Tahiti: The First Direct3D 11.1 GPU

One of the many changes coming in Windows 8 next year will be the next iteration of Direct3D, which will be Direct3D 11.1. More so than any other version of Direct3D so far, D3D11.1 is best summed up as a housekeeping release. There will be some new features, but compared to even past point releases such as 10.1 and 9c it’s a small release that’s going to be focusing more on improving the API itself – particularly interoperability with SoC GPUs for Windows 8 – than it will be about introducing new features. This is largely a consequence of the growing length of time for all matters of development hardware and software. By the time Windows 8 ships Direct3D 11 will be 3 years old, but these days that’s shorter than the development period for some AAA games. Direct3D 11/11.1 will continue to be the current Windows 3D API for quite some time to come.

With regards to backward compatibility in D3D11.1, there’s one new feature in particular that requires new hardware to support it: Target Independent Rasterization. As a result AMD’s existing D3D11 GPUs cannot fully support D3D11.1, thereby making Tahiti the first D3D 11.1 GPU to be released. In practice this means that the hardware is once again ahead of the API, even more so than what we saw with G80 + D3D10 or Cypress (5870) + D3D11 since D3D11.1 isn’t due to arrive for roughly another year. For the time being Tahiti’s hardware supports it but AMD won’t enable this functionality until the future – the first driver with D3D11.1 support will be a beta driver for Windows 8, which we expect we’ll see for the Windows 8 beta next year.

So what does D3D11.1 bring to the table? The biggest end user feature is going to be the formalization of Stereo 3D support into the D3D API. Currently S3D is achieved by either partially going around D3D to present a quad buffer to games and applications that directly support S3D, or in the case of driver/middleware enhancement manipulating the rendering process itself to get the desired results. Formalizing S3D won’t remove the need for middleware to enable S3D on games that choose not to implement it, but for games that do choose to directly implement it such as Deus Ex, it will now be possible to do this through Direct3D.

S3D related sales have never been particularly spectacular, and no doubt the fragmentation of the market is partially to blame, so this may be the push in the right direction that the S3D market needs, if the wider consumer base is ready to accept it. At a minimum this should remove the need for any fragmentation/customization when it comes to games that directly support S3D.

With S3D out of the way, the rest of the D3D11.1 feature set isn’t going to be nearly as visible. Interoperability between graphics, video, and compute is going to be greatly improved, allowing video via Media Foundation to be sent through pixel and compute shaders, among other things. Meanwhile target independent rasterization and some new buffer commands should give developers a few more tricks to work with, while double precision (FP64) support will be coming to pixel shaders on hardware that has FP64 support.

Finally, looking at things at a lower level D3D11.1 will be released alongside DXGI 1.2 and WDDM 1.2, the full combination of which will continue Microsoft’s long-term goal of making the GPU more CPU-like. One of Microsoft’s goals has to been to push GPU manufacturers to improve the granularity of GPU preemption, both for performance and reliability purposes. Since XP things have gotten better as Vista introduced GPU Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR) to reset hung GPUs, and a finer level of granularity has been introduced to allow multiple games/applications to share a GPU without stomping all over each other, but preemption and context switches are still expensive on a GPU compared to a CPU (there are a lot of registers to deal with) which impacts performance and reliability.

To that end preemption is being given a bit more attention, as WDDM 1.2 will be introducing some new API commands to help manage it while encouraging hardware developers to support finer grained preemption. Meanwhile to improve reliability TDR is getting a major addition by being able to do a finer grained reset of the GPU. Currently with Windows 7 a TDR triggers a complete GPU reset, but with Windows 8 and WDDM 1.2 the GPU will be compartmentalized into “engines” that can be individually reset. Only the games/applications using a reset engine will be impacted while everything else is left untouched, and while most games and applications can already gracefully handle a reset, this will further reduce the problems a reset creates by resetting fewer programs.

 

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  • Wreckage - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    That's kind of disappointing. Reply
  • atticus14 - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    oh look its that guy that was banned from the forums for being an overboard nvidia zealot. Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, January 03, 2012 - link

    Maybe he meant "somebody @ anandtech is again pissing on AMDs cookies"?

    I mean "oh, it's fastest and coolest single GPU card on the market, it is slightly more expensive than competitor's, but it kinda sucks since AMD didn't go "significantly cheaper than nVidia" route" is hard to call unbiased, eh?

    Kind of disappointing conclusion, indeed.
    Reply
  • ddarko - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    To each their own but I think this is undeniable impressive:

    "Even with the same number of ROPs and a similar theoretical performance limit (29.6 vs 28.16), 7970 is pushing 51% more pixels than 6970 is" and

    "it’s clear that AMD’s tessellation efficiency improvements are quite real, and that with Tahiti AMD can deliver much better tessellation performance than Cayman even at virtually the same theoretical triangle throughput rate."
    Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    I prefer nVidia products, mostly because the games I play (EA/DICE Battlefield-series) are heavily sponsered by nVidia, giving them a developement-edge.

    That out of the way, nVidia has had their problems just like this card is going to experience. Remember when Fermi came out, it was a performance joke, not because it was slow, but because it used a ridiculous amount of power to do the same thing as an ATI card while costing substantially more.

    Fermi wasn't successful until second-generation products were released, most obviously the GTX460 and GT430, reasonably priced cards with quality drivers and low power consumption. But it took over a year for nVidia to release those, and it will take over a year for ATI to make this architecture shine.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Wat? The only thing there might be an issue with is drivers. As far as power consumption goes, this should be better than Cayman. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, March 11, 2012 - link

    He's saying the 28mn node will have further power improvements. Take it as an amd compliment - rather you should have. Reply
  • StriderTR - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    EA/Dice are just as heavily sponsored by AMD, more in fact. Not sure where your getting your information, but its .. well ... wrong. Nvidia bought the rights to advertize the game with their hardware, AMD is heavily sponsoring BF3 and related material. Example, The Controller.

    Also, the GTX 580 and HD 6970 perform within a few FPS of each other on BF3. I run dual 6970's, by buddy runs dual 580's, we are almost always within 2 FPS of one and other at any given time.

    AMD will have the new architecture "shining" in far under a year. They have been focused on it for a long time already.

    Simple bottom line, both Nvidia and AMD make world class cards these days. No matter your preference, you have cards to choose from that will rock any games on the planet for a long time to come.
    Reply
  • deaner - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Umm, yea no. Not so much with nvidia and EA/DICE Batttlefield series giving nvidia a development edge. (if it does, the results are yet to be seen)
    Facts are facts, the 5 series to our current review today, the 7970, do and again continue to edge the Nvidia lines. The AMD Catalyst performance of particular note, BF3, has been far superior.

    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    ."..most obviously the GTX460 and GT430, reasonably priced cards with quality drivers and low power consumption. But it took over a year for nVidia to release those"

    GTX470/480 launched March 26, 2010
    GTX460 launched July 12, 2010
    GT430 launched October 11, 2010

    Also, Fermi's performance at launch was not a joke. GTX470 delivered performance between HD5850 and HD5870, priced in the middle. Looking now, GTX480 ~ HD6970. So again, both of those cards did relatively well at the time. Once you consider overclocking of the 470/480, they did extremely well, both easily surprassing the 5870 in performance in overclocked states.

    Sure power consumption was high, but that's the nature of the game for highest-end GPUs.
    Reply

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