Xbox tech set to reduce CPU overhead by up to 40% when gaming on Windows 11

Windows 11 gamers could get some really beefy benefits from DirectStorage tech, which was recently announced to have arrived on Microsoft’s newest OS – but it’ll be some time yet before developers incorporate it into games.

We already knew that Windows 11 would give users ‘optimal’ results with DirectStorage (compared to Windows 10) in terms of what this feature does – namely seriously speeding up NVMe SSDs.

However, there’s been an eye-opening revelation concerning exactly how much difference this will make when it comes to relieving the pressure on the PC’s processor.

As TweakTown reports, Cooper Partin, a senior software engineer at Microsoft, explained that the DirectStorage implementation for PC is specifically designed for Windows.

Partin noted: “DirectStorage is designed for modern gaming systems. It handles smaller reads more efficiently, and you can batch multiple requests together. When fully integrated with your title, DirectStorage, with an NVMe SSD on Windows 11, reduces the CPU overhead in a game by 20-40%.

“This is attributed to the advancements made in the file IO stack on Windows 11 and the improvements on that platform in general.”


Analysis: CPU resources freed which will make a major difference elsewhere

A 40% reduction is a huge difference in terms of lightening the load on the CPU, although that is a best-case scenario – but even 20% is a big step forward for freeing up processor resources.

Those resources can then be used elsewhere to help big open world games run more smoothly – as we’ve seen before, DirectStorage isn’t simply about making games load more quickly . There’s much more to it than that, and now we’re getting some exciting glimpses of exactly how much difference this Microsoft tech could make to PC games.

Of course, while the public SDK (software development kit) has been released, it’s still up to game developers to bake in this tech when they’re coding, and it’ll be quite some time before we see DirectStorage appearing in many games.

The first game which uses DirectStorage is Forspoken, and we got a glimpse of that at GDC, where it was shown to load up in a single second. Forspoken is scheduled to arrive in October 2022.

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Xbox tech set to reduce CPU overhead by up to 40% when gaming on Windows 11

Windows 11 gamers could get some really beefy benefits from DirectStorage tech, which was recently announced to have arrived on Microsoft’s newest OS – but it’ll be some time yet before developers incorporate it into games.

We already knew that Windows 11 would give users ‘optimal’ results with DirectStorage (compared to Windows 10) in terms of what this feature does – namely seriously speeding up NVMe SSDs.

However, there’s been an eye-opening revelation concerning exactly how much difference this will make when it comes to relieving the pressure on the PC’s processor.

As TweakTown reports, Cooper Partin, a senior software engineer at Microsoft, explained that the DirectStorage implementation for PC is specifically designed for Windows.

Partin noted: “DirectStorage is designed for modern gaming systems. It handles smaller reads more efficiently, and you can batch multiple requests together. When fully integrated with your title, DirectStorage, with an NVMe SSD on Windows 11, reduces the CPU overhead in a game by 20-40%.

“This is attributed to the advancements made in the file IO stack on Windows 11 and the improvements on that platform in general.”


Analysis: CPU resources freed which will make a major difference elsewhere

A 40% reduction is a huge difference in terms of lightening the load on the CPU, although that is a best-case scenario – but even 20% is a big step forward for freeing up processor resources.

Those resources can then be used elsewhere to help big open world games run more smoothly – as we’ve seen before, DirectStorage isn’t simply about making games load more quickly . There’s much more to it than that, and now we’re getting some exciting glimpses of exactly how much difference this Microsoft tech could make to PC games.

Of course, while the public SDK (software development kit) has been released, it’s still up to game developers to bake in this tech when they’re coding, and it’ll be quite some time before we see DirectStorage appearing in many games.

The first game which uses DirectStorage is Forspoken, and we got a glimpse of that at GDC, where it was shown to load up in a single second. Forspoken is scheduled to arrive in October 2022.

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Windows 11 is getting long-requested improvements to windowed gaming

If you prefer to play certain games in a window, rather than full screen on your PC, then you might want to check out the latest Windows 11 Insider update.

The Windows Insider Dev update of build 22545 and above – which allows you to sign up to features in testing that are not ready for a final release – is showcasing a feature called 'Optimizations for windowed games'. Enabling this in Settings will allegedly improve latency, and showcase Auto HDR and Variable Refresh Rates (VRR) for the games that support these two features.

There are some games that should be played in full-screen mode, especially if you've bought an expensive monitor to showcase God of War or Sonic Adventure. But windowed games make it easier to multitask between emails, social media, and watching video side-by-side.

Improvements to this only prove further that Microsoft is looking at all aspects of Windows 11 in this upcoming feature update to make this OS its best yet. Seeing Microsoft focus on something like windowed gaming would have been completely unimaginable back in the days of Windows Vista.


Analysis: windowed gaming gets its due

If you're running build 22545 and above, you can go to Settings > System > Display > Graphics > Default Graphics Settings to turn this feature on.

But you can also enable this for certain games by going to Settings > System > Display > Graphics and selecting which games you want to benefit from this feature.

It's another welcome move by Microsoft to look at aspects of the operating system that's been left by the wayside. There are plenty of users out there with one monitor, where they like to easily switch between a game and a web browser, or have them side by side.

Especially for games that work well for a keyboard and not a controller, you can seamlessly switch windows using Alt+Tab to jump back and forth between the game and whatever else you have open.

However, this also looks to be laying the groundwork for better compatibility for games that you can buy on a storefront, such as Steam, Epic Games, and Microsoft's own Xbox app. Having better ways to play a game in windowed mode is only a positive move by the company, and if this display type is getting attention, it makes us wonder what else Microsoft is focusing on for Windows 11 in the coming months and years.

Via WindowsLatest

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Opera’s gaming browser is available to download on the Epic Games Store

Opera has announced that the gaming variant of its web browser, Opera GX, will also be available to download directly from the Epic Games Store, from today (January 27).

You can download the browser through this link, with this being the first web browser that's available to download on Epic's storefront.

Opera GX is similar to how the regular Opera browser works, but with exclusive features that are tailored to gamers. GX Control can limit the amount of RAM that the browser can use, alongside similar features for Wi-FI or CPU speeds.

Downloading the web browser from Epic Games will be useful if you have a PC that's just for gaming and nothing else, but it also raises the question of whether other gaming browsers are coming to help fill this need as well.


Analysis: it was always heading to this

Having Opera GX and your previously-purchased games, ready to download in one will be a great help for many, especially if you have had to wipe your Gaming PC, and you want to quickly re-download what you had installed before.

It was inevitable that we'd eventually see Opera's gaming browser on a gaming storefront, and it could lead to features from Epic appearing on Opera GX in time, such as downloading games or chatting to your friends through an Epic Games messenger client.

Annette de Freitas, Head of Business Development at Opera Gaming, explained, “At Opera, our mission is to create superior products that people choose to use and install.” Freitas continues. “This mission has led to the development of Opera GX, the browser of choice for gamers, who decide to make it default for its superior features, look and feel. Opera GX is the perfect fit for the Epic Games Store because of this shared passion to create choice and enable a community of gamers.”

Opera GX on Epic Games Store

(Image credit: Opera)

There's the possibility that other vendors in this space, such as Apple, Mozilla, and Microsoft may be looking into a gaming variant of Safari, Firefox, and Edge, but we suspect this is a space that Opera will have on its own for the foreseeable.

When you factor in the other apps that are built into Opera GX such as Twitch and Discord, alongside being able to sync up your RGB to the web browser, it makes sense in the grand scheme of your gaming.

You may feel as though other web browsers, such as Microsoft Edge and Firefox will do the job for browsing sites and downloading files.

But if you either have a hard drive partition that's focused solely on gaming, or a Gaming PC, it makes sense to have a web browser that tries to solve the same need.

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We try gaming in Parallels Desktop again with an M1 Pro MacBook

Gaming through virtualization on an Apple Silicon Mac is getting better with every M1 Mac release from the company.

Back in August, we tested games in Parallels Desktop, a popular virtualization software, on an M1 Mac mini, to see how certain games would run. We were surprised by the results. Many would run at almost a full speed in framerate, while others would run at an unplayable speed.

With the announcement of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, we were curious to see how the same games we tried back in August, would perform on the new MacBook Pro models.

As I upgraded to an M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14-inch in November, I decided to try the same games from August, to see if there’s been a significant improvement already.

Metal Gear M1 Pro

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes running on M1 Pro, Parallels Desktop 17

(Image credit: TechRadar)

As Apple Silicon chips run on a different architecture to Intel and AMD, apps need to be rewritten on macOS in order to take full advantage of the M1 chip. While Apple offers an app called Rosetta 2 to emulate apps that haven’t yet been rewritten, this doesn’t reap the speed and power benefits that a native app can bring.

With Parallels Desktop 17 fully compatible with M1, this means that we can run certain apps on Windows, within the app to see how games can run.

Since our testing in August, Windows 11 has been released, alongside an ARM version, so we installed Steam, Epic Games, Rockstar Launcher, and the Xbox app to see how these would run on the MacBook Pro.

We tested the same games as before:

  • Sonic Adventure
  • Sonic Generations
  • Streets of Rage
  • Sekiro
  • DOOM
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Quake
  • Half Life: Source
  • Half Life 2: Deathmatch
  • Tomb Raider II (1997)
  • Golf it!
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ
  • Tekken 7
  • Resident Evil 3 Remake
  • Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy

Again, DOOM and Dragon Ball FighterZ refused to work, mainly due to the DirectX framework they’re built on. This is a graphics engine, originally created by Microsoft, that allows developers to run their games on certain machines.

Trying to load up Halo Infinite through the Xbox app also refused because of the same reason. Resident Evil 3 is running worse this time, with more graphical issues, making it unplayable, regardless of everything in graphic settings on ‘low’ or ‘off’.

I tried the same settings with each game as before, in a resolution of 1440×900 at medium settings, and it resulted in full speed across the board. While Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes would run at 40 FPS on medium settings with the m1 Mac mini, it was full speed on high settings here.

Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy was another surprise. While it would struggle with the Mac mini with graphical glitches everywhere, here there was no issue. This was also the only time where I could hear the fans, while more graphically intensive games wouldn't summon them, so it could be a glitch with Parallels for the fans.

With the games running this well, I decided to go further in my testing with the M1 Pro.

Going the M1 Pro distance

Resident Evil 3 Remake on an M1 Mac mini through Steam

(Image credit: TechRadar)

With every game on medium settings at a 1440×900 resolution running at full speed, I decided to go for a high setting preset, with a higher resolution at 2560×1440 running the same games listed above.

The results surprised me yet again, with almost every game at full speed. However, Sekiro struggled 

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ran at the high settings preset at a constant 60FPS, all within the window of Parallels Desktop.

Tomb Raider Legend on Parallels Desktop 17 on an M1 MacBook Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The only attribute stopping me from playing more games was storage. But while this was impressive, we reached out to Dmitry Geynisman, Product Manager at Parallels to see what the plans were for the future in gaming for Parallels Desktop on Apple Silicon.

While we had noticed that DirectX 12 wasn’t possible, the team has confirmed that this is in the works. “The priority, for now, is DirectX 12. More games are solely running on this API, so we don’t want our users to be cut off from this, so this is the priority.” Geynisman clarifies. “Eventually down the line, we want to support Vulkan, but that partly depends on Apple as well.”

Some of the big games, such as Halo Infinite and Fortnite, will want to be played on these Macs, and we asked whether support for this will arrive.

“With Halo, that’s up to Microsoft due to the API again, but Fortnite is a different one.” Geynisman explains. “It crashes due to the anti-cheat system that’s built-in, but we’re investigating whether that can be enabled within Parallels.”

With the impressive results, we asked if another tier of Parallels, focused on gaming, would be in the company’s future.

“It’s not something we’re considering for now, but in the meantime, we want to make sure that we can offer the games that people own on their Windows PC, on the Mac. Geynisman continues. “We’re as shocked as you in how well some of these games are performing, and we just want to keep this going.”

As more games improve and Parallels works on more compatibility with M1 Pro and M1 Max, time will tell how the future Macs will run these games.

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