DirectStorage Causes 10% Performance Hit On RTX 4090 In Forspoken (Updated)

Best Graphics Cards, GeForce RTX 4090
Best Graphics Cards, GeForce RTX 4090 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Update 01/27/2022 6:30 pm PT

PC Games Hardware has retracted the original claim that DirectStorage affects frame rates. The outlet used CapFrameX, a utility based on Intel PresentMon, to record the frame rates. Unfortunately, the publication didn't consider that the Forspoken benchmark contains black screens with high FPS that affect the average frame rate.

Logically, the SATA SSD took longer to load than the M.2 SSDs, resulting in higher overall frame rates. So while the data was accurate, the conclusion was wrong. PC Games Hardware has issued the following statement (opens in new tab) (machine translation) on its YouTube channel:

"After some questions came up: PCGH measured graphics card and SSD with full PCI Express connection. However, the measurement did not take into account that a slower SSD has longer loading phases with a black screen that has very high fps. This falsifies the values and we will take a look at Forspoken again in a detailed test - then hopefully with GPU compression deactivated in order to work out more precisely where the advantages and disadvantages of Direct Storage lie."

Original Article

Microsoft's DirectStorage technology has brought lightning-fast loading times to games. However, it would seem that not everything is sunshine and rainbows. DirectStorage may induce a slight performance loss, according to the latest test by the German publication PC Games Hardware (opens in new tab).

DirectStorage 1.1 moves game asset decompression from the processor to the graphics card. Microsoft's demo showed that scenes load almost 3X faster on a graphics card than the processor. Of course, your mileage will vary and depend hugely on your hardware. Nevertheless, it's an exciting technology that will make loading screens a thing of the past. While many news outlets are focusing on benchmarking the impact of DirectStorage on loading times, PC Games Hardware took it a step further and measured the effect that Microsoft's technology has on frame rates.

Forspoken, from Square Enix, is the first game to leverage DirectStorage, the foundation for PC Games Hardware's tests. The publication's system consisted of a Core i9-12900K (Alder Lake) processor and a GeForce RTX 4090, one of the best graphics cards, at 4K. The reviewer tested with a SATA SSD and two M.2 SSD but didn't mention the exact models.

DirectStorage Frame Rate Benchmarks

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ConfigurationAverage FPS1% Percentile0.2% Percentile
Core i9-12900K + RTX 4090 (SATA SSD)83.254.336
Core i9-12900K + RTX 4090 (M.2 SSD)75.353.837.3
Core i9-12900K + RTX 4090 (M.2 SSD)74.453.535.1

According to the results, the configuration with the SATA SSD offered the best performance in terms of frame rates. However, switching to an M.2 SSD resulted in up to 10% lower average frame rates. While the number looks significant, it's less than a 10 FPS difference between the configurations. Furthermore, the percentiles were very close to each other, meaning the gameplay was smooth despite the lower average frame rates.

It's too early to tell if DirectStorage only contributes to a 10% game performance degradation. The number could be significantly more considerable. PC Games Hardware tested at 4K, so it's plausible that the impact is more visible on lower resolutions, such as 1080p or 1440p. The GeForce RTX 4090 also possesses a lot of firepower; therefore, it'll be interesting to see how DirectStorage affects slower graphics cards. What would be even more intriguing is to quantify the performance loss and compare it between AMD, Nvidia, and Intel graphics cards.

It was to be expected that DirectStorage would take some toll on the graphics card. There is still a lot of testing to be done, though. PC Games Hardware's results are just a stepping stone. In any event, DirectStorage is a game-changer for game developers and gamers, and we'll likely see it in many upcoming titles.

Zhiye Liu
RAM Reviewer and News Editor

Zhiye Liu is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Although he loves everything that’s hardware, he has a soft spot for CPUs, GPUs, and RAM.

  • TJ Hooker
    All the results in the table in this article are listed as using DirectStorage. How can you can say the difference in results is from DS, when all the results use DS?

    Maybe it's explained in the video, but I don't speak German.
    Reply
  • nimbulan
    TJ Hooker said:
    All the results in the table in this article are listed as using DirectStorage. How can you can say the difference in results is from DS, when all the results use DS?

    Maybe it's explained in the video, but I don't speak German.
    I believe the assumption is that DirectStorage requires an NVMe drive, so wouldn't be used with the SATA setup. But when they first showed off DirectStorage with this game, they showed DirectStorage numbers for NVMe, SATA SSD, and even an HDD. Really makes me wonder if there's something else going on.
    Reply
  • Markis82
    Sorry to say but this not actually due to DirectStorage directly, but something else. The reason is because Forspoken does not actually use DirectStorage 1.1. Dev's confirmed it did not have the GPU decompression aspect. Whether performance took a hit due to indirect reasons either coincidence or indirectly as a byproduct of assets swapping or some other behavior would require more analysis.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    Maybe the Texture Decompression used the GPU Compute aspects of the 4090 since there was no dedicated ASIC for that specific Decompression step that it needed to do.
    Ergo the loss in performance.
    Reply
  • Yakumo_unr
    Forspoken uses DirectStorage 1.0, it does not have GPU Decompression, that came later in DirectStorage 1.1.

    The DirectStorage SDK has a benchmark sample you can build, it does run on a SATA drive, it gives no indication that doing so is doing anything other than using DirectStorage but just slower than an NVME.
    Reply
  • KyaraM
    TJ Hooker said:
    All the results in the table in this article are listed as using DirectStorage. How can you can say the difference in results is from DS, when all the results use DS?

    Maybe it's explained in the video, but I don't speak German.
    Yeah, he touches on it in the first couple minutes in the video. What they did was testing different types of SSDs, under the assumption that, for example, a SATA-SSD doesn't support it. He also says they cannot actually make out how much is from DirectStorage and how much from the type of SSD, since it cannot be turned off. Have to watch further to get to the part where he talks about FPS.

    Edit:
    The SATA-SSD got over 80 FPS, the fast, DirectStorage-drives a bit less.
    Reply
  • PlaneInTheSky
    We shouldn't draw conclusions from a game that was horribly unoptimized.

    Couldn't get 60fps in 1080p on my 3060. Refunded.
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    10% hit on 4090 the 4070ti will hit 45%?
    Reply
  • KyaraM
    Amdlova said:
    10% hit on 4090 the 4070ti will hit 45%?
    Could you maybe not throw random numbers around? Thanks.
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    KyaraM said:
    Could you maybe not throw random numbers around? Thanks.
    Damage control?
    Reply