No, Microsoft DirectStorage does not reduce RTX 4090 performance by 10 percent

    You may have seen headlines like “DirectStorage causes 10 percent performance hit on RTX 4090 in Leaveor “Beware – Microsoft DirectStorage may kill your frame rate,” all based on a single test of German YouTube channel PC Games Hardware. Microsoft’s new DirectStorage feature is designed to massively increase load times in PC games, but it’s not supposed to lower your all-important frame rates.

    So what’s going on? The reality is that the DirectStorage implementation in Leave does not affect the frame rate performance at all. It’s a case of bad test data.

    I saw the headlines and immediately started testing Leave on an RTX 4090 rig paired with Intel’s Core i9-13900KS and a SATA SSD and PCIe 4.0 SSD. While PC Games Hardware found that frame rates dropped by 10 percent when using a PCIe 4.0 SSD with DirectStorage, I couldn’t replicate this performance hit in my own testing. Performance was identical, but loading times were clearly very different between the two drives.

    It appears that PC Games Hardware used CapFrameX to measure performance, a recording and analysis tool based on Intel’s PresentMon. Although it is a popular app used for PC benchmarks, the loading sequences are inside Leave‘s benchmark cause black screens with high frame rates that can affect the overall average frame rate.

    Because load times are longer on a SATA SSD, these black screens stay on the screen longer, impacting the final average frame rate. CapFrameX was quick to respond point this out on Twitter shortly after the headlines appeared.

    Leave is one of the first games to ship on PC with Microsoft’s DirectStorage enabled, so it’s a great test candidate for what to expect from a technology that promises the blazing fast load times we’re seeing on Xbox Series X consoles. While Leave uses DirectStorage 1.1 – the latest release from Microsoft that includes GPU decompression – it doesn’t seem to use GPU decompression yet.

    Square Enix doesn’t provide an easy way to disable DirectStorage Leaves settings menu (it’s enabled by default) but you can add “-noDirectStorage” to the game launch options. I’ve tested the game with and without DirectStorage enabled, and load times can be halved in some loading spots Leave. Here are the results with a 2 TB Samsung 990 Pro:

    The impact of DirectStorage load times is evident in Leave‘s built-in benchmark, and in most scenes you’ll see load times improved by 30 percent or more. How GPU decompression can help in games like Leave is not yet clear, but we will probably see improvements in certain parts of the game.

    GPU decompression is the next logical step for DirectStorage and one that developers have been asking for. GPU decompression works by shifting the work required to decompress assets in games to the graphics card instead of the CPU. Games usually compress game assets for distribution, and then decompress those assets once a game has been played.

    Now we just need more games with DirectStorage and the benefits of GPU decompression. Nvidia, AMD and Intel are all poised to support the technology, but it’s up to game developers to bring it to life in titles launching this year and beyond.

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