Windows 8 Versus Windows 7: Game Performance, Benchmarked

We already know that the look and feel of Windows 8 is very different from Windows 7. But once you fire up your favorite title, does Microsoft's latest affect your experience? We test 10 games and talk to one of the company's SDEs to answer that question.

If you're a Tom's Hardware reader, I'm willing to bet you've endured your share of fresh Windows installations, perhaps even dating as far back as 1985 and Windows 1.0. This one, like those before, will give us new features. We'll love some of them, and we'll hate others. Things we've used for years will break, and other things we've needed add-on driver packages for in the past will work right out of the box. Certain capabilities have the potential to improve performance, and more overhead elsewhere will gnaw away at it.

Really, we don't expect to see gaming performance change in the move from Windows 7 to Windows 8. AMD even let us know prior to the FX-8350 launch that a properly patched Windows 7 machine shouldn't behave any differently from one with Windows 8 on it (that's why you didn't see us include Windows 8 numbers). Companies like AMD and Nvidia have had plenty of time for driver development, and proper support for modern graphics cards was in place on Microsoft's launch day. For the most part, once you fire up your favorite game, your experience should be pretty similar.

"But wait a second," exclaims the well-read, now-troubled gamer. "What about Gabe Newell's statement that 'I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space'"? Gabe seems to know what he's doing most of the time, Valve Corporation is a respected game development company, and Steam is a massive digital distribution platform. Of course we raised our eyebrows when he declared that Valve is investing serious resources into a Linux-based version of Steam and adapting its games to run on the open-source operating system. So, what's the deal, really? Is Windows 8 irreparably bugged? Should gamers avoid it at all costs and stay with Windows 7?

I saw an interview where Gabe claimed that Windows 8 has a terrible interface, and that everything is a lot more difficult to do in the new OS. To his credit, I've been using the RTM of Windows 8 for a while now, and I agree that it should be possible to completely avoid the Metro interface on a desktop PC. But I don't think Microsoft's latest is a sign of the apocalypse.

It's very brash to sweep the desktop-and-icon paradigm under the rug. And yes, this is going to alienate a lot of people. But I'd also like to think that the enthusiast crowd is pretty adaptable. Figuring out how to launch games from Steam isn't going to take very long at all, and after some hands-on time, the folks determined to learn their way around Windows 8 will do so. Gaming won't screech to a halt unless the operating system outright breaks an older title.

I believe Gabe's main issue with Windows 8, and it's one he's addressed, is the new Windows Store. This is Microsoft's equivalent of Apple's App store, and the company similarly takes a 30% cut of everything sold there. An ever bigger concern is that Microsoft might disallow certain software to run on its new operating system. Sound a little like Apple's closed platform? The development community is rightly afraid that Microsoft's Windows Store is going down the same path. And while it's clear that the company will exercise control over what is offered in its Store, nobody is certain what will happen outside of it. Hence, Newell is willing to spend (or at least threaten to spend) big money on development for Linux.

As far as I'm aware, Microsoft hasn't done anything to wall off Windows 8. You can install Steam without an issue, along with any other legacy application. Of course, this is a different story entirely on Windows RT, which is being limited to applications available through the Windows Store. As a result, it's going to be harder for Valve to make as much money on Windows RT-based devices, and developers have to be worried that Microsoft may go a similar route in Windows 8 as well, taking a share of each sale they make. 

For the time being, then, aside from learning the new interface, the main concern you're going to have is how your favorite titles perform on the new operating system. Windows 8 does update DirectX to version 11.1 (Direct3D 11.1, DXGI 1.2, WDDM 1.2, etc.), but at least for the time being, we're not expecting much difference. Even still, we had to see for ourselves if frame rates or compatibility would be negatively affected. And so we're comparing 10 of our favorite titles in both Windows 7 and 8.

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  • Zingam_Duo
    More bothersome was the compatibility issue we ran into in Sleeping Dogs, which affected Windows 8, but not Windows 7. When we chose the High detail preset, most of the in-game models simply disappeared. Fortunately, that geometry shows up again if you dial down the graphics quality. Hardly a favorable solution, but it's what we have for now.

    Seems like bad drivers....

    Well, this time MS trying to make a tabled didn't completely fucked up Windows performancewise. Or maybe be they just divorced Intel because until recently OS upgrade meant CPU/RAM upgrade. The end result was that in many cases the overall PC performance didn't improve that significantly over two and sometimes even three generations of new hardware. Microsoft would always come up with an OS that would eat all the system resources and bog down the PC experience.
    This time they seem to have screwed something completely different: the UI.
  • jay_nar2012
    btcstore19input this URL:( )you can find many cheap and high stuffBelieve you will love it.WE ACCEPT CREDIT CARD /WESTERN UNION PAYMENTYOU MUST NOT MISS IT!!!

    Get lost.

    If i need cheap things i can go to poundland.
  • HEXiT
    so much for microsofts statement that windows 8 would be the gamers platform.
    0.01%-0.015% better isnt exactly a huge increase and certainly not the 5-10% they were promising in the early days of promo'ing it.
  • daglesj
    Guys stop commenting on the non US sections. It's a waste of time.

    Why Toms bothers to have all these separate discussions I have no idea.
  • jay_nar2012
    Well if i try to use the US site i end up back in the UK site.....
  • jldevoy
    So the end result sane person will notice any difference; only sad geeks who spend all day benchmarking instead of playing.
  • Pailin
    I am actually Quite Happy with my Win 7 Pro :)

    No intention what so ever to upgrade to Win 8 - especially with some of MS's new attitudes of We Know what You want! (and will code the OS to make it harder to change it from that view too)

    I have a lot of negative feeling surrounding Win 8 that were never present when Win 7 was still up and coming...
  • Anonymous
    So,.. they having inserted any purpose slow-downs in the code yet? Just like they did with XP, mind you...?

    Gabe is doing the right thing.
  • Anonymous
    Just as a side point, did you make sure (in win8) for sleeping dogs, to download the hig res texture pack, because i had the exact same experience under highest settings for sleeping dogs on win7 until id downloaded the 3gb optional textures for high res :p

    Just a thought
  • contrasia
    Gabe already did a beta test on Steam for Linux, so it seems genuine and not a mere threat.
    Haven't seen all the interviews with Gabe, but from what I'd read he made no indications it was a disaster for gamers specifically, but rather it was a disaster in general as an Operating System. Though I say this with a fair amount of Ignorance, so correct me if I'm wrong.
    I'm glad that it has a high compatibility rate, as I'd read some worrying news about the move from the usual architecture to the RTM arch. The loss of the x86 arch considering how many of my programs use it, was really worrying. However you and a few others seem to indicate this might not be such a big deal, so i'm a bit happier about the OS itself, though I still hate the UI, but sudden changes like that tend to generate that kind of thing. Though worst of all is how unintuitive it is, it doesn't help new users at all in it's design. The point of Windows was to make things obvious, straight forward, and easier to deal with, which is why the GUI system was successful. Hidden menu's, and extra screens that makes it harder to see what's going on at a glance, is running in the opposite direction for user friendly-ness.
  • Oli999
    There is an issue with gaming on Windows 8. I have steam and after running the upgrade several games stopped working. The newer games were fine, it's just I have a few classic older titles that didn't work at all on Windows 8.