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Inside CNET Labs: Lamenting DirectX 10

Lamenting the current state of DirectX 10, why it will take a while to see true DX10 games, and why CNET Labs doesn't benchmark with DX10 games yet.

Microsoft Corp.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? For PC gamers, the answer is a no brainer...The advanced hardware comes first, and the game titles that can truly take advantage of that hardware come months, if not years, later. It comes as no surprise that Microsoft's own DirectX 10 page talks about the benefits of DX10 in the future tense: "Many of the newest Windows games will take full advantage of the next-generation graphics technology in Windows Vista called DirectX 10." (Italics added.)

Game developers have little incentive right now to produce games for DX10, as you'd only be able to utilize the DX10 features of the games on systems running Vista with a fairly high-end, newer graphics card. Considering the slow adoption rate of Vista, the plethora of Vista graphics driver problems, and the cost to consumers for worthy DX10 rigs, the sweet spot for game developers is still DX9 games on Windows XP.

That's not to say that there are no DX10 games available or in the pipeline: Call of Juarez, Company of Heroes, and Lost Planet all purport to be DX10 games, as does the soon to be released World in Conflict. We've spent some time analyzing these titles and we're less than impressed with their DX10 features. Some of these are really just DX9 titles with a DX10 veneer applied that adds some graphical bells and whistles.

We compared the same title side by side on a system running DX10 on Vista to the same title on an identical system running DX9 on XP, and it's difficult--sometimes impossible--to detect significant differences in how the games look or perform.

As new titles come out, we will continue to evaluate them, hoping to find some worthy of replacing our now aging gaming benchmarks. In the meantime, our gaming benchmarks might not use the latest titles, but they are still popular titles that accurately represent the state of today's games.