Desktop OptionsDreamtwister2k on YouTube asks, “Does cloning the desktop a create a performance hit? I use Steam Big Picture to play games on my TV with a gamepad (if properly supported). It would be easier for me to set everything up on my desktop monitor rather than strain my neck looking back where the TV is located.”

Cloning your desktop is the act of taking an image from one monitor and copying it to another. This type of setup is frequently used during presentations where the speaker has a laptop connected to a projector, but also in competitive gaming environments where the player and the audience are looking at two different monitors. There are a variety of different instances where desktop cloning would be the ideal solution, but does the act of duplicating video to two different screens impact system performance?

To answer this question, I decided to fire up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and run it at full graphics settings on a 1920×1080 monitor. Everything was put on its highest setting, and I ran a series of tests using the same survival level with and without monitor cloning.

In order to take an accurate benchmark, I utilized Fraps benchmarking in order to get a true log of what’s going on in the system. Dedicated benchmark software often creates a virtual environment within a specific test area that may work for general purposes, but it’s more indicative of rendering performance than true system performance during actual dynamic gameplay.

Here are my general system specifications used in the test:

  • Operating System: Windows 8 Pro
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2400
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 550 Ti

In order for this very non-scientific test to be as accurate as possible, I turned off vertical sync and made sure that the same programs were running in the background. I ran two tests with each configuration in order to determine an average rather than trusting in a fluke.

These are my results.

With Cloning

Test A
Frames: 5484 – Time: 60000 ms – Avg: 91.400 – Min: 63 – Max: 141

Test B
Frames: 5175 – Time: 60000 ms – Avg: 86.250 – Min: 68 – Max: 117

Without Cloning

Test A
Frames: 5295 – Time: 60000 ms – Avg: 88.250 – Min: 65 – Max: 137

Test B
Frames: 5541 – Time: 60000 ms – Avg: 92.350 – Min: 59 – Max: 140

The results here speak for themselves. The average frame rate with cloning turned on was 88.825 fps, while the non-cloned configuration received an average rate of 90.3 fps. As this is a non-scientific test, I can conclude that cloning does not actually have an impact on system performance. At least, not one that would be noticeable.

So does cloning affect system performance? Not in this case.

What about you? Have you noticed a hit to system performance while cloning your desktop? Would a different hardware configuration receive widely different results?