Microsoft details Windows 8 graphics acceleration features

July 24, 2012 // 12:01 p.m.

Tags: #direct2d #direct3d #directx #directx-111 #metro-ui #microsoft #target-independent-raster #target-independent-rasterisation #tir #windows #windows-7 #windows-8

With many power users staring blankly at Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 release in bemusement, the company needs to do some serious work to convince them of the benefits that come with an upgrade - and it's attempting to do so with information on the new hardware acceleration features available to client applications.

In a post to the Building Windows 8 blog by graphics group programme manager Rob Copeland, claiming that graphics performance has been a big focus for Microsoft's next-generation operating system.

'In the past we've used many different benchmarks and apps to measure the performance of DirectX. These have been largely focused on 3D games,' Copeland explains. 'While games are still very important, we knew that many of these existing ways to measure graphics performance did not tell us everything we needed to know for graphics-intensive, 2D, mainstream apps. So, we created new scenario-focused tests and metrics to track our progress.'

These metrics - which comprise frame rate, glitch count, time to first frame, memory utilisation and CPU utilisation - have, Copeland claims, allowed Microsoft to tailor Windows 8 to ensure that graphics performance for 2D applications is as efficient as possible. Based on work carried out on adding DirectX hardware acceleration to Microsoft apps including Internet Explorer 9, Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Messenger, Copeland's team was able to tweak DirectX and Windows 8 itself to improve general application performance.

The results are undeniably impressive. text-rendering performance is boosted up to 336 per cent over Windows 7, with titles and headings in Metro apps getting the most benefit. Other apps will feel snappier, too, with web pages and word processor documents formatted in paragraphs getting a 150 per cent frame rate boost, and general user interface text rendering jumping 131 per cent over Windows 7.

Geometry rending is also improved by work done for Windows 8: improved tessellation boost the framerate for drawing lines by 184 per cent, rounded rectangles by 220 per cent, ellipses by 369 per cent and rectangles by a whopping 438 per cent. Irregular geometry rendering is also boosted, using a DirectX 11.1 feature dubbed Target Independent Rasterisation (TIR.) On compatible hardware, that results in a boost of between 169 per cent and 523 per cent in the performance of SVG rendering.

'We worked closely with our graphics hardware partners to design TIR. Dramatic improvements were made possible because of that partnership,' Copeland claims of the TIR feature. 'DirectX 11.1 hardware is already on the market today and we're working with our partners to make sure more TIR-capable products will be broadly available.'
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