How DirectStorage 1.1 could make Windows 11 an essential upgrade for PC gamers

Microsoft’s DirectStorage 1.1, a feature which uses the GPU to speed loading times, has just been tested with comparisons drawn between AMD, Intel and Nvidia graphics cards – with some very interesting results. In short, the feature looks set to seriously supercharge loading times with NVMe SSDs.

As Tom’s Hardware reports, Compusemble developed a benchmark test that German tech site PC Games Hardware (PCGH) used to produce results for AMD’s RX 7900 XT pitted against Intel’s Arc A770 and also Nvidia’s RTX 4080.

All GPUs were tested in a PC with Intel’s Core i9-12900K (Alder Lake flagship CPU) under Windows 11.

First off, a quick reminder on the tech to refresh your memory if needed: DirectStorage 1.1 comes with GPU decompression tech, so the GPU can handle decompression (of compressed game assets), and do so with far greater speed and efficiency than the CPU.

This ushers in faster loading times, and quicker loading of assets on-the-fly in big open world games, meaning a smoother experience when wandering about those kinds of large environments.

In testing, PCGH found that Intel’s A770 GPU was actually the top performer in terms of achieving speedy decompression of game assets, hitting 16.8GB/s compared to 15.3GB/s for the RTX 4080, and 14.6GB/s for AMD’s 7900 XT (for PCIe 4.0 testing – though Intel also led for PCI 3.0, albeit by a slightly narrower margin).

While that was a somewhat eye-opening victory for Intel Arc, it’s important to note that it didn’t translate to any real difference in loading times between the GPUs, with all of them ensuring blazing-fast speeds.

PCGH witnessed 5 second load times being reduced to 0.5 seconds – essentially the blink of an eye – in all cases for these AMD, Intel and Nvidia graphics cards, so all were fully up to scratch in terms of the actual end results.

Analysis: Seriously impressive results – but where are the games?

This is an exciting first glimpse at independent benchmarks indicating just how fast DirectStorage will be for PC gamers, no matter what flavor of (contemporary) GPU they’re using. Note that gamers need to have an NVMe SSD, and equally, be running Windows 11 for the best results.

While DirectStorage will work with Windows 10 PCs, there are a whole bunch of optimizations for Windows 11 on the storage front which mean that it’ll provide much more of a boost. So it’s easy to see why, given how much of an impact DirectStorage looks to be making going by this testing, it’ll be a compelling argument for PC gamers to upgrade to Windows 11.

Mind you, it may not be an argument that applies in the real world for some time to come, simply because there aren’t any games that utilize DirectStorage yet (not on PC, anyway). The one game we know is incoming and bristles with DS support is Forspoken, and frustratingly, this has been the victim of multiple delays now.

Forspoken was expected in May 2022, then was delayed until October 2022, before being pushed to January 24, 2023, which is only just over a week away now. So, hopefully – barring any further last-minute delays – we should be able to see DirectStorage in action on the PC very soon.

Even so, one PC game is just a drop in the ocean, and it’s not clear when further titles that use this speedy SSD boosting tech will actually arrive. That means it’ll still be quite a while before PC gamers sticking with Windows 10 feel the real pull to upgrade to Windows 11, but judging from early testing so far, it looks like that pull will be a substantial one when it does come into play.

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