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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  • akamateau - Thursday, February 26, 2015 - link

    I think that Anand has uncovered something unexpected in the data sets they have collected. The graphs showing frame time and consistency show something else besides how fast Dx12 and Mantle generate frames.

    Dx12 and Mantle frame times are essentially the same. The variation are only due to run-time variations inside the game simulation. When the game simulation begins there far more AI objects and draw calls compared to later in the game when many of these objects have been destroyed in the game simulation. That is the reason the frame times get faster and smooth out.

    Can ANYBODY now say with a straight face that Dx12 is NOT Mantle?

    Since Mantle is an AMD derived instruction set it acts as a performance benchmark between both nVidia and AMD cards and shows fairly comparable and consistant results.

    However when we look at Dx11 we see that R9-290 is serious degraded by Dx11 in violation of the AMD vs Intel settlement agreement.

    How both nVidia and AMD cards be essentially equivalent running Dx12 and Mantle and so far apart running Dx11? That is the question that Intel needs to answer to the FTC and the Justice Department.

    This Dx11 benchmark is the smoking gun that could cost Intel BILLIONS.
  • Thermalzeal - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    Looks like my hunch was correct. Microsoft reporting that DX12 will bump performance on Xbox One ~20%.
  • Game_5abi - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    so if i have to build a pc should i go for fx series due to their more cores or there is no benefit of having more than 4 cores (and should buy a i5 processor)?
  • peevee - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    "The bright side of all of this is that with Microsoft’s plans to offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade for Windows 7/8/8.1 users, the issue is largely rendered moot. Though DirectX 12 isn’t being backported, Windows users will instead be able to jump forward for free, so unlike Windows 8 this will not require spending money on a new OS just to gain access to the latest version of DirectX. "

    But this is not true, Win10 is only going to be free for a year or so and then you'll have to pay EVERY year.
  • Dorek - Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - link

    "But this is not true, Win10 is only going to be free for a year or so and then you'll have to pay EVERY year."

    Wrong. Windows 10 will be free for one year, and after that you pay once to upgrade. If you get it during that one-year period, you pay 0 times.

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