DirectX 11 more than doubles the GT 1030's performance versus DX12 in Hitman

It's been an eventful week in the TR labs, to say the least, and today had one more surprise in store for us. Astute commenters on our review of the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G took notice of the Nvidia GeForce GT 1030's lagging performance in Hitman compared to the Radeon IGPs and wondered just what was going on. On top of revisiting of the value proposition of the Ryzen 5 2400G and performing some explorations of just how much CPU choice advantaged the GT 1030 in our final standings, I wanted to dig into this performance disparity to see whether it was just how the GT 1030 gets along with Hitman or an indication of a possible software problem.

With our simulated Core i3-8100 running the show, I fired up Hitman again to see what was going on. We've seen some performance disparities between Nvidia and AMD graphics processors under DirectX 12 in the past, so Hitman's rendering path seemed like the most obvious setting to tweak. To my horror, I hit the jackpot.

Hitman with DirectX 11 on the GT 1030 ran quite well with no other changes to our test settings. In its DirectX 11 mode, the GT 1030 turned in a 43-FPS average and a 28.4-ms 99th-percentile frame time, basically drawing dead-even with the Vega 11 IGP on board the Ryzen 5 2400G.

Contrast that with the slideshow-like 20-FPS average and 83.4-ms 99th-percentile frame time our original testing showed. While the GT 1030 is the first tier on the Pascal GeForce ladder, there was no way its performance should have been that bad in light of our other test results.

This new data puts the GT 1030 in a much better light compared to our first round of tests in our final reckoning. Even if we use a geometric mean to lessen the effect of outliers on the data, a big performance drop like the one we observed with Hitman under DirectX 12 will have disproportionate effects on our final index. Swapping out the GT 1030's DirectX 12 result for DirectX 11 is only fair, since it's the way gamers should apparently play with the card for the moment. That move does require a major rethink of how the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G compare to the entry-level Pascal card, though.

With the parts lists we put together yesterday, the Ryzen 5 2400G system is about 15% less expensive than the Core i3-8100 system, and its 99th-percentile FPS figure is now about 11% lower than that of the Core i3-8100-and-GT-1030 box. That's still a better-than-linear relationship in price-to-performance ratios for gaming, and it's still impressive. Prior to today, gamers on a shoestring had no options short of purchasing a discrete card like the GT 1030, and the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G now make entry-level gaming practical on integrated graphics alone.

Dropping a Ryzen 3 2200G into our build reduces 99th-percentile FPS performance about another 16% from its beefier sibling, but it makes our entry-entry-level build 17% cheaper still. As a result, I still think the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G are worthy of the TR Editor's Choice awards they've already garnered, but it's hard to deny that these new results take a bit of the shine off both chips' performance.

To be clear, I don't think this result is an indictment of our original data or testing methods. We always set up every graphics card as equally as possible before we begin testing, and that includes gameplay settings like anti-aliasing, texture quality, and API. Our choice to use Hitman's DX12 renderer across all of our test subjects was no different. This is rudimentary stuff, to be sure, but the possibility simply didn't occur to me that using Hitman's DirectX 12 renderer would pose a problem for the GT 1030.

We've long used Hitman for performance testing despite its reputation as a Radeon-friendly title, and its DirectX 12 mode hasn't caused large performance disparities among GeForces and Radeons even as recently as our GeForce GTX 1070 Ti review. Given that past history, I felt it would be no problem to continue as we always have in using Hitman's cutting-edge API support. Testing hardware is full of surprises, though, and putting the Ryzen APUs and the GT 1030 through the wringer has produced more than its fair share of them.

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