Now we know what Microsofts upcoming Game Mode for Windows 10 will do [Updated]

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Update: 1/25/2017: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Game Mode’s performance improvements would be limited to adjustments of the Windows 10 game DVR option. While the upcoming Creators Update may include the option to disable the DVR, as we originally reported, that’s not the primary purpose of the new Game Mode or an accurate discussion of its feature set.

A new story at Ars Technica details what Game Mode will and will not do, and notes that this update will emphasize consistently, as opposed to automatically driving frame rates up. This is a critical point that will benefit all gamers — while PC players tend to look down their noses at anything below 60 FPS, I’ll take a rock-solid 30 FPS over a title that varies from 30 – 60 FPS, provided the variations are significant. Consistent frame rates are an area where Nvidia cards have classically had advantages over their AMD counterparts, though this gap has been reduced in recent years by a combination of better drivers from AMD and the advent of DX12 and Vulkan.

Game Mode will supposedly direct the OS to bias CPU and GPU resource allocation towards whatever game is running, though it’s not clear how much under-the-hood performance is really available to Microsoft for tweaking. A number of websites performed Windows 7 versus 8.1 versus Windows 10 game evaluations, and no one turned up any sign that Windows 10 was slower than previous iterations of the operating system, even when checking minimum frame rates and frame times. That’s not to say Microsoft can’t find a few more knobs and dials to tweak, but I still wonder if this isn’t mostly about cleaning up corner cases. Kevin Gammill, the partner group program manager for Xbox One, told Ars Technica he expected the overall gains from Game Mode to be in the 2-5% range. Generally speaking, you need a higher frame rate jump than that for people to reliably tell the difference between the old rate and the new one in back-to-back runs.

Windows 10 Game Mode

Image by PCGamesN

Microsoft is still being silent about what, exactly, Game Mode entails, only saying that it relates to background process and affinity settings to dedicate more resources to console titles. It will work with both UWP and Win32 applications, but we’ll have to wait until the Creators Update drops to find out which titles it particularly effects, or whether the benefits are greatest on systems with lower core counts. I still think that could wind up being the case, since any system with quad-cores + Hyper-Threading likely has more CPU resources available than are being used by any single game title. Pentium and Core i3-class equipment would seem to be the most likely to benefit from these improvements, but that’s speculation at this point. Gammill did say that UWP devices would likely see better numbers from the new mode, since Win32 apps can spawn multiple processes in ways that UWP applications can’t. This makes it easier to optimize for the UWP use-case scenario. The Creators Update of Windows 10 will ship with a whitelist of enabled titles; Game Mode will be something you can enable via Win-G, as shown above.

We stand by our earlier observation as well. One feature we’d very much like to see Microsoft offer is a Game Mode that prevented Windows Update from rebooting the computer while resource-intensive applications or games are running. If you’ve ever had a Windows 10 system suddenly decide it’s time for a reboot in the middle of a game or benchmark run (and I’ve seen multiple testbeds pull this trick with zero warning), you know how infuriating it can be. Fix that problem, and you’ve got a Game Mode worth deploying.

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