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Of the 10 games we benchmarked, only one demonstrated a significant difference in moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8, and only on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660. That game was Borderlands 2, where our average measured frame rate dropped from 86.6 to 81 FPS. But at that speed, the five-frame drop is hardly worth fretting over.
More bothersome was the compatibility issue we ran into in Sleeping Dogs, which affected Windows 8, but not Windows 7. When we chose the High detail preset, most of the in-game models simply disappeared. Fortunately, that geometry shows up again if you dial down the graphics quality. Hardly a favorable solution, but it's what we have for now.
Aside from those couple of idiosyncrasies, performance under Windows 8 is indistinguishable from Windows 7. Any speed-up or slow-down would be almost impossible to identify during game play, and we expect compatibility issues to get patched quickly by game developers.
Curious about how Microsoft approached Windows 8 differently than older operating systems, which might not have enjoyed such a smooth transition, we approached Chuck Walbourn, senior software development engineer for Microsoft, who reminded us that the company does perform a ton of application compatibility testing. More interesting, though, was a blog post he brought to our attention on MSDN. In short, it tells us that some of the performance, power management, compatibility, and battery efficiency improvements that would have required a service pack update in the past are now being made available through Windows Update much sooner. Thus, it's possible that, in some situations, performance and compatibility will improve on zero-day as a result of Microsoft's new delivery mechanism.
Chuck also wrote a good blog post to developers earlier this year, helping explain how they ensure compatibility moving forward. From a greater focus on Direct3D 11 and its feature levels that extend support to older graphics architectures to adopting modern compilers, Chuck's guidance is something ISVs probably already know, but enthusiasts might enjoy digesting.
For all of the consternation that Microsoft's new user interface is receiving, we can at least rest assured that performance and compatibility are generally quite good. As far as more future-looking worries about Microsoft's Windows Store, well, we'll have to stay tuned for more on that.