Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Windows 7: Play Crysis Without a GPU

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 96 comments

This week, Microsoft unveiled one of Windows 7’s new features, which will allow games and other DirectX 10 and 10.1-based applications to run fully accelerated on obsolete graphics hardware, and even on systems with no graphics acceleration at all.

Dubbed Windows Advanced Rasterization Platform or WARP, the new graphics layer for Windows 7 will utilize the system CPU as the graphics engine to assist old graphics cards, and take over completely in some cases. Microsoft indicates that WARP will be fully dependent on how powerful the CPU is in a system, but will require one that supports at least SSE2 extensions.

According to Microsoft, even the lowest-end discrete graphics solutions these days are typically 4 to 5X faster than a CPU-only WARP system. Although the performance differences between CPU-only WARP and discrete GPU accelerated graphics is large, WARP offers several advantages: users will still be able to run their 3D applications fully-accelerated when a video card driver is corrupted, missing, or improperly installed/configured. Systems built to take advantage of WARP from a hardware standpoint will be able to display graphics even when the video card is missing—or toasted. So if you’ve nuked your graphics card from a bad BIOS flash, fear not on a WARP-capable system. At least you will be able to boot back up until the video card is replaced.

WARP documentation indicates that the technology will take full advantage of multi-core CPUs and, given today’s technology, Intel’s Core i7 CPU tops the charts.

The following are benchmarks from Microsoft’s own test of Crysis, running at 800x600 with the lowest quality settings:

Crysis on Windows 7 WARP10: CPU Performance
CPUTimeAvg FPSMin FPSMax FPS
Core i7 8-Core @ 3.0GHz271.757.363.4515.01
Core 2 Quad (Penryn) @ 3.0GHz351.355.692.4910.95
Core 2 Duo (Penryn) @ 3.0GHz573.983.481.356.61
Core 2 Duo @ 2.6GHz707.192.830.815.18
Core 2 Duo @ 2.4GHz763.252.620.764.70
Core 2 Duo @ 2.1GHz908.872.200.643.72
Xeon 8 Core @ 2.0GHz424.044.721.849.56
AMD FX74 4-Core @ 3.0GHz583.123.431.415.78
Phenom X4 9550 Quad-Core @ 2.2GHz664.693.010.535.46

Crysis on Windows 7 WARP10: GPU Performance
Discrete GPUTimeAvg FPSMin FPSMax FPS
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS23.5884.8060.78130.83
NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT47.6341.9925.6772.57
NVIDIA Quadro 29067.1629.7818.1979.87
NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS59.0133.8921.2251.82
ATI Radeon HD 340053.7937.1822.9759.77
ATI Radeon 320067.1929.7718.9145.74
ATI Radeon 2400 PRO67.0429.8317.9745.91
Intel DX10 Integrated386.975.171.7416.22

Notice that Intel’s Core i7 quad-core solution with Hyper-Threading, running at 3.0 GHz, outperforms Intel’s best integrated graphics solution.

According to Microsoft’s WARP documentation:

When WARP10 is running on the CPU, we are limited compared to a graphics card in a number of ways. The front side bus speed of a CPU is typically around or under 10 GB/s whereas a graphics card often has dedicated memory that is able to take advantage of 20-100 GB/s or more of graphics bandwidth. Graphics hardware also has fixed function units that can perform complex and expensive tasks like texture filtering, format decompression or conversions asynchronously with very little overhead or power cost. Performing these operations on a typical CPU is expensive in terms of both power consumption and performance cost in cycles.

WARP Capabilities:

* Fully supports all Direct3D 10 and 10.1 feature
      o Fully supports all the precision requirements of the Direct3D 10 and 10.1 specification
      o Supports Direct3D 11 when used with FeatureLevel 9_1, 9_2, 9_3, 10_0 and 10_1
      o Supports all optional texture formats, such as multi-sample render targets and sampling from float surfaces.
      o Supports anti-aliased, high quality rendering up to 8x MSAA.
      o Supports anisotropic filtering
      o Supports 32 and 64 bit applications as well as large address aware 32 bit applications.
* The minimum specification for WARP10 is the same as Windows Vista, specifically:
      o Minimum 800MHz CPU.
      o MMX, SSE or SSE2 is *not* required
      o Minimum 512MB of RAM.

Clearly WARP won’t be the ideal way to run the latest games. Nor do we expect enthusiasts with Core i7s to also be replacing integrated graphics. Thus, it’ll be interesting to see where Microsoft goes with this feature. WARP will be compatible on both x86 and x64 systems.

Discuss
Display all 96 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    mtyermom , December 1, 2008 6:14 PM
    lol @ no graphics card at all

    *me tries in vain to plug the DVI cable into a USB port*

    Oh noes?
  • 13 Hide
    tipoo , December 1, 2008 4:58 PM
    its pretty sad that their CPU beat their graphics chips at what a GPU should do. and whats sadder is that a Geforce 8400 is 5x faster than their CPU which beat their IGP's at graphics. what does that say about their IGP's?
    (basing my reply on the numbers posted on the techreport article)
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    afrobacon , December 1, 2008 4:41 PM
    Now the real question; How many "service packs" will it take to get it to work properly?
  • -2 Hide
    Pei-chen , December 1, 2008 4:47 PM
    The condition being you'll need an Intel Havendale CPU with integrated GPU. Ha Ha, joking.
  • 13 Hide
    tipoo , December 1, 2008 4:58 PM
    its pretty sad that their CPU beat their graphics chips at what a GPU should do. and whats sadder is that a Geforce 8400 is 5x faster than their CPU which beat their IGP's at graphics. what does that say about their IGP's?
    (basing my reply on the numbers posted on the techreport article)
  • 8 Hide
    dechy , December 1, 2008 5:04 PM
    "Systems built to take advantage of WARP from a hardware standpoint will be able to display graphics even when the video card is missing—or toasted. So if you’ve nuked your graphics card from a bad BIOS flash, fear not on a WARP-capable system. At least you will be able to boot back up until the video card is replaced."

    That, from a massive enterprise point of view (28000 users / 46000 desktops & laptops) is a very nice feature. We have to deal with blown video cards monthly, and when it happens we're either waiting for warranty vendor to come & replace (a few hours) or scrambling to find an older one from an old clunker... either scenarios mean the user isn't able to work.

    Definitely looking forward to WARP
  • 6 Hide
    DXRick , December 1, 2008 5:05 PM
    DX has always had a hardware emulation mode (run in software on the CPU). It allows a programmer to test without concern of what DX capabilities the GPU he/she is testing with is capable of.

    So, MS is going to tout this as a feature of Windows 7, eh?
  • 2 Hide
    radguy , December 1, 2008 5:17 PM
    I would be excited if we could run this as for secondary graphics. My notebooks battery life would double if this would run the secondary graphics for surfing the net. When I play games my dedicated gpu would turn on. It was about the only I really did like on the new macbooks but it needs to be more seemless design. I'm hoping we get their larabee might be the frist step. Might being the key word
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , December 1, 2008 5:44 PM
    @sparky2010: that's FPS for 800x600 and lowest settings don't confuse yourselfurself
  • 8 Hide
    sparky2010 , December 1, 2008 5:46 PM
    ah... slight error on my part then.. but still a good idea nonetheless.. haha.. hmmm.
  • 3 Hide
    dechy , December 1, 2008 6:00 PM
    DXRick, I've heard of such things from DX, but I've never seen it work as I've had to deal with two blown home video cards (X800XT & X1900XTX) and there was no such thing as booting Windows without anything in the AGP slot (no IGP).

    DX is theirs, so it doesn't matter how they spin it, wether they say "we're finally building an OS that can support the DX10-10.1 feature to boot up Windows without any gfx card" or "we're introducing a new feature in Windows 7" is basically the same thing.
  • 3 Hide
    JonnyDough , December 1, 2008 6:06 PM
    Awesome. Now if only my GPU could act as a partial processor when I do video encoding. Oh wait, we have that now too. I'd like to see GPUs and CPUs integrate more, and be able to do anything. It would be awesome if Windows 7 allows me to play more GPU heavy games on my older Athlon systems. It might actually be an OS worth my cash "upgrading" to.
  • 17 Hide
    mtyermom , December 1, 2008 6:14 PM
    lol @ no graphics card at all

    *me tries in vain to plug the DVI cable into a USB port*

    Oh noes?
  • 4 Hide
    Niva , December 1, 2008 6:33 PM
    mtyermom,
    You joke but there is the possibility we might switch video to usb in the future, or even smaller form connector.

    However, for the time being there will be a regular DVI output on the motherboard close to where your usb ports are so calm down.
  • 5 Hide
    rmicro1 , December 1, 2008 6:56 PM
    If the video card is toast, what will give the display to the monitor so you can continue working?

    Perhaps just logging in remotely...but this means using another computer anyways...hmm.
  • 1 Hide
    that_aznpride101 , December 1, 2008 6:59 PM
    radguyI would be excited if we could run this as for secondary graphics. My notebooks battery life would double if this would run the secondary graphics for surfing the net. When I play games my dedicated gpu would turn on. It was about the only I really did like on the new macbooks but it needs to be more seemless design. I'm hoping we get their larabee might be the frist step. Might being the key word


    Good point radman, users of laptops will definitely get a huge benefit if they are able to port this over the laptop and be able to increase the lifespan of the battery or even the laptop myself.

    On another note, there's 2 items that I want to ask:

    1) How are nVidia and AMD going to react to this when they find out their integrated graphic chipsets will not be needed when Windows 7 comes out? This will seriously affect their revenue and their business model.

    2)If graphics will now be computed on the CPU instead of the GPU, will this cause overheating issues and reduce the lifetime of the CPU?

    Just some thoughts...

  • 4 Hide
    juvealert , December 1, 2008 7:01 PM
    who is the jackass running a game at 800x600 resolution ?!!

    Is this another F...... from MS ? the same way they did with the vista capable logos ?
  • 0 Hide
    bvickers , December 1, 2008 7:27 PM
    Here's a key application: web interface enhancement. IE 9 and SilverLight 3 would likely have WARP integration that would allow an entirely new online experience to be had, and widely available without a client-side application running (other than the OS, obviously).
  • 1 Hide
    dreamer77dd , December 1, 2008 7:28 PM
    well thinking that the cpu can run graphics and everything else it is doing in the background. it is ok.

    Now if we could get the copper out and put fibers optics in or something that sends information by light... hmm thinking we could send the amount of a 100 graphics cards they a special hook up like usb 9.2 or something. Well the cpu's are already small, just no one has a reason to make graphic chips so powerful unless windows 10 comes out. thinking it could be amazing 3d Imax kind of experience, gaming, movies and everything else you could think of. memory of love ones from pictures. feels like your their with them. i am sure we could take things far beyond this if we had the needs to.
  • -1 Hide
    hellwig , December 1, 2008 8:27 PM
    rmicro1If the video card is toast, what will give the display to the monitor so you can continue working?

    Perhaps just logging in remotely...but this means using another computer anyways...hmm.

    I don't know of any remote-loggin utilities that allow the display of anything drawn in DirectX (including video). I always see the "No Capable DirectX video output found" message. Maybe this is a limitation of the current DirectX and will be altered with WARP.

    As for getting local display output, maybe it can bypass the defective GPU and interface directly with the RAMDAC, in a similar fashion when you have no graphics drivers installed?
  • 6 Hide
    igot1forya , December 1, 2008 8:28 PM
    Does this mean I can *FINALLY* play Crysis over an RDP session?
Display more comments