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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  • nikon133 - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    Windows Mobile was very strong smartphone/PDA OS, back in the pre iOS/Android days. I don't remember how it compared to Symbian, but I do remember that it overtook Palm (marketshare wise) at some point.

    Tablets, true... unless OP considers PDAs an early tablets.
  • sr1030nx - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    Win10 (and 8.1 to a very limited extent) uses universal apps, meaning you write an app once and it works across PC, tablet and phones.
    Also means you only need to buy an app once and you get it everywhere.
  • Christopher1 - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    The only person who is wrong here is you, hwangeruk. There are numerous people who have had that the whole "Free upgrade to Windows 10 from 7 and 8!" is directly due to Microsoft wanting to encourage people to not stay on old code and move to new, safer and faster code.
  • pixelstuff - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    Windows 8 is not old code by any stretch. I think hwangeruk was right. Microsoft wants all Windows 8 users and especially Windows 7 users to upgrade so they can all run the unified apps that will also run on Windows Phone 10 devices. Microsoft eventually wants all developers writing Windows 10 apps even for things like Photoshop and Illustrator. To make that feasible Microsoft really needs to upgrade the majority of their user base.
  • domboy - Monday, February 9, 2015 - link

    But even if they do get everybody to upgrade to 10, that still doesn't guarantee developers are going to switch to the store model, especially the big ones as they'd have to start giving Microsoft a cut of their profits. Same for game developers... Steam is pretty well established at this point. I will probably upgrade since it's free, but really only so I don't get locked out of DirectX 12....
  • Naqoyqatsi - Monday, February 9, 2015 - link

    "In that scenario, you are the product."

    No, you are the laborer.
  • Frenetic Pony - Sunday, February 8, 2015 - link

    I suppose you only use iOS and OSX then as Chrome OS, Linux, and Android are also free?
  • SparkySamza - Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - link

    as the saying i hear still now and when i was a child " there is no such thing as a free lunch" i know microsoft has done something, from gathering data via the operating system or even maybe filling it with micro transactions or even forcing people to use xbox everything even though pc people want to be as far away from xbox as they can.
  • Cygni - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    This is a great way to ensure that developers are forced to continue coding for DX11, or just switch to Mantle. Windows 7 is going to continue to be the dominant OS long into the future.
  • Viewgamer - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    I'm sorry but does no one find it suspicious that a supposedly "165W" GTX 980 consumes only 14W less than the "290W" R9 290X in DX12 ? and 19W less in DX11.

    No matter how you slice it, it's abundantly clear that the 165W power figure from Nvidia is pure PR fabrication. Just like the fabricated specs for the GTX 970.

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