Windows 10 is the most popular system for gaming. By statistics Steam, it is used by more than 60 percent of the players. However, the OS has one big problem – it is overloaded with built-in software, so many users have to manually finish the system for themselves.
There is also an alternative in the face of custom Windows builds, in which half of all components are cut out. Hence the distrust of such systems, because only the modders themselves know what was cut out from there. Users can only hope that at an unexpected moment the absence of important elements will not play a cruel joke.
Atlas is one build of Windows that tries to be the exception to the rule. At first glance, it is transparent and yet not too truncated. According to its creators, Atlas is designed for gamers. We are promised to increase the frame rate, reduce input lag and improve privacy. And it’s all about as open as an open build of Windows can be. Sounds tempting, but how is it really? In this article, I compare the performance and functionality of Windows 10 Base and Atlas.
How is Atlas different?
First, let’s figure out which versions of Atlas exist. There are several options here, just like with regular Windows. Only in the case of the original system is Home, Pro, Enterpise. Atlas is different: 20H2, 21H2 Faceit, 1803.
The first is a fresh “ten” with an optimal balance of performance and support. 21H2 Faceit is designed for those who play a lot on Faceit, the competitive platform for CS:GO. And the latest version, 1803, has the worst software support, but it also has the highest responsiveness. In this article, I focus on the Atlas 20H2 version, because the developers themselves recommend it to the majority.
What do the creators of the project promise us? Privacy and speed. The first is achieved by disabling some of the functions in which vulnerabilities were found. Among them is the printing system and the ability to remotely connect to the desktop.
For the sake of high performance, the project developers cut out even more features. First, I will go through the most noticeable for the average user.
Firstly, there is no Russian language in the system. That is, the layout is available, but all the inscriptions in the interface will be in English.
In Atlas, you will not find files through the built-in system search – only programs. Creating a backup copy of the OS or restoring from it will not work either. Also, there is no support for biometrics and Windows Defender is completely cut out. Finally, you won’t be able to share your screen in Discord.
Of the more niche things, Atlas lacks support for a subsystem for running Linux applications, WSL2, and BitLocker drive encryption.
But do these cut features really improve performance? I tested the build in several benchmarks and games, and then compared the results with the regular version of Windows 10.
Let’s start with resource consumption. I ran all tests on a machine with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 2933MHz.
At system startup, Atlas’ RAM consumption is only 2.3 GB. The usual Windows 10 21H2 has 4.6 GB, that is, exactly 2 times more. The number of running system processes in the modification is also much less – 28 for Atlas and 92 in a regular system.
Since some components are simply not in the OS, after installing Atlas, there is more free space on the disk than after a standard build. Regular Windows takes up 27.9 GB, while Atlas is only 13.7 GB. And this despite the fact that “out of the box” in the modified version, folders with scripts for installing drivers and important programs are kindly placed on the desktop.
For the sake of interest, I ran the Geekbench 6 benchmark several times. The result was unexpected: the worst results on regular Windows 10 are still higher than the values obtained on Atlas. However, only one benchmark does not reflect the real situation.
Therefore, we turn to the most interesting – Atlas tests in games. For each project I marked
average FPS and frametime graph stability.
Red Dead Redemption 2
I’ll start testing with the most difficult game – Red Dead Redemption 2. The settings are as high as possible, Full HD resolution. On average, the minimum FPS on Atlas is higher than on regular Windows 10, but the maximum and average frame rates are lower.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
There is no built-in benchmark in CS:GO, so I measured the performance for several minutes of the match on Dust 2. Graphics settings are maximum, Full HD resolution. The difference in performance is almost imperceptible. The minimum and maximum FPS in Atlas are even slightly lower, but not significantly – can be attributed to an error. But the frametime graph on regular Windows is a little less stable, but there is no sharp jump in the middle. That is, the gameplay on Atlas, on the standard assembly, is not much different. A performance PC player is unlikely to notice any improvement.
The situation is different in another esports shooter – Valorant. Graphics settings are also maximum, Full HD. Here I also measured the performance through the MSI Afterburner utility during a match on the same map. In Valorant, the results turned out to be more interesting: the minimum FPS in Atlas is almost 40 values higher than in regular Windows 10. The maximum FPS differs a little less – 519 versus 509. The situation becomes even more interesting if you look at the frame rendering time graph. On Atlas, it is more stable, and the amplitude of short-term jumps is smaller. That is, the game runs smoother than on the standard build.
And one more game on the test – Dirt Rally, maximum graphics settings and Full HD. I did a few runs of the built-in benchmark and averaged out the minimum, average, and maximum FPS. On Atlas, all these results are slightly higher. Not so much that it was a significant difference, but there is a gap.
It must be understood that Atlas is designed exclusively for games. Therefore, it is strange to be surprised that there is no built-in antivirus or disk encryption. On the other hand, the removal of all these components does not really play a role. At least on a productive PC. In some games, the difference is either negligible or non-existent. It is possible that Atlas will have a much larger lead on weak computers, but these are just guesses.
Atlas pleasantly surprises with the cleanliness of the system out of the box, but for the same reason it is pointless to install it if you are going to use the computer for something other than games.