When Epic released footage from its upcoming Unreal 5 tech demo last week, one major question was whether PC gamers would be able to enjoy equivalent performance or capabilities. As we discussed last week, any major boost to console performance that relies explicitly on storage hardware could require relatively fast hardware on the PC side of things.
Epic has now chimed in and confirmed our expectations. According to Epic Games China (via DSOGaming), the PS5 version of the game ran at 1440p at 30fps. A PC equipped with an RTX 2080 notebook and a Samsung 970 EVO is capable of running the demo at ~40fps.
And I can ensure that we can run this demo in our notebook, in editor , not cooked, it even can 40FPS. ( After someone in BBS confirm that the device is RTX2080 and 970EVO )
— ゆめしん (@wangxingyu1999) May 16, 2020
This is a fairly good performance data point. The Samsung 970 EVO isn’t a top-end NVMe SSD, but it’s not a bad performer, either. A 2018 midrange M.2 drive is significantly faster than the top-end SATA drives you could get a few years earlier, for example, simply thanks to higher transfer speeds.
The major piece of the puzzle we’d still like to know is whether the SSD or the GPU is more important to the general performance of the game. If a 970 EVO and an RTX 2080 notebook GPU are sufficient to hit 40fps, what happens if you switch to Intel’s highest-end Optane drive with the same GPU? Conversely, what happens if I drop the SSD down to a SATA model or an early M.2 drive with less absolute performance?
To be clear, I do not expect SSDs to suddenly become more important than GPUs or CPUs for gaming performance. At most, I suspect we’re going to see the emergence of a new impactor on gaming performance. GPU will remain the most important factor, followed by CPU, likely followed by SSDs.
It’s not that SSDs can’t impact gaming already — they absolutely do — but for the most part, the impacts are limited to save game loads and level transitions. Games that show sustained in-play performance benefits from SSDs tend to be those that rely the most heavily on streaming assets during play (Diablo III was one early title to benefit directly from an SSD in this fashion, as it reduced lag while exploring the world).
If you’re a gamer on an old magnetic hard drive, I wouldn’t panic and rush out to buy an SSD, but it’s probably time to start seriously eyeing an upgrade. It looks as though new games may demand more performance from your storage solution. As for what kind of solution, I’m not going to make specific predictions there, but any reasonable M.2 SSD from the past few years will undoubtedly be fine, and I’d be stunned if every type of SSD wasn’t ultimately supported.
Up until now, games have treated HDDs and SSDs as largely synonymous, though plenty of titles recommend solid state storage as part of their ideal system requirements. Question is, will we now see HDDs fall off the “Minimum” end of the spec sheet, or will it just be a case of SSDs giving a profoundly better experience?
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