Battlefield 4 Windows 7 vs. 8.1 Performance Review

Is in-game real world Battlefield 4 gaming performance better on the Windows 8.1 operating system or on Windows 7? We look at video card performance between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in this game and find out if upgrading to Windows 8.1 is worth it or not for the much rumored performance advantage.

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Performance Summary

We wanted to find out if Windows 8.1 had any real advantages compared to Windows 7 in Battlefield 4. We found that there were some, and at the same time, not some. We used an AMD Radeon R9 290X and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 to look at performance in a few scenarios. We looked at performance using the "Test Range" map which removes the randomness of other players and lets us focus purely on performance. Then we looked at a real 64 player multiplayer gaming session’s performance. We tested at 2560x1600 and 1080p.

We wanted to find out several things. Firstly, we wanted to find out if there is a performance advantage under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7? Then, we wanted to find out if there is a gameplay image quality advantage under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7. Then, we wanted to find out if there were any other gameplay experience elements that are advantageous under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7. Finally, we wanted to find out if it is worth it to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for BF4. We have the answers you’ve all been waiting for.


Performance Advantage

Is there a performance advantage in Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7 for BF4? The answer is, "Yes." We consistently found that under Windows 8.1 BF4 performed faster than Windows 7 on both AMD and NVIDIA hardware. Both GPUs, from both vendors, had a consistent performance advantage in every test we performed. More importantly, in the real-world multiplayer gaming session that matters, there was a performance advantage.

Now, this performance advantage is small on the R9 290X at around 3%. It is larger on the GTX 780 at around 6%. We found this more interesting. It seems the GeForce GTX 780 was more advantageous in performance under Windows 8.1 than the R9 290X was. We did not expect that. With all the work AMD has put into BF4 and DX11.1, we figured the R9 290X would show the highest performance advantages. However, the reverse is true. It is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 that is benefiting the most from Windows 8.1.

Gameplay Image Quality Advantage

Was there an advantage to the image quality settings under Windows 8.1? The answer is "No." The performance advantages were generally small at 3-6%. This isn’t enough of a performance boost to allow us to raise the resolution, or raise the AA settings, or raise an image quality setting. We were not able to play at different game settings under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7. This means the game will look the same under both operating systems.

Gameplay Experience Advantages

Are there gameplay experience advantages under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7 in BF4? The answer is a, "Big YES."

Under Windows 7, we experienced choppiness as we played. This was felt both in the "Test Range" map, and in multiplayer gaming sessions. The choppiness was more pronounced on the GeForce GTX 780. We could get on a straight path, in the "Test Range" and move down a straight road. As we did this, there would be a pause, or chop, in the frames randomly. It was like the game was hitching for no reason. This happened more on the GTX 780. This is under Windows 7.

When we tried this on Windows 8.1 the pausing, or hitching, or chop (however you want to describe it) was completely gone. Moving was smoother with no hitching in the game on the GTX 780. This affected both the test range and the multiplayer gaming session.

Therefore, the gameplay experience advantage under Windows 8.1 is a smoother gameplay experience in BF4 on both video cards.

Upgrade to Windows 8.1

Finally, the big question, should you upgrade to Windows 8.1 for BF4? We are on the fence about this one because it really depends on what kind of a BF4 player you are.

If you are hardcore BF4 player, and you eat, breathe, and live this game, and you play for hours a day, then yes, Windows 8.1 is an advantageous upgrade for you. It will provide a smoother experience, with no hitching or choppiness. Also, if you own a GeForce GTX GPU series it will help those framerates more and help improve the minimum framerate, which is very important in a game like this. You have to understand it won’t change your image quality settings, it will just pretty much provide a smoother experience, with higher minimum FPS.

If you are a casual BF4 gaming, then no, upgrading to Windows 8.1 is a waste of money for you for this game. There aren’t enough improvements to justify the price of upgrading to Windows 8.1 for just one game.

Mantle

The new and upcoming Mantle API may throw a wrench into the situation and shake things up. If simply moving to a new OS, based on the same DX API, improves performance like we saw today, our hopes are very high on what a new API could do in comparison to DirectX. We are very excited about finding out this December. The fact though that we got as much as 6% performance advantage on the same API, just by upgrading the OS, gives us a lot of hope for Mantle and the completely different API that it is.


The Bottom Line

We think we have nailed all aspects of Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7 in BF4. There is a performance advantage, but it is small. A lot of people were right that Windows 8.1 is faster than Windows 7 in BF4. However, it isn’t massively faster. It certainly isn’t fast enough to actually change real-world gameplay settings. The performance advantage, even at its highest of 6%, wasn’t enough to change the gameplay settings or make it look better under Windows 8.1

What we found more interesting was that the GeForce GTX 780 had the highest advantage under Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7 compared to the R9 290X. This is good news for NVIDIA GPU owners. This will narrow the performance with the competition, simply by upgrading the OS for this game. Thankfully we ran our Battlefield 4 Video Card Performance and IQ Review under Windows 8.1 so that performance is reflected. However, if you read other reviews or articles out there, and these are testing this game on Windows 7 you will find that Radeon R9 series to have a wider performance win compared to the NVIDIA GPU series. Under Windows 8.1, the performance will be narrower in this game.

A lot of people were right that BF4 is faster, and performs smoother in Windows 8.1 versus Windows 7. A lot of people were wrong that it was a large difference, or changed the gameplay quality settings. It gives a small boost in framerates, it helps the minimum FPS (the most advantageous to hardcore gamers), and it provides a smoother experience. We will continue to use Windows 8.1 as our operating system for GPU reviews as it does allow our video cards to shine a bit brighter.

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