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Example: Age of Empires III

I’m using Windows XP and Vista as a dual-boot machine, so I installed Microsoft’s Age of Empires 3 and the WarChiefs expansion on both operating systems. Surprisingly, on Vista the game loaded in half the time it took on XP, and the loading times of a large map were significantly lower with Vista than with Windows XP, a good thing that might be due to the enhanced kernel architecture.

Next, I cranked up the resolution to 1920x1200—with a 24-inch widescreen display, this setting is the native resolution—and enabled the full level of details and activated all effects (such as water reflections). Performance in the game itself was so-so: Scrolling and zooming were definitely slower, and I experienced a frames per second drop of approximately 25%. What impressed me, however, was the fact that even with eight players and hundreds of units, game performance didn’t drop as radically in Vista as in Windows XP—which, under the same conditions, reminds me more of a fast slideshow.

So gaming in Windows Vista has its advantages and disadvantages. Thanks to the new kernel architecture, we see huge I/O operations in games performed faster than with Windows XP. But, at the same time, graphics performance wasn’t as good as on XP, probably due to the immature drivers. The impact on performance was especially noticeable when I enabled effects such as anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering. We all hope that NVIDIA and ATI will work around these issues and present the gaming world with some faster drivers in the (near!) future.

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