Windows 10 Game Mode Gets Benchmarked, Still Needs Work

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2017 - 11:54 PM |
Tagged: windows insider, Windows Game Mode, windows 10, pc gaming, creators update, beta

Last month Microsoft confirmed that a new "Game Mode" would be part of the upcoming Windows 10 Creator's Update planned for a spring release ("early 2017"). Microsoft has recently started rolling out the Game Mode to its beta testers in the latest Windows Insider preview build (for those on the fast track anyway, I am currently on the slow ring and do not have Game Mode yet). Now that it is rolled out in preview form, gamers have naturally started benchmarking it, and PC Games News has posted an article on their testing of the new feature and their findings on two Win32 and one UWP game. Not to spoil the results, but at this point Game Mode does not appear to offer anything and can even result in less frames per second with it turned on with its only saving grace being that in some situations it does offer increased performance when the Game DVR feature is also being used to record gameplay. They tested both a NVIDIA GTX 1060 and an AMD RX 480, and Game Mode in it's current preview software on a preview OS appears to have more benefits for NVIDIA while the AMD card PC Games News tested mostly just did it's thing regardless of whether Game Mode was turned on or off (heh, not necessarily a bad thing). 

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With Game Mode now rolling out to Windows Insiders, there is more information on how Microsoft plans to implement it. Rather than hiding it in the Xbox app, Microsoft has thankfully put it in the main settings app under the Gaming category and users access it by bringing up a Game Bar menu in-game for those games that support it (PC Games News noted Doom and GTA V did not work). Game Mode is an OS-level feature that will dedicate a certain amount of CPU threads to the game when it is turned on and leaves the remaining threads to be used by background processes (which themselves are reportedly minimized). Currently, this seems to work better with multi-threaded games and older games that were coded to only use one or two threads may not see any benefit in turning Game Mode on (and it may actually result in lower FPS). To Microsoft's credit, they are not over promising with Game Mode and note that it should be good for around 2% better performance when enabled with Game Mode having a bigger impact on UWP titles.

I encourage you to check out the PC Games News article where they have their benchmark results presented in a number of bar graphs. Most of the tests saw little to no benefit from using Game Mode, but not a negative effect. Some games like Hitman saw a 6% increase in average frames per second on the GTX 1060. On the other side of things, Forza Horizon 3 (ironically, a UWP game) performance actually drops when Game Mode is turned on to the tune of 13% to 23% less FPS with the RX 480 and 9% to 15% less with the GTX 1060. As far as Tomb Raider, things are more in the middle and things stay the same or get slightly better minimum frames per second when Game Mode and Game DVR are both turned on (though oddly there is a result in there that shows a performance drop with Game Mode on and Game DVR off).

It ia also worth noting that overall, the trend seems to be that Game Mode is going to be most beneficial at increasing the minimum frame rates on games with the Game DVR feature is being used moreso than getting overall maximum or average FPS out of a game. The biggest hurdle is going to be game compatiblity, especially for older games, and Microsoft tweaking things so that at worst Game Mode won't tank performance (like it currently does with Hitman minimum frame rates when Game Mode is on but DVR is off) and things will stay the same as if Game Mode was not on at all and at best gamers will get slightly smoother gameplay.

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Right now Game Mode is not compelling, but it is still a work in progress and if Microsoft can get Game Mode right it could be a useful addition (and incentive to upgrade to Windows 10 is probably why they are interested in pursuing this feature) and could come in handy especially on gaming laptops! I am not writing off the feature yet, and neither should you, but I do hope that compatibility is improved and the performance hits are reduced or eliminated when it is enabled. My guess is that the games that will work well with Game Mode are going to be almost all newer games and especially games that are developed post Creator's Update final release with Game Mode in mind.

Hopefully we can use our frame rating on the final product to see how well it truly works as far as user experience and smooth gameplay. What are your thoughts on Windows 10's Game Mode?

Video News

February 5, 2017 | 12:44 AM - Posted by Jgr9 (not verified)

This is probably mostly just for holding off backround processes that shouldn't have been running in the first place. I didn't expect much more than GameBooster, just that this is Official. Heck, they might even just forget about it and not improve it later on, if there's even any improving to be done.

February 5, 2017 | 12:46 AM - Posted by Jonathan (not verified)

My one-off personal testing is less than positive. World of Warships (which at 1440p can max out my i5-3470, all four cores heavily loaded), with game mode on, performs worse. I noticed that instead of all four cores being (more or less) loaded, with game mode on it was one core at 100% with the other cores not working particularly hard.

February 5, 2017 | 01:46 AM - Posted by dimz7

Send them (MS) feedback about it then.

February 5, 2017 | 02:02 AM - Posted by Jonathan (not verified)

I've let them know via the Feedback Hub.

February 5, 2017 | 01:49 AM - Posted by zme-ul

I bet you setting the process priority to Above Normal will yield better results than MS' Game Mode

February 17, 2017 | 10:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, changing the priority of a game really does help. But it also slows down any other apps you might be using at the same time.

February 5, 2017 | 05:30 AM - Posted by entigy

You know what really needs work? Their new UUP delivery platform.
I've yet to successfully download any of these new 15xxx preview builds since they changed their delivery method.
Never had an issue before, and I've been testing builds since 2014!!
Maybe we'll get an ISO soon....

February 5, 2017 | 07:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Game mode is designed for older and less capable PC hardware, specifically to restrict OS operations for slower CPUs. It's going to be a limited gain on limited hardware in select games. Most people that visit this site will never see a benefit.

February 5, 2017 | 10:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"With Game Mode having a bigger impact on UWP titles."

Oh I see what M$ is up to with that! Let's ever so slowly bork Game Mode for the desktop/Non UWP games and gently PUSH the users towards UWP and the Windows APP Store. Game Mode is just another Hook to go along with the Line and sinker.

Universal Windows Peasants(UWP) bound by hook or crook to the 30% of the gaming revenue action and M$ is spending the dosh to hire some friendly press to Bott and Bright out some plausible deniability. The samrt folk can read between the lines and see where this is going! Better listen to what Sweeney is saying!

February 5, 2017 | 11:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Edit: samrt
to: smart

February 5, 2017 | 01:21 PM - Posted by Jgr9 (not verified)


February 5, 2017 | 11:10 AM - Posted by nerdbrd (not verified)

I recently found the game dvr was causing slowdown in World of Warcraft. It's an old game granted and not very well optimized but I had to turn it completely off (as it comes set to on by default?) in order to fix the problem. I don't see me ever turning it back on as it's useless to me personally.

February 5, 2017 | 01:09 PM - Posted by powerfulscissor (not verified)

I tried it with a few games with a gtx 1080 running in 4k and didnt notice slow downs or speed ups with the exception of Forza Horizon 3 where my fps went up from averaging 60s to mid 70s

February 5, 2017 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Would like to permanently disable Windows 10 DVR and all the trouble or causes...

February 6, 2017 | 02:28 PM - Posted by HectorO

There's a way to uninstall the UWP Xbox packages via the command line. Otherwise you can toggle the DVR off and overlay off in the Settings application.

February 6, 2017 | 11:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wonder if this will help bf1 about the game that will push cpu to absolute limit on 64 conquest.

February 6, 2017 | 12:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the refreshing post about something Microsoft that didn't contain any backhanded insults or jabs like a certain other blogger (Jeremy) constantly posts. It makes you and this site seem more professional.

February 6, 2017 | 05:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the VERY NON-refreshing posts for your defending the bastards from Redmond. M$ = abusive monopoly! So suck it up each and every time Jeremy tells the truth about your beloved Racketeers from Redmond!

You are very drunk on stinky Ballmer Monkey Sweat and need to Develop Develop Develop some thicker skin!

February 6, 2017 | 02:10 PM - Posted by The Party of Hell No! (not verified)

Recently on Build 15025 had a hard crash and reboot while in "The Division." When the computer came back up I checked the event viewer and there listed while I was playing were several lines about the update service running in the background. I would be more impressed if after switching on game mode Windows 10 rebooted with all non-essential services turned off to preserve CPU cycles and preserve bandwidth exclusively for gaming.

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