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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  • eanazag - Monday, February 9, 2015 - link

    Yes, and they need more millions of machines to attract developers. Find any app that exists on iOS, Android, and Windows and you'll see that the Windows version is usually lagging in support or features. Example: Star Wars Commander receives the same updates iOS does weeks later.

    They absolutely need developers to get on board. When they do, there should be a corresponding stream of cash flow in the Windows store.
  • Blessedman - Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - link

    This is 100% correct... Ask any Machead if they would prefer Max Excel or Windows Excel, it is a clear choice that the windows version of Excel is far away a better product. When they can develop for an audience, do you think they would rather show off their product on the niche market (anything other than windows)? Reply
  • Blessedman - Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - link

    Errr This isn't 100% correct. Reply
  • SparkySamza - Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - link

    yes but numbers on mac vs mac excel, numbers wins every time cause numbers is a boss. Reply
  • Christopher1 - Monday, February 16, 2015 - link

    True, but Windows 8 has the Store and it is a PAID upgrade from Vista and 7 so..... that comparison sorts falls flat in the real world. Reply
  • ymcpa - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    It's free only for the first year and it's not free to OEMs and large enterprise customers, who use software assurance anyways. They want everyone to upgrade to create a large enough user base to attract developers again. This will benefit windows tablets and phones and might make them competitive against ios and android. The only thing really holding tablets and phones back is the app selection. On the other hand, Google's only reason for giving away free software and service s to establish a large user so that the can sell ads to target that user base. In that scenario, you are the product. Reply
  • bitcrazed - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    "It's free only for the first year .."
    No. Win 10 is a free upgrade if you upgrade within a year of initial release. There is no fee to be paid after the 1st year.

    Because we now live in a world where one doesn't need to replace one's machine every 3 years in order to be able to run the next OS version, Microsoft has learned that it needs to incentivize users to upgrade to newer OS' in order to prevent what happened with XP:

    Although Microsoft had released Vista, 7 and 8, until fairly recently, a considerable percentage of their userbase were still running XP. Microsoft had to extend the support lifespan of XP twice to avoid leaving XP users without an upgrade path, but still they refused to upgrade. Then Microsoft could do no more and even extended support expired resulting in a larger number of upgrades from XP.

    My offering Win10 as a free upgrade, Microsoft (and the entire industry) hopes to encourage users to upgrade from their current OS - XP, Vista, 7 or 8.x to the new OS sooner rather than later.
  • hwangeruk - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    Eh? His "free for the first year" comment was correct, stop splitting hairs.
    Microsoft is not trying to prevent what happened with XP at all, that's just wrong.
    MS need apps for mobile, so wants a mass of users to get the tablet and phone space back.
    They also want to win some hearts and minds as Windows 8 had a mixed reception (even though after 8.1 updates it was fine, the damage was done. Like games with launch issues sometimes don't recover from negative early reviews)
    This has 0 to do with XP, and the XP extended support for only for paying customers not generally consumers. This move has 0 to do with XP, you are so wrong on that.
  • zodiacfml - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    It is free. They put it for free for the first year of the OS so that people are forced to upgrade immediately and not any amount of time longer than that as it that defeats the purpose of putting a huge percentage of people into just one, current operating system.

    Besides, adopters would be will beta testers with little obligation from MS.
  • Wwhat - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    But what does windows10 desktop to do with getting the tablet and phone space? And what do you mean with "get the tablet and phone space back", back? MS never had that market ever, nor is MS likely to get it.

    But yes, they are likely hoping to gain from 'an appstore' and 'cloud' and the always listening and handy for advertisers and security services alike voice-command thing.

    All of which exemplifies the reason to worry..

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