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SteamOS is one of Valve’s biggest gambles: instead of relying on an uncertain future for Windows, Valve has launched its own Linux-based operating system and installed that OS on custom-designed gaming computers called Steam Machines.
The initial reaction for Steam OS was positive: an operating system designed specifically for PC gaming? That must mean substantial performance improvements and an overall better gaming experience, right?
Well, according to a new report, Steam OS gaming can drop framerates from 21 to 58% on some hardware.
We first heard rumors about these problems earlier this year, when developers interviewed in an ArsTechnica report claimed that Steam OS’s Linux drivers, OpenGL tools, and game engines “often made it hard to get Windows-level performance” on Steam OS.
The Problem is Related to DirectX
Obviously, the biggest problem with moving away from Windows is the lack of DirectX. DirectX is a Windows exclusive and it plays a critical role in running almost all popular video games.
When a game is designed with DirectX in mind, it can often be difficult to switch everything over. As hard as developers have tried, it still appears that they’ve struggled to match Windows-level performance.
How Bad Are the Benchmarks?
In their latest report, ArsTechnica put SteamOS – which just launched this past week – to the test.
The benchmarks definitely show an edge for Windows 10, and that edge widens for specific operations – like floating point operations.
Meanwhile, in an average FPS benchmark using Shadows of Mordor, Windows 10 performance was consistently higher than SteamOS.
This difference was particularly noticeable at Ultra quality, where Windows 10 performance was twice as high as SteamOS 2.0 performance.
Should You Be Worried?
All new operating systems come with their bugs and flaws. The fact that SteamOS can even come close to replicating Windows PC gaming performance is significant.
Framerates can be improved. Many gamers expect Valve and other Linux developers to continue improving SteamOS performance to the point where high-end games can be expected to run comparably between Windows 10 and the Linux-based SteamOS.
With that in mind, your best option is to avoid any speedy judgements and wait for the kinks of this operating system – which was just released one week ago – to be worked out.
In Separate Tests, Linux-based Operating Systems Have Outclassed Windows
Ultimately, the goal isn’t just to equal Windows 10 performance on SteamOS. It’s to beat it.
There is some precedence for this. In a benchmark a few months ago performed by Phoronix, Ubuntu 15.04 outclassed Windows 10 – although only when running an open source Quake clone called OpenArena.
We’ll see if that performance can be replicated on games that are more popular and more widespread. If so, then SteamOS could have a bright future ahead.