DirectX 12 vs. DirectX 11

Now that we’ve had the chance to look at DirecX 12 performance, let’s take a look at things with DirectX 11 thrown into the mix. As a reminder, while the two rendering paths are graphically identical, the DirectX 12 path introduces the latter’s multi-core scalability along with asynchronous shading functionality. The game and the underlying Nitrous engine is designed to take advantage of both, but particularly the multi-core functionality as the game pushes some very high batch counts.

Ashes of the Singularity (Beta) - High Quality - DirectX 11 vs. DirectX 12

Given that we had never benchmarked Ashes under DirectX 11 before, what we had been expecting was a significant performance regression when switching to it. Instead what we found was far more surprising.

On the RTG side of matters, there is a large performance gap between DX11 and DX12 at all resolutions, increasing with the overall performance of the video card being tested. Even on the R9 290X and the 7970, using DX12 is a no brainer, as it improves performance by 20% or more.

The big surprise however is with the NVIDIA cards. For the more powerful GTX 980 Ti and GTX 780 Ti, NVIDIA doesn’t gain anything from the DX12 rendering path; in fact they lose a percent or two in performance. This means that they have very good performance under DX11 (particular the GTX 980 Ti), but it’s not doing them any favors under DX12, where as we’ve seen RTG has a rather consistent performance lead. In the past NVIDIA has gone through some pretty extreme lengths to optimize the CPU usage of their DX11 driver, so this may be the payoff from general optimizations, or even a round of Ashes-specific optimizations.

Ashes of the Singularity (Beta) - High Quality 1920x1080 - DirectX 12 Perf. Gain

Breaking down the gains on a percentage basis at 1080p, the most CPU-demanding resolution, we find that the Fury X picks up a full 50% from DX12, followed by 29% and 23% for the R9 290X and 7970 respectively. Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum are the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 780 Ti, who lose 1% and 3% respectively.

Finally, right in the middle of all of this is the GTX 680. Given what happens to the architecturally similar GTX 780 Ti, this may be a case of GPU memory limitations (this is the only 2GB NVIDIA card in this set), as there’s otherwise no reason to expect the weakest NVIDIA GPU to benefit the most from DX12.

Overall then this neatly illustrates why RTG in particular has been so gung-ho about DX12, as Ashes’ DX12 path has netted them a very significant increase in performance. To some degree however what this means is a glass half full/half empty full situation; RTG gains so much from DX12 in large part because of their poorer DX11 performance (especially on the faster cards), but on the other hand a “simple” API change has unlocked a great deal of GPU power that wasn’t otherwise being used and vaulted them well into the lead. As for NVIDIA, is it that their cards don’t benefit from DX12, or is it that their DX11 driver stack is that good to begin with? At the end of the day Ashes is just a single game – and a beta game at that – but it will be interesting to see if this is a one-off situation or if it becomes recurring.

DirectX 12 Multi-GPU Performance The Performance Impact of Asynchronous Shading
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  • dustwalker13 - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    or ... not to put to fine a point on it, nvidias program and strategy to optimize games for their cards (aka in some instances actively sabotaging the competitions performance through using specialized operations that run great on nvidias hardware but very poorly on others) has lead to a near perfect usage of DX11 for them while amd was struggling along.

    on ashes, where there is no such interference, amd seems to be able to utilize the strong points of its architecture (it seems to be better suited for DX12) while nvidia has had no chance to "optimize" the competition out of the top spot ... too bad spaceships do not have hair ... ;P
  • prtskg - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Lol! spaceships don't have hair. I'd have upvoted your comment if there was such an option.
  • HalloweenJack - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Waiting for Nvidia to `fix` async - just as they promised DX12 drivers for Fermi 4 months ago.....
  • Harry Lloyd - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Well, AMD has had bad DX11 performance for years, they clearly focused their architecture on Mantle/DX12, because they knew they would be producing GPUs for consoles. That will finally pay off this year.
    NVIDIA focused on DX11, having a big advantage for four years, and now they have to catch up, if not with Pascal, then with Volta next year.
  • doggface - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Personally as the owner of an nVidia card, I have to say Bravo AMD. That's some impressive gains and I look forward to the coming D12 GPU wars from which we will all benefit.
  • minijedimaster - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Exactly. Also as a current Nvidia card owner, I don't feel the need to rush to a Windows 10 upgrade. Seems I have several months or more before I'll be looking into it. In the mean time DX11 will do just fine for me.
  • mayankleoboy1 - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    AMD released 16.2 Crimson Edition drivers with more performance for AotS.
    Will you be re-benchmarking the game?

  • albert89 - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    The reason why Nvidia is losing ground to AMD is because their GPU's are predominantly serial or DX11 while AMD as it is turning out is parallel (DX12) and has been for a number of years. And not only that, but are on their 3rd Gen of parallel architecture.
  • watzupken - Thursday, February 25, 2016 - link

    Not sure if its possible to retest this with a Tonga card with 4GB Vram, i.e. R9 380x or 380? Just a little curious why it seems to be lagging behind quite a fair bit.

    Anyway, its good to see the investment in DX 12 paying off for AMD. At least owners of older AMD cards can get a performance boost when DX 12 become more popular this year and the next. Not too sure about Nvidia cards, but they seem to be very focused on optimizing for DX 11 with their current gen cards and certainly seems to be doing the right thing for themselves since they are still doing very well.
  • silverblue - Friday, February 26, 2016 - link

    Tonga has more ACEs than Tahiti, so this could be one of those circumstances, given more memory, of Tonga actually beating out the 7970/280X. However, according to AT's own article on the subject - - AMD admits the extra ACEs are likely overkill, though to be fair, I think with DX12 and VR, we're about to find out.

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