize the way graphics routines are run in the latest games, but they have to be developed with DX12 in mind. That rules out just about every game currently on the market. Will Microsoft 10 perform feats of magic in DirectX 11-based games as well? We shall soon see!

Test Setup

We performed our benchmarks on the following test system:

  1. CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K quad-core CPU (overclocked to 4.4GHz)
  2. Motherboard: ASRock Z97 Extreme 4
  3. Video Card #1: Sapphire Radeon R9 290 4GB (representing mid-range)
  4. Video Card #2: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB (representing high-end)
  5. Memory: 4x4GB G.Skill DDR3-2400
  6. Solid-State Drive: Crucial MX100 512GB
  7. Power Supply: EVGA Supernova G2 850W
  8. Case: NZXT S340

We ran all tests at a resolution of 1920 x 1080, and our video cards were set to reference speeds, which translates to 947MHz/5000MHz for the Radeon R9 290 and 1000/7000 for the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Note that due to Nvidia's GPU Boost 2.0 feature, the 980 Ti operated at 1202MHz/7000MHz at almost all times. The drivers utilized for the Radeon card were Catalyst 15.6 beta for Windows 8.1 and Catalyst 15.7.1 for Windows 10. The drivers utilized for the GeForce card were GeForce 353.30 for Windows 8.1 and GeForce 353.62 for Windows 10. We used two different cards not just to speak to different segments of the gaming market, but also to highlight whether AMD or Nvidia might benefit more from the move to Windows 10.

We'll be providing results for one synthetic benchmark and eight games, as follows:

  • 3DMark Fire Strike
  • Grid 2
  • Tomb Raider
  • Metro: Last Light
  • Crysis 3
  • Battlefield 4
  • Thief
  • Far Cry 4
  • The Witcher 3

We intentionally choose games from various genres, as well as a variety of both older and newer games, in order to represent as wide a sub-set of PC gamers as possible. We were also curious whether newer games or older games would benefit more from the new OS, if at all.

All righty, then, hopefully we've made clear how we performed our tests. There's lots of data to go through, but let's start off easy, with an exploration of our 3DMark results, shall we?

3DMark Fire Strike


Yes, we know, 3DMark isn't a game. But it's a fairly popular benchmark, and it just so happens to have separate Graphics and Physics tests that focus on video card and CPU performance, respectively. And that's critical here, because we want to know whether Windows 10 improves computational performance, graphics processing performance, both, or neither. Well, right off the bat we can probably rule out any major improvement in CPU performance, as our Physics scores are basically a wash, varying by less than half a percent on our two test cards. How about graphics performance? Well, there's more to say here, but it's not a clear-cut result. On the Radeon card, performance jumped nearly 4 percent based on the Graphics Score, while the GeForce card dropped a little less than 1 percent in the move to Windows 10.

If we were to end our evaluation here, we'd conclude that Windows 10 is a great upgrade for Radeon owners and a wash for GeForce owners. But there's much more that needs to be explored before we can jump to that conclusion. It will be interesting to see whether the delta we observed in 3DMark holds in the many game benchmarks that follow. 

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