Sunday, August 29, 2010

ATi Catalyst 10.8 / Unigine: Performance Scaling on Low End Hardware Part 3

One of the concepts I talk about in many of my Gamenikki reviews is the concept of breakpoints. A breakpoint is the point at which hardware is fast enough to run a certain application. Since I was already running Unigine's Heaven 2.1 benchmark across several different computers, I thought I'd try to run it on my Asus F3Ka laptop. The frame-rate results are not surprising, but they can help shed light on the concept of a breakpoint.

We'll start out with the default scorings of Heaven 2.1 under OGL:



Then Heaven 2.1 under DirectX:



As expected, the DirectX API scores a few frames per second more. What's interesting is that Unigine Detected a Turion TL-60 as a 2.6ghz part. Oh how I wish.

One would think then that lowering the resolution would help the performance. So, I lowered Heaven 2.1 to 640*480 in OpenGL:



And DirectX:



While we get to see Unigine's Hardware Detection issues repeat themselves, the results themselves aren't actually that spectacular. Performance has largely doubled itself under DirectX, and is closer to a 40% leap under OpenGL.

So, what about turning the Shaders to low to give our graphics card less processing work?

Heaven 2.1 with low shaders in OpenGL:



Heaven 2.1 with low shaders in DirectX:



Interestingly, here we see that OpenGL turns in better performance than DirectX. The performance of OpenGL in low-resolution with High-Shaders is not far off from OpenGL in High Resolution with Low Shaders. The performance of DirectX in low-resolution with High Shaders is much better than Direct in High Resolution with Low Shaders.

So, one would think that turning both the shaders to low, and the resolution to low, performance would go up? Right?

640*480 with Low Shaders in OpenGL:



640*480 with Low Shaders in DirectX:



Unsurprisingly, OpenGL not only went back to scoring less than DirectX, by a wide margin. Surprisingly, OpenGL did better with Shaders on high, and DirectX pretty much performed the same as it did in low resolution with High Details.

One of the problems here is that this particular laptop is hindered both by the processor and the GPU. Neither are really capable of driving the Unigine Software Application. Even if I moved to a much more powerful graphics card, this processor simply would not be able to process the Unigine software application as used in the Heaven 2.1 test. Even if I moved to a more powerful processor, the graphics card alone would also be a hindrance.

Way back when Valve first launched the Source Engine in Half-Life 2 I praised the engine for it's ability to scale across various hardware levels. One of my complaints about the Unigine Engine, at least as it is used in the various downloadable benchmarks from Unigine, is that it doesn't really scale across hardware. Recent versions of the Unreal Engine have the same problem. On this particular laptop games like Unreal Tournament III and Borderlands will run. They just won't run well. Games that are built on recent revisions of the Source Engine, such as Alien Swarm, Team Fortress 2, and Left For Dead 2, are still largely able to run well on this particular hardware combination.
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