About a year and a half ago AMD kicked off the public half of a race to improve the state of graphics APIs. Dubbed "Mantle", AMD’s in-house API for their Radeon cards stripped away the abstraction and inefficiencies of traditional high-level APIs like DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4, and instead gave developers a means to access the GPU in a low-level, game console-like manner. The impetus: with a low-level API, engine developers could achieve better performance than with a high-level API, sometimes vastly exceeding what DirectX and OpenGL could offer.

While AMD was the first such company to publicly announce their low-level API, they were not the last. 2014 saw the announcement of APIs such as DirectX 12, OpenGL Next, and Apple’s Metal, all of which would implement similar ideas for similar performance reasons. It was a renaissance in the graphics API space after many years of slow progress, and one desperately needed to keep pace with the progress of both GPUs and CPUs.

In the PC graphics space we’ve already seen how early versions of Mantle perform, with Mantle offering some substantial boosts in performance, especially in CPU-bound scenarios. As awesome as Mantle is though, it is currently a de-facto proprietary AMD API, which means it can only be used with AMD GPUs; what about NVIDIA and Intel GPUs? For that we turn towards DirectX, Microsoft’s traditional cross-vendor API that will be making the same jump as Mantle, but using a common API for the benefit of every vendor in the Windows ecosystem.

DirectX 12 was first announced at GDC 2014, where Microsoft unveiled the existence of the new API along with their planned goals, a brief demonstration of very early code, and limited technical details about how the API would work. Since then Microsoft has been hard at work on DirectX 12 as part of the larger Windows 10 development effort, culminating in the release of the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, Build 9926, which is shipping with an early preview version of DirectX 12.

GDC 2014 - DirectX 12 Unveiled: 3DMark 2011 CPU Time: Direct3D 11 vs. Direct3D 12

With the various pieces of Microsoft’s latest API finally coming together, today we will be taking our first look at the performance future of DirectX. The API is stabilizing, video card drivers are improving, and the first DirectX 12 application has been written; Microsoft and their partners are finally ready to show off DirectX 12. To that end, today we’ll looking at DirectX 12 through Oxide Games’ Star Swarm benchmark, our first DirectX 12 application and a true API efficiency torture test.

Does DirectX 12 bring the same kind of performance benefits we saw with Mantle? Can it resolve the CPU bottlenecking that DirectX 11 struggles with? How well does the concept of a low-level API work for a common API with disparate hardware? Let’s find out!

The Current State of DirectX 12 & WDDM 2.0
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  • Archetype - Saturday, August 1, 2015 - link

    They did not optimize the hell out of it for NVidia. They just added DX12 support. Originally it was just for DX11 on any card and Mantle supported by AMD. It is not a game - Its a tech demo.

    The 980 obviously has significant horse power. I am just unsure why they used a 290x and not the current flagship. But maybe the 290x is still supposed to be more powerful.
  • Freosan - Sunday, August 2, 2015 - link

    Archetype. When this was published, the 290x WAS the current AMD flagship.
  • Azix - Monday, August 3, 2015 - link

    flagship was 295x2
  • Archetype - Saturday, August 1, 2015 - link

    They explained it quite clearly. Starswarm was written specifically to have zounds of draw calls and as such a high level API (layers and layers of API between the code that draws the scenes) will not be able to deal with it well. That was the whole point of Mantle and now DX12. To remove some of those layers of API and give software more direct access to underlying drivers and through them the hardware. You really need to get more informed.
  • Flunk - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    That might annoy me more if they weren't giving everyone on Windows 7 and 8 an upgrade to 10 for nothing. I suppose not having to backport this to Windows 8 (as was originally announced) is probably saving a fair amount.
  • dakishimesan - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    Sorry for my laziness, I was actually just pointing out a spelling mistake; I think it should say because DirectX 12… Etc.

    But for what it's worth I agree with you, with windows 10 being a free upgrade, and only enthusiast really caring about direct X 12 on their current high performance gear, I have no problem with Microsoft doing it this way.
  • Christopher1 - Monday, February 16, 2015 - link

    Exactly. I understood why people were reticent to upgrade to Windows 7 and 8 because it was a paid upgrade, but with Windows 10 being a free upgrade if you have Windows 7 or 8? No reason not to upgrade.
  • yuhong - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    Yea, the old DirectX redists are long dead.
  • Wwhat - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    I'm highly suspicious about windows 10.
    There is a reason why they give it for free, as the saying goes "If You're Not Paying for It; You're the Product", which is generally true these days if it comes from a commercial outfit.
  • damianrobertjones - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    The more that people use the Windows store the more profit MS makes. Simple.

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